By CASEY CROUCHER
The Amsterdam Common Council passed a resolution Tuesday night allowing for the creation of the Amsterdam Firefighters Benevolent Association.
Amsterdam firefighters petitioned the state Legislature to create the association, according to the resolution. The state's Senate and Assembly introduced bills requiring home rule request for the creation, and the council unanimously voted in favor of it.
Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis explained the association's role.
"The state elects a charge to form a fire insurance company, so the insurance company may not be based in the state but for fire insurance purposes they have property in the state," DeCusatis said. "There's a surcharge for the insurance companies that's applied and goes to a fund, and that fund is later distributed to various fire companies throughout the state that service those particular properties. So, the bigger the area your fire company serves, the bigger the share of firefighter insurance money you get. That money is earmarked and dedicated for the use of the firefighters."
He said the money has always come to the city and the city maintains it in a fund "but that can get cumbersome to administer." So, the state now administers the money after the passing of the resolution.
Third Ward Alderman Ronald J. Barone Sr., said the firefighters can do whatever they want with the money, saying "it's their business."
Amsterdam Fire Chief Richard Liberti said his firefighters use the money for a variety of different things.
"That money through the benevolent association sponsors baseball teams, softball teams, makes charitable contributions, it helps purchase items for the firehouse like chairs, tables, dishes, pots and pans," he said. "The money goes toward uniforms, which every new firefighter gets a new Class A uniform that costs $300 each, then they get an overcoat, and last year we bought heavy three-season overcoats as well."
Liberti said the money also goes toward events like officer installation banquets, clam bakes and a Christmas party for children.
"The idea is that all the members have to have the opportunity to share in it, it's to benefit all the members," he said.
Liberti said the money has always gone to the fire department, but there have been issues over the years.
"The money has always gone to the fire department, but some time in the 60s there was a problem and the firefighters sued the city and they lost the lawsuit but the city wrote a charter amendment so that the association would work," he said. "It wasn't exactly how it was supposed to be done, but it worked for decades. A number of years ago though, they changed the charter and it disappeared, there was no language in the charter for it."
He said checks would come to the city for the firefighters but no one knew what to do with them.
"[DeCusatis] did some research and said there needed to be a state law and that law took a year to enact," he said.
He said he's happy the Amsterdam Firefighters Benevolent Association has been created and everything is legally correct.
Also, at Tuesday night's meeting Controller Matthew Agresta gave the council an update on the current 2013-14 budget. Agresta said the city has expended $20 million of their $30 million budget with one month left to go. He said the city's budget estimated a revenue of more than $27 million for the year and needs $800,000 more in revenue for the month of June to have fulfilled what was originally budgeted for the city's revenues.