by Larry Austin
The Grand Island Town Board approved a five-year contract with the Grand Island Fire Co. for service from Jan. 1, 2015, through Dec. 31, 2019.
The board voted 4-0 to approve the contract at its regular meeting Monday. The agreement calls for payments to the GIFC of $1,138,270 in 2015; $1,159,235 in 2016; $1,190,620 in 2017; $1,237,433 in 2018; and $1,284,681 in 2019.
At a public hearing that preceded the vote on the contract, Greg Butcher of the GIFC spoke to thank the board for "the hard and diligent work, and to let the public know what an incredible task that is to come up with a contract to provide fire protection."
"There are 130 hard-working men and women in the fire company, and they are everything from mechanics to laborers, from students to teachers, and from doctors to lawyers. They are your friends, they are your neighbors and they are your family, and they work very hard," Butcher said.
Butcher cited the GIFC's work in noting the first-responders who responded to a 58-car accident on the North Grand Island Bridge on Thanksgiving as well as seven other simultaneous incidents.
"They do this for no salary. They do this because they love to help people," Butcher said.
This is the 76th year of the GIFC, he said. The GIFC is working with the Town Board in developing a long-range financial plan.
"I think we're well on our way to our next 76 years, and I just want to thank the Town Board again on behalf of the members of the fire company for supporting our contract," Butcher said.
Town Supervisor Mary Cooke said the pact took "considerable effort on both sides." The town and GIFC are currently completing a one-year contract for 2014.
Councilman Ray Billica, who voted against the fire protection budget at the Dec. 1 Town Board meeting, said the contract negotiations provided an opportunity to sit down with the fire company, listen to what they had to say, and balance their needs with the board's responsibility of keeping taxes low.
"I thought we could do a little bit better in keeping the tax rate increase less than what it ended up being. But having said that, I recognize how much work they do, how important it is and how we've got to have them, so I believe this is probably the best we can do," Billica said.
The resolution passed 4-0. The approximately 30 GIFC members left the Town Hall courtroom to a round of applause from those in attendance at the meeting.