Town of Oakfield threatens to sue, denying fire protection over payment dispute with Town of Oakfield

Update: 9:00 p.m., September 28

Sean Downing, chief of the Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department, left a phone message saying he “hopes the two sides can come and resolve their differences before the November 30 deadline.”

“Otherwise, by written order of the Mayor or the Oakfield Village Board of Directors, we will not be able to respond in the town, which includes elementary school and high school – and that is by consulting our lawyer,” Mark Butler. “

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Update: 5:50 p.m., September 28

Oakfield Town supervisor Matt Martin recalled The Batavian, but did not want to elaborate further to say that the case is in the hands of the city attorney.

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The village of Oakfield is preparing to take legal action against the town of Oakfield – as well as threatening to suspend fire protection – if the town does not pay the nearly $ 80,000 it owes the city. village in accordance with a long-standing joint municipal agreement for such services.

This is the message conveyed by the mayor of the village, David Boyle, during an interview on Monday with The Batavian.

Boyle said a letter stating the position of the village is included in residents’ water and sewer bills this week.

The mayor said the dispute centers on the city’s refusal to pay $ 78,648 owed to the village for the 2020-2021 fiscal year ending May 31.

Claiming that the city is “holding the village hostage” in hopes of renegotiating the shared services agreement, Boyle said the village council has asked his lawyer to take legal action to recover the 2020 payment. -2021. He also said the city has yet to pay for the first three months of the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

The letter, which is also signed by Deputy Mayor John Igoe and Trustees Michael Cianfrini, Michele Graham and John Mullen, states, in part:

“The village council is united in recognizing that the village cannot compel the residents and businesses of the village to provide fire protection to the town without reimbursement. Therefore, the council ordered that a letter be sent to the city stating that as of November 30, 2021, the village will no longer be able to provide fire protection to the city except for the Oakfield-Alabama Central School.

Boyle said the village has fire trucks and equipment and runs the fire department through the Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department, which owns the Albert Street building.

“The city buys us services (coverage), he said. “For years and years we have had an agreement with the city to purchase fire protection from the village. As far as I can remember, there have been contracts in place that basically have the same structure year after year. “

Under the current structure, the village pays 42 percent of the cost and the city 58 percent. Boyle said the city is looking for a 50/50 split.

While that might sound fair on paper, Boyle said, when broken down by valued valuation, village residents pay $ 1.62 per $ 1,000 of assessed value in taxes, while townspeople pay 60 cents. per $ 1,000 valuation assessed in taxes.

“The people in our village have to work twice as hard to pay their bill, but the town says we don’t find what you charge acceptable and we want to transfer some of that cost to the village,” Boyle said. “They withheld payment to force us into a deal that we don’t think we can do in the best interest of the people in the village and providing a sustainable fire service.”

According to the 2020 census, the town of Oakfield has 3,145 residents, of which 1,812 reside in the village.

Boyle said the fire department’s budget is around $ 175,000, including the workers’ compensation premiums the town has traditionally paid and liability insurance the village has traditionally paid for. The fire protection agreement is based on $ 135,600, with the village responsible for $ 56,952.

He also said this had not been a problem in the past.

“Two years ago committees got together to budget the fire department – looking at the long-term plan and controlling costs as much as possible while being able to maintain it over the years,” he said. he declared.

Boyle said both municipalities are required by law to provide fire protection for his businesses and residences.

“They (the city) knew what their bill was going to be and they went out and collected the tax money for it, but they didn’t sign a contract for the fiscal year that went by, even s ‘they collected money from the taxpayers,’ he advised. “It has escalated like the last 15 months, but what they say is it’s too expensive and they need to cut costs. “

He said there was no signed contract for 2020-21.

Regarding the lawsuit, Boyle said one of the administrators contacted the state comptroller’s office and the village council was happy with his chances of winning a lawsuit.

“We believe the city knew what the bill would be, levied taxes on it, and we provided service in good faith. Also, they never contacted us, saying we shouldn’t be doing this because we don’t have a contract. We are convinced that we would win in a lawsuit for these reasons. “

Boyle mentioned that five fire calls in the past year have been structural fires in the town and, if necessary, volunteers from the village fire department have responded.

A call this morning seeking comment from Oakfield Fire Chief Sean Downing has yet to be returned.

Oakfield Town supervisor Matt Martin has yet to respond to email and phone requests for comment.

June 8 meeting reporte The municipal council meeting indicates that the agreement with the village is “not a contract, but a service agreement” and that a counter-offer to the village has been proposed:

“For years, but recently for a few months, Supervisor Martin and Councilor (Carol) Glor have been trying to negotiate an equal service contract with the village. Currently, the City pays 58% of the fire budget. Supervisor Martin has requested that the number become a 50/50 split over a three-year period, which the mayor and village council refuse to accept.

At present, the City has not paid the village for the last fiscal year of the village. Supervisor Martin says this is not a contract, but a service agreement and should be treated as such. A proposal to the village of $ 63,000.00 per year for three years on a service contract appears to be rejected as there has been no communication from the mayor.

Boyle, after hearing what was released, said: “We have always been willing to speak with the city, maybe not on time.”

“I have the impression that they are not paying the contract and are using it as hostage money. We want to treat this like two things: they clarify what they owe us and then we’ll talk about moving forward. We have provided a service to them in good faith, so we believe they are dishonest.

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