T he Skenesborough Volunteer Fire Department is exploring the possibility of dissolution.
Members of the department attended Tuesday’s village board meeting to discuss the option of dissolving with the board of trustees.
The decision to explore the issue comes as the department faces financial hardship and declining membership.
“Membership is dwindling, finances are dwindling,” explained James Putorti. “We’ve gotten to the point where we have to look at everything.”
“We’re not desolate, but we are desperate.”
Although an official decision has yet to be made, Putorti said the department needs to find out what the process of dissolution involves and determine what legal guidelines need to be followed.
“That’s the first step,” he said.
One thing is clear, the process won’t happen rapidly.
Before anything can happen the department needs to develop a dissolution action plan.
According to a representative from Tony Jordan’s office, a dissolution action plan includes three main components: an inventory of all the assets the department possesses, an appraisal of those assets, and an explanation of why it’s beneficial for the department to dissolve.
Skenesborough would also need approval from the village board because the department was incorporated as part of the village.
In addition, the department would have to determine what’s to become of its assets if they do choose to dissolve.
One idea is to have the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company absorb Skenesboroughs’ assets, a discussion that is ongoing between the two departments.
“Do we do it? If we don’t, what happens to the assets,” Whitehall Volunteer Fire Department President Brian Brooks said. “This is going to be an expensive proposition for the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Department.”
Brooks said if Whitehall were to absorb Skenesboroughs’ assets, they would need assurances from the village that they would receive sufficient funds to compensate for the increase in costs.
“We’re hoping in three years we aren’t in the same boat they are. We have to continue to make strides to ensure we are solvent,” Brooks said.
Village clerk and budget officer Stephanie LaChapelle replied that funding for each department is included on the same item line on the village budget so it shouldn’t be a problem to move the money over in the budget.
Another factor that has to be considered is what happens to members of the Skenesborough department.
Putorti said one of their biggest concerns is whether members who would like to stay active, could remain active as members of the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Department.
Brooks said new members must be voted in by the department and pay dues.
He said the department has a special by-law that doesn’t require a probationary period for any member of the Skenesborough department who would like to join the Whitehall department.
“If Jim has 36 years at the Skenesborough Fire Department, he has 36 years at the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Department,” Brooks said.
Putorti would also like to see the retention of the Skenesborough name. “We would like to see the name survive, our goal is to keep the name alive.”
One thing members from both departments agreed on is that if Skenesborough is dissolved and eventually absorbed by Whitehall, citizens will not suffer from a lack of services.
“It would help the first responders because there would be more people available for the team,” Brooks said.
For now, Skenesborough will continue to look at the feasibility of dissolving and plan to seek legal advice from Tony Jordan’s office moving forward. They will also continue to discuss options with the Whitehall department.
In order to dissolve, Skenesborough will need approval from two-thirds of its members. The entire process is expected to take several months to complete.