MALONE -- Franklin County legislators want the federal government to reward volunteer firefighters and ambulance personnel with tax credits, the way New York state does.

District 2 Legislator Daniel Crippen (D-Burke) has drafted a letter to President George W. Bush, U.S. Rep. John McHugh (R-Pierrepont Manor), U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) seeking their support for the measure.

He intends to meet with members of the Franklin County Fire Advisory Board at 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 18, in Bangor to urge each department's membership to mail, fax or e-mail the same representatives a similar request for tax breaks.

New York offered for the first time this year a $200 tax credit to all active emergency-medical-service and firefighting personnel "in recognition of the invaluable service they provide in hopes they continue to do so," the Crippen letter states.

"I ask you in your role to introduce and fight for legislation for a tax credit on the federal level to encourage volunteers to join fire and rescue departments and hopefully keep this tremendous service alive now and in the future."

He said the volunteers' personal lives, time-consuming training and other commitments put a strain on them and, in many cases, cause them to quit.

That interferes with recruiting and retaining enough people to serve in the departments.

Crippen said the state and federal governments have been very generous in their financial support of fire departments and rescue services by providing grants to buy turn-out gear, fire trucks and all kinds of needed equipment, "but you can't buy people."

He said a tax credit is not only good incentive, but it is the only fair way to reward volunteers equally.

Many young members don't own homes, so receiving a property-tax break would not benefit them, Crippen said. nor would it be fair to the other residents of the municipality, who would have to make up the difference in taxes in exchange for the volunteers' tax breaks.

"We'll take this as far as we can," Crippen said.

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