Hyannis Fire District Seeking Funding Help from Nonprofits

HYANNIS – Officials with the Hyannis Fire District are seeking more funding for emergency operations and are turning their attention to tax-exempt properties.

The fire district relies on tax revenue to fund emergency response operations in the village, which houses a high percentage of non-profit entities.

“The taxpayers and businesses in the 9 square miles of the Hyannis Fire District wind up paying a disproportionate amount of money to cover those non-profit places,” said Peter Cross, the chairman of the fire district’s Board of Commissioners.

The largest property owners in Hyannis which are not required to pay taxes include Cape Cod Healthcare, The Steamship Authority, the Barnstable Housing Authority, Housing Assistance Corporation, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Town of Barnstable.

Along with many social service organizations, the district includes 20 hospital properties, 26 churches, four high schools, two elementary schools and 2 middle schools.

“Because we are the hub of the Cape, which no one disputes, we have town water and town sewer which makes us very attractive to social service agencies,” Cross said.

Cross said these organizations also require a large percentage of the fire department’s services.

One example was the Hyannis Fire Department’s response to the Steamship Authority fast Ferry Iyannough striking the breakwater.

“They called the Hyannis Fire District to get them out of a very tight spot,” Cross said. “They didn’t call the town’s highway department they didn’t call the town’s anything.”

The department incurred $12,000 in labor expenses for that response alone.

Cross said Cape Cod Healthcare provides a lot of jobs for the area and terrific healthcare for the region, but the size of its facilities require extensive preparedness efforts to be able to respond to emergencies properly.

Fire district ambulances also respond at least once per day to Barnstable Housing Authority’s Colony House Apartments at 500 Old Colony Road.

Expenses for the fire district have piled up recently with the construction of a new $18.5 million fire station and about $1.5 million for a new truck and ambulance.

Cross said officials are beginning to discuss solutions which would include asking non-profits to contribute.

One idea is starting a PILOT program, which would create voluntary payment in lieu of taxes agreements with tax-exempt organizations.

“That’s not very popular with non-profit corporations, but at the same time we are getting squeezed relentlessly,” Cross said.

Cross said the commissioners are in early stages of discussions on the program.

“It’s not something that we can rush into and do a poor job because if we do a poor job we are just going to get turned down flat and that is not our goal,” Cross said. “We are discussing it and trying to come up with a strategy that will benefit the non-profits and will benefit the fire district as well.”

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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