Updated Nov. 15, 2 p.m. with statement from Oakfield Village Mayor David Boyle:
With the Town of Oakfield on board with the amount it will have to pay for fire protection service for 2021-22, it has decided to “drop” its dispute with the Village of Oakfield for several months.
That’s what Oakfield Town Supervisor Matt Martin reported to The Batavian today on the heels of village and board meetings on Monday and Tuesday of this week, respectively.
When asked what has been agreed upon, Martin said, “Basically, nothing has changed whatsoever. It is what is was four years ago. So, the contract is the same as the existing contract.”
The town board will pay the $49,126 fee charged by the village for services provided by the Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department for the period covering June 1, 2021 through May 31, 2022, Martin said. The village owns the fire trucks and equipment, while the OVFD owns the building on Albert Street.
According to the municipalities’ longstanding agreement, the town is responsible for 58 percent of the fire department budget as determined by the village board. The OVFD budget for 2021-22 is $84,700.
Clearly not pleased with the back-and-forth debate with Mayor David Boyle that played out in the media and on the village and town websites, Martin said, “I just felt we're going to fight the issue another day.”
“For right now, we just were happy with the number they gave us as far as the dollar amount. So, we just decided to drop it for the next six months.”
Town is Looking for a Service Contract
Martin said the town board is more concerned with the wording of the contact and the provisions of the contract, with its goal to achieve a fixed amount as a “service contract,” excluding responsibility for equipment upkeep and purchasing.
“We’ve been going back and forth for four years, and they weren't willing to change a thing. So, we said let's sign it and get it behind us for now. We'll see what happens in the future,” he said.
Town attorney Craig Welch, partner with Lacy Katzen LLP of Rochester, today verified that the contract is in place through next year (May 31).
He said the town’s position is attaining a “fixed number for the service” instead of the current percentage formula being used by the village.
“The way it is now, you don't have control,” he said. “I mean, if you have somebody come to your house and they’re going to paint the living room, they give you a number. We'd rather just pay a fixed number for services, just like the town charges the village for plowing the village streets. It’s not a percentage of the town budget, it’s just a number.”
Welch said the town paid the $78,000 owed to the village for the prior fiscal year some time ago, and that was confirmed by Village Clerk Kimberly Staniszewski. He also said that fire protection for town residents will continue uninterrupted.
Creation of a Fire District is a Possibility
Another key issue in the scheme of things is the possibility of the fire department creating its own fire district – separate from the village and the town.
“We voted years ago to go with a fire district, but the village refuses to do it,” Martin said. “The village wants control of the fire department. The fire department does not want that and the town does not want that either.”
OVFD Chief Sean Downing said that fire department officials have talked about forming a fire district in the past, but added that he was surprised to hear that it has been brought up again.
"The town clearly does not want the fire department being under the village ... and the village does not want to go to a fire district, where the town does," he said. "It's our preference (to do so) but without both parties agreeing to it, nothing will move forward on it at this time."
Martin acknowledged that the law sides with the village in creating a fire district.
“The village has the final say on that, apparently, according to the legal proceedings. So, it's up to the village. I don't see where the fire department should be under the control of the village board or the town board. They should be a fire district, which has its own board of commissioners.”
Welch, when asked if the parties will be at the table prior to the end of May, said that could happen unless “people came around and created a fire district in the meantime. That is an option.”
Statement from Oakfield Village Mayor David Boyle
"Both (the) Village and Town have approved an amended contract. It is expected that this contract will be signed by both the Village and the Town in the next few days. This agreement covers the period starting June 30, 2021 and will last through at least May 31, 2022.
"The interests of the Oakfield Community as a whole provided the ground for guiding the Village Board. The Village Board of Trustees unanimously agree that they feel the new contract is in the best interest of the larger Oakfield community.
"The amended agreement includes a clause for timely payment of monies by the Town. The Village will increase its support of the Fire Department budget to a 46 percent share (reducing the Town's share to 54 percent). There are also guidelines for the process of future contract renewals."