Who owns the fire equipment in Copenhagen?

Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 5:01 PM EDT
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COPENHAGEN, New York (WWNY) - Who owns the fire equipment? It’s the latest debate between Copenhagen village officials and its fire department.

It all stems from a recent vote where village officials decided to disband the department. It’s not a done deal yet, but if it’s finalized, who will own the fire trucks, hoses and gear? The answer depends on who you ask.

“I don’t think they’ll ever state that they don’t own it,” said Copenhagen Village Attorney Candace Randall, referring to the fire department.

She says paperwork shows the apparatus is owned by the “Copenhagen Volunteer Fire Department” not the “Copenhagen Fire Department Corporation.”

It’s a big distinction, she says. And because the assets were paid for with taxpayer money, they belong to the village.

“Our position is that is an arm of the village just like the DPW, and those vehicles belong to the village or, you know, the taxpayers,” said Randall.

Randall says the fire department disagrees, stating the vehicles are owned by the corporation. An argument, she says, that’s not valid.

“The corporation does not own the membership of the volunteer fire department so they may have that thought but certainly the paperwork doesn’t show that nor does the law support their position,” said Randall.

We asked the fire department who owns the trucks, gear and hoses. We got a response that didn’t answer that question.

Instead, Jim Henry, the president of the corporate side of the department, criticized the village for not making recent payments on expenses the fire department has submitted.

If the fire department disbands, the village is ready with another nearby fire department to provide fire protection to the village. It won’t be able to use the current fire hall.

Randall says the village has identified other properties near the building, which the village can lease.

“We have been able to locate and identify 2 separate properties that we would be able to lease to be able to run trucks out of and it’s right in the village,” she said.

To keep the department from disbanding, the public could bring the issue up for a vote by getting a petition signed by enough people. There are about 3 weeks left to get that done.