Saylesville fire chief supportive of potential merger

Saylesville fire chief supportive of potential merger

LINCOLN – Two fire district mergers were on the agenda at last Thursday’s meeting of the Saylesville Fire District, whose board of wardens discussed the status of the department’s recent merger with Lonsdale, while raising the topic of combining forces with Albion.

Representatives from both Saylesville and Albion Fire Districts, including their respective chiefs and boards of wardens, have been meeting for several months to explore whether consolidating the two districts is feasible. If all goes well in negotiations, they hope to ask the General Assembly for permission to merge in January 2019.

After last week’s meeting, Saylesville Fire Chief Robert Fisher echoed the sentiments of Albion Chief Richard Andrews, telling The Breeze that merging the two districts makes the most sense because they’re more alike than different. A consolidation would not result in any layoffs, both chiefs said.

“Both districts are alike in many, many ways,” Fisher said. “Merging would provide both districts with a larger tax base, which should stabilize the tax rate. As increases would be spread across a larger district, impact would not be as great on the ratepayer.”

He said Saylesville considered merging with Albion as well as Lonsdale in the past, but that the now-defunct Lonsdale District refused to audit their books.

“Now we know why, unfortunately,” he said of Lonsdale’s closure. He said the Saylesville/Lonsdale merger was very close to being complete.

Consolidation talks with Albion are still in the early stages, but Fisher said he and the board of wardens “are very open to it” as long as the numbers align. Legislation would be submitted to the General Assembly just after the first of the year, when public hearings would be held, to culminate with a final vote. “I would generally think the taxpayers in both districts would be in favor of this, but we will have to see what the impact would be first.”

For now, a cross-town merger with Lime Rock, Manville and Quinnville is not an option. Fisher said it would be much easier to merge the town’s two smaller districts (Saylesville and Albion), which have the same staffing structure, than to attempt to merge all of the town’s fire districts at once.

“If at a later time there’s another district that would like to look at coming in, we’d be open to exploring that,” Fisher said. “Doing this in small pieces adds stability.”

The joint committee representing both districts will continue to meet, in the meantime. Fisher said when all the information is compiled the committee will determine whether it makes sense to move forward with consolidation.

“If they don’t feel it makes sense to do so, we will not move forward,” he said.