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Board discusses cash benefit for firefighters

A service reward program for the Blasdell Volunteer Fire Company was initiated by the Village Board on Wednesday.

The program would entitle active-duty members to $700 accrued annually until they reach age 60, when they would receive a lump-sum check.

The move, which requires a public hearing and referendum, is an effort to improve and expand the firefighting ranks in the village, officials say.

"This is long overdue and well worth it," Mayor Michael Petrie said. "You want to take care of the guys who take care of you."

Petrie said that the Blasdell Fire Company has been at a disadvantage in attracting new members because it is the only area company without benefits of any kind.

Once boasting 90 members, the company's ranks now number 32.

Several conditions would have to be met to be eligible for the benefits, the mayor said. Each year, an active-duty firefighter has to earn at least 50 points -- accrued through participation in training, company meetings and responding to fire calls.

Also, a firefighter must be active for a minimum of five years to be vested.

Martin Avenue resident Andrew Cusack said he is worried about the program's long-term costs. But Village Administrator Janet Plarr emphasized that the program is not a pension plan, not subject to the spiraling costs associated with defined benefit plans employed by many area fire companies.

Plarr said the program works on a defined contribution system and the village can budget accurately each year.

The total annual cost of funding the program for current volunteers is estimated at $30,498, with that cost decreasing over the next 10 years.

A public hearing on the program will be held beginning at 7 p.m. March 3 in Village Hall, 121 Miriam Ave. Officials said the referendum will be scheduled later in the month.