Tonawanda News — North Tonawanda
Policy change brings compliance
The first example of policy changes came to fruition on Tuesday evening just weeks after the North Tonawanda Common Council approved mandating that the city’s volunteer fire companies to report when fundraisers will be held.
The amendment was in response to a nearly year-long audit of the city conducted by the New York State Comptroller’s Office in 2012. Columbia Hook & Ladder is the first among the city’s six volunteer fire companies to release its fundraising portfolio, which includes three chowder sales, a Canal Fest of the Tonawandas vending trailer and the rental of its hall for weddings and other special events throughout the year.
“This is the first but it’s going to become a routine occurrence” said Shawn Nickerson, city attorney. “A directive went out from the mayor’s office and the fire chief.”
While the volunteer fire companies do get a stipend from the city for much of their operational costs, the issue of covering the remainder of those financials and purchasing equipment and gear often fall on the firefighters themselves.
While few instances of financial incongruities could be cited by members of the common council or Mayor Rob Ortt, the policy change was more about falling in line with suggestions made by the state, rather than responding to accusations that the volunteer corps mishandled the funds retrieved from fundraisers.
“The thought process of the Comptroller’s Office is that the city should be aware of the fundraising events,” Nickerson said. “They don’t want the city to be in the position where they’re subsidizing fundraising.”
Nickerson added that many of the companies will likely lay out an entire year of fundraisers to the council once they adjust to the mandate, though that scenario would take place closer to 2014.
“It’s going to be a commonplace thing,” he said. “They’ll pretty much know what their calendars are and what fundraisers they’re going to do.”Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.