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Minden seeks better grip on fire contracts

Thursday, September 27, 2012 - Updated: 8:43 AM

By LINDA KELLETT

C-S-E News Staff

MINDEN — With fire contracts with the village of Fort Plain and South Minden Fire Department up for renewal, Minden Town Council members last week decided that there is a need for greater accountability on the part of Fort Plain officials for the way they spend the town’s fire-protection money.

During discussion on the matter, it was noted that village officials sent a letter to the town requesting a two-year agreement with no increase in cost either year. While council members are OK with the $34,500 amount per year, they would like to see an itemized accounting of the money that is paid to the village.

Additionally, Councilman Stephen Heiser suggested that the money should go into a dedicated fund for the fire department — not a line item — so that it can only be used for department-related expenses.

Currently, the town’s payment goes into the general fund and can reportedly be used for any purpose.

Supervisor Thomas Quackenbush rhetorically asked if it was within the town’s power to “direct traffic” when they enter into a contract. Council member KarolAnn Grimm said that any party is bound by the terms of a negotiated contract, and she would like to see a stipulation added that requires an accounting of the spending by village officials.

Council member Janice Zoller and Heiser both supported that position.

Quackenbush said the town would have to require the same thing of the village of St. Johnsville when that village’s fire contract comes due.

Heiser said he didn’t have a problem with that, either. “If they want our money, they have to play by the rules,” he said.

Quackenbush said, “What they’re going to tell you at the end of the day is ‘We’re responsible for the trucks. We’re responsible for paying for everything having to do with that department, so why do you really care because it’s all up to us and this is just a contracted service.’”

Zoller said leftover department funds could go toward the purchase of equipment or a new fire truck, for example.

Following further discussion, Quackenbush directed attorney John Kirkpatrick to contact village officials to let them know what the town council members are looking for.

Also during the meeting at the town hall Thursday night, South Minden Fire Chief Duane Rockwell hand-delivered that department’s proposed fire agreement with the town. In contrast with the Fort Plain request, Quackenbush noted the South Minden contract was accounted for “down to the pennies.”

Because the increase was greater than the 2 percent tax levy limit, however, he said the South Minden Department would likely have to settle for a lesser amount of money during each of the three contract years.

Rockwell said the department would be OK with a revised amount.

In other business:

• Town officials approved the signing of a consent order with the state Department of Conservation in connection with fuel tanks that were permitted in the mid-1980s but lacked required decals. It was noted that the amount of a related fine has been reduced to $3,000 to $4,000 from a much higher, initially proposed amount.

• A workshop will be held at the town hall at 5:30 p.m. on Columbus Day in order to address the 2012-2013 budget, which is due to the town clerk on Oct. 1 and to the town council by Oct. 5. The final town budget must be adopted by Nov. 20.

• Public hearings were set for Thursday, Oct. 18, at 7:05 p.m. and 7:07 p.m. on the 2013 town budget and the town’s comprehensive plan. It was noted a presentation may accompany the public hearing on the comprehensive plan.

     

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