By Derek Liebig
The Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company will begin providing first-response medical services in town after a Town Board vote took the contract away from the Skenesborough Volunteer Fire Company.
The board voted, 4-1, on Nov. 9, to remove a $3,500 contract with Skenesborough and will shift it to the Whitehall company. The vote was in response to reports of Skenesborough’s inability to provide manpower to help Skenesborough Rescue Squad on its calls.
Councilman Jim Putorti, who recently resigned as president of the Skenesborough fire department earlier this month, but is still a member of that organization, was the lone voice of dissent.
Ruth Scribner, who is a board member on the Skenesborough Rescue Squad, said Skenesborough has not been responding to local emergencies, leaving the Emergency Medical Services squad to depend on Whitehall instead.
“They haven’t responded in quite awhile,” Scribner said. “These boys (pointing to members of the WVFC) have been responding. We call them because we know we can get eight to 20 boys there.”
Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company President Brian Brooks supported Scribner’s claim telling the board there was recently a smoke-related call and no one from the Skenesborough Company responded.
Those concerns were enough to convince the board to make the change.
Supervisor Richard “Geezer” Gordon said the change was a good idea.
“It’s in everyone’s benefit,” he said. “You’re losing it because no one is responding.”
Skenesborough had previously discussed the option of dissolving its charter and combining its operation with the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company because of financial hardship and dwindling membership.
But a vote on the measure failed to garner sufficient support last month as members voted against dissolution by a margin of 7-6.
It’s not clear if the problems that led members to explore the possibility of dissolution have been addressed.
“I don’t have the answers right now,” Putorti told the board.
Brooks said his company has waited for several months for Skenesborough to come to a decision but after so much inaction, they no longer have the obligation to wait.
“We gave Skenesborough every opportunity to keep their first responders going,” he said.
During that time, the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company’s First Response team has continued to grow. Whitehall Chief Bryan Brooks said the company has nearly 20 members who are ready to take the course.
Besides the $3,500, the company also asked for an additional $1,500 to be included in the 2012 fiscal budget to assist them in establishing an around-the-clock , first-responder unit. The company has been providing first-responder services from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the past few months.
By receiving approval from the town and the village (which gave approval last month), the company can move ahead in becoming a certified unit which will allow members to receive reimbursement from the state for training.