Fonda mulls ridding of FD

By JAIME STUDD

Recorder News Staff

FONDA -- Monday night's village board meeting ended with an executive session to discuss what Fonda Mayor Bill Peeler called a "draft" of a contract presented to the village by the Board of Fire Commissioners for the Mohawk Fire District.

The contract is aimed at beginning the dissolution of the Fonda Volunteer Fire Department, with fire protections duties in the village to be assumed by the Mohawk Fire District.

Peeler originally proposed the move in November, calling it a "consolidation" of both human and financial resources that would ultimately result in a savings of more than $20,000 for the village.

Monday, Peeler said he had received the proposed contract from Mohawk that afternoon and stressed that negotiating the dissolution could result in several alterations to the original proposal.

"We just received a draft contract for us to look at," Peeler said prior to the board going into executive session. "It's only a draft."

"There are still a lot of T's to cross and I's to dot," added Fonda Village Trustee Timothy Healey.

Peeler said the Mohawk Board of Fire Commissioners was also meeting Monday night and was expected to discuss the matter.

Despite the many iterations of the contract likely to come, Peeler said the fact that a draft contract was being reviewed was a good indication that the dissolution will be seen through to fruition.

"The board still has to cast their vote, but that's the ultimate goal," Peeler said. "We haven't hidden that."

When the measure was first proposed, Peeler said the initial $21,000 contract with the town of Mohawk Fire District is only intended to be a short-term arrangement, and that legislation would ultimately follow resulting in the expansion of the district to include the village.

Once that legislation passes, village residents will likely be required to pay a separate fire protection tax as determined by the town. In Mohawk, that tax currently stands at $0.849 per $1,000 assessed value. The entire process is expected to take more than a year.

Whether the village station itself would remain in operation under the direction of the Mohawk Fire District has yet to be determined.

Peeler said the village board was not expected to make any decisions with regard to the contract on Monday, but they were likely to review the proposal and make suggested additions and/or adjustments for Mohawk officials to consider.

The village's fire department is not the only entity Peeler said he would consider dissolving in the interest of cost-savings on Monday.

In response to comments made by one resident, Peeler said he was open to the possibility of dissolving the village itself.

"That's coming," Peeler replied to a suggestion that a committee be formed to look into the dissolution of the village into the town.

"If you can get the town board to cooperate with that, I'll be the first one to sign," said Peeler. "Slowly but surely, what we're trying to do is consolidate everything to the point where the village is no longer in existence."

Peeler cited several consolidation proposals recently made to the town with respect to specific services as evidence of his intentions, including a request to have the town assume responsibility for plowing several village streets. That request was denied.

"Ultimately, I'm all for whatever consolidations we can make," Peeler said after the meeting. "If it makes sense and it's a duplication of services, why not?"

Ultimately, Peeler said, the dissolution of the village would be a decision left to its residents, however.

He also cautioned that it was not a move that would be free of difficulty and complications, noting that opposition could likely come from both village and town officials.

His primary concern, he added, would be making sure that the village residents would be properly represented at a town level.

"The immediate concern I would have would be proper representation," Peeler said.

Healey added that such a consolidation would likely be made more difficult by the fact that village already shares its sewer and water facilities with Fultonville, Mohawk and Glen.

"Things need to be delicately handled," Healey said.

"There's a lot of fine print," he later added.

If it meant a significant cost savings, Trustee Walter Boyd said that he would be supportive of exploring the possibility of dissolving the village.

"Every one of us here are village residents and there's no way to pay for duplication of services," said Boyd.

For Healey, however, the decision would like transcend monetary bounds.

"You'd have to show me where it's not just a money thing," Healey said. "Because it's not always about money."