TOWN OF LEE — Upon returning as chairman of the town Board of Fire Commissioners after one year as vice chairman, Patrick Hetherington says key steps for 2019 will include working with the Lee Center Volunteer Fire Department’s new chief, Joseph Kieffer.
Elected chairman for 2019 at the board’s annual organizational meeting Monday night, Hetherington afterward noted the importance of “getting on the same page” with Kieffer regarding priorities to help provide the best service for town residents.
Kieffer, a 27-year department member who has been first assistant chief for the past five years, will be chief for the first time after his selection by the fire department was approved by the board Monday. He succeeds James Rouillier Jr., who was chief the past five years and now will be first assistant chief. The department’s line officers have 5-year term limits.
Among other meeting topics, the board reviewed the need to continue using the Lee Center firehouse siren which requires repairs; addressed further work still required to complete a long-running firehouse renovation that received partial payment a year ago; and removed an old fire truck from service pending new rims and tires needed.
• Hetherington, in the fifth year of his first 5-year term on the 5-member volunteer board, previously was chairman in 2016 and 2017. He succeeds Brian Mandryck, who will be vice chairman after being chairman in 2018 plus 2009-15.
Hetherington said the chair position is “good to share” among board members, citing the responsibilities involved and adding “otherwise one guy ends up being the heavy all the time.” He previously has said it is good to rotate responsibilities to keep people active and engaged.
The board manages fire protection in the taxpayer-funded Lee fire district, and Hetherington mentioned responsibilities to see that residents “continue to get a value” for the service provided. The district’s 2019 tax rate per $1,000 of assessed valuation is $26.12, slightly less than $26.19 in 2018. Based on the town’s equalization rate of 3.33 percent, a house assessed at $100,000 has a 2019 fire district tax bill of about $87.
• For the firehouse siren, which Hetherington said has been out of service for about three months, the board will look into repairs and costs.
Given the use of pagers and cell phones for notifying firefighters of emergency calls, Hetherington said some people have asked why the siren is still needed. But fire department members including department President William Baker emphasized the siren is important because it quickly can be heard, in case members are involved in activities where they may not be able to hear their pagers.
• For the firehouse renovation, Hetherington said that after a recent walkthrough the fire district’s architect is recommending further payment of $6,300 for the work. The board last January had authorized paying $72,293 of a total project cost of $89,548. The M.J. Dakota company of Oneida has been the main contractor.
Among remaining matters, Hetherington said the architect is “trying to ascertain” whether it can be verified that certain steps were done according to inspection requirements or otherwise the final work may not be accepted by the board. The project included reconfiguring four overhead firehouse doors into three wider ones to better fit larger vehicles, plus some other measures. Fire department members at the meeting mentioned continuing issues with how some of the sensor-driven doors are operating.
• Regarding new rims and tires requested by the department for a mini-pumper firefighting vehicle, board member Tracy Carpenter asked about doing so “for a truck we’re replacing.” The board last month approved buying a new mini-pumper that will be delivered toward the end of this year. However, Baker told the board “you’re putting taxpayers in limbo,” adding the truck is unsafe to drive at this point. The board agreed to take it out of service, while department members check availability and pricing of rims and tires.