CANTON — St. Lawrence County legislators will be voting on a resolution next month that will modify the 2023 budget to include an additional $20,000 for the county’s Hazardous Materials (Hazmat) Team.
The Hazmat Team was created by the county to assist local rescue and fire departments in incidents involving hazardous materials. In previous years, the Ogdensburg Fire Department provided these services for the county at an annual fee of $18,000 but the contract ended in 2020.
Since then, the county has resumed management and response operations of the Hazmat Team and began adding volunteers to the team to “ensure an adequate response.”
The team now consists of 44 volunteer members and owns and operates two trailers, one for entry purposes and one for decontamination, which are stored at the Massena International Airport.
At the county’s Operations Committee meeting Monday night, a resolution to modify the 2023 budget for the Office of Emergency Services for the Hazmat Team was introduced.
Emergency Services Director Matthew R. Denner Sr. explained that the additional $20,000 to the budget would be for the team to have a budget to cover any expenses. According to the resolution, the team is continuing to recruit new members and training costs are required for the members to attend an initial 80-hour hazmat technician training. Out of the $20,000 Mr. Denner said that $4,000 will be used for those trainings.
“The $4,000 for educational workshops is for bringing different vendors in here and getting them trained with the team,” he said. “Maybe having a couple of them going down with the fire academy and getting them higher level training as they require.”
The budget also includes $7,500 for technical equipment and $2,500 for rental fee at the airport where the trailers are currently stored. Another $3,000 is included in the budget for equipment repair of the trailers.
“The equipment is very old,” Mr. Denner said. “We need to replace both decks on the front and lighting and what not. The other $3,000 is for the paid staff of Massena Fire to do monthly checks on the trailers.”
County Legislator Margaret I. Haggard, D-Potsdam, asked Mr. Denner if the county is prepared to address any type of situation involving train derailments.
“We would be deployed and we would do the best we can depending on the size of the spill and what is in the trains,” Mr. Denner said. “As we know, St. Lawrence County does have an active rail system that does have some chemicals.”
Mr. Denner said New York state also offers guides to instruct and train hazmat teams, which they would call if needed.
“We have money coming from grants for specialized equipment,” Mr. Denner said. “We have counties for resources as well as Jefferson County’s team that would be willing to come over. We do have a lot of resources if something does happen that we would call.”
Mr. Denner also assured the committee that the state has been adding different requirements to the hazmat training due to the East Palestine train derailment in Ohio.
The committee voted unanimously to support the resolution and the full county board of legislators will vote on the resolution at the next board meeting on April 3.
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