1. #1
    Forum Member
    Lewiston2FF's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Location
    Niagara Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    1,924

    Default Niagara Active Hose fire company feeling the heat

    TOWN OF NIAGARA
    Niagara Active Hose fire company feeling the heat
    By PAM KOWALIK
    News Niagara Bureau
    2/29/2004



    Fire consumed this home on Third Avenue in the Town of Niagara last Sunday and claimed the life of a resident. The tragedy occurred as town and fire officials are squabbling over fire department bookkeeping.

    TOWN OF NIAGARA - When Niagara No. 1 Fire Company ceased operations under a torrent of accusations of financial problems and member incompetence, the town's fire safety problems were supposed to be solved.
    They weren't.

    Niagara Active Hose, now the town's only fire company, is dealing with problems over sloppy bookkeeping.

    An independent consultant hired by the Town Board to report on fire safety advised board members to withhold paying Active Hose until fire officials demonstrate financial accountability.

    The consultant, Harold "Bud" Phillips, said the department must provide an annual report by Monday disclosing where the company's money is deposited, every withdrawal and where the funds are spent.

    But Fire Chief Daniel J. Hosie said that if the Town Board does not cut the company a check to run Active Hose's operations, the company will have to close down.

    "If the town doesn't give us the money, then they're going to run us out of business," said Hosie.

    Niagara Active Hose became the town's sole fire company when Niagara No. 1 Fire Company was shut down two years ago after a firestorm over missing funds and members' incompetence.

    The criticism of Niagara Active Hose's accounting practices comes days after a fire claimed the life of Gerald Sypeck, 63, who perished when a blaze ripped through the garage of his home at 8024 Third Ave.

    "We have to protect our residents," Hosie said. "This is not the time to start fighting with the town."

    Phillips, president of a firm called Public Safety Management, said Niagara Active Hose must provide:

    A separate account for funds provided by the town.

    Bank statements to the Town Board on a quarterly basis.

    Proof of a separate capital fund with a minimum deposit of 15 percent annually with the money used for fire equipment and signed by the chief, president and treasurer of the company.

    A ledger showing the total money withdrawn from the accounts and money left on hand.

    Detailed inventory of all firefighting apparatus and the source of funds used for purchases.

    A valid roster every year of active members in good standing.

    Phillips asked the Town Board, which oversees the fire protection district, to have Hosie contact him to set up a meeting. In a separate letter to the Town Board, Phillips said Hosie has not made any attempt to contact him.

    "After numerous attempts to make contact by telephone, a registered letter was sent to Chief Hosey," Phillips wrote. "This letter was returned as undeliverable by the Post Office."

    Hosie said he did not receive any registered letter, adding that the problem may have been the misspelling of his name or the fact that the fire company has moved to the site of the former Niagara No. 1 Fire Hall, near the corner of Lockport and Military roads.

    Councilman Wallace W. Blake Jr. said of the letter, "I find it a little bit disturbing that the letter was returned undeliverable and that the two parties are having problems communicating."

    Hosie said he will consider a meeting with Phillips but said he has already met with representatives from the Public Employees Safety and Health Bureau, a division of the Department of Labor.

    "They found no violations of our fire department," he said.

    Phillips accused the fire company of providing him inaccurate information.

    "During our review of the information provided by Niagara Active Hose, it was discovered that some of the requested information was found to have been fabricated and therefore not credible," Phillips said in his letter.

    "I don't know where he's coming from," countered Hosie. "Everything he asks for, we give him."

    The Town Board decided to shut down the town's other fire company, Niagara Fire Co. No. 1, in February 2001 after members of Active Hose complained to Town Board members that the department was a danger to residents, themselves and other firefighters. The matter of missing funds is still being investigated by the Niagara County district attorney's office.

    Hosie said he and his department have tried to respond to the Town Board's questions about his company.

    "I stand behind our fire department 100 percent," said Hosie. "We serve our community very well, and I thank Bergholz, Lewiston No. 2 and Niagara Falls Air Reserve Base for backing us up."

    Town Supervisor Steven C. Richards said he is optimistic that problems surrounding Niagara Active Hose can be resolved.

    "While the letter from Public Safety Management points out that there are still some deficiencies to be corrected at Niagara Active Hose, I am pleased with the progress that they have made so far," Richards said.

    Councilman Michael J. Ross urged members of Active Hose to comply with Phillips' requests.

    "There are still issues that have to be resolved. All the fire company has to do is comply to our questions. We're here to represent the taxpayers and to do our job," he said.

    "Active has done a good job picking up the slack from the other fire company," said Councilman Blake. "But as elected officials, we still have a responsibility to town residents to make sure that we do our job. And if there's anything that I can do to get the fire company and Public Safety Management together to resolve this, I will."


    e-mail: pkowalik@buffnews.com

    http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial...29/1056691.asp
    Last edited by Lewiston2Capt; 06-15-2006 at 12:39 PM.
    Shawn M. Cecula
    Firefighter
    IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS

  2. #2
    Forum Member
    Weruj1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Location
    NW Ohio
    Posts
    7,857

    Default

    Man..............thats a train wreck waiting to happen !
    IACOJ both divisions and PROUD OF IT !
    Pardon me sir.. .....but I believe we are all over here !
    ATTENTION ALL SHOPPERS: Will the dead horse please report to the forums.(thanks Motown)
    RAY WAS HERE 08/28/05
    LETHA' FOREVA' ! 010607
    I'm sorry, I haven't been paying much attention for the last 3 hours.....what were we discussing?
    "but I guarentee you I will FF your arse off" from>
    http://www.firehouse.com/forums/show...60#post1137060post 115

  3. #3
    Forum Member
    Lewiston2FF's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Location
    Niagara Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    1,924

    Default

    Oh, it has been. When Niagara No. 1 was closed down life got really hectic around here. The Town of Niagara boarders the City of Niagara Falls and is fairly busy for this area. We frequently run mutual aid with them and them with us. If Niagara Active Hose Co. is closed down for whatever reason, I feel that there will be some problems for the surrounding FDs. It is quite possible that we will end up taking some of their calls.
    Harold "Bud" Phillips is from every account I have heard inventing his own standards regarding fire protection. I was able to read portions of the report written regarding Niagara Fire Co. No. 1 and some of it was based on established and recoginized standards, some of it was not. I am not positive, but I believe this latest financial issue may be one of those cases. Around here most of the volunteer FDs are independent, incorporated companies that contract fire protection to the town. I do not believe the consultant, or the town have the authority to request all of the records they did. I also believe that the Town is in violation of their contract by not paying the FD. I hope all turns out well.
    I will try to post updates as I get them.
    Shawn M. Cecula
    Firefighter
    IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS

  4. #4
    MembersZone Subscriber
    Firefighter430's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 1999
    Location
    Virgilina, VA USA
    Posts
    323

    Default

    What's the problem with submitting a financial statement and roll? We have to do it each year.
    "Illegitimis non carborundum."

    - Gen. Joseph Stilwell
    (Lat., "Don't let the *~#%&S grind you down.")

  5. #5
    Forum Member
    Lewiston2FF's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Location
    Niagara Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    1,924

    Default

    Originally posted by Firefighter430
    What's the problem with submitting a financial statement and roll? We have to do it each year.
    I believe I misspoke when I made my previous statement. I dont necessarily see a problem with providing a financial statement, seeing as not providing one will undoubtedly arouse more suspision. I believe my problem is with changing the game in the middle of it.
    There has been a long and involved history with the current town government and the fire companies that protect the town. As the article points out there were originally two volunteer fire companies in the town and one of them provided ambulance service. One of them was shut down years ago, as the article states. The remaining fire company has just finished moving facilities so that they are more centrally located. Some locals believe that the facilities that the FD moved into is curretly located on property that the town supervisor wants to turn into a town court and police station. Others seem to believe that there were designs to use it to augment a recently built park that adjoins the property. No proof of either of these senarios has been shown yet.
    My fire company is choosing to watch this situation very closely, but not become involved, as any outcome will impact us.
    Shawn M. Cecula
    Firefighter
    IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS

  6. #6
    Forum Member
    TCFire's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Location
    Lockport, New York
    Posts
    417

    Default

    Originally posted by Lewiston2Capt
    My fire company is choosing to watch this situation very closely, but not become involved, as any outcome will impact us.
    Amen. Everyone I know on our end of the county has been following this fairly closely. This is a can of worms that, now that it's been opened, could affect all of us.
    Last edited by TCFire; 03-02-2004 at 10:39 AM.

  7. #7
    Forum Member
    Lewiston2FF's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Location
    Niagara Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    1,924

    Default

    Originally posted by TCFire


    Amen. Everyone I know on our end of the county has been following this fairly closely. This is a can of worms that, now that it's been opened, could affect all of us.
    Rumors of Bud Phillips being hired by several towns in this end of the county arose right after the Niagara 1 fiasco. I hope for all of our sakes this turns out for the best. I really dont want their call volume and headaches.
    Shawn M. Cecula
    Firefighter
    IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS

  8. #8
    MembersZone Subscriber
    EFD840's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    Location
    Eclectic (no, NOT electric), Alabama
    Posts
    1,510

    Default

    I really dont want their call volume and headaches.
    Other than acting out of the goodness of your heart, why would you guys have to take on their call volume? If you are both independent entities and they fold any aid agreements would go out the window too. Just being good guys isn't enough reason to permanently take on a new service area with no increase in revenue.

  9. #9
    MembersZone Subscriber
    Firefighter430's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 1999
    Location
    Virgilina, VA USA
    Posts
    323

    Default

    quote:
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I really dont want their call volume and headaches.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    How far are you apart? Why would you get thier calls if they folded? I don't know all the details here but somewhere along the way the town has to know that this dept is thier last line of defence when it comes to fast response I would hope (since the #1 station closed). As I said I don't know the details of how far apart your departments are but I'm sure the town and its people enjoy the benifit of having a local in town department that can get to a call in a hurry. What happens if 3-5 min response becomes 10-15 min response? Who will complain. I think that alot of people in the power positions forget about this until their house is on fire.
    "Illegitimis non carborundum."

    - Gen. Joseph Stilwell
    (Lat., "Don't let the *~#%&S grind you down.")

  10. #10
    Forum Member
    Lewiston2FF's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Location
    Niagara Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    1,924

    Default

    Originally posted by EFD840


    Other than acting out of the goodness of your heart, why would you guys have to take on their call volume? If you are both independent entities and they fold any aid agreements would go out the window too. Just being good guys isn't enough reason to permanently take on a new service area with no increase in revenue.
    The stations are only about 3 miles apart.


    The reason we would probably end up getting some of their call volume is that the dispatch is through the county, as is the MA agreement. So fire in Town of Niagara, closest two companies get dispatched. This puts us in the proverbial hard place. I dont want to let someone lose their home, but I also dont want to give the town a way to close down their only fire protection. Tough choice.
    Shawn M. Cecula
    Firefighter
    IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS

  11. #11
    MembersZone Subscriber
    EFD840's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    Location
    Eclectic (no, NOT electric), Alabama
    Posts
    1,510

    Default

    Ok, the countywide MA agreement pretty much explains why you'd get the calls. If you guys protect a different municipality, might it be possible for them to run interference? Something like "Gee, we don't mind our FD helping you folks out but if you close your department we can't be constantly stripping our citizens protection purchased with their tax money."

    Also, has anyone thought about insurance rates? Is there enough station overlap to keep everyone within 5 road miles of a station? If not, some people may see big insurance increases. Even if there is enough overlap, unless you formally absorb their territory won't ISO still consider the area unprotected since nobody will be formally identified as providing fire protection? The potential cost increases to homeowners and businesses might be enough to calm the waters.

  12. #12
    Forum Member
    Lewiston2FF's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Location
    Niagara Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    1,924

    Default

    Originally posted by EFD840
    Ok, the countywide MA agreement pretty much explains why you'd get the calls. If you guys protect a different municipality, might it be possible for them to run interference? Something like "Gee, we don't mind our FD helping you folks out but if you close your department we can't be constantly stripping our citizens protection purchased with their tax money."

    Also, has anyone thought about insurance rates? Is there enough station overlap to keep everyone within 5 road miles of a station? If not, some people may see big insurance increases. Even if there is enough overlap, unless you formally absorb their territory won't ISO still consider the area unprotected since nobody will be formally identified as providing fire protection? The potential cost increases to homeowners and businesses might be enough to calm the waters.
    I agree and I think that is why we are concerned. We dont want to strip our area and provide free fire protection to a town that isnt paying for it.
    Regarding the fire protection, I am not sure what the logic is behind the moves. But, I do know that when the first company was closed Ambulance service was contracted to a paid provider, now those people that are used to getting "free" ambulance service are getting bills and they arent happy about it.
    I dont think there is enough station overlap to keep everyone within 5 miles of a station, many people dont really care though and wont until their insurance bills come.
    Right now times are a little tense here in Niagara County. Heres hoping for the best!
    Shawn M. Cecula
    Firefighter
    IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS

  13. #13
    Forum Member
    Lewiston2FF's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Location
    Niagara Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    1,924

    Default Fire company in standoff with board

    The saga continues. When will it end?

    By PAM KOWALIK
    NEWS NIAGARA BUREAU
    3/28/2005

    TOWN OF NIAGARA - The Niagara Town Board is vowing to withhold funding from the Niagara Active Hose Fire Company if company officials don't open their books.
    A fire company official, meanwhile, said Active Hose - the town's only remaining fire company - would de dissolved.

    "Then it would be time to close," said Daniel J. Hosie, second assistant chief. "We don't look to close. We're not threatening to close."

    Town Board members insist on reviewing the company's financial records and have offered the company the use of the town's accountant without charge to clear up any problems.

    Supervisor Steven C. Richards voiced concern about a recent $10,000 loss from the company's bingo revenue, which Hosie blamed on a bookkeeping error resulting from a payment for a fire truck made from bingo proceeds.

    Richards also said the town has a backup plan should the company close but declined to elaborate.

    In February 2001, the board closed Niagara 1 Fire Company after members of Active Hose said Niagara 1 firefighters were incompetent and posed a threat to themselves and the community.

    Niagara County Sheriff Thomas A. Beilein, meanwhile, said an investigation is under way into fire company spending but declined to elaborate.

    Hosie said town officials are overstepping their bounds.

    "Armand Cerrone's under contract with the Town of Niagara," Hosie said, referring to a general contractor the Town Board has hired to perform work. "Let's see his books. We're a contracted agency. We're not hiding anything."

    The company received $140,000 in town funding last year and sought $220,000 for this year, Hosie said. The town previously paid Niagara 1 and Active Hose a total of $240,000 a year for firefighting services.

    Richards said the Town Board is prepared to make the first $74,000 payment to the fire company April 15 - if it meets town conditions.

    The Town Board made its last $74,000 payment Aug. 15, under protest.

    "I did that because they threatened to go on strike and I had no plan," Richards said. "This time the board is prepared for their terrorist acts. . . . The board is no longer negotiating on accountability of our taxpayers' dollars with a gun to our head."

    Attorney Damon A. DeCastro, who is representing Active Hose, said the fire company has offered to enter binding arbitration on the dispute.
    http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial...28/1069831.asp
    Shawn M. Cecula
    Firefighter
    IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS

  14. #14
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    firmly entrenched in mediocrity
    Posts
    156

    Default

    "I did that because they threatened to go on strike and I had no plan," Richards said. "This time the board is prepared for their terrorist acts. . . . The board is no longer negotiating on accountability of our taxpayers' dollars with a gun to our head."
    Wow, that is some pretty strong language.

  15. #15
    Forum Member
    Lewiston2FF's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Location
    Niagara Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    1,924

    Default

    This is a pretty nasty debate!
    Shawn M. Cecula
    Firefighter
    IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS

  16. #16
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    firmly entrenched in mediocrity
    Posts
    156

    Default

    I have been following the controversy. Have you been contacted as part of the "back up plan"?

  17. #17
    Forum Member
    Lewiston2FF's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Location
    Niagara Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    1,924

    Default

    Originally posted by DepChief135
    I have been following the controversy. Have you been contacted as part of the "back up plan"?
    No one has been officially contacted as part of the back up plan. The initial discussion was to contract with the Niagara Falls Fire department to provide an engine company and possibly a truck to provide for the Town. I do not know where that is going. One issue is that if an official contract is not written up for other FDs to provide coverage, we cannot respond because there must be a fire chief to call for mutual aid.
    I am just waiting to see how this plays out.
    Shawn M. Cecula
    Firefighter
    IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS

  18. #18
    Forum Member
    Bones42's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    Location
    Pt. Beach, NJ
    Posts
    10,685

    Default

    Do I have this right? A fire company would rather close and screw their public than provide a financial report? Please tell me I'm seeing this wrong.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

  19. #19
    Forum Member
    Weruj1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Location
    NW Ohio
    Posts
    7,857

    Default

    Bones...........even more amazing it has gone on for now well over a year ! Whats the big deal with showing them the books ?
    IACOJ both divisions and PROUD OF IT !
    Pardon me sir.. .....but I believe we are all over here !
    ATTENTION ALL SHOPPERS: Will the dead horse please report to the forums.(thanks Motown)
    RAY WAS HERE 08/28/05
    LETHA' FOREVA' ! 010607
    I'm sorry, I haven't been paying much attention for the last 3 hours.....what were we discussing?
    "but I guarentee you I will FF your arse off" from>
    http://www.firehouse.com/forums/show...60#post1137060post 115

  20. #20
    Forum Member
    spearsm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Lowndes, MS USA
    Posts
    742

    Question

    Now, I am not pointing fingers, or anything of the such. Don't bristle up on me, now.

    If you don't want to show the books, then you have something keeping you from doing that, right? naturally. So, could the reason be that there has been mismanagement that would naturally be exposed if the books were turned over? What else could it be? If all is above board, why would you not gladly surrender the books to keep the company going? Why?
    YGBSM!
    Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.

    If all you have is a hammer, then your problems start to look like nails.
    ___________________

    IACOJ
    Southern Division.

  21. #21
    Forum Member
    Lewiston2FF's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Location
    Niagara Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    1,924

    Default

    The books have been turned over to the same CPA that the Town of Niagara is using. All efforts have been made to comply with the reasonable requests made by the town. I believe the point of contention right now is that the town wants complete control over the FDs money. The town has agreed to give the FD an additional $25,000 but will keep 12% of that money for its discressionary use. Basically the FD ends up with $12,000 less than they had this year.
    Shawn M. Cecula
    Firefighter
    IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS

  22. #22
    Forum Member
    Bones42's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    Location
    Pt. Beach, NJ
    Posts
    10,685

    Default

    Both turning books over to a CPA does not mean they have provided a report to the town, the CPA would be bound to not let anyone see anyone else's books.

    town wants complete control over the FDs money.
    So the Town wants control/reporting over the town money that the town gives to the FD? Might be me, but as a taxpayer of a town, I'd like the town to have control/reporting on it's money also. However, any monies the FD generates on it's own, via fundraisers etc, should not have to be reported to the town as that is not the town's money.

    By the way, my town already gets full reporting on what we do with the money they provide us.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

  23. #23
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Bossier Parrish, Louisiana
    Posts
    10,628

    Default

    Went through a similiar situation, though not nearly as nasty when I was a firefighter in a volunteer department in northwestern Vermont. The department I was on at that time was, much like Niagara, an independant non-profit corporation, that had a contract with the town to provide fire protection. There were 2 members of the selectboard (out of 5) who felt that they were experts on fire protection and seemed to think that we were bilking the taxpayers, and demanded to see our books or else they would "make sure" that our funding was cut by 50%. Long story short, we let the townspeople know about what was happening, and within 2 weeks, under pressure from the residents, and the other selectboard members, the 2 jerks backed down and the controvery had gone away. We had always had the support of the townspeople, and most of the local government officials, and when we let them know that we had a better ISO rating and they were paying about 30% of what the next town over (combo department with very similiar demographics)was paying for fire protection they rallied behind us. Have not had a problem since then (and really didn't have one before that in 50 years), and in fact the department has seen some nice contract increases in the past few years.

    Note: We were and I beleive still are only 1 of 3 departments in VT with an ISO of 3 (lowest in the state). The other 2 are a fully career and a primarily career department. We gave the town DAMN good bang for the buck. (There may be one more now, which is now primarily career, but don't that know for sure)

    Lesson learned: Keep the residents behind you and it's amazing what you can fight your way through.

  24. #24
    Forum Member
    Lewiston2FF's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Location
    Niagara Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    1,924

    Default

    Originally posted by Bones42
    Both turning books over to a CPA does not mean they have provided a report to the town, the CPA would be bound to not let anyone see anyone else's books.

    So the Town wants control/reporting over the town money that the town gives to the FD? Might be me, but as a taxpayer of a town, I'd like the town to have control/reporting on it's money also. However, any monies the FD generates on it's own, via fundraisers etc, should not have to be reported to the town as that is not the town's money.

    By the way, my town already gets full reporting on what we do with the money they provide us.
    It is currently my understanding that this has been complied with. However, the issue of the money is that the town isnt exactly playing fair. The town takes in 300,000 in fire protection taxes and pays out 147,000 according to the FD attorney. I believe that the theory that there are 3 sides to a story is especially relevant in this situation.

    Bones,
    My FD is a not for profit corporation contracted by the town to provide fire protection for the citizens of our response area. We are paid a lump sum check each year according to a previously agreed contract. I am not disagreeing with you, the town requests the books, we should provide them. I believe by using the Town of Niagara accountant that the understanding was that the findings of the audit would be turned over to the town board. It is not clear at this time whether that has happened.

    One other portion of the story which I am not sure was covered in the news article is that the town has suspended negotiations with the FD with only an offer and counter offer being submitted. The town didnt like the FD counter offer and has stated that they see no point to continue negotiations. Again I do not know the whole story and hope that it is all brought to light soon.
    Shawn M. Cecula
    Firefighter
    IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS

  25. #25
    Forum Member
    Bones42's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    Location
    Pt. Beach, NJ
    Posts
    10,685

    Default

    Lewiston2Capt, my bad.

    I failed to notice the "contracted" part of the story. That puts it into a different situation then in my mind. As long as they are meeting the "contract" then there should be no problem. After all, you don't request the books for every company you ever sign a contract with.

    I had thought it was more of a "municipal" department, like my own.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts

Log in

Click here to log in or register