February 4, 2016
Recently, the Office of Fire Prevention and Control announced that the Bookstore of the Fire Academy Faculty Student Association was closing and the Association dissolving. Unfortunately, no explanation was offered by the OFPC and the Board of Directors of the Fire Academy FSA believes that a clarifying statement to its loyal customers and friends is necessary to set the record straight.
For over 30 years the Fire Academy FSA has enjoyed a cooperative relationship with the OFPC. In fact, the very mission of the Association is to “To create, promote and foster social and fraternal relationship between the faculty and students of The Senator Frederick L. Warder Academy of Fire Science, and in the furtherance thereof to encourage and assist the faculty and students in the promotion of educational, social, literary and recreational activities for their entertainment, benefit and welfare.”
The FSA has not only provided the resources of the Bookstore for Academy students and Faculty, but has promoted fire service scholarship, awarded countless scholarships to firefighters throughout New York, promoted and facilitated the annual NYS Weekend at the National Fire Academy for thousands of attendees, and provided for amenities at the Fire Academy from the initial wireless internet access to televisions and printers throughout the Academy, pictures on the walls, popcorn machines, the pavilion and grills, the washer and dryer for students and faculty, furniture in the student lounge and numerous other ways of making visiting the Fire Academy an enjoyable experience. And always, through the entire history of the Association’s bookstores (at both Montour Falls and at Camp Smith) free shipping on all orders.
Unfortunately, in November 2015 DHSES unilaterally determined and without any prior substantive discussion or warning, that the occupancy of the Association at the Academy was suddenly contrary to State policy and we were to vacate the premises by December 31, 2015.
Members of the Board of Directors met with DHSES administration on November 19, 2015 and secured a reprieve from having to vacate the store by the end of last year. On January 8, 2016 some of our Directors again met with DHSES leadership to discuss what we felt was an arbitrary decision. It was readily apparent that the current leadership of DHSES did not appreciate the functions and purpose of the Association relative to the Academy. Nonetheless they were adamant that the operation of a store at the Academy would be put out to bid by the State based upon bidding requirements that had yet to be written.
DHSES presented the Association with an interim operating “permit” authorizing the FSA’s continued use of the Academy store until the end of March of 2016. This “Revocable Permit for Access and Use” document which, while acknowledging that “OFPC does not currently have sufficient resources to manage and operate the AFS Bookstore, to meet the training and educational needs of students” the document permitted the Association to remain at the Academy to sell “OFPC approved educational materials, supplies and merchandise” until April 1, 2016 and that “all monies received” as a result of the continued operation of the Bookstore would be “utilized” as “directed by OFPC”. These conditions were unacceptable and in a word, insulting.
DHSES advised that despite the FSA’s history and tradition of running the store, the FSA would receive no preference in the bidding specifications to continue to operate the store—when those specifications are eventually created. In addition, the FSA was advised that various preferred vendor groups would be given a preference under State bidding policies. Consequently, the FSA was placed in the untenable position where the continued operation of the store, and in particular the continued procurement of books and merchandise, would create a financial obligation that the FSA could not meet if we were to be summarily evicted or outbid by what the State deems to be a preferred vendor.
Ironically, DHSES as recently as last June made overtures to the Association about our willingness to operate a second bookstore at the Oriskany facility for the benefit of DHSES as well as continuing to utilize the Association for processing payments and other arrangements for the NYS Weekend at the National Fire Academy later this month!
Additionally, and as a separate issue, DHSES has continually attempted to influence and control the Board of Directors of the Association, to the effect that no state employee, including part-time, temporary state fire instructors who have no policy-making or other authority from holding office as Association Directors. The lunacy of this position is apparent when one considers that the FSA was originally created by and at the behest of OFPC for the very purpose of promoting the OFPC’s mission in NYS!
These drastic actions of DHSES administration have forced the Board of Directors to repeatedly make the case for the role and purpose of the Association relative to the Fire Academy and the OFPC. Despite those repeated efforts by the Directors to preserve its role and mission, the longevity of the Association was clearly jeopardized by DHSES directive to vacate the Academy and take a chance at winning a bidding sweepstakes that appears as though it may be designed to be stacked against us.
It was with very, very heavy hearts and great reluctance that the Board of Directors of the Association decided on January 14th that the viability of the Association was at risk and the only realistic course of action was to discontinue operations no later than June 30, 2016.
This is not a decision that was made abruptly or without vast amounts of discussion and consideration of different options. But when it is made clear, repeatedly, that one is no longer welcomed then it is time for change.
The Board of Directors has commenced the process for dissolving the Corporation. The Board of Directors is preparing a Plan of Dissolution and should approve it in the next couple of weeks. That Plan of Dissolution will be distributed to all members, together with a call for a Special Meeting of the Membership to approve the Plan and dissolution, which meeting will be held at least 30 and not more than 60 days after notice, as required by the Not-for-Profit Corporation Law.
All of the Directors make this decision with a heavy heart: our outstanding Executive Director and incomparable Bookstore Manager will be losing their jobs, our loyal and devoted customers will be profoundly inconvenient and instructors will be unfairly challenged for acquisition of course materials.
However, the immediate threats of closure coupled with the prospect of having to participate in an undefined bidding contest to win back the right to remain at the Academy where we have resided for decades made the decision to close the store inevitable. The Board of Directors takes seriously its fiduciary responsibilities to the Association. The decision of the Board to conclude the operations of the Bookstore and Association under the specter of being evicted by DHSES will allow the Association to liquidate the assets, pay its bills and staff, and discontinue its operations in an organized and methodical process rather than being to left to the continued whims and unpredictable actions of outsiders.
We appreciate your great loyalty and ask for your assistance in helping with this painful but inevitable process. In the meantime and for as long as we remain in operation the Bookstore will continue to serve our customers and friends as best as were are able.
Any questions can be directed to Mark C. Butler at either firstname.lastname@example.org or 716.839.5411.
Thank you for your support!
The Board of Directors, Fire Academy FSA
Tom Wutz, President
Fire Academy FSA is the Faculty Student Association at New York State's Academy of Fire Science, a non-profit corporation which, through varied initiatives, enhances the quality of life for students and faculty at the Academy.
As part of our charge, we operate the Bookstore at the Academy which, as the authorized reseller of Delmar, Jones and Bartlett, IFSTA, Fire Engineering Books and Videos, Brady and NFPA training materials in New York State, also serves the training needs of emergency services organizations throughout New York State, and beyond.
Here's a list of just some of the things you will find on FireAcademyFSA.com:
- Information about association membership and its scholarship program.
- Links to the latest class schedules offered through the New York State Academy of Fire Science.
- Answers to frequently asked questions.
The Faculty Student Association Bookstore is open 5 days a week depending on the Fire Academy class schedule. Click here for the current Bookstore Calendar.