Public Hearing 11/14 On New Fire District

Public Hearing 11/14

On New Fire District

Agreement Wood, Herzig Reached

Ups Ratepayer Fees By 1.8 Percent

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Bob Wood

WEST ONEONTA – The Oneonta Town Board has scheduled a public hearing for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, after which it can vote to create a new fire district, ending more than two years of uncertainty on whether 80 percent of the town would continue to be served by the city’s paid, fulltime Oneonta Fire Department.

Town Supervisor Bob Wood said he and city Mayor Gary Herzig took “an hour and half” of negotiation to reach a new fire contract between the town and city, an achievement that had eluded the now dissolved town Board of Fire Commissioners for more than two years.

“This is the way it’s been for the past 40 years,” said Wood a few minutes ago.  “The public just wants that service.”  The public hearing was set Thursday evening at a special meeting of the town board.

The new agreement raises the town’s payment for the service from $1.1 million a year to $1.15 million, the extra $50,000 to help cover ambulance service.  The new town-city contract will raise property tax rates from $2.75 to $2.80 per $1,000 valuation, about 1.8 percent for property owners within the district, he said.

“The public just wants the service, said Wood.  In the 10 years he served as a fire commissioner in the 1980s and the 1990s, “I only got one complaint about the cost of the service.”

On learning in September the Board of Fire Commissioners planned to dissolve at year’s end, the town sued for time to ensure an orderly transition to the new arrangement.

On Wednesday, state Supreme Court Judge Michael V. Coccoma ruled that, in the absence of state law enabling him to impose such a period of transition, he would not do so.  The town had argued that, since no law prohibited him from doing so, Coccoma was empowered to do so.

On receiving the judge’s opinion that morning, the Board of Fire Commissioners’  chair Johna Peachin, the Oneonta CPA, immediately scheduled a meeting that afternoon to remove final obstacles to dissolution, little knowing that Wood and Herzig had already hammered out a replacement agreement.

Under the arrangement, in place since the early 1980s, Southside Oneonta, plus densely populated neighborhoods at the east and west ends of the city, paid for coverage by the city’s fire department, the only company of paid, fulltime firefighters in Otsego County.  West Oneonta is served by a volunteer company.

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