AUBURN | Change is coming to Cayuga County Emergency Service agencies in the form of equipment disbursement.
In late October, Auburn emergency agencies will switch to an updated radio communication system implemented by Cayuga County. The new system appears to be the catalyst for a new form of pager equipment being disbursed to each department.
At Cayuga County's Judicial and Public Safety committee meeting on Tuesday night, 911 Center Administrator Denise Spingler posed the question to legislators on pager allotment.
“We're trying to figure out if it makes sense to allocate 25 pagers to an agency that only has 20 members,” she said. “It doesn't make sense to distribute more than they need only for them to sit on a shelf and collect dust.”
Nearly two years ago, 29 agencies in Cayuga County were surveyed to understand and calculate pager equipment needs within each department. They were allotted pager equipment based on predicted averages by the county. Since then however, membership numbers have changed causing officials to wonder what some agencies are doing with the unnecessary, unused and extra equipment.
Brian Dahl, Director of Emergency Services was in charge of auditing each agency two years ago but has noticed membership numbers change since then, he said.
“After gathering data now, I'm looking at one department that's looking at holding on to 15 to 20 pagers to store away — that are not assigned to anyone,” Dahl said. “And there is another department that may have to buy pagers because they've had a wealth of people showing up to volunteer. So now it's a windfall for one department but it's a huge burden for another to have to buy them.”
With taxpayer money at stake, legislators agreed to a solution that would require each agency to present an active roster with training certifications to ensure there is no overage in disbursement, officials said. They also agreed to limit any surplus to 10 percent over the agency's active roster.
The news has caused a mixed reaction between different departments.
Throop Fire Department Fire Chief Patrick Burns doesn't agree with the new plan entirely but said there should be a level of fairness for all individuals and agencies involved. The Throop Fire Department has 35 active firefighters and were allotted approximately 35 pagers. They don't receive any extra pagers, Burns said.
“The county has allotted pagers to be be provided for us and the fair thing to do is to be sure that they're being used,” Burns said. “And everyone really needs to play fair, whether they like it or not. We really don't have a choice.”
Scott Kehoe, Fleming 1 Fire Department Chief has 39 active firefighters and the department receives 42 pagers, he said. Kehoe agreed that the new plan is fair and added if a department is holding onto extra pagers, then they should be given back to be used.
“I'm getting what I need at this point in time but they can't keep billing the taxpayer for equipment that no one is using,” Kehoe said. “At the end of the day the taxpayers pay for that equipment.”
Many county legislators agreed that having equipment laying around and underutilized is a waste of taxpayer money and the emergency agencies that could be using them.
“We need them to understand that this isn't something we want to do to make things difficult,” Legislator Paul Pinckney said. “But if they're going to be put in a locker somewhere then it's a waste.”
The proposed plan would pull all 1,100 pagers within the different agencies and redistribute them equally, Dahl said. Even with the county's attempt to limit surplus equipment, Dahl said there are many agencies that will be unhappy about the decision.
Still he supports the legislators' decision in doing what they believe is best for the county and the taxpayer.
“When 99 percent are willing to play nice it can become difficult to deal with that 1 percent that's still out there and will be angry about this decision,” Dahl said. “Our goal is to make sure that everyone is treated equally and everyone learns to play nice in the sandbox.”