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New push aims to bring money back to volunteer fire departments

Andrew Hyman
Created: January 25, 2020 07:06 PM

CANANDAIGUA N.Y. (WHEC) – Local lawmakers and firefighters are joining a new push for an old bill to benefit volunteer fire departments.

The bill, known as the “Fair Play" bill, would allow departments who operate their own Emergency Medical Service (EMS) to set fees and charges for their services.

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Currently, only certain ambulance services can bill a person’s insurance company under New York State law.

On Saturday, organizers representing the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York, the North Central New York Volunteer Fireman’s Association, and several local departments gathered with elected officials at their annual legislative meeting in Canandaigua. 

"You need the service," said Chair for North Central Legislative Committee David Violas

Violas, who has spent years at the Honeoye Fire Department, says carrying that service is getting tougher, especially on rural departments.

He says under the current law, departments miss out on revenue from the EMS services, and the problem has forced some departments to shut down.

"You buy an ambulance today, you're talking 200, 300 thousand dollars, that's a lot of money,” he said.

While firefighters announced several other pieces of legislative goals for the upcoming year, the "Fair Play" bill was front and center. 

The bill was introduced back in 2019, but died in the assembly after passing in the state senate. Backing this latest push is New York State Assemblyman Mark Johns.

Johns, a Republican, represents the 135th District. He has continually been an advocate for volunteer fire department efforts.

"We have 100,000 people leaving Western and Upstate New York every year, it would be worse without these volunteers," Johns says.

Volunteers continue to say that the more departments who close doors, the more demand there will be for a raise in property taxes to help keep stations afloat.

North Central President Frank Orbaker says they hope the bill could curb the trend. 

"Because they're charging the people that actually use the service versus the ones that aren't using the service all the time," he says

In the meantime, Violas says volunteers will stick together and continue to push for an equal cut.

"The weight that you wear is only as strong as the people that support you."

Right now, the bill is in its third reading on a local government level.

For a look at what else FASNY has on its legislative calendar, click here.


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