Registered voters who own property and live in the portion of Wales protected by the Wales Center Fire Company will vote April 30 in a referendum to extend eligibility for retirement benefits to older volunteers in the fire department.
If approved by the voters, the measure will allow volunteers age 65 as of last April 1 to continue to be credited with service for up to 20 years with the department. The present rule permits volunteers to work as long as they want to, but it caps their retirement benefits at age 65 even if they have not completed at least 20 years’ service with the department.
The more liberal rule was authorized throughout New York State in an effort to retain more experienced volunteers in active service. Applying service benefits after age 65 would encourage fire companies to retain older volunteers with significant experience and to provide emergency coverage during daytime hours when many younger volunteers are at work. It also meets all federal age discrimination guidelines.
These guidelines were left out of the original programs approved in 2006. The need for them was only discovered once these programs were established, and it became an issue many fire companies and towns now have to address to be in compliance with the federal law. Changing the age also allows the older firefighters time to train younger members on how to do things correctly.
The cost to the town is estimated at $3,500 for each 65-year-old volunteer firefighter affected. Wales has five firefighters older than 48 who will be affected, and it is estimated that one to three volunteers will be affected each year. The cost will be around 4 cents for each $1,000 of assessment for each volunteer, or roughly $4 per household per year.
Those who are not registered to vote may do so Tuesday at the Community Center, 12345 Big Tree Road. The referendum will be from noon to 9 p.m. April 30 at the Community Center.
In another matter, Dorothy Carlone, of Hunters Creek Road, asked the board at its meeting Tuesday whether the town could use the new farm code to strengthen the town’s position against “fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing. She said it could be added to the farm codes, pointing out that chemicals are used in the wells. Supervisor Rickey Venditti said he would discuss it with the town attorney.
A post-construction noise study on National Fuel’s Compressor Station on Reiter Road resulted in a test done at a neighbor’s house when the station was at only 33 percent of operation. It showed it was below the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requirements. Wales Board members said this was unacceptable, and they want the test done when the compressor station is running at 100 percent capacity. Councilman Michael Simon called the National Fuel study “nonsense,” saying, “They can play all they want but need to do the test at full load.”
Venditti said Wales may be one of the last towns to vote to repeal or amend the state’s new gun safety laws. The board voted to join other towns in asking Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to suspend the act immediately and to readdress gun control.
A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. April 9 before the regular board meeting on a request from 7-Eleven to operate a business at 6444 Olean Road.
The board approved awarding a contract for Port-A-Toilets for the town park to Royal Flush at $58.50 per month for two toilets. The bid was $7 above the only other bid, but the town accepted the higher bid because the other bidder kept running out of sanitizers and refusing to put more in, according to Parks Superintendent Michael Zywar.