Fire Deal Inked in Rhinebeck

The Rhinebeck village board has finalized a contract with the town for fire protection services, following an almost year-long negotiation process.

The village, which provides fire protection services to the town, sought a substantial increase in fees, while the town lobbied for more budgetary oversight.

The new five-year deal, which is backdated to Jan. 1, 2014, sets fire protection fees for the town at $160,000 this year, rising by $10,000 each year through 2018.

The town board initially announced the compromise plan at a July 14 meeting. Part of that deal was an informal agreement to pursue the formation of a new fire district, which would put management of the fire department in the hands of elected commissioners, rather than the village board.

Village trustees swiftly approved that contract on July 22, but then the town introduced additional clauses, including a formal agreement to work “expeditiously” to form a consolidated fire district.

Those changes required a new vote by the village board, which was further delayed by the failure of the town to approve the revised contract at its Aug. 11 meeting because it had failed to open a new public hearing on the matter.

Following an Aug. 25 hearing, during which the town board received no comments from the public, it approved the contract on a 4-0 vote with no discussion.

While the village board unanimously approved the revised contract at its next regular meeting, on Sept. 8, Trustee Gary Kenton raised concerns about the fire district clause, preferring language that would require consolidation efforts to be subject to a public hearing.

Mayor Heath Tortarella confirmed that a public hearing will be required by law.

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