April 04, 2020

Church to repay costs of fighting steeple fire

PALMYRA — By using proceeds from insurance, St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Palmyra will reimburse the town for all firefighting costs incurred when the church steeple was damaged by fire June 28.

Administrative Assistant Pat White said the church offered $8,600 to the town to pay costs incurred by the four fire departments that responded.

Regardless of the insurance reimbursement, Palmyra will far exceed its estimates on fire protection in 1991. Without its own firefighting force, the town pays a subsidy to two towns for fire protection as well as paying for services rendered by those departments and any others that respond to Palmyra fires.

The total cost of firefighting in Palmyra in 1991 totals $39,614.85 paid out to departments in Pittsfield, Newport, Hartland and St. Albans, the four bordering communities. Normal ranges for firefighting expenses run between $10,000 and $15,000 annually, White said.

For the St. Martin’s fire alone, billing from St. Albans was $2,194; Hartland, $1,100; Pittsfield, $2,400; and Newport, $2,980. The payment to Newport was in addition to a $5,226 “insurance payment” subsidy assessed for the first time in 1991.

The Pittsfield bill, White explained, is in addition to a $2,200 subsidy. However, in Pittsfield’s case billing increases only when services rendered exceed the subsidy payment.

While reimbursements have helped Palmyra’s firefighting expenses, they have not eliminated it. Individuals who required firefighting for grass fires are being billed directly, White said. With those individuals who have refused to pay for services for grass fires, White said, selectmen have authorized court action through small claims court.

In addition, White said, selectmen have discussed methods for local control or review of fire scenes to hold down costs.

No subsidies have been assessed by other towns.

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