Wednesday, February 14, 2018

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Neuhaus urges Newburgh to use additional sales tax money to retain firefighters

Neuhaus (center) with Ahlers (left) and county Legislator James O'Donnell

NEWBURGH – Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus came to the Newburgh main firehouse on Tuesday to urge city officials to spend the $536,000 in additional sales tax revenue he gave them to fund the 12 firefighters who are to be laid off in July when federal funding expires.

The county exec said the money would be more than enough to pay for the men through the end of the year.

“One of the shortfalls we see is with the firefighters," Neuhaus said. " It’s about $400,000 plus. We just presented a check for $536,000. The City of Newburgh could utilize that money that they have gotten in the sales tax revenues to keep those firefighters rather than lay them off and work on the fire protection.”

Acting Chief Terry Ahlers would like to see the men stay on the job, but he understands the reality of Newburgh’s financial situation.

“I know citywide all departments are hurting; our roads are hurting, our buildings are hurting, every department is hurting, but we are also facing losing 12 firemen,” Ahlers said. “For us, it’s a big part of our response. It’s one man off every fire truck off every shift.”

City Manager Michael Ciaravino said it would be up to the city council what to do with the money and it will be a challenging decision.

“We are only buying a couple of months here at best,” he said. “We need to recognize a long-term, sustainable plan to finance a Newburgh Fire Department and it’s not any negative statement against the volunteers in the region, but these are the professionally trained; we have invested in their training and we continue to make that investment and we value the firefighters and we value the membership of the IAFF, but we have to do something other than what we have done in the past in order to make this sustainable.”

Ciaravino said the county funding buys the city some time, but does not present a long-term solution to its financial dilemma.

Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, who has secured some $5 million for the Newburgh Fire Department since 2013, said with the federal funding due to expire, the county’s financial support “needs to be a permanent commitment.”

The congressman said it is “high time the county recognize the critical role these firefighters play in the security of eastern Orange County, as their heroic response to the recent Verla fire more than demonstrated.”

 


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