Fishers Fire District Commissioner Election: What you need to know

The Fishers Fire District will have an election to decide who will be the fifth fire commissioner for the area. The winning candidate will have multiple issues to address, from a possible merger with the Victor Fire Department to a possible relocation of the Victor-Farmington ambulance.
The Fishers Fire District will have an election to decide who will be the fifth fire commissioner for the area. The winning candidate will have multiple issues to address, from a possible merger with the Victor Fire Department to a possible relocation of the Victor-Farmington ambulance.

Residents of the Fishers Fire District will head to the polls Tuesday, Dec. 13, and cast a ballot for a new fire commissioner. Voters will be able to choose between two new candidates running to fill out the five-member board, which will oversee matters related to the department, including appointing people to fill vacancies and approving purchases of equipment or vehicles.

Current Fire Commissioner Kyle Fischer will be stepping down at the end of the year with the winning candidate assuming his seat on Jan. 1.

In accordance with state law, the position is voluntary and unpaid, with commissioners serving on the board for five years before running for re-election.

Residents can cast their ballots at Fishers Fire Station No. 2, 380 High St., Victor, from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m.

Here's what you need to know about what's on the ballot.

Election may give majority control to Taxpayer Coalition

The election for fire commissioner may give more muscle and influence to the Fishers Taxpayer Coalition, an ad hoc group of residents who formed up to attend fire commissioner meetings with an interest in reducing their fire tax, which covers fire protection services among other amenities. While the coalition already has two representatives on the board, having a third member would help the group advance its agenda significantly, according to Anthony Carfagno, a candidate running for the seat who is aligned with the group.

More on the Taxpayer Coalition:Taxpayer ‘revolt’ sparks probe into Fishers Fire District operations

"We need a majority of three to get any meaningful change done," Carfagno said.

Among the changes Carfagno hopes to implement if elected is bringing the Victor-Farmington Ambulance into the station, getting the retiree health care system set up and established and merging with the Victor Fire Department.

"The Victor Fire District commissioners have been giving us lip-service," Carfagno said regarding the merger, which initially involved talks between the two districts in 2018, and which fizzled out after a close vote by the Fishers board. "Why can’t we just hammer this out now? I think that’s an avenue that needs to be pursued seriously," Carfagno added.

Anthony Carfagno
Anthony Carfagno

Carfagno also hopes to help rein in costs if elected, citing an audit by the New York State Comptroller's Office regarding an increase in property taxes to address projected budget gaps.

"You can’t just run out and spend millions of dollars without doing due diligence," Carfagno said, adding that in his estimation there was an attitude of "it's just taxpayer money," when it came to budgeting within the district.

"That's got to stop."

Community members concerned about reductions in service

While there is support across the district for merging with Victor, Fischer said it was worth noting why the initial vote failed.

According to Fischer, the consolidation couldn't have happened until recently because it would've been inequitable to Fishers. The Victor Village Fire Department, as it was called at the time, owed money for the station and firefighting equipment, which would mean Fishers would have to pay that debt off after merging.

"If you go into business with your brother and you've paid all your debts while your brother hasn't, to the credit card company that all goes together," Fischer said.

"Consolidation needed to be done properly, not rushed through," Fischer added. "We needed correct parameters, and that hadn't been established."

Another candidate running for Fischer's seat is Jean Krym, who does want to keep taxes low, although she has a different strategy than merging with another district. Having served on Victor's Zoning Board of Appeals for 35 years, Krym said this experience would make her well-qualified to serve on the Fishers Fire District Board of Commissioners, where her goal would be to regionalize emergency services across multiple fire districts, diffusing costs.

Jean Krym
Jean Krym

While Krym knows this wouldn't be a silver bullet, it could work long-term to help offset any possible increases in the fire tax.

Initially, Krym had no interest in running for the seat.

"They asked if they could talk with me, and asked if I could run for fire commissioner. I said no, absolutely not, and I said good night," Krym said.

Krym later changed her mind, saying how she "felt guilty," as the firefighters from the department had been to her home multiple times to help her late husband who had medical issues, citing their professionalism and responsiveness as part of the reason for running, along with a desire to work with everyone on the commission.

"I didn't want to go back to work, but I'm going back to work," she added.

Another member of the district, John Williamson — who had served as an interim commissioner until losing his seat to Fred Dewey, a member of the Taxpayer Coalition in the December 2021 election — described "deceptive" practices by the coalition, which he said included attempts to shrink the number of full-time firefighters at the station.

"The Taxpayer Coalition is driving a wedge between public safety and saving a few hundred a year," Williamson said.

Fischer also said he saw similar goals on the part of the coalition.

"Since Deb [Hogan] and Fred came on, their thing is losing people through attrition, losing more people than we can afford," Fischer said.

"So you either hire new people or pay overtime. Some don’t want overtime, they want to see their families, live the rest of their lives," he said, adding that there's a cost to losing experienced firefighters to other districts.

"Seconds count when there's a fire or a heart attack," he added.

And if there's a shortage of firefighters at the department? Then the risk of accidents go up, with the possibility of the town being held liable, according to Williamson.

"If you don't have the right manpower, residents, the town and fire district are open to a lawsuit. If a firefighter dies, we're open to legal action," said Williamson, who was appointed to the commission in July 2021.

The reason there's a current spike in overtime hours among the full-time firefighters, Williamson said, is that there still needs to be coverage in case of a fire or another medical emergency.

"It's very critical that (people) understand there are certain standards. If you and I are at a station, one person drives and another person goes with the driver. The standard is two out, two in. There has to be people outside the fire working machinery and adjusting the water pressure," Williamson said. "So if I just go in blind and something happens, you can’t go in and save me because you have to be outside working the mechanics."

"It's not like a factory where you can put a robot in place to work the machinery," Williamson said. "That’s not good business for anybody."

This article originally appeared on MPNnow: Anthony Carfagno, Jean Krym vie for seat on Fishers fire board.