Town lashes out at county

Darrell Cole
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AMHERST - Amherst firefighters will no longer be responding to emergency calls in Cumberland County after July 1, 2008.
Council voted unanimously to withdraw fire protection from the parts of the county its fire department serves. The town and county have been without a fire protection agreement for three years.
"The proposal received from the county is so significantly different from, not only our original proposal, but also the current contract, that we must conclude that we are at an impasse," Coun. Ed Chitty said last night. "Their proposal would see the Amherst Fire Department funded by the county on the same basis as it funds its rural fire departments."
Amherst and the three other towns in Cumberland County made a joint submission to the county on Nov. 1 proposing cost sharing fire protection based on several factors. Amherst requested a $160,000 increase over the $122,000 it presently receives and viewed the submission as a starting point for talks. The county's counter-offer was $55,000.
"Our main principle is that we should not be providing services to county residents at a cost which is below that which town taxpayers are paying," Chitty said. "This does not make sound economic sense."
Chitty feels it was the county's intention all along to form its own rural fire department.
"It is council's view that the county has had a desire to establish a new fire department in the Upper Nappan area for several years now as a means of partially justifying the existence of its fire services co-ordinator position," Chitty said. "We believe this desire manifested itself in the county's reluctance to negotiate with us. If they want to establish another fire department, minutes from ours, so be it. If on the other hand, they'd like to have a sensible, mature discussion about sharing real costs on some rational basis then we are up for that as well."
Twenty-two per cent of the fire department's calls are to the county.
Mayor Jerry Hallee said Warden Keith Hunter's comment that there's no justification for the town's request is not correct because the cost of operating a fire protection service has increased over the years.
"The current agreement expired three years ago and the amount set in the contract is no longer adequate," the mayor said. "The town addresses its fiscal requirements with respect to fire and other municipal services with 2007 dollars not those of 18 years ago as Warden Hunter would seem to prefer."
Hallee feels the town's proposal should have been the basis for "some mature, intelligent discussion on the issue." Instead of discussion, he said, the county chose overreaction and posturing.

Organizations: Amherst Fire Department, Own rural fire department

Geographic location: Cumberland County, Upper Nappan

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Recent comments

  • kj
    January 18, 2010 - 11:11

    Wait until Home Insurance goes up!
    Don't worry about the loss of life!
    ...I hate it when those farmers get to make the rules...

  • jerry
    January 18, 2010 - 10:56

    I am concerned that some county tax payer my infact loss there lives to fire before Mr. Hunter comes into the future and the very high cost of maintaining firefighting equipment and trianing of firefighters I think in my mined it would be cheaper to pay up to the towns request. They do Provide a service second to NO ONE in the maritimes...

  • Steve
    January 18, 2010 - 10:47

    I couldn't agree more. Keith Hunter is bigger than life. Politics between the town and county have suffered agreatly. I urge he county residents to contact thier politicians ans make sure they know who they are representing.

  • wade
    January 18, 2010 - 10:41

    as a person with family living outside town limits it concerns me mr hunter is taking this stand perhaps like the old contract mr hunter is unreasonable and outdated i suggest a new contract and a new warden

  • Dave
    January 18, 2010 - 10:32

    Madness, again Mr. Hunter is living in his own la-la land where the only prices that are allowed to go up are the ones in his old store! The price of fuel alone has exploded over the past 18 years.

    If the county makes up 25% of the calls, they should pay a minimum of 25% the towns operating budget for the fire services whatever that is.