Updated: 12/31/2013 7:44 PM
Created: 12/31/2013 7:21 PM WNYT.com
By: Steve Flamisch
QUEENSBURY – Two days before Christmas, two fire trucks pulled into Lake George Plaza on Route 9 with emergency lights flashing. Firefighters told Emily Murray and the other employees in her store to leave the building.
When the workers stepped outside, they realized the store was not on fire. The evacuation was actually an elaborate ruse. A moment later, West Glens Falls volunteer firefighter Kevin Bruster asked Murray to marry him. She said yes.
Queensbury Town Supervisor Ron Montesi told NewsChannel 13 he is happy for the couple, but he questioned the use of fire department equipment and personnel – and the insurance liability – of the proposal.
"Is it good judgment? I would say no," Montesi said Tuesday. "People will look at that and say, 'Taxpayer money doing something like that? What if they were in an accident? What if we needed them for a fire?'"
Bruster and Murray did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. West Glens Falls Volunteer Fire Chief Mike Gordon did not return a phone call, but he spoke to NewsChannel 13’s media partners at the Post Star earlier this week.
"I stand by what I did in this situation," Chief Gordon told the newspaper in a story published Tuesday morning. "If a taxpayer has any concerns, they should contact me. I have an open door policy."
The Queensbury Central Volunteer Fire Department also sent a truck to the proposal. Chief Adam Norton did not return a phone call Tuesday, but he recently dismissed critics’ concerns, telling the Post Star it’s "none of their business."
Supervisor Montesi acknowledged the town has used volunteer fire trucks for non-emergency calls: bringing Santa Claus to Town Hall for the annual tree-lighting ceremony, escorting the Queensbury High School football team home from winning a state championship.
He said those situations differ from the marriage proposal because they are "public uses" of the equipment and personnel. Montesi said it’s possible the town will review the issue of "personal" uses, though he admitted it’s a sensitive subject.
"There’s a kind of brotherhood that exists with the firemen, so you have to respect that, and respect the fact that they’re volunteers," he said. "So how far you want to push the issue of – 'Should we demand that they don’t use the fire trucks anymore?' – I'm not sure."
If anything does change, it will not be on Montesi’s watch. The former town board member, who was appointed supervisor when Dan Stec left to become a state assemblyman, did not run for the seat in the fall election. His term expires at midnight.
Democrat John Strough will take over as town supervisor on Wednesday. He did not return a phone call Tuesday seeking comment on the firefighter’s marriage proposal. Strough selected Montesi, a Republican, to be his deputy supervisor.