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Albertson Fire Department ends its relationship with North Hills

After nearly a decade of service, the Albertson Fire Department will no longer be serving North Hills, to the surprise of village officials.

The village was notified in February that the Albertson Fire Department would not renew its contract for the upcoming year, running from June through May of 2017. With about two months left in the current contract, village officials said they will be forced to modify fire coverage.

“We have no choice,” said Mayor Marvin Natiss. “It’s disappointing when not everyone is on the same page when it comes to responsibility to communities.”

Natiss said the village is now seeking to contract with the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department to cover The Mews, a neighborhood with 22 homes that is serviced by the Albertson Fire Department.

The village is primarily under the service area of the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department, but secured additional contracts with the Roslyn and Albertson fire departments in 2007 to provide greater coverage to the community, Natiss said.

This year, the two additional contracts cost the village about $59,300: $53,000 for Roslyn’s services, and about $6,300 for Albertson.

Natiss said that the Albertson Fire Department incrementally raised prices on an annual basis, but that proposed fees jumped in 2015 by over $1,000. Ultimately, negotiations lowered the increase to a few hundred dollars.

The fire company had been “mistakenly undercharging” the village for years and the new rate was based on the assessed valuation of residences in the area, said the Albertson Fire Department’s board chairman, Richard W. Ockovic, in a statement.

Ockovic said they agreed to the “modest 2 percent increase” because of the village’s stated fiscal constraints, but could no longer continue when the village pierced the 2 percent tax levy cap.

“In our eyes, this was deceptive and misleading to the fire company, as we had already made concessions to the village based on their tax cap limit,” Ockovic said.

Natiss said money should not be an issue when lives are at stake, and that the village would have been amenable to an uptick in cost.

“Cost doesn’t enter into it when you’re dealing with safety and the residents of a community; cost is immaterial in my mind, and my trustees feel the same way,” Natiss said.

Ideally, a new contract with Manhasset-Lakeville will be secured by the end of May, when the agreement with Albertson expires, Natiss said. Albertson will provide service on a prorated basis until the village secures new fire protection.

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