Legislature Urges State to Address Dwindling Ranks of Emergency Responders   

Monticello, NY – Sullivan County legislators are calling upon New York State lawmakers to address a serious deficiency of volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel by increasing incentives and training.

“Most of our fire departments and ambulance corps can confirm that they struggle to attract and retain volunteers – to the point that prompt service risks being affected,” said Legislator Terri Ward, chair of the Public Safety Committee. “Yet while their numbers decline, the need for their aid does not, and it is up to all of us in government to figure out how to stem the loss of absolutely critical personnel.”

“Our citizens deserve and demand prompt, reliable, professional emergency care, and our volunteers are committed to delivering exactly that,” said County Manager Josh Potosek. “But there is only so much a small group can do, no matter how dedicated. We need to swell their ranks, and the State is in a position to make a significant difference in that effort.”

“State-mandated training hours and recertification requirements have grown to such a burdensome point that the goal of better service is being subverted,” said Legislature Chairman Luis Alvarez. “The unintended consequence is that too many otherwise-eligible volunteers can’t afford the time to take required training.”

So a unanimous Legislature has just sent a resolution to the State asking that the 2018 NYS Budget feature increased incentives for counties like Sullivan to attract and retain volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel, and that lawmakers investigate ways to make participation in these departments and corps more viable for potential and current volunteers.

The full resolution reads:
WHEREAS, the Sullivan County Legislature has declared the need to address all areas of policy which affect health and safety for the residents of Sullivan County in an effort to improve our state ranking and make Sullivan County a healthier place to live and visit; and 

WHEREAS, Sullivan County, like many rural counties, depends on volunteers of professional services like Firefighters and Emergency Medical Service providers, yet the recent trends for these citizen support systems show a great decline, in contrast to the growing importance and frequency of our needs; and 

WHEREAS, the County is scrambling its efforts in all directions at the local level to ensure the attraction and retention of these needed agencies improve, however, finding itself limited in economic incentives, a county can offer to make this possible due to State limitations of the property tax laws and income tax laws; and

WHEREAS, the state-mandated training hours and recertification requirements continue to grow for both of these support agencies, which although intended to improve the quality of the service and standards, has created the unintended consequence of furthering the decline of retention and attraction; and
WHEREAS, the County believes that it is in New York State’s interest to offer incentives for training, education, and participation in voluntary service to the fields of EMS and Firefighting so that as New Yorkers living in rural counties, New Yorkers who travel to rural counties as visitors and those who we welcome from out of state or out of country to rural New York are ensured of adequate levels of life-saving support service. 

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Sullivan County Legislature hereby request, with great urgency, that the NYS budget for 2018 increases incentives available to rural New York Counties to help attract and retain volunteers to Firefighting and Emergency Medical Services and that the state offer more training for these types of agencies in rural New York, as well as investigate alternatives to the State’s current programs that may make participation in these needed support agencies more viable.