Jun 18, 2009 Ami Olson Uncategorized
When members of the Marcellus village and town boards and Marcellus Fire Department met Monday June 15, the village’s hope was to take itself out of the middle of a battle between the town and fire department over ownership of the fire barn.
Two hours later, they got their wish when the village board unanimously, if reluctantly, voted to accept the town board’s request for special state legislation that would clarify a “gray area” in state law and allow the town to purchase the fire barn from the village.
The village, which owns the fire building on Slate Hill Road, has been leasing it to the town since 2004 when the village ceased to be in control of the department.
Under New York State law, a town cannot control a fire department, but whether or not a town can legally own the building a fire department is housed within was considered a gray area by the town and village. When the village asked that the town seek clarification of the law before an agreement to sell the building was made, the town instead requested the special Home Rule Message legislation.
Village Mayor Mike Plochocki said the last-minute Monday meeting was called after the village was contacted by an assemblyman, who stated if the town’s Home Rule Message was going to pass the assembly it would need the village board’s “blessing.”
But despite the 2004 contract between the village and town which formally leased the fire barn to the town and clearly stated an intent to eventually sell the building to the town, the village was hesitant to approve the town’s request, primarily due to a second interested buyer – the fire department.
Both potential buyers stated their cases Monday to the village. The town argued it would best serve the residents in owning the fire barn because of the equity the taxpayers had already invested in the building, for which the town taxes annually to cover mortgage payments of $57,000.
A main concern among the village was that the fire department, which does not have the authority to levy taxes, would depend on that tax money to pay the mortgage for the building, thus relying on the town to maintain a tax among residents to pay the bills.
But the fire department maintained it deserved to buy the building, stating the equity of the building was meaningless since neither the town or fire department intended to re-sell the building. Pride of ownership also played into the fire department’s wanting to own the building.
But Town Supervisor Dan Ross and town attorney James Gascon pointed out that approving the town’s Home Rule Message request would simply be in line with the village’s legal obligations, per the 2004 contract.
Attorney Dave Garwood, representing the Marcellus Fire Department, questioned the legality of the 2004 contract itself, which the village agreed to look into.
But in the end, an obligation to taxpayers won out.
After two hours of questioning and discussion, the village did approve the town’s Home Rule Message legislation request, and agreed to immediately begin the process of negotiating the selling of the fire barn to the town.
For the full story, see next week’s Eagle Observer.