March 14, 2007

Kudos for teens; village letters

This morning's Ithaca Journal editorial praises Anondo “Binji” Mukherjee and Jed Glosenger for their heroic deeds during a fire on Hickory Circle Sunday.

Former County Legislator and Village of Dryden Mayor Mike Lane writes a letter to the editor whose opening sentence could be the motto for this site:

Dryden Village government should be open and accessible every day, not just at election time.

Extend that to the Town and the County (which seem to be doing well lately) and New York State (which limps along) and that's the foundation of why I've been writing this site. Mike is concerned specifically with the Village of Dryden here, writing to endorse Lisa Valentinelli and Elizabeth Gutchess to improve communications between the village and its residents in a number of areas.

Village Trustee Mary Ellen Bossack also writes to support Valentinelli and Gutchess, writing that they "have the common sense, work ethic, and love of community that we all want to see in our representatives".

There's also an article on the possible consequences of the Enfield Fire Company not having a contract. I'm confused, because Dryden fire companies have frequently operated without a contract, and I believe Etna is in that position now. I don't know the specifics of the Enfield situation, but the article didn't fit what I've seen in Dryden very well.

Posted by simon at March 14, 2007 6:51 AM in , ,
Note on photos


Mary Ann said:

I'm only superficially familiar with the Enfield fire district conflict, but it certainly illustrates the importance of cultivating cooperative relationships with volunteer fire departments. I don't understand the reasoning behind a proposed 20% cut in the Enfield contract. As you know, fire district taxes are levied separately from town taxes. While it's important for the Town Board and the Fire Department to exercise fiscal responsibility, the town doesn't want to be without fire protection any more than the fire department wants to stop responding to calls. It's a lose-lose situation.

The situation in Dryden, particularly with regard to the Etna contract, is a little different. While it was careless of the Town Board not to have contracts in place on time, contracts with Varna, Dryden and Freeville have been signed and the problems with the Etna contract will probably be resolved this month. Because the contract is in negotiation, there is not yet any liability problem and the Etna department has agreed to continue responding to calls. The Etna budget was not cut permanently. But the Board proposed to withhold a substantial portion of the department’s budget request while we consider performance standards the department must meet to qualify for the total amount of the proposed budget. We didn't make this clear in the contract and the Board of Directors of the Etna department understandably declined to sign the contract without this clarification.

It's worth noting that the Enfield conflict is over $40,000 of the $240,000 request. The Etna issue involves $40,000 of the total $791,689 fire district budget. Enfield's 2005 fire tax rate(the last year for which I have figures) was marginally lower than the combined fire/ambulance tax rate in Dryden (1.78 per $1,000 vs 1.87 per $1,000.) The Dryden Board, like the Enfield Board, sometimes questions allocating large sums of money when we have no control over how it's spent. But it's little different from health insurance rates or the price of salt for the highway department. Fire protection is expensive and it would be astronomically more expensive without the thousands of hours of volunteer time the fire departments donate. Do I mind paying $186 a year for fire protection for my $100,000 house? No! Let's do what we can to support the volunteers.

[This got so long, I'll cross post it on the front page of Dryden Democrats for comments.]

David Makar said:

From my limited understanding, these annual contracts remain in full effect unless one party or the other involved wants to break the contract after the date of the contract ends. The fire contracts for Dryden are approved in the budget process in November, written in December, approved by the board in January, sent in January, signed and returned in February and then checks are sent in February or March.

Then in July we ask departments to send us their next year's budget by early early September (9/5/06 for the 2007 budget). Its a busy cycle that all departments have to constantly be on top of.

I'm guessing Enfield (though like Simon, I haven't seen any documenation in the papers) had unsigned contracts and one of the parties disputed the contract which then dissolved the 2007 coverage (with the exception of the extensions).

Mary Ann said:

Interestingly, according to a March 16, 2007 letter from Attorney Perkins to the Chief of the Etna Fire Department, "The Town’s liability and its insurance policy for benefits under the VFBL do not cease because a contract has expired. A contract for fire protection is deemed to be in full force and effect if negotiations are pending for the renewal thereof (VFBL 30[11])." The VFBL reference is to the state Volunteer Firefighters Benefits Law. Perkins believes the issue in Enfield was misinformed. Incidently, the Enfield contract was resolved late Thursday night for $230,000.