Copenhagen approves fire protection from Rutland

Nov. 15—COPENHAGEN — For the first time in 133 years, the village no longer has a fire department and has entered into a contract for fire protection with another municipality.

After a public hearing in which many of the 15 people in attendance asked the board a number of questions about the $2,300 contract with Rutland Volunteer Fire Department that will cover the village through the end of the year.

Many of the questions and discussion were about where Rutland's fire truck would be stored.

The village had reached an agreement negotiated for a nearby location, but the garage owner "changed the terms," board members said, so they are working on another option.

Some communities offered suggestions of locations that may be suitable like the Copenhagen Central School District bus garage or other well known large facilities while former mayor Scott Alexander, who is also a former fire chief and a current fire department member, implored everyone at the meeting to put aside differences and contribute ideas for suitable spaces.

Candace Randall, attorney for the village on the fire department situation, responded to questions about why the existing fire hall can't house the Rutland truck.

"I cannot advise my client to enter into a contract with an entity that is going to be dissolved by the state, and it's my opinion that they (the Copenhagen Fire Department non-profit corporation) cannot enter into a contract given the fact that their purpose for existing has been dissolved and that would not be a legal, sound decision to do that — to enter into a contract with an entity that can't enter into a contract," she said.

The village sold the firehall property for $10 to Copenhagen Fire Department, Inc. in 1997, according to public records.

She also told those asking that the state Attorney General's Office is responsible for dissolving fire department non-profit corporations and decide jurisdiction for its assets. The office does not tell the parties involved how that it will take to do so, she said.

For the town of Champion's fire department, it took about two years to resolve the use of their fire department's trucks and hall after it was dissolved.

The attorney general has been informed of the Copenhagen volunteer fire department's abolishment last week so the fire department corporation — also referred to as the Copenhagen Fire Department Inc. — will be dissolved when the Attorney General's office gets to it.

Concerns were raised about the 6- to 8-mile distance Rutland firefighters will have to come, but once a location is found for their truck, the board said there are five Rutland firefighters who live in and much closer to the village and one of their firefighters who work at the school in the day and can respond.

Scott Simmons, who lives just outside of the village under the former fire protection of the village department, is a former volunteer and has been very vocal about the way he believes the fire department has failed to take responsibility for the taxpayer money entrusted to it.

He suggested to the members of the former volunteer department and remaining members in the corporation — including president of the non-profit corporation James Henry who was present — that if everyone is truly concerned about public safety then it makes sense to combine forces with Rutland rather than to fight the inevitable, being that all fire departments have challenges getting new volunteers.

He also led a group with Mayor Mark Souva to examine the village's equipment garage that is reportedly "five feet too short" to house Rutland's trucks, to figure out what can be done in the most economical way to make it suitable.

The group was energized to make solving the fire truck storage problem a project to bring a divided village back together.