PUBLIC HEARING, TOWN OF MOUNT HOPE – VILLAGE OF OTISVILLE FEBRUARY 18, 2015
The public hearing of the Town Board of the Town of Mount Hope and Village Board of the Village of Otisville was held at the Senior Center on Baker Street, Feb. 18, 2015 at 7:00pm with the following present: Supervisor Volpe, Councilman Ketcham, Councilman Howell, Councilwoman Sutherland, Councilman Cambareri, Mayor Wona, Trustee Loeven, Trustee Bennett, Trustee Coppola, Trustee Palmer, Village Clerk Christine Dipoalo & Town Clerk Kathleen Myers. (22 residents were present.)
OFFICIALS PRESENT: Attorney D. Bavoso & Attorney H. Dallow.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance, Supervisor Volpe called the meeting to order at 7:00PM. He asked for everyone to silence their cell phones.
Supervisor Volpe: It will be the same forum as previous hearings. Come to podium with questions. State if you are from town or village. 5 minute time limit.
Lou Dodd: Passed out his list of questions. (Will be on file in Town Clerk’s office) Why is a joint fire district better for the T/O Mount Hope tax payers than the Mount Hope fire district which the voters of the T/O Mount Hope signed a petition to have the fire district come to a vote then voted to dissolve? Will the new fire district supply the same medical, FAST team & fire protection for the same price/thousand as the MH fire company already does? Are the tax payers going to be able to vote who they want as commissioners after the appointed commissioners serve their 1 yr. appointment? Will it be a democratic system or one that’s appointed by village & town boards? Have the 2 boards asked the Otisville FD & the MH fire dept. if they want a joint fire district or participate in one. They are the pool of resources as taxpayers we have in our community to pull from to serve us in an emergency. Do the 2 boards already have a list of personnel to support the new joint fire district operations to respond to calls within our district? Construction of the fire house: what size? What type of material? Total sq. feet? How did the 2 boards come up with a $2 million dollar cost to the tax payers? Any ideas where the new fire house will be located? If a new joint fire district is formed in the 1st year we will be renting from the Otisville old fire house. Do the village tax payers know they will be renting the fire house from the new district that they already own with their tax dollars? As a tax payer, I would like to know how much money was spent on research for joint district, town board hours, lawyer hours and any other costs. If I can’t have information in question form, let me know and I will FOIL for information. Supervisor Volpe: The new fire commissioners would have to get the fire protection. The new commissioners could say they want to continue using Otisville, and Mount Hope. It’s their job to get the fire protection. It’s too premature right now to tell who they want to contract with. Mr. Dodd: I understand. Things may not be all that friendly right now between the 2 departments. I’d like to know if you asked the Otisville FF by a ballot vote and you ask the MH FF because no matter what, they are the only FF we have. Councilman Cambareri: when this started a year ago, Chad & I came to a meeting and you told us under no certain circumstances would you entertain the thought of going to a district. Mr. Dodd: Not what I said as president of corporation. Councilman Cambareri: You told us under no certain circumstances would you….Ed Myslinski said it and you said it. Mr. Dodd: Not true. Councilman Cambareri: we went to your meeting and asked you that. You wanted nothing to do with us being there. We went to Otisville and asked them the same thing…they said it would be difficult but they would entertain it. Councilwoman Sutherland: asked Dominick> how long ago the meeting was? Mr. Dodd: it was before the vote to dissolve the district. And also during the time that we were involved in a lawsuit. Nowhere in that meeting did I tell you I would not entertain that. In a district meeting that you sat at, Julie Musial asked us if we would be willing to sit down and talk and what was said then. Councilman Cambareri: then you agreed to sit down and talk. We can agree to disagree. Mr. Dodd: where are you getting the FF? Councilman Cambareri: that’s not up to us that’s up to the commissioners of the new district. Councilman Howell: Answered the question of how much the research cost. He took the care of the mapping end of things. He had the county GIS the vision and produced 2 maps for us. No charge to the town. Councilman Cambareri: work was done by volunteers.
Mayor Wona: spoke on the $2 mill. fire house. It’s an estimated budget. We sat with Bob Wheeling who helped with proposed numbers. And as everyone knows when forming a district, the commissioners have the bottom line on making the budget. Councilwoman Sutherland: her understanding as far as commissioners go, that they are always appointed the 1st year. Her recall from some of the meetings, there seems to be a lean towards them continuing to be appointed & not elected. Mayor Wona: It’s an option if both boards agree by resolution.
Councilwoman Sutherland: She’s been hearing there’s a push to appoint the commissioners. She disagrees. They should be elected.
Trustee Loeven: spoke re: the fire house structure. She noted the “SAMPLE” pages in the packet. These were put in to show what a strategic plan would be. One is for a 5 yr. building renovation plan if the plan was to purchase the Otisville FH by the district then the plan is there. Mr. Dodd: understands that but as long as the village residents realize that when the 2 boards create a fire district and the district commissioners are not elected but appointed. The taxpayers have created nothing. The village residents are going to pay to rent the fire house that they already own. Trustee Loeven: they will & they won’t. Trustee Coppola: so do Mount Hope residents. Mr. Dodd: Mount Hope residents never owned anything Kenny. Trustee Coppola: not owned but they’ve paid. It’s always thrown in the village’s face that MH pays 80% and village pays 20% which is 100% correct but there’s 4 times the taxpayers in Mount Hope. Mount Hope residents did pay. They paid for all the equipment & everything. Mr. Dodd: no disagreement from me. The Mount Hope residents have no equity in the fire house. Trustee Loeven: that’s correct but the village residents are not losing out on that. The other question was re: location. That’s the other sample: 5 yr. building plan. Step 2 is re: location. That would be something being done during the 1st year. Councilwoman Sutherland: spoke re: $192,000 would be the lease for the 5 yrs, $38,500 for the year to lease. Mr. Dodd: spoke re: hand vote vs. ballot vote being very different.
Councilwoman Sutherland: asked Lou to elaborate on the lawsuit. There’s a lot of focus on both departments coming together. Dominick said that a year ago when you all sat together that the MH fire company wanted nothing to do with it. Has something changed? Mr. Dodd: We lost our membership to the Otisville fire company on a social status and life member status. We retained Rick Golden to gain membership back. We feel it was taken wrongly from us. That’s for the judge to decide. When you 1st bring a lawsuit like this about, there’s a dollar figure attached to it plus your intentions of the lawsuit. The dollar figure from us was removed. Other than 1st filing of the papers we do not seek any monetary value from anyone. We want what was wrongly taken from us. It’s been 19 months. Now we have to go give depositions. The Otisville fire company attorney says they want money from us now. We have supplied all documentation about 90% that’s been requested. Now it’s in a countersuit from Pinsky law firm. They now want monetary value. In between this we had an offer given to Rick Golden/Ashley Torres to settle for gaining membership back. Presented to us by their attorney. You get your membership back, you drop the lawsuit, we are all done. Just after the vote, we decide for us to move forward that we accepted it unanimously-that offer. The 2 attorneys met and Otisville attorney decided that it needed to be brought back to their membership. Otisville did not accept our offer. Mayor Wona: The lawyer statement made by Otisville is not true. Mr. Pinsky represents the Otisville FC. When lawsuit was made, Travelers Insurance covered us. Terry Rice was our lawyer. Since we’ve been removed from the lawsuit, we have no further input on what the company is doing. Howard represents us for all other affairs. Pinsky does not represent Village of Otisville.
Phil Higby: (Grange Road): he spoke re: vehicle inventory summary. It only shows Otisville fire company. Why isn’t Mount Hope’s here? Councilman Cambareri: Town of Mount Hope doesn’t own anything. Mr. Higby: T/O Mount Hope doesn’t own the village either. The village doesn’t own the town. This is 1 sided. Councilman Cambareri: It doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to a private corporation so we can’t list it as an asset. Atty. Dallow: the town doesn’t own inventory. If there’s an agreement, the village can make a decision over equipment that they own. Mr. Higby: There should be an inventory of the MH fire department. Atty. Dallow: the town doesn’t have the authority to project something they have no interest in. If you’re telling me that MHFD is willing to turn that over to the town, then the town can put that into the proposed plan. They don’t own it. They have no interest in it. Mr. Higby: but you’re talking about the MHFC and VOFC. Atty. Dallow: no we’re talking about a joint district. Mr. Higby: this is all assets from the village though. Councilwoman Sutherland: what she’s hearing from Phil is where is the manpower from the T/O MH if this is going to be a joint district? Mr. Higby: this is only the equipment here but yes. Atty. Dallow: It can’t be there until the MHFD says you can put our equipment towards the new plan. Let’s assume this gets approved, the MHFD we will pledge our equipment…but it can’t be put in now. There’s no authority to do it. Mr. Higby: the town & village has no input on where the manpower is coming from, that it’s left up to the commissioners, the fire district being dissolved.
Mr. Higby: So if we have a new joint fire district, you’re gonna be coming in with 5 or 7 people at the same time as you’re forming the district. Where will the commissioners pull the manpower from? How will they know what companies will respond? What firemen? What EMT’s? Trustee Coppola: I would hope they are both smart enough to approach the Otisville FC and MH FC. Mr. Higby: basically you are looking to form a new joint district between the village and the town and the appointment of 5 or 7 people. Councilman Cambareri: they would be charged with the same thing you as a former commissioner would be charged with. Mr. Higby: you are missing something here. The district was formed by the members of the OFC that left. There was 21. Councilman Cambareri: the district was formed by the T/O Mount Hope. Mr. Higby: There was 21 certified firemen that left that had the credentials. Councilman Cambareri: They did not form the fire district. That was the T/O MH. Mr. Higby: when do you anticipate the joint fire district to come about? Councilman Cambareri: I have no clue. That’s up to those people whether or not they want to form one. This time is a little different. This time you have the option to ask questions, the option to talk. You have the option to make the decision. Mr. Higby: So, the voters are saying what the firemen are gonna do? Suppose the firemen from Otisville and MH say we have had enough, went through this before. Councilman Cambareri: They can sign the contract with the lowest bidder. Mr. Higby: it’s not just the lowest bidder. It’s who can provide the service. Who can protect my house? Who can protect my neighbor’s house? Councilman Cambareri: It’s not up to us. Mr. Higby: It’s all about the protection. It’s not about whether or not there’s gonna be a district. It’s about the protection. I don’t see that Otisville has the ability to provide that protection. Councilman Cambareri: nobody said it’s Otisville. Mr. Higby: Your actions are putting all the residents at risk. He spoke of continuity of service.
Lou Dodd: The MHFC corporation supplies fire protection to the T/O Mount Hope. We got that equipment through the tax payer’s money. We have a debt on the tanker. If we dissolve, the taxpayers do have an interest in the MHFC. Because if that corporation is dissolved, the assets are sold, the debt is satisfied and the money is returned to the taxpayers. The tax payers have a vested interest in the corporation. I think members from both companies should have been asked.
Harry Gomez: Here all 3 nights. There’s about 70 for the 3 days. Sad showing for a critical issue. He spoke of the renting of the fire house. He spoke of the assets of the Otisville FC. He spoke of a new fire house, no location. He spoke of the 31% increase in fire protection tax. He believes we should not move forward with this. It sounds like MHFC could have been incorporated if they were willing to list their assets. Atty. Dallow: not what I said-if the equipment was turned over to the town the town can propose that…they can’t forward that equipment. They have no interest in it. Mr. Gomez: if the MHFC said we’d like to turn over these assets and incorporate into this plan for the joint FD being charged with the opportunity to provide fire protection, could MHFC turn over their assets to the joint district and be a part of the plan? Atty. Dallow: the plan is the proposal. This is an informational meeting. This is to set up a joint district. No one is saying that OFD is going to be the firemen that are hired. Mr. Gomez: It’s not guaranteed that Otisville is going to take over? Atty. Bavoso: to answer your question, the boards decided to ‘not count their chickens before they hatch’ approach. If the village board is willing to go into the joint fire district, then they would be willing to contribute so much equipment. MHFC owns their equipment, so there’s no guarantee from the people at this table that the company would be willing to sell or rent those trucks. If the company decided to sell this or contribute this equipment to the district, you could certainly take this into account moving into the future. This is hypothetical. Mr. Gomez: it seems the village has everything to gain and the MHFC is being left out to dry.
Ed Fairweather: What value is this to the town? There’s a tax increase involved. There’s questionable service areas. It seems to be pushed off to this commissioner board to decide how fire protection would be provided to the residents. Being there’s been no dialogue with the MH FD, what if the FC decided to give all the equipment to the new district? Why would there be any reason to buy it from the village? He asked about the appraised value of the fire trucks vs. the insured value of the fire trucks.
Angel Maurizzio: All firemen are good firemen, both departments. Thinks this issue is a moot point because of lack of manpower present in both companies not being able to get along. The Mount Hope firemen are deserters. She thinks the MHFC equipment inventory should have been included. She doesn’t think anything joint is going to work. There are no renovation figures listed for Otisville fire house.
Angel Maurizzio cont.: she stated if it does come to fruition, she would like to see everyone be able to vote on the whole thing. She agrees with the town and village to appoint the commissioners. Mr. Dodd: We/I didn’t leave because I don’t get along with anyone – we fight fires together. We didn’t desert anybody. You need us. You call us. We’re hauling.
Harry Gomez: If this goes to a vote, when will the vote take place? Supervisor Volpe: At the close of this meeting and depending on what the boards decide to do, the attorneys would tell us what the process is.
Wayne Melton: The MHFC assets were purchased with tax money, they are the tax payers; we can’t give it away. Don’t trust the village at all; Brian, Ken, Bob, said no twice. Diane & Ike said they’re against. Tax payers voted on this. There’s a 31% raise. Gave 100’s/1000’s of hours as a fireman. He asked for a roll call vote. Councilwoman Sutherland: against it. Atty. Dallow: Each board independently has to decide whether or not to move forward. At that point, the referendum dates can be set. Date can’t be set tonight. If one board decides at this stage not to move forward, then that’s the end of it. If both boards decide to move forward, then it moves to referendum. You’re still a step away from that.
Toni Coppola: Not a part of either company. Her concern = manpower. Can you guarantee these firemen are gonna merge? Were they asked?
Trustee Loeven: It was said each night that the village has everything to gain by this. If you look at proposed budget, the village taxpayers are going to absorb the same increase. There was something said about leasing what you already own. She doesn’t think that’s accurate.
John Doty: He is against a joint fire district and he fought hard for a joint fire district. His reason he’s against is because they voted no 2 days before the public hearing because they didn’t like the lawyer. Having a board of commissioners concerned with only fire issues is the way to go. Against appointed commissioners. If you appoint commissioners, I am walking away after 26 years. I dedicated my life to this village, my grandfather, father & great uncle were here.
Wayne Melton: to rebut Diane – paid for, water under the bridge – now we’re gonna pay for it again. Town and village equally already paid for everything up there except for the last year and a half. Nobody should have to pay for it again, it’s double dipping. Mayor Wona: if joint district would have gone through before – and tax payers would have had to pay again, it would have been alright then? Mr. Melton: no, it wasn’t alright then but in the interest of the taxpayers and not having to go out and build a temporary building, and not to have to go buy fire trucks and get used stuff and go through all we went through, in the best interest of the safety of the taxpayers we were willing to concede. Mayor Wona: Just trying to understand. To answer what John said before, because I didn’t like the lawyer, I don’t like being lied to. I asked him a question which is in municipal law and he’s been doing fire districts a long time and I asked him if it could go up for referendum he said no it has to be brought on by both boards. Trustee Loeven: as for the assets the village has the fire house, equipment & engines, when I was 1st involved, at that time there was discussion about village turning assets over to joint district for $1, I have since learned that’s illegal. Because the assets belong to the village taxpayers they cannot be given away for less than fair market value. Mr. Melton: I believe the statute says reasonable.
Mrs. Maurizzio: I was not attacking Mr. Doty, his family nor years of service. I made a statement about the men that left Otisville fire company to start their own rouge fire company.
- Dodd: for the last 24 years we’ve been trying to form a joint fire district and probably Lou Maurizzio go it the furthest. I think this is about the 5th time and the 11th hour and it dies. All the times we tried we came out with a reasonable way to work out the money. We have exhausted many hours to do this. Mrs. Maurizzio: I can’t remember why the district died. I’m sure there was always a reason. Councilwoman Sutherland: would have liked to know why it happened. Trustee Loeven: the closest we came when I was on the board, the village still had some questions on the steering committee report. We sent it back and said we need this info before we can proceed and we never got the info. Councilwoman Sutherland: The last time I sat in a meeting a couple years ago, it was 2 people from village board, 2 people from town board, 2 people from the fire company and Mike Wilbur (mediator). After 2 hours, a list of pros & cons, and the town offering the village $80,000 for the fire protection, use of the building everybody’s manpower, all of the equipment, I was told the equipment was not for sale and the meeting ended. It was myself, Mike Bell, Mike Wilbur, Stu Carver, Tom Gilmore, Mayor Wona, and Trustee Coppola.
Eric Grunwald: The majority of the people & both boards here are telling you they don’t want it.
Atty. Dallow: This is outside village jurisdiction, they can’t vote. They will take action at their meeting tomorrow when they are meeting in their village hall. They don’t have the authority to do it here now.
Supervisor Volpe asked the town board members for their thoughts. Councilwoman Sutherland: against, Councilman Ketcham: against, Councilman Howell: against, Councilman Cambareri: against. He asked for further comments from the town board. There were none.
RESOLUTION TO TABLE THIS ACTION:
MOTION offered by Councilman Cambareri seconded by Councilman Howell to table this indefinitely and to have the town attorney move forward with putting together a fire protection district. All ayes. Motion carried.
Supervisor Volpe: I’ve listened to what people have said but I also feel we were able to solve some things. We’ve put together some services. This is a service not meant to be. The process that was done a year or so ago has made it where a district is considered a bad word. He spoke re: mutual aid calls and seeing different chief vehicles on the scene. This would have been the opportunity to consolidate. The wound is too fresh from the other district. Atty. Dallow: the village can vote tomorrow night. The point is moot. At this point you would have to have a positive action to move forward. Informal they can do what they want here. Supervisor Volpe thanked everyone that put so much time into this. He thanked Bob Wheeling. Councilwoman Sutherland asked the village board for their thoughts – informally. Trustee Coppola: against, Trustee Bennett: against, Trustee Loeven: no point proceeding, Trustee Palmer: against.
RESOLUTION TO ADJOURN:
MOTION offered by Trustee Coppola seconded by Supervisor Volpe to adjourn meeting at 8:32pm. All in favor – carried.
Kathleen A. Myers, Town Clerk