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Coccoma To Rule By Month’s End

Judge Mediating Dispute

Between Town, Fire Board

Town Supervisor Bob Wood and Town Attorney Robert Panaschi confer at right. The two men at left are Oneonta City Attorney David Merzig, who was present as an observer, talking with fire commissioners’ lawyer Terence Hannigan. Behind them are, from left, Fire Commissioners Ron Peters, Al Rubin and Michelle Catan. In the county’s Courtroom One in Cooperstown, Hannigan and Panaschi were awaiting a mediation session with Judge Coccoma at 3 p.m. (Jim Kevlin/

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

State Supreme Court Judge Michael V. Coccoma says he will issue a decision on the fire district’s dissolution by the end of the month.

COOPERSTOWN – State Supreme Court Judge Michael V. Coccoma convened a session between lawyers for the Town of Oneonta and the town Fire District commissioners at 3 p.m. today to see if he could mediate an agreement satisfactory to both sides on whether the fire district can dissolve at the end of the year as it intends.

If the fire district dissolves, left open is the question:  Can the city’s Oneonta Fire Department can continue providing fire protection to the town’s Southside and other town neighborhoods?

Coccoma said state Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks, his boss, has been urging judges to implement ADR (alternative dispute resolution) to avoid lengthy litigation.

Coccoma convened the ADR session after a 1:30 p.m. hearing, where Town Attorney Robert Panaschi argued the town, which is asking the judge to delay the dissolution until Dec. 31, 2019, needs more time for an orderly transition.

The fire commissioners’ lawyer, Terence Hannigan, said dissolving the district now would be only an inconvenience for town government.

Town Supervisor Bob Wood, who was present, has said if the “fire district” dissolves, the town must develop a “fire protection district” to replace it, and that takes time.

Today, he said if the judge approves a six-month extension, the fire district could probably be established; however, Wood was unsure if the state Comptroller’s Office would allow the town to levy an additional tax halfway through a budget year.

If the lawyers and the judge are unable to reach an agreement in chambers this afternoon, Coccoma ordered Panaschi to file final motions by Tuesday, and Hannigan to do so by Friday, Oct. 26.  He said he intends to issue a ruling by the end of the month.


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