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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, July 2, 2009
By Anne Hayden
GUILDERLAND A low turnout for a Guilderland Center Fire Department vote, to bond a $400,000 fire truck, was nothing out of the ordinary.
The vote took place on June 9, when 21 people cast their ballots, resulting in a 17-4 approval.
Chairman of the board at the fire department, Donald Albright, said that, while he was disappointed with the turnout, he was not surprised, and he believes the outcome of the vote would have been the same even if a greater number of people had voted.
There have been some complaints from Guilderland Center residents that there was not enough publicity on the vote, but Albright said the fire department did exactly what it was required to do for notification.
According to the Office of Fire Prevention and Control, one legal requirement for fire department votes is that the department publishes a notice. A recent change in the law, intended to improve voter turnout, requires that all special elections, including those to approve bonds, be held on a Tuesday that is not a public holiday.
The Guilderland Center Fire Department followed both of those regulations, by publishing a notice about the vote in The Enterprise on May 7, and holding the election on Tuesday, June 9.
“I think most of the low voter turnout concern is due to the fact that this could affect taxpayers. But we’re not being secretive. We’re trying to be very open about anything that involves taxpayers’ money,” said Albright.
Fire departments can’t hold on to trucks for as many years as they could in the past, because technology is constantly changing, and there are many mandates and regulations from other governmental entities to keep up with, Albright said.
The $400,000 truck will be paid off over a period of five years, and will be capable of ice and rope rescue, in addition to extrication and fighting fires. A second, $260,000 truck, will be paid for out of the department’s reserve fund, and will be used strictly for putting out fires, explained Albright.
Low voter turnout for fire department elections is not uncommon in New York State. An example from the Office of Fire Prevention and Control says a bond vote in 2000, to finance the biggest, most expensive firehouse on Long Island, received only 242 votes. That represented only 2 percent of the population of the fire district, and 138 of the votes came from department members or relatives.
Albright said the department would much rather have more residents vote than GCFD members.
“I’ve learned from this vote that we should see if we can take out ads, or put in bigger notices,” said Albright, something he said would be discussed at the department’s annual budget hearing.
“We put a lot of work into these things, and have nothing to hide. I want people to know what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it, and if people have questions, I am more than happy to answer,” Albright said.