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Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department

Town of Oakfield to pay $49,000 for fire protection from village; decides to put contract dispute on hold

By Mike Pettinella

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."

Previously: Fire protection deadline extended as Oakfield town, village boards prepare for mid-December meetings

Previously: Mayor says village, town are "pretty close" to settling dispute over fire protection services in Oakfield

Previously: Oakfield fire protection dispute update: Village wants full payment before negotiating; Town has sent half

Previously: Village of Oakfield threatens lawsuit, withholding fire protection over payment dispute with Town of Oakfield

Fire protection deadline extended as Oakfield town, village boards prepare for mid-December meetings

By Mike Pettinella

Oakfield town and village supervisors are hopeful that discussions at mid-December board meetings lead to a revised fire protection service agreement.

Attorneys for the two municipalities – Megan K. Dorritie of Harter Secrest & Emery LLP, Rochester, who is representing the village, and Craig Welch of Lacy Katzen, Rochester, who is representing the town – have been working on what looks to be a compromise from the previous contract.

Town Supervisor Matt Martin today said the deadline imposed by the Village Board to get a deal done has been extended from Nov. 30 -- at least until after the town and village boards could meet to review the proposed changes.

Dorritie, also contacted today, would not say when the new deadline date is, and would not answer any other questions.

The Village Board is scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 13 at 39 Main St., while the Town Board is set to convene at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 14 at 3219 Drake St.

Town and village leaders have been at odds for several months over the agreement, which has called for the Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department – owned by the village – to provide fire protection service to town residents for an annual fee.

The current pact calls for the town to pay 58 percent of the operational and equipment costs and the village to pay the other 42 percent.

Village Supervisor David Boyle reported back in September that the town had not paid its bill for the 2020-21 fiscal year – in excess of $78,000. Martin and the town board contested the fee structure and has requested that the agreement be renegotiated.

Mayor says village, town are "pretty close" to settling dispute over fire protection services in Oakfield

By Mike Pettinella

Oakfield lawmakers reportedly are nearing a revised agreement that would end a months-long standoff over the amount the town is required to pay the village for fire protection service offered by the Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department.

“It appears we’re pretty close to resolving this issue … which is great,” Oakfield Village Mayor David Boyle told The Batavian on Wednesday afternoon.

Boyle said he has spoken on the telephone with Town Supervisor Matt Martin and, if all goes well as they finalize the details, he expects them to issue a joint statement in the near future – possibly by the end of the week.

The mayor said both the town and village boards have met in recent days to talk about the terms of a new fire protection agreement. However, he said he wasn’t prepared to provide any specifics at this point.

He did say that mediation by the fire department’s attorney, as suggested by Oakfield FD Chief Sean Downing, was not necessary, although he did appreciate Downing’s efforts in finding a solution to the dispute.

The situation became public in late September when the village board threatened to stop fire protection for town residents, including the Oakfield-Alabama School District, on Nov. 30 if the town did not pay a $78,648 bill for services rendered during the 2020-21 fiscal year that ended on May 31.

At that time, Boyle indicated that the town also had not paid for the first three months of this fiscal year, and felt the town was “holding the village hostage” in an attempt to renegotiate the shared services pact.

Fire trucks and equipment are owned by the village, which directs the OVFD. The building on Albert Street is owned by the fire department.

The current payment structure to cover operational and equipment costs stipulates that the village pays 42 percent and the town pays 58 percent. Boyle has said that when breaking that down by assessed valuation, village residents were charged $1.62 per $1,000 while town residents were charged 60 cents per $1,000.

The town board disputed those figures, and put out a statement that it wished to work toward “a fair and equitable fire agreement.”

As of mid-October, the village’s position was that the town pays the entire amount due to the village and signs a contract for this fiscal year (or a multi-year agreement) and then the village board would be open to exploring any changes.

The town, meanwhile, communicated on its website that it was seeking a three-year service contract only that would not include capital expenses because the village owns all the fire equipment.

Both Boyle and Martin previously said that the matter was being turned over to the village and town attorneys, respectively, who likely offered advice that has – according to Boyle – put them on the threshold of a deal.

Previously: Fire chief's suggestion of mediation may be the answer to ending stalemate between town, village boards

Fire chief's suggestion of mediation may be the answer to ending stalemate between town, village boards

By Mike Pettinella

Leave it to a first responder to jump into the fray and attempt to put out the “fire” that has embroiled the Oakfield village and town boards over the financial payment plan for fire protection for their residents.

On Thursday night, Sean Downing, chief of the Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department, said that he is working toward a meeting of town, village and fire department officials, with OVFD attorney Mark Butler of Williamsville acting as a mediator.

“It’s time to get this thing resolved and move forward,” Downing said. “The fire department is stuck in the middle here.”

Downing said citizens are upset over the impasse and several of them voiced their displeasure at a recent town board meeting.

After that, the fire chief said he suggested having representatives of the village and town sit down with fire department personnel and Butler.

“I’m drafting a letter to send to our attorney for review and for the town (Supervisor Matt Martin) and the village (Mayor David Boyle) to sign (indicating) that they will come to the meeting,” Downing said. “The letter also reads that they will agree to what our attorney recommends.”

Downing said he is proposing a few dates for the meeting in an attempt to find one that accommodates everyone involved.

Martin, responding to an email from The Batavian, reported that “a tentative meeting is in the works.”

Boyle, speaking by telephone yesterday, also acknowledged that “a meeting is being set up by the fire chief.”

The dispute centers upon how much the town should pay for fire protection services offered by the village, which owns the fire department trucks and equipment. The building itself, on Albert Street, is owned by the fire department.

The village is threatening legal action against the town for failure to pay $78,644.71 owed for the 2020-21 fiscal year. Boyle said the village will shut off fire and emergency response to the town (including the Oakfield-Alabama Central School District) if the bill isn’t paid by Nov. 30 – action that Downing said could be supported by the OVFD.

Martin said the town wants to renegotiate the longstanding agreement, and sent the village a check for half of that amount in an attempt to sit down and come up with a new three-year pact that removes charges to the town for capital expenses, such as trucks and equipment.

“The town would like a three-year agreement and a service contract only,” Martin wrote. “When we say service contract, we mean that the capital portion not be included as that is owned by the village.”

When asked if the town considered paying the full amount owed prior to renegotiation, Martin responded, “We have done this in the past and have gotten nowhere.”

“Once the village gets their money, they do not contact us again until it is time to discuss the fire budget again the next year,” he said. “We have asked for five years to work this out and they continue to ignore our request.”

He said the town board favors a service agreement for fire protection, similar to the one it has with the village for snowplowing.

Boyle’s response made it clear that he doesn’t believe that is fair.

“That’s ludicrous to me,” he said, reiterating that all necessary vehicles are dispatched and equipment used when firefighters respond to town emergencies.

The mayor, however, did say he was encouraged by the chance to express the village’s stance in mediation.

“There are issues to iron out, for sure,” he said. “I hope there’s a sense of give-and-take in the discussions, and not just demands.

“As far as I’m concerned it’s a no-win situation at this point. We’re going to have to come to some kind of compromise. Both parties deserve a contract that supports the fire department but also is fiscally conservative and responsible.”

Previously: Oakfield fire protection dispute update: Village wants full payment before negotiating; Town has sent half

Previously: O-A school superintendent hoping for quick resolution to village, town fire protection squabble

Oakfield fire protection dispute update: Village wants full payment before negotiating; Town has sent half

By Mike Pettinella

Although Village of Oakfield and Town of Oakfield governmental leaders are keeping their constituents informed of the status of their dispute over fire protection payments, they have yet to navigate a path to the negotiating table.

And, if judging by the latest information flyer that was hand-delivered to village residents last week, the village board has drawn a line in the sand before any talks will take place:

  • The Town pays the entire amount due to the Village for Fire Protection Services provided last year.
  • The Town signs the contract for 2021-2022 fire services (current year) or a multi-year agreement.
  • All parties jointly explore options to ensure this disagreement and withholding of payment does not happen again.

The village board claims the town owes $78,644.71 for fire protection services during the 2020-21 fiscal year, and is asking for full payment by Nov. 30 or Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department personnel will not be dispatched to fires or emergencies in the town, including the Oakfield-Alabama Central School District.

Other than an exchange of bulletins and website postings, Village Mayor David Boyle and Town Supervisor Matt Martin said there has been no verbal communication between the two boards.

The village owns fire trucks and equipment, and runs the fire service through the Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department, which owns the building on Albert Street.

Contacted on Wednesday, Martin pointed to information on the town website that spells out the town’s stance.

According to its Statement on Fire Agreement, dated Oct. 11, the town would like to see:

  • A three-year contract.
  • A service contract only – not to include capital -- because the village owns all fire equipment.

The town’s statement also indicates that its clerk sent a check for $39,322.36 – half of the above amount – to the village, but it has not been cashed.

Both Boyle and Martin have said the matter is in the hands of their attorneys, but the town’s latest statement indicates it has yet to be served with any legal action.

On Wednesday, Boyle said he was waiting for a return call from the village attorney.

The municipalities’ latest communications are as follows:


1.  The Town Supervisor and Board is refusing to pay for the Fire Protection Services provided for June 1st, 2020 through May 31st, 2021, this is despite the (fact that the) Town’s 2021 tax bill to Town residents included a charge for fire protection based on the 2020/2021 Fire Protection Contract.  This money was collected as Town taxes in January of 2021.  The Town is responsible for creating the situation we are involved with at this time.

2.  The Town Supervisor has repeatedly stated that there is not a signed contract and the Town does not need to pay for services---despite the fact that the Town accepted fire protection services throughout the contract term while never indicating that the services were not wanted or needed.

3.  The contract between the Village, Fire Department, and Town has been an annual agreement for many years. This included an understanding between the Village and Town for payment of the contract after the Town collected its taxes (6 months after the contract begins).  The Town has collected the money to pay the contract but refuses to abide by law which says it must provide fire protection and payout the money collected for this purpose.

4.  Village residents pay double the tax rate for fire protection compared to Town residents.  The current rate for Village taxpayers is $1.62 per thousand of assessed value.  Why should the Village residents be forced to pay more?  Also, why is the Town so insistent that the Village Taxpayers take over more of the Town’s obligation?  Any shifting of cost to Village Taxpayers is very burdensome to them.

5.  Representatives from the Village (one of which is a fireman), Fire Department, and Town met as a committee to set the fire budget.  It is disappointing and possibly illegal that the Town Supervisor and Board is withholding payment to the Village for the 2020-2021 contract in order to dictate what funds they will pay going forward.  Keep in mind fire protection services to the Town continued to be provided over this time period, and that all structure fires occurred in the Town- not the Village.  In fact, of 10 structure fires, all were in the town. 

6.  Legally, a municipality cannot provide a free service.  The Town has refused to sign a contract for the 2020-2021 term and for 2021-2022 fire protection.  The Village cannot continue to provide a service with no indication that it will be paid for the services already provided, nor for the services going forward.

7.  Because of the Town’s refusal to pay for Fire Protection for over 15 months, the Village has communicated that fire services provided to the Town will cease on November 30th, 2021 unless payment for the 2020-2021 contract is made and a signed agreement for 2021-2022 is agreed upon by all parties.

THE TOWN’S STANCE (as of Oct. 11)

At this time, the Town has not been served with any legal action.

For five years, the Town of Oakfield has been trying to work with the Village of Oakfield to come to a fair and equitable Fire Agreement.

The Town Board disagrees with the content of the letters being circulated (by the Village Board), including the $1.62 being allocated to Fire Protection to the Village residents. The total taxable value of the Village is $52,040,355 (for bills sent out in June 2021).

Based on the Mayor’s statement that $1.62 of the village rate is for fire, they raised $84,305.38 for Fire Service within the village alone.

The Village Budget for 2021-22 for Fire is $95,000. Of that $95K, $10,320 is earmarked to go into a truck reserve. If you take that out of the $95K, you are left with $84,680 for a total operating budget. So, 58 percent (Town) is $49,126.

So, if the Village collected $84,680 and the Town owes them $49,126, then the total budget would be $133,806. What are they doing with the other $39K (actually $38,806) they collected if they did in fact collect it?

This should make the Village fire tax rate 0.89 cents per $1,000 (assessed value).

We also disagree with there being 10 structure fires within the Town of Oakfield. When a fire happens within our boundaries, both the Assessor and Code Enforcement Officer is contacted. Neither have been contacted for structure fires with(in) the Town.

Finally, in an attempt to sit at the table with the Village and negotiate an agreement, the Town sent the Village a check for $39,322.36 (half of the $78,644.71 the Town collected). The Village still has the check, refuses to cash it and will not entertain a discussion.

O-A school superintendent hoping for quick resolution to village, town fire protection squabble

By Mike Pettinella

As would be expected, the superintendent of the Oakfield-Alabama Central School District is keeping a close eye on the fire protection dispute between the Village and Town of Oakfield.

“I’m hesitant to throw the District into the mix of this debate. However, I am very concerned about the suggestion of not responding to an emergency call here if it was on our campus,” John Fisgus said today in response to an email from The Batavian.

As reported as part of an update to a story on Sept. 28, Sean Downing, chief of the Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department, indicated that the fire company has been in contact with its attorney regarding the situation.

Downing said that if the disagreement over money that Village Mayor David Boyle said is owed by the town isn’t settled by a Nov. 30 deadline, the fire department, “by written order of the mayor or the board of trustees of the Village of Oakfield, we will not be able to respond into the town, which includes the elementary and the high school.”

Contacted today by telephone, Boyle said he has not heard recently from anyone representing the Town of Oakfield – neither Supervisor Matt Martin or the town’s attorney. Martin has indicated that the matter has been turned over to the town’s lawyer.

Previously, Boyle said the village is suing the town in an attempt to secure $78,648 that was charged to the town for fire protection provided by the village during the 2020-21 fiscal year. The village also said it would withhold fire protection from the town if the bill isn’t paid by Nov. 30.

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

Fisgus concluded his brief statement with words that likely mirror what Oakfield village and town residents are thinking:

“I hope there is a resolution soon and both the town and village can come to an agreement,” he said.

Previously: Village of Oakfield threatens lawsuit, withholding fire protection over payment dispute with Town of Oakfield

Village of Oakfield threatens lawsuit, withholding fire protection over payment dispute with Town of Oakfield

By Mike Pettinella


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

Sean Downing, chief of the Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department, left a phone message stating that he is "hopeful that both parties can come and resolve their differences before the November 30th deadline."

"If not, then by written order of the mayor or the board of trustees of the Village of Oakfield, we will not be able to respond into the town, which includes the elementary and the high school -- and that is per consulting with our attorney, Mark Butler."


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

Oakfield Town Supervisor Matt Martin called back to The Batavian, but didn't not want to elaborate other to say that the matter is in the hands of the town's attorney.


The Village of Oakfield is preparing to take legal action against the Town of Oakfield – as well as threatening to withhold fire protection – if the town does not pay the nearly $80,000 it owes to the village as directed by a longstanding joint municipal agreement for such services.

That’s the message conveyed by Village Mayor David Boyle during an interview on Monday with The Batavian.

Boyle said a letter articulating the village’s position is being included in residents’ water/sewer bills this week.

The mayor said the dispute centers upon the town’s refusal to pay $78,648 owed to the village for the 2020-21 fiscal year ending May 31.

Contending that the town is “holding the village hostage” in hope of renegotiating the shared services arrangement, Boyle said the village board has instructed its attorney to file a lawsuit to recover the 2020-21 payment. He also said the town has yet to pay for the first three months of the 2021-22 fiscal year.

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

“The Village Board is united in recognizing that the village cannot burden village residents and businesses with providing fire protection to the town without reimbursement. Therefore, the board has directed a letter be sent to the Town stating that effective Nov. 30, 2021, the Village will no longer be able to provide fire protection to the Town with the exception of the Oakfield-Alabama Central School.”

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

“The town buys services (coverage) from us,” he said. “For years and years, we’ve had an agreement with the town about purchasing fire protection from the village. For as long as I remember, there have been contracts in place that basically are the same structure year after year after year.”

The current structure has the village paying 42 percent of the cost and the town paying 58 percent. Boyle said that the town is looking for a 50/50 split.

While that may seem equitable on paper, Boyle said, when broken down by assessed valuation, village residents pay $1.62 per $1,000 of assessed value in taxes while the town residents pay 60 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation in taxes.

“Our village residents have to work twice as hard to pay their bill, yet the town is saying we don’t find what you’re charging acceptable and we want to move some of that cost over to the village,” Boyle said. “They’ve held back the payment to force us to make an agreement that we don’t believe we can do in the best interest of the village residents and providing a sustainable fire service.”

Per the 2020 census, the Town of Oakfield has 3,145 residents, with 1,812 of those people residing in the village.

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

He also said this hasn’t been an issue in the past.

“Two years ago, committees got together for budgeting the fire department – looking at the long range plan and controlling costs as much as we could while also being able to sustain it over the years,” he said.

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

“They (the town) knew what their bill was going to be and they’ve gone out and collected tax money for that, but they haven’t signed a contract for the fiscal year that passed, even though they have collected money from the taxpayers,” he advised. “It’s escalated as it has gone on the past 15 months, but what they are saying is that it’s too expensive and they have to drive their costs down.”

He did say that there is no signed contract for 2020-21.

As far as legal action, Boyle said one of the trustees contacted the state Comptroller’s office, and the village board feels good about its chances of winning a lawsuit.

“We feel the town knew what the bill was going to be, they collected taxes on it and we provided a service in good faith. Plus, they never contacted us, saying we shouldn’t be doing that because we don’t have a contract. We’re confident that we would prevail in a lawsuit because of those reasons.”

Boyle mentioned that five fire calls over the past year or so have been structure fires in the town and, as required, the village fire department volunteers 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.

Meeting minutes from the June 8th Town Board meeting indicate the agreement with the village is “not a contract, but a service agreement” and that a counteroffer to the village has been proposed:

“For years, but recently the past few months Supervisor Martin and Councilperson (Carol) Glor have been trying to negotiate with the Village a service contract that is equal. Currently, the Town pays 58% of the fire budget. Supervisor Martin requested that the number become a 50/50 split over a three year period, which the Mayor and Village Board refuse to entertain.

At this time the Town has not paid the village for the last village budget year. Supervisor Martin says this is not a contract it is 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 not been any communication from the Mayor.”

Boyle, after hearing what was communicated, said, “We’ve always been willing to talk with the town, maybe not in their time frame.”

“I got the sense that they’re not paying the contract and using that as hostage money. We want to treat it as two matters: They clear up what they owe us and then we’ll talk about going forward. We provided a service to them in good faith, so we believe that they’re being disingenuous.”

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