BALLSTON SPA -The village board voted on June 11 to provide members of the Ballston Spa Volunteer Fire Department annual recreational memberships to the local YMCA.
The approval follows a request made last month by Fire Chief Bill Lewis seeking funds to provide alternative training facilities for 60 of the department’s volunteer members. Neither of the villages two fire companies – Eagle-Matt Lee or Union Fire – have any such facilities, according to Mayor John Romano.
“A lot of the newer firehouses are facilities with their own gym and their own equipment,” said Romano. “Ours are older firehouses. We don’t have that luxury.”
The memberships will total $1,896, or $31.60 per member annually, and will be paid using funds from the department’s 2018-19 budget. Individual YMCA memberships typically cost $51 per month, according to the organization’s website.
“It is one heck of a deal,” said Romano of the monthly price before explaining the board voted to approve the measure because the village’s fire departments would be unable to expand in order to accommodate exercise facilities.
Members who are found not to be using their YMCA memberships will have them taken away and given to another volunteer in a self-monitoring process that will be carried out by the department.
The same YMCA memberships will not be extended to the Ballston Spa Police Department as officers are provided with workout facilities by the PBA above the station, according to Romano.
Several residents in attendance seemed to agree with the vote, including Gina Marozzi, whose husband is a volunteer firefighter.
“Gyms are very expensive to build, I think this is a very affordable way out,” said Marozzi. “How can you not promote good health for your volunteer firefighters? It’s a no brainier.”
The village board also passed a resolution allowing the fire department to spend $2,850 on electronic equipment for the Eagle-Matt Lee firehouse for training purposes. The equipment includes a Bluetooth projector, a smart TV, a bracket and a laptop. The board recently passed a similar purchase for the Union Fire station.
The resolution passed 3-1, with trustee Shawn Raymond being the lone dissent. Trustee Noah Shaw was not in attendance.
Raymond voiced concerns over the decision to spend a large sum of money so early into a new budget season on what he called “duplicate items” the department may not need instead of using the funds later on in the event of an emergency.
“I don’t see, just because there might be a tradition, that in good conscience I can say, ‘Hey, well let’s spend $2,800’ to put exactly the same thing that’s already at the facility unless there is some sort of overlapping conflict with training between the two fire departments,” said Raymond, who raised concerns over ongoing budget gaps the village has be facing.
The village board last month voted to raise taxes by 17.5 percent in order to address the ongoing budget issues.
Romano responded by saying the department is simply looking to use funds allocated during the budget process.
“These are volunteers. They’re requesting to spend money that was budgeted,” said Romano. “When the budget runs out, it runs out.”
The village board also approved the purchase of a new 4-in-1 copy machine for the Eagle-Matt Lee firehouse for $1,951, replacing the decade-old machine currently in use.