Bill could give Jamestown volunteer firefighters an incentive to join. Here's how.

JAMESTOWN — In a small island town with high property values, it can be difficult to find volunteers willing to climb 100-foot ladders and crawl into burning buildings.

"The numbers (of volunteers) is dwindling, mostly because it’s difficult for younger people to afford housing in Jamestown," Jamestown Volunteer Fire Department Chief James Bryer Jr. said in an email. "The people moving here are a lot of seasonal homes and are older and are not inclined to volunteering on a fire or EMS service.”

One solution recently proposed is to give a little more property tax relief as an incentive for more volunteers to join. State Rep. Alexander Finkelman and state Sen. Dawn Euer have both filed sister bills that would provide a tax abatement of up to $2,000 to Jamestown firefighters based on years in service, number of calls responded to and training hours. The tax abatement would also be transferable to a surviving spouse until remarriage or death. Jamestown Town Council approved the resolution requesting these tax abatement bills in early January.

Firefighters work the scene of a blaze in Jamestown in 2021.
Firefighters work the scene of a blaze in Jamestown in 2021.

“With daily costs rising rapidly, especially in regards to housing costs, we believe that our brave and dedicated fire and emergency personnel in Jamestown deserve some relief for the vital and dangerous jobs they perform every day to keep us safe,” Finkelman and Euer said in a joint statement in support of their legislation. “Jamestown firefighters also serve the community on a voluntary basis so this tax abatement would serve as compensation for the crucial services they provide, often at the risk and expense of their own well-being. We believe this is a fair way for the town to show its appreciation to our dedicated emergency personnel while also serving as an incentive for others to volunteer their service to the community.”

The town already provides a $700 tax abatement to its firefighters which requires the person to take a certain number of required trainings per year and respond to a certain number of calls, Bryer said. The town also provides a similar $700 tax abatement for retired members over the age of 55 who served at least 25 years in the department.

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"We are hoping this will help retain members and incentivize them to come more,” Bryer said. "There is always a possibility that people will see these incentives and come.”

Finkelman’s bill (H5263) has been referred to the House Municipal Government and Housing Committee and Euer’s bill (S0056) has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

This article originally appeared on Newport Daily News: Jamestown seeks more firefighters with $2,000 tax abatement