This opinion represents the views of the Office of the State Comptroller at the time it was rendered. The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.
FIRE DISTRICTS -- Appropriations and Expenditures (supervised physical fitness training for firefighters)
TOWN LAW, §176(10): A fire district may pay for supervised physical fitness training sessions for its active volunteer firefighters so long as the particular training program provides the type of conditioning necessary for the firefighters to efficiently fulfill their firemanic functions, the nature of the supervision is such that the fire district has reasonable assurance that it is realizing sufficient benefits to justify the expenditure and the cost is reasonable in relation to the benefits received by the district.
You ask whether a fire district may expend fire district moneys to pay for supervised physical fitness training sessions for active volunteer firefighters of the fire district fire department. The training would take place at a local health and fitness center. If the fire district may expend its moneys for this purpose, you ask whether there is any limit on the total amount that may be paid for such activities. You have indicated that it is expected that the total expenditure for the program would be less than $20,000.
Fire districts have those powers expressly granted by statute and those powers necessarily implied therefrom (see Town Law, §176). Town Law, §176(10) provides that a fire district may organize, operate, maintain and equip fire companies. This Office has previously concluded, based on this authorization, that a fire district has implied authority to purchase equipment for use by its volunteer firefighters in connection with physical fitness training to improve or maintain the firefighters' physical condition in order to maximize their efficiency in performing firemanic duties on behalf of the fire district (1976 Opns St Comp No. 76-1061, unreported; see also Volunteer Firefighters Benefit Law, §5[p]; Town Law, §176,). Similarly, it is our opinion that the fire district has implied authority to pay for supervised physical fitness training session, for its active volunteer firefighters, conducted at a health and fitness center, so long as the particular training program provides the type of conditioning necessary for firefighters to efficiently fulfill their firemanic functions on behalf of the fire district. We assume that the nature of the supervision will be such that the fire district has reasonable assurances that it is realizing sufficient benefits to justify the moneys being expended.
There is no specific monetary limitation on the amount which may be expended on such a program. The expense, however, is not excluded from the fire district's spending limitation (Town Law, §176). Therefore, it would be included in the calculation of the amount which may be expended by the fire district without the adoption of a proposition. The cost also should be reasonable in relation to the benefit received by the fire district.
Since the total expense for this program is expected to be below the competitive bidding monetary threshold for contracts for public work (see General Municipal Law, §103, as amended by L 1991, ch 413, §54), it appears that the contract for the supervised training sessions will not be subject to competitive bidding. Therefore, we need not address whether the proposed contract is within the professional services exemption to competitive bidding. However, while no formal competitive bidding would be required to secure these services, the district, in selecting the provider of the physical fitness services, would have to comply with its procurement policies and procedures adopted pursuant to General Municipal Law, §104-b (added by L 1991, ch 413, §54).
February 12, 1992
Hans A. van Nes, Esq., Attorney at Law
Millwood Fire District