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TOWN REINSTATES CONTRACT WITH FIRE COMPANY

The Tonawanda Town Board, bowing to a State Supreme Court ruling, Monday night reinstated a $50,000 contract with a fire company that many concede lacks sufficient manpower to fight fires.

Justice Eugene M. Fahey ruled the town did not have the authority to unilaterally end its industrial firefighting contract with the River Road Fire District, town Supervisor Carl Calabrese said. The judge ruled the contract allows cancellation only by mutual consent, he said.

The board, which voted in February to end contract, will resume paying on the $50,000 agreement.

Despite the move, Calabrese said the town still does not believe the fire district has the manpower to fight industrial fires, as the contract requires. The work is being picked up by other companies that also contract with the town, he said.

"We didn't think they are capable of providing fire protection for industrial fires," Calabrese said.

Calabrese said the town decided not to appeal Fahey's ruling because the contract expires at the end of the year, and an appeal likely would have dragged on past that date.

The supervisor also said it is unlikely the contract will be renewed when it expires.

The town last summer learned the fire district has inadequate manpower and equipment to fight fires, but after the town voted to end its contract, the company challenged the decision in court.

Fire Chief Andrew Rollain was not immediately available to comment Monday night.

The fire district covers a small area of about 50 residents in a mostly industrial strip in the southwest corner of the town.

Last August, Rollain said his department has six firefighters but only two are available most of the time to respond to calls. Firefighters also said one of the company's two trucks is often hard to start and other equipment, such as axes, also are worn out.

Calabrese said that because fire districts are considered separate governments, the town has no control over them.

The town contracts with six fire districts in the town to provide fire protection for the industrial area.

As a result of the River Road issue, officials have met with each of the town's fire chiefs in the hopes of establishing standards that will be used by the town to award future contracts, Calabrese said.

"If a company wants to be part of the (industrial) protection district contract, they will have to meet requirements in terms of training and manpower," the supervisor said.

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