GUILFORD -- In spite of its name, Algiers Fire District No. 1 has nothing to do with fire protection.
And Guilford officials say the district no longer has much to do with administering the Algiers Village sewer system, which was the original purpose for the district's organization two decades ago.
So the Selectboard this week voted to begin the process of dissolving the district. But officials also acknowledged that it is a complex undertaking that could take months or even a year.
"There's a legal process -- a very complicated legal process," said Dick Clark, Selectboard chairman.
The volunteer-run Algiers Fire District made the news several times in the past few years for the wrong reasons: The district's former treasurer, Sherry Roebuck, was convicted on charges of federal program embezzlement and mail fraud for stealing more than $80,000 from the organization.
Roebuck was sentenced in February to serve 18 months in federal prison and to pay $82,867 in restitution. Algiers Fire District already has been repaid through the Vermont League of Cities & Towns, which acts as an insurer for municipalities.
But Guilford Selectboard member Anne Rider said officials had been talking well before the embezzlement about whether there still was a need for a fire district, which functions as a separate municipal entity.
The sentiment from district leaders, Rider said, was "we can't get people to participate, and this is more work than we want."
At this point, the town has taken over administration of the sewer system and handles all billing and budgeting, Rider said.
And when officials began planning to run a new water line from Brattleboro into Algiers Village (a project that now is complete), there was no consideration of asking the fire district to administer it.
"We knew it would be more of an administrative load," Rider said. "It wouldn't have been fair."
So, while the fire district's volunteer prudential committee continues to meet, town officials say there's not much purpose in those meetings anymore.
"There's no reason to have that structure in place at this point," Rider said.
A fire district administrator could not be reached for comment. But Guilford Town Administrator Katie Buckley said "both boards agree" that the district can and should be dissolved.
The Selectboard will begin that process and also agreed to seek the assistance of Jim Barlow, a senior staff attorney with VLCT.
"We've got a lot of stuff to learn," Rider said. "What we have are two (governmental entities) that are very anxious to do this."
There was discussion this week about whether Town Meeting voters should make the final decision on dissolving the fire district and merging its functions with town government.
Clark said he favors leaving the matter to voters rather than the Selectboard.
"I'd like to keep it that way -- let the people make the decisions," he said.
Regardless of the move's timing and structure, however, officials pledged that it will not put a dent in Guilford's budget.
The fire district "is a financially self-supporting enterprise," Buckley said.
She added that the district's customers "will feel no difference. They will have no idea that the fire district has ceased to exist."
In other town business:
-- Clark said painting at the Guilford Free Library is set to begin next week.
-- Buckley said work continues on developing a new town website. The current site is supposed to remain operational until the new site is ready, she said.
-- The Selectboard will consider a proposal to purchase technical support and data-backup services for the town's computer system. Costs could range from $520 to $1,200 for an initial outlay, Buckley said, with additional charges for ongoing service.
"We do have money in the budget for this," Buckley said.
She pointed to the town's ongoing efforts to restore land records lost in a computer crash.
"When we lost our land-record information, we got a pretty rude awakening of what can happen with our computer system," Buckley said. "So we've been talking about storage and backup and that sort of stuff a lot lately."
-- The recent reopening of Guilford Country Store has been noted by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy. The Vermont Democrat, who in 2010 announced a $65,000 federal grant for the store project, commended local efforts to revitalize that building and all of Algiers Village.
"Few towns in Vermont have pulled together to reinvigorate their downtowns as aggressively and successfully as Guilford," Leahy said in a prepared statement. "I commend the Friends of Algiers, (store owners) Marc and Suzanne Tessitore and the countless donors of time and money to the effort of reopening the Guilford General Store and Cafe on their vision and dedication to keeping the village center the heart of their community."
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.