The WORKSHOP meeting of the Town Board of the Town of Mount Hope and Village of Otisville Village Board was held at Town Hall on August 18, 2014 at 8:30pm with the following present: Supervisor Chad Volpe, Councilman Gary Ketcham, Councilman Matt Howell, Councilman Dominick Cambareri, Town Clerk Kathleen Myers, Mayor Brian Wona, Trustee Diane Loeven, Trustee Bob Bennett, Trustee Ike Palmer, Trustee Ken Coppola, Trustee.
NOT PRESENT: Councilwoman Janet Sutherland.
OFFICIALS PRESENT: Attorney David Bavoso.
Supervisor Volpe called the meeting to order at 8:37PM.
RESOLUTION TO OPEN MEETING:
MOTION offered by Councilman Howell seconded by Trustee Loeven to open the meeting at 8:37pm. All in favor. Carried.
Mayor Wona: Last meeting we all received copies of this. He contacted NY conference of Mayors & they supplied a lot of case study. He got a copy of the law server which everyone got copies of. He noted #3 ‘In summary’ section re: commissioners and whether they have to be elected or appointed. He cited this section. He asked if both boards can convene.
Atty. Bavoso: He agreed. At the beginning of year you would have a joint meeting every year to appoint the new commissioner or depending on the # of commissioners 2 commissioners.
Wona: so you wouldn’t have to go through the election process?
Bavoso: not by his understanding and 189E.
Trustee Loeven: after last meeting, it was copied ‘189E’ from the law server, that was what she needed to move on. On 2nd page: expiration of predecessor: (she read this section). In her opinion it sounds like an appointed position.
Wona: that was his main question after last workshop. If it had to go through electoral process or be appointed by both boards.
Bavoso: it can be appointed. The 189E of town law states you’re allowed to have no<3 not>7 commissioners appointed by town board of the town or by board of trustees of the village in joint session & it may be determined by resolution adopted at meeting for the establishment. If both boards decide to move forward & get to point of passing resolutions, resolutions to create joint district then you could pass a resolution to make those offices appointed instead of elected.
Loeven: on 189E – once board of commissioners is established and the labor & assistance with compensation approved by both boards in joint session. That means, in order for the board of commissioners to hire support staff, it would have to be approved by both boards in joint session?
Bavoso: that’s his view as it is written.
Loeven: that would be another degree of control that the boards would have.
Supervisor Volpe: asked David what the process would be.
Bavoso: He had provided a letter this evening with the initial process. It would be, if they want to move forward, pass in motion form that they’d like to propose a joint district. If they decide that jointly, then within 30 days of that meeting there has to be another joint meeting which would be a public hearing. The sole purpose of that public hearing is to get input from everyone and take the evidence submitted at that public hearing and consider it/weigh it as it affects the public interest. It doesn’t give a time requirement, but after that if you want to move forward with joint district then you’d have to do a joint resolution that it’s in the best interest of the public. Then do a 2nd resolution establishing the joint fire district. He recommends that prior to doing that, start working out those details after the public hearing & prior to actually getting the thing established so that you have the framework in place.
Volpe: start to finish?
Bavoso: start to finish – I think it would be a matter of months depending on how deliberate the boards want to be with their consideration of what’s presented at the public hearing & when they would take actions to move forward with it, if they choose do to so.
Loeven: prior to having public hearing, would we have to develop a plan?
Bavoso: essentially yes. But not necessarily prior to the 1st public hearing. Truth is, you can legally hold as many public hearings as you want. The one required by statute, only states that you’re proposing the joint fire district & then within 30 days of that proposal that you have to hear the public after that.
Bavoso: You can hold public hearings after that. You can establish the plan before subsequent public hearings. It’s going to be up to the boards collectively how they want to operate that. There are no set time frames other than if these 2 boards at a joint meeting say we move to propose a joint fire district, then that would trigger the time frame for that 1st public hearing. After that you would consider whether or not to actually create the fire district. There’s a resolution to propose it & then a resolution to actually create one.
Loeven: is the resolution to create it that triggers the permissive referendum?
Loeven: if we say we definitely want to move forward & explore this, we hold public hearing, we get people’s feelings about it, then we have an unlimited amount of time is what you’re saying to sit and to work out details of budget, of assets, and if at any time we feel and come to a stale-mate and say this just doesn’t work, then what happens?
Bavoso: The boards could consider doing things on their own. You can end up coming to an agreement or leave the table. No one is bound until the resolutions to create have been done and the 30 days has elapsed for the permissive referendum.
Loeven: from time of 1st public hearing, until that resolution, there’s no time frame?
Bavoso: there’s no time frame in the statutes.
Trustee Coppola: at the public hearing, you have people voice their opinion that they want to vote, they circulate a petition and bring that to the boards?
Bavoso: they would circulate it from… if a resolution to actually create a fire district was done. At the beginning point, the only thing you are resolving to do before the 1st public hearing is to consider it and talk about it. The action would be the resolution to create it. That’s what would be subject to permissive referendum. That’s when the petition could be filed within 30 days of adoption of the resolution to create it.
Councilman Cambareri: our intent is to do that in any event. We could do a referendum without a petition.
Wona: you guys are in contract until 2016. If this goes forward, what happens with the contract?
Bavoso: it depends; on what the fire protection district would do in its winding down. There’s the potential that if that protection district were voted to be dissolved, they have to follow an entire statutory winding up process. Part of that is what to do with the assets. If the plan ends up being we’re gonna roll them all up into a joint district, it makes it easier. If that’s the case, there’s no reason why we couldn’t assign the contract without the consent of everybody who was a party to the original contract. Worst case scenario, is there’s no movement and that’s stuck in place until 2016.
Loeven: is there anything in the contract that the town has with the MHFC addressing what would happen if a district were formed? When they had a contract with the village it was a clause in the contract.
Bavoso: will double check.
Wona: does there have to be a steering committee formed?
Cambareri: we are the steering committee.
Loeven: technically, only the village has assets – correct?
Bavoso: don’t know. Is the village the only one with the assets?
Bavoso: it’s my understanding that there is case law that the municipality can transfer for far less if anything, than what the market value is. Mostly because they want to encourage getting the district put into place.
Loeven: one point in time, years ago, real property, the ‘real estate’ could not be transferred for less than fair market value but that other assets could be.
Bavoso: he will check on it. There may be case law.
Loeven: 1 thing she read, lead her to believe that may not be accurate.
Bavoso: in reality, the money side is kind of a wash because the district is setting where there tax rate is and then the town is then collecting it for them. So really the town is collecting the taxes for the district then giving that money back for the village for the property. I will look at it.
Loeven: if joint district is formed, it guarantees equalization of tax rate regardless of whether in town or village?
Wona: we never understood that. The tax rate with a district; and we charged everybody in the past contracts the same dollar/thousand.
Bavoso: the district proposed as a joint district is very different than what the fire protection district was. The joint district like any other….the best example would be a school district. They are their own taxing entity. The only place the town has is that the town collects the taxes.
Loeven: Prior to you being involved, when the town was still contracting with the village, we had the same rate. Even the fire district attorney, said the biggest selling point is the equalization rate.
Volpe: Can you and the village attorney do this or do we need outside counsel?
Bavoso: We can do the process. It’s a municipal process; the 2 boards are creating the district together. The only other way to do this is by a petition. Even then it’s both boards that have to set it up.
Loeven: Once the district is created, they would have their own attorney?
Councilman Howell: the last time the 2 boards met, there was an issue on the village side with a lawsuit pending. Has anything happened with that?
Coppola: The answer was supposed to be on the 12th. But the county building was closed. He said it was pushed a month or 2 down. The issue is bringing them back as social members not the money.
Bavoso: hopes Mr. Dallow will be involved. He knows more about the history between the 2 municipalities.
Volpe: This is not binding us that either municipality can’t get out of. Because it’s a lengthy process, not sure what the village position is. My position is, if we need 7 public hearings, so be it. He would like for the majority of questions/concerns come back with answers. There will probably be more educated questions coming at us that we may not be looking at. Each particular thing may require research. We may hit hiccups and decide to cut our ties and walk away. Hopefully lawsuit issue is resolved. We may have the 1st public hearing and decide this is not a road we want to go down. This is not what the people want. If you look long term and we’re in contract through June of ’16. That gives us time – but it doesn’t. By the time we set the public hearings and have them and holidays and everything in between. I don’t see harm in setting it and seeing where it goes. We could break it down by district because of the issue of room. Senior center and firehouse – there’s not much difference between one or the other. Give the people an opportunity. If we’re all on board – then they’ll all be on board. What’s our next step?
Bavoso: The next step is that each board would adopt a motion to propose a joint fire district. If that happens tonight, it would have to be done jointly, if that happened tonight, then a joint public hearing would have to take place within 30 days of today. The notice requirements has to be published and posted in 5 conspicuous places in town/village. One requirement can be fulfilled by the website. Each board member has to be served with the notice by the clerk of the respective municipality.
Loeven: That has to be done by mail.
Bavoso: Yes, and recommend certified return receipt.
Howell: If we have multiple public hearings, will we go through this publication process repeatedly?
Bavoso: Yes. I don’t think necessarily you would. It’s this specific one you do. To be on safe side it’s wise to do same way each time.
Volpe: Unless we determine tonight 2 consecutive days to have public hearings. Then we could be done tonight. We have a public hearing for districts 1& 2 on xyz and we have a public hearing for 3 & 4 on – right? It would clearly say that?
Bavoso: We could set it up that way.
Volpe: Then it wouldn’t require dual letters & dual notifications. Nobody will throw anybody out if someone from district 1 came to a district 4 meeting. It might not be necessary but I would rather be over cautious.
Cambareri: Before we go that far to start setting dates, I’d like to have 1 or 2 more like this and let everybody have a chance to digest what happened last week. Let things calm down. There’s more research we can do after this meeting. We’re gonna come up with more questions. Let’s sit down like this again and talk like this before we make that decision.
Loeven: Agrees with Dominick. If and when we reach point where we’re ready and we’ve discussed this and gotten our questions out, and we’re ready to move forward, so that meeting for the purpose of jointly proposing the establishment of the district – can that be done at a workshop meeting?
Bavoso: A workshop meeting is a regular public meeting. It‘s treated the same under the open meetings law. It’s up to the boards jointly how they want to run the meeting. It can be just any meeting of the boards – official meeting.
Loeven: This is a great start. A lot of my questions have been answered. One of my biggest concerns was I don’t want to be under any time constraints. I think that’s what’s killed it over and over again in the past.
Cambareri: I don’t wanna slow the process. I don’t wanna end the process.
Volpe: Gary? Anything? No.
Trustee Palmer: I think this is a good 1st step. Diane had good questions, some of them I had the same. We go a lot of good things out in the open.
Trustee Bennett: I think we are moving in the right direction. Diane answered a lot of my questions.
Coppola: I was contemplating on bringing up what Dominick brought up that we don’t move too fast on this. There’s still a lot of hurt out there from the last vote. I think we should take our time, do our research, so when we have these public meetings, we can have the answers for the people. And just take our time. If it doesn’t happen in 2015 maybe it’ll happen in 2016. It’s just not something we should just jump off a bridge and into the water. Go slow, do our homework so when someone asks a question we can give an answer. And tell them why not the other and why this. I don’t think a lot of people realize that it would have been on the Mount Hope taxpayers not the villages’. It would just be on everyone.
Loeven: People are still smarting. One of the questions out there is well why not the other district and why then are you considering a joint district? What we talked about here tonight – there is a way for the town and village elected boards to have some degree of control – some voice for their taxpayers but doing it with a board of commissioners the way that we’ve discussed. I think that’s important that we understand that difference to be able to explain it to other people. Certainly – there’s a lot of room for discussion. We’ve got to talk to people. We’ve got to get what their feeling is and bring it back to each other.
Howell: I think probably research you would find that Bloomingburg is a joint municipal district because their village… they serve into Mamakating. There’s avenues that we can solicit other municipalities for their opinions on how they formed – learn from their trials and errors. It gives us a little more light on the topic.
Wona: I agree with all of you. In the long term this is going to happen at some point. Being associated with the past, it’s the most comfortable I feel about the process we’re going through here. Just with the paperwork we’ve provided you and the work you’ve provided us has cleared up a lot of questions I couldn’t get answered before. I was always told that you elect your commissioners and they run it and that’s it. I agree there has to be some oversight. Appointing your commissioners gives everybody some oversight to how the tax dollars are spent. Volunteerism is at an all time low. Whether they both realize it or not – they both need each other. We’ll have another workshop, answer more questions. My main concern is that you are under contract until 2016.
Bavoso: I will be taking a look at that in another few weeks.
Wona: Just to let you know we’ve been working on our firehouse, containing the tanks – different things we’ve been doing up there. Reports have dispelled that the firehouse is an antiquated place to be but it’s pretty solid. It’s good for starting out.
Volpe: A few of my comments – I would like to see things move fast. I can see that everyone is cautious. I respect that. I’m gonna have to be on board with it. At the same time, I don’t wanna leave the table tonight without rescheduling our next meeting. We all have busy lives. There’s too many boards. Too many time restraints. I want it to stay fresh and the only way to keep it fresh is to; if we have to have several more meetings they have to happen once/month. And we need to do our own research, have our questions so that it doesn’t become stagnant. We have 2 attorneys and 2 boards that are gonna work together. I’d like to see where our issues/concerns are and have the public hearing sooner than later.
**discussion over next date(s) joint meeting
TOWN RESOLUTION TO SET DATE FOR JOINT MEETING:
MOTION offered by Councilman Howell seconded by Councilman Cambareri to schedule a joint meeting between the town board and the village board on Sept. 18, 2014 at 7:30pm at the village hall. All in favor – carried.
VILLAGE RESOLUTION TO SET DATE FOR JOINT MEETING:
MOTION offered by Trustee Loeven seconded by Trustee Coppola to schedule a joint meeting between the town board and the village board on Sept. 18, 2014 at 7:30pm at the village hall. All in favor – carried.
RESOLUTION FOR ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION offered by Councilman Howell seconded by Councilman Cambareri to adjourn the meeting at 9:10pm. All in favor – carried.
Kathleen A. Myers