Pomfret not happy with share of costs

The Pomfret Town Board is dissatisfied with its share of costs for the Fredonia Fire Department.

Fredonia Village Admin-istrator Richard St. George attended the Wednesday night meeting to present the board with a calculation of expenses for the fire contract between the town and the village for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

“On the expense side, this is very helpful … it’s the first time I’ve ever had visibility of an overall cost structure,” Councilman Scott Johnston said in regard to the report.

From there, the discussion turned to Pomfret’s share of the costs within the contract.

“The underlying issue, from the town’s perspective, is really the allocation of costs,” Councilman David Penharlow said. “Because we’re consistently something less than 20 percent of the activity in the fire department, yet we’re paying a third. I understand it’s based on assessed value within the town, … but I’m not sure that’s an equitable way to do it.”

“There’s so much property in the town that doesn’t require fire service, like vacant land or vineyards. And on the same token, the village has a lot of property that’s not on the tax roll. You’ve got SUNY (Fredonia), which has a huge percentage of the calls,” he added

Councilwoman Ann Eckman noted that the college receives 14 percent of the fire department’s calls and is not paying anything for services, nor is it factored into the equation for divvying up costs between the town and the village.

“It is more expensive to go into the town (due to) equipment costs, we’re out of service longer when we go into the town, manpower costs, gas costs,” St. George said. “Last year, we had a loss of about $50,000 on two of their trucks at a fire in the town. … Those things are basically absorbed by the village.”

Councilwoman Patricia Lynch Christina said the town has for a long time understood it is more expensive to be served due to St. George’s reasons.

“Our concern, from the beginning, was not necessarily what the expenses are. … Our concern was the percentage we pay,” she said. “That’s what our argument has been for a long time and we have to find some way to resolve that so the residents of the town are paying a more equitable share.”

“The truth is, the expenses are going up,” Penharlow said. “It’s a 35 percent increase in four years for everybody in the village and the town. It’s too much, too fast. That puts us at approaching $600,000 four years from now. It has to be addressed.”

Penharlow said he believes the proper share of the town’s burden is between the percentage of fire calls within the town and the actual share of the cost the town currently pays, which is almost double the share of calls.

“And also, all properties should be included,” Eckman said. “A church can catch on fire, the school can, the value of those properties should be included.”

“This discussion needs to be had with the village board,” Christina said.

St. George noted during his explanation of the calculations that healthcare costs for the fire department have risen 30 percent in the past two years.

Also during the meeting, EvaDawn Bashaw was appointed as deputy town clerk, serving under Town Clerk Allison Dispense. Bashaw also serves as planning board clerk, zoning board clerk and tax collector for the town.

The board also passed a resolution essentially allowing the county to seek grant funding for a consolidated northern county water district.

“It just seems that the more people you have on board when you’re applying for grant money, the better your chances are,” Christina said.

Another resolution that was passed included appointments to the agricultural plan advisory committee. Planning board member Jim Joy, Pomfret resident James Oakes and Christina filled three seats on the committee. Two seats have yet to be filled.

Town Supervisor Donald Steger also announced he received a petition for a speed reduction on Concord Drive. He said it will be forwarded to the highway superintendent, who will fill out the proper forms.

At the end of the meeting, the board entered into executive session to discuss possible action on a litigation matter.

The next regular board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the town hall. A workshop was scheduled during the meeting for Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. to discuss Phase II of the North End Water District project, as well as updates to the zoning code.

Phase I of the project is 62 percent complete, according to Steger.

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