Public safety problems tackled

NORWICH – After nearly a year of ongoing government deliberations, two out of three problems concerning public safety in Chenango County are on their way to being solved.

Town supervisors serving on the Safety and Rules Committee this week backed a taxpayer-funded, fire code enforcement budget for the first time in seven years. The budget calls for $70,780 in local share. The department’s staffing and other costs had previously been fee-driven.

“After much discussion, it was decided that to keep the staffing required to do our jobs, we had to go on the (county’s) budget,” the department’s accountant Eric Depperman said.

Depperman and Director Marcus Flindt said they anticipated closing out half of the 2,000 open fire and building code permits next year, and raising as much as $100,000 in fees as a result.

The committee also passed a resolution to move four kitchen staffers from the Area Agency on Aging into the Sheriff’s Office budget. The move could end a two-year long struggle to save efficiencies between the two departments. The Agency uses the jail’s cafeteria to prepare seniors’ meals while a separate jail staff does the same for inmates.

No resolution has yet to be found for a lack of ambulance coverage for the county, however. After reviewing the figures in his proposed $78,400 budget, fire Coordinator Matt Beckwith said no other ambulance company had stepped forward since Binghamton-based Superior Ambulance cut services to the county in mid-January. Town of Greene Supervisor Jack T. Cook asked what studies were being done, calling the situation “a crisis” that “needs attention.”

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