WORKSHOP MEETING, TOWN OF MOUNT HOPE – VILLAGE OF OTISVILLE MAY 15, 2014
The WORKSHOP meeting of the Town Board of the Town of Mount Hope and Village of Otisville Village Board was held at Village Hall on May 15, 2014 at 8:00pm with the following present: Supervisor Chad Volpe, Councilman Gary Ketcham, Councilman Matt Howell, Councilwoman Janet Sutherland, Councilman Dominick Cambareri, Town Clerk Kathleen Myers, Mayor Brian Wona, Trustee Diane Loeven, Trustee Bob Bennett, Trustee Ike Palmer, Trustee Ken Coppola, Trustee.
OTHERS PRESENT: Attorney David Bavoso & Attorney Howard Dallow.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance, Mayor Wona called the meeting to order at 8:07PM.
Mayor advised everyone the meeting is being recorded and to please turn down/off cellular devices. This is a workshop. There will be no public comment.
Councilman Cambareri: the reason for getting together is to explore some possibilities. We have talked amongst ourselves about some cost savings measures between the town and the village. We have already had the opportunity to speak with the Mount Hope fire department a couple times. We haven’t spoken to Otisville fire department. As far as town and village are concerned, we would like to explore the possibility of a joint fire district at cost between both of us. As we stand now, as our town is, we are paying 3 fire departments that we are paying taxes into within our township. We would like to consolidate some of this service and explore creating a joint district between the town & village so we have one fire department. That would definitely save the taxpayers some money where we consolidate some services. The state is looking for us to consolidate services. We had a meeting not too long ago with the Senator and he suggested it would be a good idea to talk about consolidating. We wanted to see where you guys stand and have you thought about it.
Mayor Wona: are we talking joint municipal? Councilman Cambareri: yes.
Trustee Coppola: the only thing right now is we have a pending vote on the fire district. If that goes down, what happens then? Councilman Cambareri: we can still explore our possibilities. If there is a public referendum, and the fire district that is trying to establish itself now is defeated, that doesn’t affect our exploration on where we wanna go because anything in the future would go to public referendum. We have a better selling point as a joint district, more than we do with 2 different fire companies. I am not sure where they stand right now with their public referendum. I haven’t heard if they’ve set dates; don’t know where they stand on it. Attorney Bavoso: in the event that a referendum is held and the dissolution goes through, state law still requires that there be disposition of the assets of the fire district. If the joint district were formed at the same time, then that disposition could be assets going from one into the other. There’s options as to how you can make it work. Councilman Cambareri: as it stands now, the newly formed district has no assets. Funds haven’t been transferred yet. That’s almost a year away. That really won’t affect any decisions we would have to make yet.
Trustee Coppola: you know there’s a lawsuit by members of the fire company to the directors of the village. Councilman Cambareri: that is a civil suit. Trustee Coppola: until that’s settled, he doesn’t think we can move on. Councilman Cambareri: as far as the village is concerned or as far as..(Supervisor Volpe asked everyone to speak louder). The suit from his understanding is not a suit from that fire department. It is a civil suit from certain members. Trustee Coppola: there’s 19 involved but he doesn’t think they can move forward until that’s settled. Councilman Cambareri: if the civil suit is against the village also? Trustee Coppola: and the board of directors in the fire company. Attorney Bavoso: in his opinion that you could move forward. Trustee Coppola: that it would be a stumbling block as far as moving forward until that settled one way or the other. He would like to see the outcome of the suit. To him it is the cart before the horse.
Trustee Loeven (asked Chad) in having met with the MH fire department/company, it’s your impression that they too are interested in exploring this type of a possibility. Supervisor Volpe: thinks right now at our level at the town and the village. Within a couple years it’s not going to be at our level. We are going to be told this has to happen. Everything coming down from Albany now is 0% for next year. There is only certain things you can cut. You have to have fire protection. This is a matter of time. Local laws will be superseded.
Supervisor Volpe cont.:
Ultimately the states in the government are going to impose this on us. We’re going to have to do this because the cash cow is not around anymore. Because Mount Hope Fire company is preliminary and they don’t have their permanent structure yet and this is timing of the essence. It’s not like we have 2 great big structures at this point and 2 separate districts and all of these other things. This is the time that we may be able to get grants to help with things because we are showing consolidation of services. He thinks that they’d have a better shot at doing it because the village board has had a new election and we’ve had a new election and we were reminded the town and the village have been down this road before. He is hoping there is enough new people to see if we can make this happen. It’s kind of a win-win. Obviously the town can’t own a fire company. From the feedback we’ve gotten from the firemen is ‘we wanted a district’. This is a win-win. We can consolidate services and have a district. In his opinion, he envisions having a public hearing, several if need be, where the 10 of us are selling it to the public. Where the 10 of us are saying this is what’s right for the community and all of us being on board with it. Setting private emotions aside, he thinks it’s the best thing for the town & village.
Trustee Loeven: she doesn’t disagree. She thinks it is a shame and we were this close to having a district before and it fell apart. She understands Kenny’s point. She personally can’t disagree with that. As a village board member, if a company, not talking fire, a company that provides some sort of service came to us and wanted to say ok let’s work on a contract where we’re gonna work together and we’ll be providing services to you as a village but ½ of our employees have an active suit against you. It’s very difficult for me to say I can go into any kind of good faith relationship with that company if they’re already suing the village. I understand what Kenny…it’s difficult to…that’s why she said if they really want to move forward with it – legally it would be settled before but then again they are still the same people that sued the village. If it were 5 people in the fire company, I wouldn’t feel that way but it’s a majority it’s hard for me to get past. Not saying I can’t but that’s my biggest stumbling block.
Councilman Cambareri (asked) Gary or Janet if they had anything they wanted to add. Councilwoman Sutherland: no. Trustee Loeven: there’s more to be explored before we can move past this tonight. Maybe the best way to do that is have a couple people from each board, couple of other people who have some degree of expertise that they can add to this to sit down and really brainstorm and come up with what they consider options of plan. Then come back with that. In putting that group together personally I don’t think you want a group more than 6 because then you start being counter-productive. She doesn’t think anyone in that group should be active in either fire company because they have their own allegiance to their fire companys. We have enough board members with the Mayor that it’s not an impossibility. Councilwoman Sutherland: we have tried that. I’m not sure you are aware of that. Kenny and I, Brian, Mike Bell, Mike Wilbur, and 2 people from the Mount Hope fire company had gone down that road. It went nowhere. We were told the village wasn’t interested. Trustee Loeven added we are sitting here. Councilwoman Sutherland: you were aware of that right? Trustee Loeven: yes. Councilwoman Sutherland added that she knew Diane wasn’t on the board at that time. Mayor Wona: the reason it went down is because they were trying to force the village to contract to that company. Councilwoman Sutherland: actually, we offered you $80,000.00 for fire protection for one year. The offer on the table was the town was going to pay the village $80,000.00, you in turn would have free fire protection the 2 would work together, with using the Otisville fire house and the equipment. But that was turned down. Trustee Loeven: regardless of what the proposals were in the past, if this group is gonna sit and rehash the past we are never going to get anywhere. We want to say we are here to move forward that we have tried a lot of things in the past. It doesn’t mean they couldn’t work in the future. But if we are not willing to try then we might as well say that here tonight.
Supervisor Volpe: That’s one of the obstacles I’ve faced is a lot of people saying what happened in the past. I’m just trying to go today, forward. I know there’s a lot of, don’t want to say hatred, but there’s a lot of animosity, emotion and personal feelings. I have never been a fireman. However, I am bringing the business aspect to it. This makes business sense to consolidate. I don’t have an allegiance with either one. It would be an awesome selling point. It would be a feather in everybody sitting at this tables cap to be able to say that we made this work and we got this through. At the end of the day it’s the best thing for the town and village.
Supervisor Volpe cont.:
If we don’t believe that, then we don’t need to be here. I strongly believe that it would be the best thing. Trustee Coppola: Even with all the animosity, there has been mutual aid calls recently and both companys work together – no problem. When you are on the scene, it is a whole different world. Councilman Cambareri: everyone has said that all along. When it comes to that part of it, there’s not a problem. At our last meeting with the fire department we did run into that obstacle where we started to hash over things that happened in the past. We would like to leave that all out of it. We would like to move forward. There’s a lot of things that happened in the past that were wrong on both ends. No sense in re-hashing. We’re never going to resolve what happened. Is this something we can go on further? Is this something the village will move forward with? I believe this is worth pursuing. Mayor Wona: I agree with you. It would be basically combined services, whether it’s town or village, city…Cuomo is going for that. The combined services, stop duplicating government. Consolidate government to make it more efficient. Actively the animosity between companys/departments, everybody has to stop sabotaging the efforts that are trying to be made. For instance, publicizing certain reports on a certain website where we have nothing to do with what’s going on. We don’t publicize anything about the town fire department. But our stuff is on their website to show how supposedly how inadequate we are. Just this weekend a past board member, that I had on my board, text messaged me that we were raising the village budget for the fire department $184,000.00. These are the things that are undermining what everybody is trying to accomplish here. Former village board member said…gave the copy to the village board that night and he went to Bob Bennett and said what are your trucks made of gold? Because it is a streamlined budget. Our taxes are only going up .93%. If we put $184,000.00 into the fire department, I think out taxes would have been a lot more than .93% with everything that we do. This is a person that wants to keep undermining the relationship between the 2. At some point it has to stop. So that you can proceed and move forward. Everybody is passionate about what they believe in. For everybody to come to a common goal and do a common thing, all the chatter outside, Facebook, has to stop. There’s a lot of misnomers out there; a lot of things that are incorrect.
Councilman Cambareri: as we move forward with discussions and proposals, obviously, as a group of 2 boards we have to deal with facts. As we move forward and we do make the presentation to the public it would have to be all facts. And that’s where the public will learn what our plan is and why we’re doing what we do. As long as we stay in the realm of reality, and we speak facts to the people, the people are gonna have to understand that they’re gonna be able to listen to us and we’re gonna tell the truth. Mayor Wona: I think we will, moving on. Councilman Cambareri: It’s 2 new boards. It’s a new era. As the lawyers can attest, it’s the 1st time in 22 years we’ve signed a mutual service agreement. It hasn’t happened in 20 years. Mayor Wona: I think you have probably heard if you talk to tax payers in the town & village it’s like an insurance policy. That whistle blows they want firemen there saving their property. Cutting them out of cars, getting them the best medical. That’s what most people see and want. In the past everyone has shared the same per thousand. We have had talks with general municipality stuff we deal with buildings and stuff like that. You have engineers and we have our respective lawyers with the joint services basically stating that it’s a good thing for the public to keep taxes down. Whether they want to admit it or not, they need each other. Supervisor Volpe: When you go back to the public hearings and that’s the only part of what I will re-hash, there wasn’t any one that stood up and said fire service is horrible. That aspect and probably 90% of those putting out fires are the same people that ended up splitting. My point is now we have 2 separate departments. There was probably 250 people at that meeting. Nobody said anything bad about “jeez the fire truck rode by” or anything negative. Everything was within minutes they were there or whatever the case is. Now I don’t think you would get that from the public. If we had public hearing right now, the people would still say they’re there in a couple minutes…it’s the animosity between the 2. The backlash isn’t coming from the average person out there because when the fire whistle goes off, they don’t care if it says Brian’s Fire on the side as long as you get there and put the fire out. The service isn’t an issue. The issue is the social media. Depending who you talk to, it’s this one said this about this person’s fire truck etc. When the fire whistle comes all the nonsense stops and they do what they have to do. It’s the belittling each other when not on the call. The average person could care less about what the red lights look like.
Supervisor Volpe cont: They called 911. The people responded. It’s great with mutual aid that everybody is honky-dory. It’s not the same issue with when we are not on the scene. 99% of the men and women are in it for the right reason to serve their community. I can’t do anything about the lawsuits but this is a sellable item.
Councilman Cambareri: It’s sellable for several reasons. Most people you talk to it’s not about the 2 depts., it’s about the amount of trucks/vehicles within 7 mile radius. Don’t need to duplicate these items. We can’t afford for both depts. to own everything. Trustee Loeven: When this happened, I don’t believe anybody wanted 2 separate depts. In a better position to work together because of the people sitting at this table.
Trustee Bennett: asked about the joint vs. regular district commissioners. Councilman Cambareri explained they can be either appointed or elected. Appointments are made by the village and the town boards. Trustee Bennett: When campaigning a lot of people were afraid village would lose identity. He believes if it went to elected, that because there are more people in town than village, that the town would then have control. Councilman Cambareri: that’s why the law is written the way that is. Trustee Bennett: Can’t survive being 2. Councilman Howell: agrees with Mr. Bennett. Trustee Palmer: Thinks Chad is right in moving in this direction with the right people. Mayor Wona: we’re gonna take our time. Not like last time. Supervisor Volpe: District can be done in a short period of time. Won’t be on tax rolls as joint district until 2016. Councilman Cambareri: There’s a lot of legal things to be done to be put in place properly. Still have 2 years left on this contract. Mayor Wona: likes the idea of multiple public hearings. He wants the public to digest and be well informed.
Supervisor Volpe: Would love to see it done in months. There are 10 elected officials; everyone has a click of people that helped them get elected. When 10 of us are in line/same page, it becomes more sellable. Trustee Loeven: Technology is moving forward & unfunded mandates can kill you. Supervisor Volpe: Is the village concern due to pending litigation? Trustee Coppola: yes. Trustee Loeven: is looking for a long range plan – 10 years out. How would you plan on major projects? Need to have that figured out. Supervisor Volpe: certain things you can’t forecast out. Trustee Coppola: spoke about a time limit for the lawsuit and finding out. He thinks the 2 chiefs should be on a committee. Supervisor Volpe: Doesn’t feel we need a committee. Just need both boards to be in agreement. We are forced to hold a public hearing. Trustee Loeven: Asked if public hearings would be prior to strategic plan? Atty. Bavoso: Up in air, according to town law. At a joint meeting both boards would set public hearing to just get input. Then boards would independently pass resolutions to move forward. Should have a loose plan in place at least. Atty. Dallow: First a decision has to be made by each board – that it appears to be in the public interest. The boards have to move forward 1st. Supervisor Volpe: Doesn’t want majority; he wants all to be on board. If not there, then we need to see what to do to get to that point. Financially, it’s the best thing. We need a resolution to move forward to start exploring. Atty. Dallow: The law is clear. It can be as simple or as difficult as you want it to be. Separate municipalities, past historys of them – can make it difficult. It might be different this time. Each board should make a decision. He appreciates Kenny’s opinion with the lawsuits. Trustee Loeven: Can’t imagine that anyone at this table would not feel that consolidation of services is the best. Supervisor Volpe: Once both make the resolutions to explore, we should be able to get a preliminary forecast as to what is envisioned. Need to be on same page. Should reach out to both depts. to start. Mayor Wona: both have aging fleets. Trustee Bennett: the village has too much equipment but we are maintaining. If this happens, we would cut the fleet. Supervisor Volpe: spoke re: joint district and the equipment. At some point some of it would have to be surplussed. That may be some revenue for a new truck. Trustee Bennett: asked how that could be done since they are a private company. Councilman Cambareri: if a new district is formed, you cannot give them equipment. You have to sell it. There has to be a contract/agreement made. Has to be done at fair market value. The village cannot give their equipment away. They have to dispose of it legally. He assumes it would be the same for a private corporation. Atty. Bavoso: You can do informal resolutions to keep moving forward. You have to have another joint meeting when you prepare to have a public hearing which would have to be within 30 days of the resolution. There doesn’t appear to be in the statute any timeframe for an official of declaration. He can work out the statute and provide it to village attorney. Atty. Dallow: don’t have to have a public hearing until you actually take a vote. If you took a vote now, then you would have 30 days from now.
Attorney Dallow continued: But you are talking informally now. At the next meeting, and if you voted by each municipality and had a majority that it was in the public interest, then you would have to have the public hearing in 30 days. Councilman Cambareri: what about a resolution to explore? Atty. Dallow: you don’t need that. Councilman Cambareri: so we can continue to move forward as long as we all agree to continue? Trustee Loeven: yes. Supervisor Volpe: What’s our next step? He doesn’t have the issue that Kenny and Diane have. Atty. Dallow: his feeling is that now the issue is with each municipality. The village is involved with this lawsuit. The village and the town need to separately make a decision. Hold another joint meeting. Trustee Loeven: that joint meeting would be a meeting not a workshop like this. Atty. Dallow: no, there’s a joint meeting and an open public meeting. You are not at that stage yet, so you can’t do that. Councilman Cambareri: we can have as many of these workshops as we want? Atty. Dallow: yes. Trustee Loeven: asked about permissive referendum. Do the boards want to have it on their own? Supervisor Volpe: if we move forward, it might be more cost effective to have it with the November election. Trustee Loeven: there’s an issue with that as far as not including Howells in that. Town Clerk: that would have to be deferred to board of elections. Trustee Coppola: 1st thing to do is go to your fire company & Bob is our representative and get their feelings.
RESOLUTION FOR ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION offered by Mayor Wona seconded by Supervisor Volpe to adjourn the meeting at 9:05pm. All in favor: both boards – aye; carried.
Kathleen A. Myers