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Editorial: County should restore hazmat team funds

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So much for the spirit of cooperation on joint ventures between the city and county of Schenectady. The county’s financial pinch — so severe it could result in a double-digit tax hike next year — has prompted it to halve the $400,000 it was paying the city for hazmat services provided by the city’s fire department. (“Hazmat” is short for hazardous materials, as in what gets released during a chemical fire or spill.) The department’s ...

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October 19, 2008
8:48 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

It appears Mark Blanchfield feels slighted. Sure, the County could benefit somewhat by the City's investment but... The City chronically under-staffs its on duty fire shifts. The result is when there is a fire call in the City of any significance, they rely heavily on mutual aid provided by surrounding towns. The towns respond with their apparatus and mostly volunteer people. Mr. Blanchfield does not seem concerned about how much it costs the towns for wear-and-tear of their fire apparatus, fuel and other expenses incurred while providing aid to the City. Who pays for that, Mr. Blanchfield? Why don't you adequately staff the Fire Department to handle your own calls first and then complain about how much towns benefit from your hazmat service.

October 19, 2008
8:27 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

I would first like to commend the hazmat team of Schenectady. They have worked very hard to achieve the level of expertise they are at now. I had an opportunity to see them in action over the summer during a possible chemical spill from a passing train in the town of Duanesburg. Fortunately the spill turned out to be a false alarm but let me assure you they treated it as though it was in their own back yard. They were like a well oiled machine and knew exactly what needed to be done. I was relieved to know we had such a valuable service available to us.

I think Mr. Blanchfield's suggestion to discontinue the team to the towns is a serious disservice to the residents of the county. It would appear as though the county is paying for the entire cost of the team, perhaps overpaying at the $400,000 level, perhaps underpaying at the $200,000 level, but indeed paying. If I understand this correctly, I would have to say the residents of the towns ARE paying for the hazmat team through their current county tax payment. I would ask how you figure city residents are paying twice for the service when it appears as though the county is footing the entire bill for the hazmat team? If Mr. Blanchfield wants to provide the service solely to the city of Schenectady then let the city residents pay the bill. I would, however, not expect the county to continue funding the team and charging the residents of the towns for a service we can no longer receive.

I would like to add that I am definately glad to know the mutual aid agreements in place among all the emergency services in and out of the county were not developed by politicians like Mr. Blanchfield. There would never be the commaraderie nor the cooperation among departments that I have grown to respect if this were the case.