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.”
COOPERSTOWN – State Supreme Court Judge Michael V. Coccoma took lawyers for the City of Oneonta and Town of Oneonta Fire District #1 into his chambers at 10:15 a.m. to see if they could talk their way through to a resolution of the fire-contract standoff.
The closeted discussion was supposed to last half an hour, but City Attorney David Merzig and the fire district’s lawyer, Terence Hannigan of Delmar, emerged after 45 minutes at 11 a.m. with no resolution.
Coccoma had a hearing on another case, and directed Merzig and Hannigan to return at 11:30 a.m. to resume the negotiations.
I’ve been tracking the fire contract issue between the city and town of Oneonta over fire services to the Town’s Fire District #1.
The lack of town leadership has once again raised its ugly head as evidenced by the Town’s longstanding failure to have a legally constituted fire commission and then by ignoring negotiations on this all-important matter as it was formally proposed by the City in early 2015.
It’s a case of outright neglect by the Town’s elected officials, “kicking the can down the road” on a critically important matter, risking the welfare and needs of Town residents and businesses.
Thank goodness, the City demonstrated sound judgment to engage a ruling on the matter by state Supreme Court Judge Michael V. Coccoma, who recommended extending the contract negotiating period.
With the Town so entrenched in itself, the time would seem to be right for the City to pursue a re-directed route to “one Oneonta” by immediately beginning discussions with Southside property owners, to include Mr. Bettiol, the Pattons, the Karabinises, owners of the mall and others to consider having their properties annexed into the City.
It is now 2016 and the failure of the Town of Oneonta fire commissioners to execute a fire protection contract with the City for this year is a serious and concerning matter. The town and city governments continue to work together on a host of efforts, including economic development, communications, sewer and water and highway work.
Most of the town’s residents and businesses currently rely on the city for professional fire protection. At the same time, the city depends on the million-dollar contribution of town residents to employ and equip Oneonta firefighters and to keep city taxes more manageable. The collaborative efforts around fire protection and ambulance services are a prime example of how the town and city have worked together effectively for decades to promote the general welfare of Oneonta in a manner which best serves each jurisdictions’ taxpayers.
ONEONTA – Donald Lammano and Carol Ann Malz joined the Town of Oneonta’s Fire District #1 Board of Commissioners this evening.
After years of low – or no – turnout, almost 200 voters turned out this evening to vote in the new commissioners, who will soon be locked in negotiations, trying to ensure the continuance of fire protection from the city’s Oneonta Fire Department in the new year.
Incumbents Fred Volpe (52 votes) won a five-year term, Mike Butler (55) a four-year term, Johna Peachin (51) a three-year term, Lammano (51) a two-year term, and Malz (33) a one-year term.