Cohoes City Council mulls fire house status

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COHOES – Last year, Cohoes firefighters responded to more than 3,600 emergency calls. That’ an average of one call every two hours and 24 minutes. Many of those responses came from the Hill Fire Station on Vliet Avenue.

"The proposed budget which is before you today does not provide adequate funding to keep the Hill Station staffed and operational throughout the year," Rob Wattsman, president of the Cohoes Firefighters Association Union, told city council members Tuesday night.

Wattsman reminded council members that the Hill Station is one of the city’s busiest, and is located close to the high school, and Harmony Hill Elementary School, as well as many residential neighbors.

"I’d like to have a million dollars, I’d like to be good-looking," quipped Fire Chief Joseph Fahd. "There’s a lot of things I’d like, but reality says how much can taxpayers afford?"

Fahd says the response time is more than adequate when just the Central Station and the Ontario Street Station are staffed.

"I’m comfortable that the citizens are well protected and safe," the chief said.

Part of the staffing dilemma lies in the fact four firefighters are currently out on medical or maternity leave.

"Our normal staffing is 32. I’m 33. I’m the 34th person," Fahd stated. "If the guys came to work, we’d be able to keep the Hill Station open. The mayor’s top priority is public safety. He said it over and over again, and I think he’s proved that with our budget."

City Council Member Bill Smith sent out a news release that included Mayor Bill Keeler’s campaign literature promising to keep the Vliet Street Fire House open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Smith is urging Keeler to keep his promise.

The council has until Nov. 15 to enact a final budget.