Verona Fire says they were ‘burned’ by Oneida County

 Verona, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The Verona Fire District sounded the alarm, telling NewsChannel 9 they are feeling “burned” by Oneida County.

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente responded, “To say that we’ve burned them, or however they’ve put it, is really an unfair statement.”

The fire department’s concerns center around the continuing growth of the Turning Stone Casino. The Verona Fire Department says they’ve seen an increase of over 250% in call volume since Turning Stone was built.

Phil DuChene, secretary-treasurer of the Verona Fire District explains, “The population of the City of Oneida is a little over 10,000. They have a paid fire department. We have a casino with 20,000 people there any given weekend, and we are trying to do that with a handful of volunteers. The Nation has acquired and owns 96% of the commercial property within the fire district and 25% of the entire fire district, but none of that property pays any taxes. So what we have is a small home across the street, maybe an 80-year-old woman paying taxes, and she’s paying for fire protection for a $2 billion casino.”

Picente says the solution is a consolidation of the smaller fire departments.

“The same way consolidation will give you more people, it will give you more equipment because now you have more departments to draw from,” Picente said.

When asked if that would cause longer response times because then they’d be farther away, Picente responded, “Response time? Well, someone will get there first. That is not to say that they are all in the same locale.”

Mike McNaughton, the Verona Fire District commissioner, wants his community to know, “This is not a political issue. This is a life safety issue. A fire intensifies 10 times every couple of minutes.”

The Oneida Indian Nation told NewsChannel 9, “This issue is between them and the county.”

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