By MICHAEL RODA
Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – At tonight’s Common Council meeting, Mayor Gary Herzig publicly chided Town of Oneonta Fire District commissioners for what he described as telling tales out of school.
While Fire Commissioners Johna Peachin and Fred Volpe sat stony-faced in the gallery, Herzig took them on for, he said, briefing Town Supervisor Bob Wood and the town board about long-stalled negotiations over the contract so the city’s professional department can continue providing services in the town.
On May 1, Herzig said, he and the other city negotiators, Finance Officer Meg Hungerford and Council member Russ Southard met with Peachin and Fire Commissioner Mike Butler. At that time, they agreed “negotiations would remain confidential and public comment should be avoided.”
“The city has honored that agreement with no public report having been provided – not even to the city’s Common Council. For this reason, I was both surprised and disappointed when the Commissioners recently presented a public report to the Town of Oneonta Supervisor and Board members.”
“There were a number of statements made in the commissioners report that are false and should be corrected,” said Herzig.
Among the statements were that the contracts were “unfair, deceitful and illegal.” “Despite having repeatedly been asked to do so, the commissioners have failed to provide any statute or other reference to back up their claim that the current and long standing contract is illegal,” he said.
The commissioners also alleged that during the court hearings in December 2015, Supervisor Wood rode to the county courthouse and ate lunch with city officials. “While this statement is petty and insignificant, it is also false,” said Herzig. “But in full disclosure, I did have a cup of coffee with Supervisor Wood during a break in the proceedings.”
Herzig additionally commented on an alleged corrective and alternate proposal by the Town of Oneonta. His statement read: “Perhaps most disheartening for both the people of the Town Fire District and the City of Oneonta is the following statement from their report:
“The commissioners will not sign a business-as-usual contract and will continue to explore our options:
- Form its own fire department in conjunction with cooperative ventures and other local departments.
- Seek to disband the Fire District and turn responsibility for both contracts over to the Town.
“Protecting lives should be above politics,” he said. “Unfortunately, and sadly, the commissioners report has been seen by many as a politically motivated attempt to impact the upcoming Town of Oneonta election for Town Supervisor.
The city and the fire district met yesterday and continue negotiations, and Herzig acknowledged that there is still a year left in the contract. “The City of Oneonta remains hopeful that an agreement will be reached and pledges to continue to work towards that goal,” he said.