Dear Editor, and residents of Berkshire,
The Berkshire Fire District (“Fire District”) is pleased to announce agreement and execution of a new 10-year lease, with 5- year renewal for the Community Center with the Berkshire Community Association (“BCA”). The negotiations related to this process were nuanced and time consuming, so reaching a mutually agreeable solution is a very positive result for all parties.
However, throughout the process the Fire District was made aware of a number of rumors related to the relationship between the Fire District and the BCA, and the Fire District would like to address these rumors head on.
First and foremost, the Fire District is aware of the activities and opportunities provided to the Berkshire Community by the BCA, and is fully supportive of these activities. At no point during the negotiations should it be construed that the Fire District’s motivation was to limit these activities in anyway.
The core of the negotiations was a legal document that was negotiated over a decade ago and did not stand the test of time. The historic lease did not consider societal changes that are expected over the course of 10 years, and ultimately providing a renewal based on terms developed historically put the Fire District and the residents of Berkshire at risk.
The Fire District brought these issues to the BCA in the spirit of doing what was best for the residents of Berkshire, and proposed solutions to remedy these risks. The concerns were related largely to transparency related to grants applied for that would impact the Fire District property and insurance coverage.
The BCA indicated that they would prefer to invoke a renewal clause (for 15 years) within the original lease as opposed to entertaining negotiations on a new, timelier lease.
The concerns of the Fire District were reinforced by the municipal laws of New York State, leaving the Fire District in a position where they could not agree to simply extend the lease for the period requested. Despite many attempts to initiate a reasonable dialogue between the Fire District and the BCA, responses from the BCA were limited to communications from their attorney.
As the Fire District needs to protect the districts assets for the residents of Berkshire, the Fire District hired an attorney to appropriately respond to the BCA’s communications.
At one point an impasse was reached, and BCA provided the Fire District with three limited choices, including the choice to not extend the lease to the BCA, discontinuing the BCA’s use of the Fire District property.
The other options presented to the Fire District were not acceptable, and the Fire District indicated they were open to negotiations; but if no additional negotiations could be held, they would choose to discontinue leasing the Community Center to the BCA.
This step allowed negations to move forward in a fair and collaborative process. The new negations allowed for necessary changes to protect the Fire District residents while allowing BCA to continue its community work – a positive step for both parties involved.
The major changes to the lease provide the District with transparency in BCA grants and contracts, and addressed the Fire District’s concerns surrounding liability insurance. None of these changes have any impact on the good work performed by the BCA.
The BCA now pays a rent of $1.00 per month and the Fire District looks forward to working with BCA to move our community efforts into the future. We are hopeful that this transparency related to the negotiations will remedy the rumors circulating and clear up community concerns about the relationship between the Fire District and the Berkshire Community Association.
Chair of the Berkshire Fire Commissioners