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FIRE COMPANY GETS SUPPORT ON CONTRACT

Nine people who are town residents or live nearby gave their support Tuesday night to settlement of a 2005 contract between Niagara Active Hose Company and the Town Board.

Members of the Town Board said they were close to settling the contract, even though it had appeared negotiations were about to fail.

Many who spoke said they were angry about a letter Supervisor Steven C. Richards sent to residents, citing a history of problems with Active Hose and with former fire company Niagara No. 1.

Richards also said in the letter why he and the rest of the Town Board questioned accounting practices of Niagara Active Hose.

Janelle Messer of Sunnydale Drive, a dispatcher for the Niagara County Sheriff's Department, said, "Niagara Active takes the most calls in the entire county" and has one of the top five response times in getting to calls.

She said she did not like her tax money being used to send Richards' letter to residents. Messer said she did not think it is the Town Board's business to know how the fire company spends its money.

David M. Meyers of Colonial Drive did not take sides, but asked if the town could afford to hire a paid fire company instead of having Active Hose serve in a volunteer capacity.

"I don't think there would be many people in the Town of Niagara who could afford that," said Meyers.

Niagara Active Hose's contract is expired, but it contains provisions for the volunteers to keep working. Members of the fire company have said in the past if the money to fund the department runs out, they might have to shut down.

The department was paid $144,266 by the town for 2004.

Deputy Supervisor Marc M. Carpenter read a statement at the meeting, saying the board's negotiating group, made up of himself and Councilmen Michael J. Ross and Lavern E. Haseley, has been making progress with fire company negotiators.

"The board will not be rushed, nor should it be intimidated into accepting a contract that does not properly protect the financial interests of the taxpayers, while at the same time assuring complete fire protection for the town," said Carpenter.

e-mail: pkowalik@buffnews.com

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