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Chatham hears that aging pumper’s days are numbered


CHATHAM–At the monthly meeting of the Village Board last week what began as a routine report from Fire Chief Paul Rideout fire call responses turned into a discussion of whether the Chatham Fire Department might become more efficient with a little less equipment.

Chief Rideout presented the department’s activities in November of this year to village trustees at the December 10 session, a list that included four responses by firefighters during November. Two of the calls were for auto accidents and one structure fire. But the nature of the report changed as the chief outlined the cost of repairs to the older of the two pumper trucks owned by the department, a list that started with new tires–quite expensive–and included work that will make it possible for firefighters to properly steer a truck that’s been in service for more than 30 years.

What the chief broached was the idea of making some repairs to the pumper, originally purchased in 1983 and with the distinction of being the first brand new engine the CFD ever owned. Once that was done, he said that the old pumper would be placed on “reserve status,” meaning it could be used for responses to “working fires” but would not ordinarily be used in responses to more routine calls. The distinction is important because having only one pumper available could drive up the cost of fire insurance for village fire district homeowners who don’t live near a fire hydrant.

Chief Rideout also said that the fire department faces a manpower shortage and that having fewer trucks might be a way of slightly downsizing without jeopardizing fire coverage.

Except for the pumper, “All the other apparatus is in good shape,” the chief said.

In response to the idea for equipment changes, Mayor Tom Curran said, “It sounds like something we could strategize.”

The mayor also used the occasion to praise the Fire Department for having changed the way Santa’s arrival was handled December 4. The fire truck carrying the jolly elf did not stop at the Tracy Memorial Village Hall as it has in years past. Instead the procession of vehicles navigated the roundabout and ended at the green, where Santa took up his seat in the gazebo and the holiday carols and other traditions were performed at the new location. The chief and board members agreed that the green turned out to be a much better site for the event.

In other business:

  • The board approved reimbursement of a $103 to a village taxpayer for a property tax late fee. The taxpayer’s payment was indeed late, but that was because the bill was sent to the wrong address. The taxpaying resident discovered the address error and but despite efforts to have officials correct it the bill, which is printed by the county, still went to the wrong address. The error has since been corrected but the board is not clear why it happened in the first place.

“I feel she shouldn’t have to pay the penalty,” said the mayor. The vote to reimburse the late fee was unanimous

  • The village has received grant funds to help purchase a new wood chipper, with the grant covering $20,000 and the sale of the old chipper expected to cover the $10,000 balance. The village also plans to purchase a new lawn mower. Board members agreed that having two lawn mowers will reduce the time spent mowing grass on village property. The new mower will cost $9,000, with $5,000 of that total accounted for in the current year’s budget and the balance to be paid from next year’s budget
  • The village will experiment this winter with using its snow blower to remove snow from sidewalks along state routes running through the village. That would include the length of Hudson Avenue from the intersection with Main Street to the shopping plaza next to the county fairgrounds
  • The new sidewalks around the Chatham Central School District schools are nearing completion. One section near the Middle school on Woodbridge Avenue had to be rebuilt because too much concrete was poured there
  • Leaf pickups are over for the season but village residents may still take leaves to the town DPW yard and dump them there
  • The mayor reported that construction of the new village salt shed is nearly complete and that the village had saved “a bunch of money” on its construction by using state funds, with no funds coming from the village budget. He said that was possible because of contributions from the power company NYSEG and with help received from the Town of Ghent, which he said was a good example of municipalities sharing services.

The shed will prevent salt destined for icy roads from leaching into the ground where it is stores. As for the shed itself, the mayor said, “It’s a beautiful thing.”

The next regular meeting of the board is scheduled for Thursday, January 14 at 7 p.m. at the Tracy Memorial Village Hall.

To contact Parry Teasdale email


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