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Rossie will dump Hammond’s fire and rescue services next year

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HAMMOND – Rossie has decided to turn to Oxbow and Gouverneur for fire protection after years of depending on Hammond for its fire and rescue services, a move that is not sitting well with Hammond officials.

“It was a difficult decision for our town board,” Rossie Town Clerk Lynn A. DeCondo said, speaking on behalf of the town officials Friday. “But the decision was made to keep the town under the 2 percent tax cap for 2014.”

Hammond Mayor Shelly M. Youngs, who received a letter from Rossie about the town’s decision based on the 2 percent tax cap, says the math doesn’t add up.

Rossie has contracted fire and rescue services from Hammond for $10,500 for several years, she said. The contract was set to increase by $500 next year so that the village can purchase equipment to comply with new federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations.

Mrs. DeCondo said Rossie will fund a $4,500 contract with Oxbow in Jefferson County and a $7,457 contract with Gouverneur for ambulance services. The total cost is $957 more than Hammond’s rate.

“I believe it is an excuse,” Mrs. Youngs said.

Hammond Fire Chief John B. Bass said firefighters and EMTs will still have to respond to emergencies in Rossie, but the lack of a contract means his department won’t be reimbursed for providing mutual aid when Gouverneur or Oxbow is unable to respond.

Mrs. DeCondo said the decision was not just based on cost.

“We believe Hammond may not have enough people available to respond,” she said.

Mr. Bass disagreed, saying that Hammond’s membership is at full capacity.

“We even have a waiting list for new members, and we never have problems responding to calls,” Mr. Bass said.

Mrs. DeCondo said the change should not impact residents.

“I don’t see it impacting residents in any way,” she said. “They are highly qualified.”

But Mrs. Youngs disagrees.

“It’s a sad situation, but I feel bad for the people in Rossie,” Mrs. Youngs said. “They deserve to know. If you are almost at the Hammond line, you’re going to have to wait for Gouverneur. And on top of that, Gouverneur charges residents for ambulance services.”

Mrs. Youngs said the department won’t be crippled by the loss of $11,000.

“Our fire department is substantial and very capable,” she said. “The funds usually go toward fixing trucks and replacing older equipment, so we’ll have to rearrange and go without things, but it really won’t affect us at this time.”

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