Volunteer firefighters concerned about losing workers comp insurance

For what's believed to be the first time in its history, the Marilla Fire Company is working without a contract.  That may leave their funding in limbo, but Chief William Blarr says there's another big concern for many of the volunteers serving the community.

"As of Saturday we got a letter, a certified letter from the Supervisor, stating we do not have workers compensation coverage."

Members of the volunteer department aren't paid, so workers compensation, provided by the town, would be the only way to make ends meet if injured while volunteering.

The previous contract expired at the end of 2017, and Town Supervisor Earl Gingerich Jr. says any new contract will require increased financial transparency. 

"All we want is to be comfortable the moneys being spent in a pruent, legal and responsible manner"  Gingerich tells Seven Eyewitness News.  "That's all we're looking for.  We require that of all the organizations that we fund."

The fire company receives roughly $400,000 of funds and benefits from the town every year and Gingerich wants access to the departments books in return, but the department says there's no need.

The department pays a private firm to audit their books every year to comply with state law, and they feel that audit is sufficient.

"They're a certified auditing firm.  They give him a report, they give us a report.  We've had a state audit before, we've passed it with flying colors.  We have nothing to hide."

The department recently allowed members of the town board to come and look at their financial records, but Supervisor Gingerich say full access is needed.

The town has continued to pay the workers compensation insurance premiums during negotiations but they aren't sure if the departments refusal to sign the proposed contract qualifies as them turning down the benefits, possibly leaving volunteers uncovered in the case of an accident.  

Supervisor Gingerich says that while the town isn't sure if the firefighters are covered, there's one easy way to solve the problem.

"If they want to be covered by workers comp it's very simple.  Sign the contract and it's immediate."

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