Formation of Lincoln Fire District up for consideration

Formation of Lincoln Fire District up for consideration

Pending passage of legislation this spring and a vote by the taxpayers of both districts, Lincoln’s Albion and Saylesville Fire Districts will be consolidated into one district. (Breeze photo by Nicole Dotzenrod)

LINCOLN – Legislation has been introduced to the General Assembly that would effectively consolidate the operations of two of Lincoln’s fire districts.

Introduced on April 4, House bill 5958 calls for the merging of the Albion and Saylesville Fire Districts into a newly created Lincoln Fire District. The bill is scheduled for consideration today, April 11, after it was submitted by Reps. Gregory Costantino, Mia Ackerman and Jack Lyle.

If approved at the Statehouse, the question of whether or not to merge the two districts would then be presented to the voters. An election would be held in Albion and Saylesville, and taxpayers in both villages would have to approve of the plan for it to move forward. Under the legislation, notice must be sent to the residents of each district at least 20 days before the election.

“The consolidation committee wanted to be sure both sets of taxpayers were in agreement,” said attorney Louis DeSimone, adding that the vote would hopefully occur sometime this fall or earlier.

Consolidating budgets will result in a new tax rate for the combined district as well, with the charge no more than $4 on each $1,000 of valuation.

Similar to when Saylesville absorbed the Lonsdale Fire District, meetings would be held in both Albion and Saylesville before the vote to update taxpayers on the details of the months-long negotiations process.

DeSimone said he’s not aware of any real stumbling blocks to the merger legislation passing, saying there’s no strong opposition at this point. Both stations will remain open under the plan, and staffing will not be reduced.

The legislation mandates that there would be one fire chief, under the direction of the board of commissioners, in command of the department. At the inception of the department there would also be an assistant fire chief position, “in recognition of the two ranking officers currently holding positions in the respective fire districts of Albion and Saylesville.”

If either the chief or assistant positions are vacated, the legislation allows for the assistant chief position to be eliminated.

The exiting districts of Albion and Saylesville have until Dec. 31, 2020, to “take all necessary steps to effectuate the consolidation of districts,” otherwise the legislation would be tossed back to the General Assembly.

Consolidating Albion and Saylesville would bring Lincoln from six independent fire districts in 2015 to four now. A fire consolidation feasibility study completed that year recommended that the town combine its districts into a single fire service agency, noting that growth has slowed in Lincoln over the last decade. The report also says there are “opportunities to improve fire service delivery through consolidated operations.”

The Albion Fire District covers approximately 3.6 miles and services roughly 3,200 residents from a single station, according to the study. Saylesville covers approximately two square miles and services about 3,800 residents from a single station.