The Town of Elbridge unanimously voted to end an 82-year partnership with the Elbridge Fire Department Thursday night.
The town councilors voted amid a room full of upset people to accept a new contract that would turn to the Jordan and Mottville fire departments for coverage.
The Elbridge Fire Department is operated by the village. Their current contract with the town lasts until December 31. With the new contract, the department can't respond to a fire outside village limits, including right across the street from the station, unless called in as mutual aid.
Town councilors said the contract decision was not based on finances. Growing concerns over the department's leadership and ability to respond to emergency calls prompted a proposal to install a three-person oversight committee. But the village balked at the concept and the $24,000 price tag that it would be expected to cover.
"There was no doubt in my mind that we had to do what we had to do to protect the residents of this town," said Elbridge Town Councilor William Kuhn. "We're getting slammed for making this offer and asking them to pay for it, we thought it was their problem, but at least we were trying to come up with a solution as a town. The villiage...they said there was nothing wrong with their fire department."
Kuhn says he was prompted to act after numerous members of the Elbridge Fire Department resigned shortly after the Fire Chief William Champlin stepped down due to an incident involving alcohol.
Members of the Elbridge Fire Department question whether Kuhn was instead motivated by his 15-year tenure with the Jordan fire department.
Under the new contract , Elbridge Fire Department firefighters can only respond to calls within the village. The village of Elbridge responded to the proposed contract by saying it will charge the town $25,000 a month to respond to calls without a contract. Elbridge firefighters say they currently respond to 75-percent of calls.
Elbridge firefighters claim the new deal wastes precious minutes when responding to emergencies.
"They've put life and limb at risk. They've put properties at risk," said Elbridge Fire Fighter Jarrod Smith. "Response times are going to go up. There's no way in hell Mottville is going to be able to respond to the West side of town."