Anthony Carfagno won the race for fire commissioner in the Fishers Fire District last Tuesday. It was a long process, but one that he hopes will set the district on a better course.
“It was a lot of work,” he said of the campaign process. “My campaign team worked tirelessly with social media, delivering information to households, mailing – it was just a group effort, a monumental group effort.”
Carfagno said he’s glad it all worked out and now focus shifts to the five-year term he committed to by running. The Fishers Taxpayer Coalition now has three supporting members on the commission. Carfagno is part of that group and ran on a platform to save money.
We caught up with the newest member of the Commission to talk about what’s next for those in the Fishers Fire District.
“We’re working on a 90-day plan,” Carfagno told FingerLakes1.com on Sunday. One of the first things he wants to accomplish is moving one of Victor-Farmington Ambulance Company’s rigs into the Fishers Fire Department. Operational efficiency is a big reason why that move makes sense. Victor-Farmington Ambulance currently houses a rig at the Victor Firehouse until 11 p.m.
Carfagno hopes that after January 1st, 2023 the same will be said for Fishers.
“Right now a lot of EMS calls Fishers responds to, but they can’t transport, so it really makes sense to have someone who can respond and then take you to Strong, or General, or you know, Thompson in Canandaigua,” Carfagno explained. “When minutes count for something serious, it becomes a necessity to have a Victor-Farmington Ambulance rig nearby.”
The Fishers Fire Department is a paid, professional staff. The second part of Carfagno’s 90-day plan includes sitting down with union representatives from Fishers to talk about the best path forward. The last contract was signed five years ago.
“It’s a very lucrative contract,” Carfagno added. “We want to look at that and see if there’s any cost-savings that we can accomplish, because right now with what’s built into that contract, it’s putting the district on a trajectory of tax increases year-after-year bringing us close to a breaking point. We’re basically there now.”
To understand how the Fishers Fire District is weighing on taxpayers in Victor, it’s best to look at fire service as a whole in the town. There are approximately 15,000 people living in Victor.
The Victor Fire Department takes care of the east side of town, which includes the village. The Fishers Fire District covers the west side of town, which has historically been the busier portion. This includes a portion of I-490, the New York State Thruway, and State Route 96 through it’s most heavily commercialized stretch.
Carfagno said Victor recently hired two paid, full-time firefighters due to challenges finding volunteers. That said, examining both departments one glaring difference stands out.
Taxpayers in Victor outside of the Fishers Fire District pay $1.51 per $1,000 of assessed value. That means a person who owns a $330,000 house pays approximately $450 per year in taxes for fire service.
Those who live in the Fishers Fire District pay $3.18 per $1,000 of assessed value, which means they pay upwards of $1,050 per year. A stark contrast for Carfagno and those who consider them part of the taxpayer coalition.
He said the issue of consolidation has come up before, and will likely be brought up in the future. “The wheels were put in motion to get that done several years ago,” Carfagno recalled. “Everybody was in favor of it. Supposedly, the Victor Fire District was in favor, the Town Supervisor was in favor, Fishers Fire District was in favor, and Victor voted for consolidation. But for some reason, in the winter of 2018 when the vote came to Fishers, they rejected it 3-2 without ever giving a good explanation.”
There were rumblings about Victor having too much debt and the financial burden that would’ve placed on taxpayers in the Fishers Fire District. There were also rumblings about losing identity and firefighters being forced to re-apply for jobs. “There was just a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes. And they convinced three of our commissioners to kill that plan. That was a huge miss. A lot of people poured a lot of money and time into that; and basically for nothing. The state even had about a $250,000 grant to make that happen to do all the administrative and legal work. And they just said ‘no’.”
As for concerns about response time, if Fishers eventually decides to downsize its department – Carfagno pointed to other communities around Victor.
“Like I’ve said, districts around us, like Victor, Bushnells Basin, Mendon, Perinton – they’re mostly, if not all volunteer,” he said. “Victor is the only one that has two full-time firefighters. They all seem to be doing okay. I don’t hear their residents screaming about lack of service.”
Carfagno said he wants to see the district take a hard look at what makes Victor so unique that it needs to have such a costly, complex method for fire protection.
He will be sworn-in later this month with the term beginning January 1st, 2023.