News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.
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bob wood

FIRE BOARD EXTINGUISHES FIRE BOARD

WOOD VOWS TO SUE

FIRE BOARD

EXTINGUISHES

FIRE BOARD

For Now, Negotiations With City

For OFD Protection In Town Over

Town fire commissioners, from front, Fred Volpe, Chairman Johna Peachin, Ron Peters and Al Rubin, engage in tense conversation in a packed room at Elm Park Methodist Church this evening before voting, 3-2, to dissolve the entity they represent, the Town of Oneonta Fire District.  (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

“Every person here was willing to negotiate.” said Town board member Pat Jacob, “Don’t blow it up and make it terrible for the people who live here.”  Behind her is fellow board member Trish Riddell-Kent.

ONEONTA – The Town of Oneonta Fire District is no more, (at least for now.)

As expected, Chairman Johna Peachin and her allies, Fire Commissioners Fred Volpe and Ron Peters, this evening voted for the dissolution, while the two new commissioners, Al Rubin and Michelle Catan, voted against.

Though no public comment was allowed – even Town Supervisor Bob Wood was denied an opportunity to answer a point the commissioners raised – more than 40 citizens crowded into the Sunday school classroom of the Elm Park United Methodist Church.

The vote ends more than two years of stalled negotiations after City Hall sought to raise the town Fire District’s payment for the services of the professional Oneonta Fire Department from $800,000 to $1.1 million.

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Again, Fire Board Will Try To Dissolve; Town Says It’ll Sue To Stop It

Again, Fire Board Will

Try To Dissolve; Town

Says It’ll Sue To Stop It

Supervisor Wood Says 12-15 Months Needed
To Allow For Orderly Transition Of Duties

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Town Supervisor Bob Wood said the fire commissioners are having a “temper tantrum.”

ONEONTA – Failing to vote to dissolve last night in the face of objections from the audience, the Town of Oneonta’s Board of Fire Commissioners is planning to meet again tomorrow evening to try again.

The commissioners have scheduled a meeting for 6 p.m. Thursday at Elm Park United Methodist Church, and may take two actions:  One, pass a proposed $395,000 budget; two, dissolve.

Town Supervisor Bob Wood said a few minutes ago it seems like the fire commissioners are having “a temper tantrum.”

And, Wood said, if the commissioners vote to dissolve, the town will sue them, seeking through an Article 78 proceeding to prevent such an action for 12-15 months, to allow an orderly transition.

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Fire Commissioners To City: Let’s Talk

Fire Commissioner

To City: Let’s Talk

Al Rubin, commissioner for the Town of Oneonta Fire Commission, stands and addresses Common Council this evening, encouraging the City to talk with him to negotiate a formula for long-term fire coverage. Despite being elected to the position, talks between the two have been stalled, due to the chair of the fire commission not supplying the paperwork authorizing Rubin’s position to negotiate. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By CATHY KOPLEN NARDI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA – Following two years of stalemate, the Town of Oneonta Fire Commission reached out to the City of Oneonta to re-open talks about the contract with the town Fire District.

“We feel the contract is very important,” said Town Supervisor Bob Wood said. “We would like to encourage you to talk, especially with Commissioner (Al) Rubin. He has expressed a strong intention in finding a formula that is fair, one we can go forward with.”

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A Good Idea From Fire Commissioners: Dissolve, Let Town Negotiate OFD Pact

Editorial for August 31, 2018

A Good Idea From

Fire Commissioners:
Dissolve, Let Town

Negotiate OFD Pact

The Freeman’s Journal – A packed house at Oneonta’s Elm Park Methodist Church in April 2017 urged town Board of Fire Commissioners: Renew the fire-protection contract with city’s paid Oneonta Fire Department. Sixteen months later, talks are still stymied.

When one least expects it, a breakthrough.
The Town of Oneonta’s Board of Fire Commissioners has voted, 3-2, to set a hearing to consider dissolving. The vote could come at the end of the hearing, scheduled at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18, at Elm Park
Methodist Church.
Good idea. About time.
If the fire district is dissolved, a “fire zone” continues to exist within the town, so coverage will continue. The Town of Oneonta would assume responsibility for negotiating with the city. That’s good too.
There’s probably no one better than Town Supervisor
Bob Wood, previously a longtime fire commissioner himself, to bring talks with the city to a sensible conclusion.
For more than two years, negotiations have gone nowhere on extending the contract with City Hall for professional fire protection for the town’s Southside, and neighborhoods beyond the city’s East and West ends.
Only state Supreme Court Judge Michael V. Coccoma
imposing a two-year settlement in January 2016 assured businesspeople and homeowners coverage as negotiations continued.
The two commissioners objecting to dissolution are the newcomers, Al Rubin and Michelle Catan, who since their election last December have been foiled in efforts to get the talks moving again.
The three in the majority bloc, chair Johna Peachin, veteran commissioner Fred Volpe and Ron Peters, who is associated with Peachin’s accounting firm, have not responded to city Mayor Gary Herzig’s requests for negotiations, the mayor says.

As noted here before, Coccoma imposed a regimen that allocates one-third of the costs of the city’s Oneonta Fire Department (OFD) to property owners in the town fire district; the remaining two-thirds would be covered by city taxpayers.
An independent consultant agreed to by both sides came up with roughly the same formula.
Still, no movement.
The majority bloc has been tangled up in the issue of revenues created by the OFD’s ambulance squad, which generates about $1 million of the fire department’s $4 million budget.
In effect, those revenues – insurance payments generated whenever a city ambulance carries a patient from either the city or town to Fox or Bassett – pay down the total, meaning there’s less for city taxpayers and fire-district property owners to split.
The bloc believes the way it’s being done is illegal, but so far hasn’t found anyone with authority to agree.
Again, if an “i” or two needs to be crossed to bring everything up to Hoyle, Bob Wood has the understanding to figure it out amicably with Herzig.

There are implications for the future.
For one, a town can’t operate its own fire department under New York State law, an option the fire commissioners have been threatening to pursue in negotiations with City Hall.
However, if it came to that, the town could create a town-wide fire district that could do so, a lengthy process – but slower is probably better. Plus, that may never happen and shouldn’t – the town and city’s fates are linked.
Arguably, given the $1 million contribution from townsfolks, it makes sense for a liaison to be brought into discussions with Common Council on policies regarding the OFD. Perhaps Al Rubin, who has tried to be an honest broker since joining the fire board, would be a good prospect for this role.
Regardless, it’s time to move forward. If the majority-bloc fire commissioners have concluded they can do no more, it makes sense to leave the scene.
The Oneonta Town Board is more sensitive to what the public wants – only a handful or two of voters turn up at Fire District elections – and the public has said it wants the standoff resolved.
With Wood at the helm, along with town board members of good will, an end to a worrisome situation may finally be within reach.

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FIRE-PROTECTION BOARD SETS VOTE ON DISSOLUTION

FIRE-PROTECTION

BOARD SETS VOTE

ON DISSOLUTION

Move Would Put Town-City Contract

In the Hands Of Oneonta Town Board

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA – With its fire protection contract with the city stymied for three years now, the Town of Oneonta fire commissioners have set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Sept. 18 at Elm Park Church on dissolving the fire district.

Town Supervisor Bob Wood, a former fire commissioner himself, today said, as he understands it, the commissioners could dissolve that evening by a 3-2 vote.

With chair Johna Peachin and commissioners Fred Volpe and Ron Peters supporting that idea, there appears to be the necessary majority, Wood said.  Commissioners Michelle Catan and Al Rubin favor negotiating a new contract with the city, he said.

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Oneonta AAA Finds New Home On Southside

Oneonta AAA Finds

New Southside Home

AAA celebrated the grand opening of its new location on Oneonta’s Southside with a ceremonial ribbon cutting this morning.  Participating were, from left, Nicole Roe,  Jane Murphy,  Vikki Bellinger, Laima Kauger, Stacie Medowcraft,all of Oneonta; Adrianna Lewis, Utica, Jamie Reynolds, Oneonta, Carol Morris, Utica, Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, Kevin Morgan, Oneonta, Patti Artessa, Utica, incoming branch manager Stacie Harvey and Daniel Butterman, both of Oneonta; Otsego Chamber President Barbara Ann Heegan, current branch manager Deb Leach, state Sen. Jim Seward’s representative Catherine Mosher, Oneonta Town Supervisor Bob Wood, Karen Lang, Otsego County Chamber, Gary Lang, Oneonta Outlaws and AAA Regional Manager Ed Welsh. “Our company is committed to Oneonta,” said Welsh. “AAA has been in Oneonta for over 100 years and we’re not going anywhere. We plan to be here for a long time. We may be a national organization, but we hire strong, local, hometown folks.” (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
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New Year’s Day Swearings-In Set In Oneonta, Cooperstown

New Year’s Day Swearings-In

Set In Oneonta, Cooperstown

ONEONTA – Mayor Gary Herzig, Town Supervisor Bob Wood, county board reps and local elected officials will be sworn in for new terms at 1 p.m. Monday, Jan 1., at Hartwick College’s Shineman Chapel.  The new county Democratic chair, Kim Muller, will emcee.

Meanwhile, that morning, the new county treasurer, Allen Ruffles, will be sworn in at 11 a.m. at the county courthouse in Cooperstown by county Judge John Lambert.

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Snow Falls as Santa Lights Oneonta Tree

Hundreds Brave Snow As

Santa Lights Oneonta Tree

With Oneonta Town Supervisor Bob Wood to his left, and Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig to his right, Santa Claus admires the City of Oneonta’s Christmas Tree just after it was lit this evening in Muller Plaza.  As if scripted in a movie, snow began to fall just as the tree’s lights came on for the very first time.  Christopher Brashear, pictured at right, and the Klipnocky Clangers handbell choir played holiday tunes to help get everyone in the holiday spirit.  After the lighting, Santa occupied his cottage and began hearing youngsters’ Christmas wishes.  (Parker Fish/AllOTSEGO.com)

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Wood:  I’ll Facilitate City-Town Fire Pact

Wood:  I’ll Facilitate

City-Town Fire Pact

At a lively debate this evening before a full house at Oneonta Town Hall, incumbent Town Supervisor Bob Wood offered to act at a facilitator in the stalled city-town negotiations over whether the professional Oneonta Fire Department should continue covering the Town Fire District, and at what price. Wood pointed out he has been on all sides of negotiations, for the city while an alderman in the 1990s, as fire district chairman, and as an onlooker in his current role. Mike Butler, the Republican challenging Democrat Wood and himself a former fire district chairman, said City Hall is simply refusing to negotiate. The negotiations stalled during 2016 and state Supreme Court Judge Michael V. Coccoma imposed a three-year settlement at year’s end to ensure fire coverage continues.  The evening’s debate was organized by the League of Women Voters. (Parker Fish/AllOTSEGO.com)
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