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Mexico, Byron to propose fire coverage contract
MEXICO -- By early February, taxpayers in Byron and Mexico will vote on a contract with Byron for the Mexico Fire Department to provide fire coverage.
At a joint meeting on Dec. 28, both board of selectmen voted unanimous to develop a proposed 10-year contract, with a 10-year renewal, pending the number of calls the Mexico Fire Department (MFD) answers in Byron. Byron disbanded its fire department last month due to an increasing amount of regulations and a decreasing number of volunteers.
The primary component of the agreement calls for Byron to turn over its 2005 fire engine in return for up to 20 years of emergency coverage by the MFD. Fire Chief Gary Wentzell said Mexico must replace two fire engines within the next five to seven years. Receiving the Byron engine means Mexico does not have to buy one of those necessary trucks.
Further, he noted this would also enable them to sell one of their trucks "while it's still worth something to sell."
That truck, which could be Engine 2 from 1995 with up to seven years left in it, could sell for as much as $75,000. That money could go into the reserve fund, which has $70,000 in it now, towards a new truck down the line.
For Byron, the myriad regulations that must be followed will be eliminated, therefore preventing the town from paying fines for any violations while receiving fire protection.
"This is not an easy decision for Byron to make," said Byron Selectman Anne Simmons-Edmunds. "Mexico is where we want to go. No one has stepped up and said they're willing to take it on. It's sad for us, but we need to do what's best for the town."
The Byron truck was received through a Homeland Security grant in 2005. Simmons-Edmunds said the engine has fewer than 4,500 miles on it and is fully stocked and loaded.
"If we sold it, we would ask $200,000 for it," added Selectman Linda Gallant.
Wentzell responded that it's probably worth $150, but if they tried to buy such a truck now, they would have to pay $225,000 for it.
Over the last five years, Wentzell said Byron has averaged 12 calls a year. "There's an ATV corridor through there. Half of those calls are ATV or snowmobile calls that we go to anyway with our rescue sled."
Mexico Board Chairman Barbara Laramee asked, "Do you see us spending $8,000 a year (to cover Byron)?"
Wentzell responded that the figure is probably closer to $3,000 to $4,000 a year, although wear and tear on equipment has to be figured in.
If the current number of calls substantially increases, then the two towns could negotiate for the second 10 years of the proposed contract, which could include Byron paying additional call force wages, if necessary.
"I think it's doable," noted Town Manager John Madigan. "They need a fire department. We need a truck."
"I feel bad you have to lose your department. It's part of your identity," noted Wentzell, adding that he wants a squad formed in Byron that could participate in such emergencies as traffic control and brush fires. He also wants Byron's name included in the squad.
When residents of Mexico vote on the proposed contract, Wentzell said he wants them to also vote on a change in the Mexico Fire Department's bylaws that would allow Byron residents to become part of the volunteer call force.
In the meantime, the MFD is the first responder for emergencies in Byron.
Wentzell said the distance between the Mexico and Byron fire stations is 13.6 miles. The departure on a call would be almost immediate and normal driving would take about 17 minutes.
As the meeting closed, Gallant noted, "The communication between the two of us has been wonderful."