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DISAPPOINTED VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS CALLING FOR ANOTHER VOTE ON BENEFITS PLAN

Some Town of Concord volunteer firefighters, disappointed at the close defeat last weekend of a retirement benefits plan, are calling for another vote.

Residents in the Concord Fire Protection District voted 126-121 against a program that would provide volunteer firefighters with a monthly payment when theyturn 65.

"This is not a giveaway program," said George DeWald of East Concord Fire Company. "It's not like these guys are looking for a big paycheck."

"There will not be another vote at this time," Supervisor John E. Allan said. "They can have another vote, but not until after the November election, and they can do it at their expense."

While firefighters may like the incentives the program provides, taxpayers may have decided they did not like the price tag.

It was estimated the program would cost $85,000 a year, and would have raised taxes 64 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation in the Concord Fire Protection District, which includes the East Concord and Morton's Corners companies.

For a home assessed at $60,000, the program would cost $38 a year in taxes.

The program would have given firefighters $20 per month for each year of active service with the fire company, payable starting at age 65.

For example, if a volunteer had 20 years of service with the fire company, he or she would receive $400 a month in benefits. The program also carried a $20,000 life insurance policy on each active firefighter.

"Twenty years down the road, what's that $400 going to be worth?" DeWald said.

The benefit is not automatic. Firefighters would have to earn 50 points a year through training, attending meetings and responding to calls to be eligible. About 70 firefighters would have been eligible for the program.

Like volunteer companies throughout Western New York, those in Concord have trouble attracting and retaining members, in part because of the state-mandated training required.

Keeping up with state standards is one problem. Raising money is another. East Concord members spent 400 hours last year at functions to raise money to buy fire equipment, DeWald said.

The program would cover a maximum of 50 members at East Concord.

"Right now we have 42. Believe me, they're not knocking down the door to help," DeWald said.

DeWald said firefighters are discouraged after last Saturday's vote, and believe conducting the referendum 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on a Saturday hurt their chances. They also believe there was some misinformation in the community regarding the monthly benefit.

"We have to give them some sort of service award to recruit and retain members," DeWald said. "If something doesn't happen, we're going to lose all the people we have."

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