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Fire Island fire district merger completed

Fair Harbor Commissioner Brett Roberts (left) and Forrest

Fair Harbor Commissioner Brett Roberts (left) and Forrest Pete Clock, Jr., a former member of the now-dissolved Lonelyville Fire Commission. (Oct. 19, 2010) Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

Two Fire Island fire districts have become one.

The merger, effective May 31, consolidated the districts by folding the Lonelyville Fire District into Fair Harbor.

Lonelyville residents will now vote in Fair Harbor commissioner elections and will receive the same fire service as in the past.

"The point of all this is to cut down on the costs to the taxpayers," said Forrest Clock Jr., a former member of the now-dissolved Lonelyville Fire Commission.

Clock said taxpayers living in the Lonelyville Fire District, which did not operate a fire department, had paid Fair Harbor for fire protection but were required to elect five commissioners, a treasurer and a secretary.

"We were like a pipe," Clock said. "We were collecting the taxes from homeowners and paying it to Fair Harbor."

The change streamlined operations and cut overall costs associated with running both districts, saving Lonelyville taxpayers as a whole about $1,500 a year or about $16 per household, Clock said.

Fair Harbor, whose budget in 2010 was $387,687, has supplied firefighting services to Lonelyville and Dunewood residents via contracts with those districts. Fair Harbor has the only firehouse in the 1-mile-long stretch encompassing all three districts. Dunewood residents at a recent meeting decided against consolidating, a Dunewood official said.

Lonelyville's fire commissioners, motivated by what they saw as inefficiencies, decided to merge about two years ago, Clock said. The consolidation took place after this year's passage of the N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act, which was designed to simplify the process of consolidating the more than 10,000 local government entities in the state. The merger was the first for fire districts since the law went into effect in March, state officials said.

For Fair Harbor residents, things will remain exactly the same, said Brett Roberts, a Fair Harbor fire commissioner.

"It won't change our taxes at all," he said, adding there was no objection to the merger from Fair Harbor homeowners.

"We are happy to accommodate the wishes of the people of Lonelyville," Roberts said. "We just expect to be able to serve all three communities the same way we've been doing."

Rosalie Hanson, who said she lobbied lawmakers in Albany to get the Empowerment Act passed, was pleased to hear of the Fire Island consolidation. She has been trying since 2006 to dissolve her district, Gordon Heights, because it has Long Island's highest fire district taxes. "I applaud anybody who will consider consolidating because I don't think everyone needs to be their own separate island," she said.

Upstate, the Village of Altmar will dissolve on Dec. 31, 2012, into the Town of Albion under the Empowerment Act, a New York Department of State spokeswoman said. Several other villages are studying whether to consolidate under the legislation, she said.

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