Woodstock voters will choose 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday December 8 between two candidates vying for a position on the board that oversees the funding of the town’s volunteer fire department and rescue squad. Jim Dougherty and incumbent Trevor Paton are competing for a single seat on the five-member body. The board acquires and oversees maintenance on all fire and rescue equipment. It also reviews bills and approves them for payment and opens the books for regular external audits. It appoints district chiefs, first and second assistant chiefs, a mechanic and EMS coordinator and oversees the district treasurer and secretary.
Under the umbrella of the fire department, Companies 1-4 provide fire protection while Company 5 provides emergency medical services.
The board is responsible for adopting the annual budget, which is $1,323,669 for 2016, an increase of 2.66 percent over this year’s $1,289,417 budget.
Funding comes from an estimated $1,307,269 levy, an increase of 2.8 percent over last year’s $1,271,717 in taxes. The balance will come from a $15,000 carryover from 2015 and donations.
Compensation makes up $306,113, or 23 percent, of the spending plan, consisting of regular and overtime pay for the company’s 18 paid employees, including the chief, 11 paramedics, two groundskeepers, a maintenance worker and purchasing clerk. The department has around 170 volunteers. Employee benefits total $256,900, or 19 percent of the budget.
Contractual expenses, such as maintenance, dispatch, training, insurance and fuel, total $411,031, or 31 percent of expenses.
The budget is adopted by the five commissioners and is not subject to voter or town board approval.
“The position is one that requires dedication and commitment,” said Paton, who now serves as chairman. Over his 20 years of service, Paton has been a firefighter, lieutenant and training center officer, in addition to the last five years as commissioner. “I love the volunteerism of the Woodstock Fire Department,” Paton said. “It brings great joy to my heart.”
Paton, who is a vocational education supervisor at Eastern Correctional Facility, said fire taxes are low compared to districts with paid firefighters. Paton’s fire taxes are around $216 per year, which is why he feels it’s important to recruit and keep volunteers, especially young people who tend to move out of the area. “It’s hard to get young people today,” he said. “Firefighting is a young man’s business. We need to work on that.”
One of Paton’s goals is to form a committee to seek ways to attract more volunteers.
Paton said one of his biggest achievements was a $145,000 renovation of the training facility that had been deemed structurally unsafe.
Jim Dougherty, a resident of Woodstock since 1997, is a scene support firefighter, fire police lieutenant and treasurer of Company No. 3 in Lake Hill. After becoming treasurer, Dougherty discovered a $100,000 theft of department funds. He used his expertise in banking loss mitigation and worked with the state comptroller’s office to implement safeguards against future financial misdeeds.
Dougherty’s goal is to maintain recruitment procedures to make sure Woodstockers continue to benefit from a strong volunteer fire department. Having a paid department would cost “as much as six times greater than the current budget.”
Said Dougherty, “If you vote for me, I will work to maintain a volunteer department that will be fiscally responsible consisting of well-trained members working as a team.”
Dougherty has worked with the town’s emergency response task force and is completing Red Cross training to act as shelter manager at the Woodstock Community Center in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency.
He is a Merchant Marine and holds a captain’s license. He has served on the board for Ulster County Habitat for Humanity and Good Neighbor Food Pantry. He is also Administrative Council president of the Shady Methodist Church.
Where to vote
Polls will be open 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday, December 8 at Woodstock Fire Co. No. 1, 242 Tinker Street.