Committee meets with fire officials about spending
PENN YAN—A long anticipated meeting between an ad hoc village committee and Penn Yan Fire Department chiefs took place Sept. 16. Committee members Chris Christensen, Richard Stewart and Wayne Davidson and the chiefs of the four tire companies—Rick Retorick, Rick Simpson, Mike Clancy and Jeff Housel—participated in the meeting. At the center of discussion were possible changes in how funds from the village are spent by the fire department. For several years the village has earmarked $42,500 for the fire department. Committee chairman Michael Christensen, who is a village trustee and chairman of the village public safety committee opened the meeting commenting, “In the past we turned the money over to the chiefs to spend as they wished.”
Several recommendations were made following a review of financial activities of the department covering 2005 through 2007 by Eldredge, Fox & Porretti, LLP.
The village produced a policy for expenditure of village funds by the fire department and that document was discussed at the meeting last week. Christensen said, “We knew disbursement of some funds has been a challenge for the third assistant chief. We have to come up with better accountability practices so we’re all covered.”
Some issues were identified regarding what the department can and cannot spend. Fire Chief Retorick said, “We would like to see it come to us as before and spend it as needed.” He said he feels the change would be a hardship for the department. Christensen responded, “If we tell Dick Osgood or Don Rapalee what we expect before they receive funds it is one thing because they are employees. It’s different with you. You are volunteers and have jobs. We want our clerk treasurer to work with you on this.”
Discussion followed regarding the $100 threshold for items that would need requisitions. Christensen said, “We will try to do whatever we can to allow you to do what you have been doing, but you have to account for it. As far as emergency equipment and some expenditures, we can work with you to make it happen.”
Village Clerk Treasurer Shawna quoted lists of permissible expenses with mileage being the only way firefighters can receive reimbursement. The fire chief convention and trade shows were also included in the policy presented, particularly connected with training. Retorick stated training is available at both events.
The miscellaneous section was the final topic of discussion. This covered bands for parades and gifts and awards. Christensen said, “This is going to be an area public safety and the board in general will have to deal with. We can’t give you money for alcohol. Regarding bands, it’s conceivable the board would consider it in the budget process. I don’t think there is anything in writing for this.” Retorick asked how the village handles gifts and Mayor Bob Church said that usually comes out of a Sunshine Fund that trustees contribute to each pay period.
Near the conclusion of the meeting, Christensen said, “We recognize a certain amount of money went to the fire department to spend as they saw fit. We can’t do that any more. Budget time is the time for discussion.”
Before the meeting ended, Christensen said, “We’re a work in progress here. We’re not shutting the door. We want to get this behind us and move forward. I think more people will be aware of what the fire department does. I think there is a positive to the whole process.”
Church addressed the chiefs, commenting, “Prove to us we can do something legally and we will do it.”