Carthage firefighters are asking village leaders to stand by them. That’s because the village board wrote a letter to the state opposing a bill that would help volunteer firefighters with the cost of fighting cancer.
Dozens of firefighters and supporters came in trucks — and even a bus — and walked into the village board meeting to convince lawmakers to support the bill.
The bill only needs the governor’s signature to become a law that would help select volunteer firefighters get disability benefits if they get cancer.
The village board’s reason for opposing it, as firefighters learned during the meeting, had to do with who would pay for it..
“Right now everyone of these volunteer firefighters from your community don’t have no coverage if they get cancer providing a service to the residents of your village,” said Ken Penkowski, who’s president of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York.
“We’re not against the fire department,” Carthage Village President Wayne McIlroy said. “Why would we ever be against the volunteer fire department?”
But the village board is worried its taxpayers would pick up the bill. Officials say the state is pushing the bill but set aside no funding.
“We have a concern that the taxpayers are the people that are going to be paying for this and the state provided no money,” McIlroy said. “They passed a bill and just said ‘here it is, you pay for it.'”
In the Carthage Fire Department’s case, four firefighters would likely be eligible for the coverage, which is designed to help firefighters exposed to dangerous materials during their volunteer service.
Penkowski says it would cost taxpayers hundreds, at most around $1,000 a year.
In the end, the village voted to rescind its letter and send another supporting the cause of the bill, but not the unfunded mandate.
“Once people pointed out a few things, I think they could see it from our direction, too,” Assistant Fire Chief Brian Draper said.