D espite voting against dissolution of their fire department, members of the Skenesborough Volunteer Fire Company say they will most likely have to dissolve anyways.
Jeff Benjamin, who took over as acting chief after Michael Putorti resigned last month, said the department is unlikely to survive without more financial support.
“We’re probably going to have to dissolve,” Benjamin said. “Financially, the town and village are not supporting us. Nothing against the other fire department (Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company), they’re a great group of guys, but they’re getting $60,000 a year and we’re getting $15,000 a year. It’s kind of hard to survive.”
In April, the department decided to explore the option of dissolving, citing financial hardship and declining membership.
At the time, acting president Jim Putorti said, “We’re not desolate, but we are desperate.”
After several months of weighing their options, the department voted Oct. 27 on dissolving, but the vote failed 7-6. The measure needed a two-thirds majority to pass.
Unfortunately for the department, many of the problems that plagued them in the spring remain an issue today, challenging whether they can remain solvent.
Last week the Town Council voted to remove a $3,500 contract with the Skenesborough Fire Company to provide first response emergency services in the town and agreed to a new contract with the Whitehall Fire Company to provide the same service, placing even greater financial strain on the department.
Benjamin said the department has also been hurt by the loss of their two largest fundraising endeavors.
The department used to host Bingo at the firehouse and held a truck raffle every fall, but declining interest made the cost of those fundraisers prohibitive and any profit they reaped negligible.
Membership has also continued to dwindle with Benjamin characterizing it as “very low.” Mike Putorti, who has been with department for approximately three decades resigned as chief following the vote to dissolve and other members have left or joined the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company.
“Morale is very low, we’ve worked hard for so many years to build the department,” Benjamin said. “It’s difficult.”
Jim Putorti said at last week’s Town Board meeting that he didn’t have the answers to the problems plaguing the department and there wasn’t a plan in place to alleviate the problems they were facing.
Benjamin said members are working to have a meeting with the town and village boards and will try to determine a plan of action after the meeting is held.