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County wants to offer incentive to volunteers

Capital News 9, February 3rd, 2004
By: Elizabeth Hur 


Meet Assistant Chief Arnold Briscoe with the East Glenville Fire Department, and firefighter David Gallup with Beukendall. 

Briscoe said, "I moved here approximately 13 years ago, and a volunteer came to my door on a fund drive, handed me an envelope and asked me to join." 

Briscoe has been volunteering ever since -- 12 years and counting.

Gallup said, "I always wanted to be a firefighter. I saw a house burn down in my neighborhood and that's what made me get involved." 

That was 26 years ago. Today, Gallup still offers his services, all on his own time without a penny in return. 

But one Schenectady County lawmaker said it's time for a change, especially when the county has seen an estimated 20-percent decline in the number of volunteers in the last decade. 

County Legislator Carolina Lazzari said, "You have to have five years of certified service. And after 20 years of certified service, you may retire with that and you keep it for your retirement and your surviving spouse." 

Lazzari said it's a bill that's been enacted in 10 other counties. Should the proposal get the nod from the state, it would make Schenectady the first county to provide such an incentive in the Capital Region. 

While most applaud Lazzari's efforts, Kirby Hannan, FASNY, said, "Certainly for retention, property tax reduction is an excellent initiative. But for recruitment, there are many 18 to 25 year olds that don't own property." 

Lazzari said, "I think it's a good start. I don't think it's the be all and end all. But it is a foot in the door and the beginning." 

Lazzari said she hopes to get this initiative underway for now and will look to even more possibilities in the future. As for the volunteers, both love the idea but they just see it as an added bonus. 

Gallup said, "I planned on staying until I had to crawl out of the place."

Briscoe added, "I intended to stay as long as I can, until they throw me out or until I couldn't do it anymore."

Both agree, with or without financial incentives, they won't be calling it quits anytime soon. 

The bill is up for a vote next Tuesday. Should the full county legislature pass the proposal, it will be sent to the state for approval.