EASTCHESTER, N.Y. All three candidates running for a seat on the Eastchester Board of Fire Commissioners have at least one thing in common - they are hoping residents will come out to vote today.
Three residents, incumbent Keith Fennelly, and challengers Jerry Napolitano and David Levy are running for a single seat on the five member, volunteer board .
Polls are open from 2 pm through 9 pm at five locations throughout the Town of Eastchester, including the villages of Tuckahoe and Bronxville.
Any registered voter can cast a ballot at Bronxville Village Hall, the Tuckahoe Community Center, Eastchester Town Hall, The LeRoy Gregory American Legion Post, located at 40 Bell Road in the north end of Eastchester or the Union Corners Fire Station located at 10 Oregon Road in Chester Heights.
Less than 500 voters turned out for last year's election out of a possible 20,000 registered voters. The Board of Commissioners recently adopted a $14.9 million budget which will raise taxes throughout the town and villages by 4 percent.
The board is in charge of creating and implementing the budget, and imposing a tax levy to support that budget. The board also oversees five fire houses, a vast array of fire equipment and negotiates contracts with approximately 80 professional firefighters.
It is the ability to set their own budget and levy taxes that differentiates a fire district from a fire department which are funded through a municipality's budget, said Robert Broderick, a Hartsdale resident, who represents Region 7 of the state's Association of Fire Districts
Fire districts came into being in the 1920s. When the towns and villages settled, residents needed fire protection so fire companies were created. "In those days, a horse and carriage would carry a water pump to a fire, or residents would pass buckets of water to douse a fire," Brockerick said.
As outlying areas of the town or village became more populated, residents created new fire companies. As technology advanced fire companies wanted to purchase trucks and hoses, so they banded together to create fire districts, which under state law have the ability to collect a tax levy.
"Some towns and villages did it that way, but other fire companies were absorbed into the town or village government," Broderick said. "Some communities have town fire department and a fire district.
In a town like Eastchester, there were once five different fire companies: one in Tuckahoe, one in Bronxville, and three in Eastchester, in the center of town, the north end of town and in Chester Heights, Broderick explained.
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