Hyde Park and Staatsburg fire districts seek merger

The Hyde Park Fire District and the Staatsburg Fire District are discussing a possible merger.

The two districts are currently pursuing a “Proposed Post Consolidation Agreement,” which is the beginning phase of any fire district merger. The agreement will include studies of both districts: Hyde Park, which covers the western portion of Hyde Park and includes the Hyde Park Fire Department; and Staatsburg, which covers the northern area of town and includes the Dinsmore Hose Company and Staatsburg Engine Company No. 2.

Hyde Park Fire District secretary Jim Buhler, and Staatsburg Fire District commissioners Ron Roberts and Dewitt Sagendorph were at the June 2 meeting of the Hyde Park Town Board to discuss the process thus far and some of the reasoning behind it.

“Right now we work operationally with Hyde Park. We train together, we share mutual dispatch,” Roberts said, adding that both are done to help support volunteer time requirements at the all-volunteer districts.

“We’ve seen a challenge put on our people, for the amount of time it takes training, the responses, and maintaining equipment. In order to do what we feel necessary, to provide good support in the future, we’re looking at what the potential is [for a merger],” Roberts added.

Buhler said the two districts are currently focused on fact-finding, like looking at their tax base, budgets, and their equipment. Buhler also added that, in talks with lawyers, they were told a merger process could take two to four years.

There is also a question of who will be in charge if the merge happens. The districts would go from having 10 commissioners–five in each district–to just five in the one consolidated district. Sagendorph told the Observer a new “governing board” would lead the new fire district if a merger happens.

At the request of both districts, Town Supervisor Aileen Rohr wrote a letter of support for the merger on behalf of the town board, which would help in the pursuit of grant funding for the study.

At the meeting, she asked Sagendorph if part of the reason for the merger was a lack of volunteers. He confirmed that it was and said that they are still looking for volunteers. Roberts added that the population of the districts is decreasing but also aging, which leads to fewer volunteers.

Rohr noted, “The fire districts are completely distinct from the town. We asked you to come [to us] because we think what you’re doing is important and we wanted to share the information, but we have no regulatory authority or input.”

For those interested, Sagendorph said the fire district meetings are held the fourth Monday of every month alternating at either the Hyde Park Fire House (845-229-5258) at 4306 Albany Post Road, or Staatsburg Fire House (845-229-8367), at on South Cross Rd, Staatsburg. The next meeting will be held on June 23 at 7pm in Staatsburg.

When the study is concluded, if both districts decide to create a consolidation agreement, a public hearing will be held.

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