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Public hearing on proposed firefighter service award program scheduled for January

— The Cazenovia Village Board of Trustees is moving toward holding a public referendum early next year in order to create a service award program for village firefighters which will, it is hoped, improve the fire department’s ability to recruit and retain new volunteers. While the program would be fully funded by the village — and village taxpayers — its cost of tens of thousands of dollars per year would be far less than the millions of dollars per year needed to fund a department staffed completely by professional firefighters, which could be necessitated by a lack of volunteers.

“It’s important for the public to understand the value we have with our fire department — it’s millions of dollars,” said Trustee and Village Fire Commissioner Dave Porter, at the board’s Dec. 2 regular monthly meeting.

“I’ve been doing this for 42 years, and most communities are shocked by the cost of professional firefighters,” said Michael White, a representative of broker McNeil and Company, from Cortland, who gave a presentation to the board on creating a Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP) in Cazenovia.

The Cazenovia Volunteer Fire Department, which dates back to the 1790s, is an all-volunteer department with approximately 100 members. This past September, Fire Chief Nick Enders appeared before the village board to request that it consider the creation of a LOSAP in Cazenovia specifically to address the issues of recruitment and retention of volunteers.

At the board’s Dec. 2 meeting, more than 20 Cazenovia Fire Department members appeared in their full dress uniforms to show their support for the program.

The LOSAP, which was created by the New York state legislature in 1990, would allow firefighters with enough years of service to accrue a monetary amount – similar to a retirement or 401K benefit – at retirement at age 65, with a maximum allowance of 40 years’ worth. There is also a lump sum death benefit.

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