Council OK with M’burg fire deal

This street is in the part of Millersburg now covered by the Jefferson Rural Fire Protection District. (File photo from May 2015)

The Albany City Council Monday had no objections to contracting with Millersburg for fire protection covering all of the smaller town on its northern edge.

At a work session, the Albany council nodded agreement with a recommendation of Fire Chief John Bradner. As recommended by the chief, Millersburg would pay Albany $2 per thousand dollars of the town's property value. If such a contract were in force for the current fiscal year, the payment would be about $926,000 for the year.

The contract still has to be finalized before the councils of both cities can take action to make it official.

Roughly the southern half of Millersburg containing ATI and other major industries now is part of the Albany Rural Fire Protection District, which pays the city of Albany for coverage at the rate of $2 per thousand. The part generally north of Conser Road, containing most of the new residential development over the past few years, is part of the Jefferson Rural Fire Protection District.

Earlier this year the Millersburg council voted to withdraw from both the Albany and Jefferson rural fire districts as of July 1, 2018, and to contract with a single entity to cover the entire town.

Under the deal with Albany, as discussed by officials of both towns, Millersburg would probably build a fire station that would be staffed by personnel from the Albany department. This would provide quicker response times to emergencies in Millersburg and would also give better coverage to the newly built-up parts of northeast Albany east of I-5.

Mayor Sharon Konopa attended the meeting via telephone. From what I could understand, she wants Bradner to find out what it would cost to have a consultant study the rate Millersburg would pay. Councilor Bessie Johnson was absent. The other councilors all had no trouble with the proposed $2 per thousand, the same rate paid by the three rural districts that contract with the city fire department.

Councilor Rich Kellum thought Albany Rural might be put out at losing part of Millersburg after contributing about $725,000 a few years ago to help Albany buy a ladder truck and pumper. Bradner plans to talk with the Albany Rural board to see if there are any such concerns. All the equipment would still be available, as now, to cover the district. Albany Rural will lose its Millersburg revenue but doesn't have to pass it on to Albany either.

According to Bradner's calculations, Albany would lose about $459,000 a year in fire department revenue if Millersburg contracted with some other department for fire coverage. But the Albany department still would have the same expenses as now and would still respond, if called, to Millersburg emergencies under mutual aid agreements, except that it would lose the Millersburg revenue it now gets via Albany Rural.

During the 2016-17 budget year, Bradner said, 95 percent of the fire department's emergency responses were from inside Albany city limits. Rural districts make up 12 percent of the Albany population but accounted for only 5 percent of the calls. If all of Millersburg had been Albany's responsibility, responses there would have been 1.6 percent of the total.

No word on when the Albany-Millersburg fire contract will be finished and come up again, but it will have to be before July. (hh)

(Full disclosure: I'm a board member of the North Albany Rural Fire Protection District, so I'm not entirely disinterested regarding any discussion of what Albany charges its rural partners for fire protection.)



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