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Hidy appearance at town board meeting sparks debate

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MASSENA - Mayor James F. Hidy, DPW Superintendent Hassan A. Fayad and Village Trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld urged town board members to sign a trio of joint municipal agreements that have been on the table for the past few months.

Referring to the code-enforcement agreement and fire inspection agreements, Mr. Hidy said it was his understanding there weren’t really any outstanding issues with the documents.

“Can we assume you’re going to be adopting those tonight?” Mr. Hidy asked.

While Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said the board would discuss those measures later in the evening, Mr. Hidy said, after the session, he doesn’t understand why the agreements hadn’t already been finalized.

“I was told they were going to be approved by Supervisor Gray on Monday, because they had basically already been agreed upon, just not officially,” Mr. Hidy said, noting that in his eyes it was the town board, not the village board, who essentially crafted both proposals.

“They’re the ones who initiated the formula for fire inspections,” he said. “Those services come at a cost. Before this was even discussed they came up with this formula. Then we did a comparison and when Ken (Code Enforcement Official Ken McGowan) did his analysis we determined it was in the village’s best interests.”

The code enforcement agreement at this point basically outlines sharing expenses connected to secretary Avis Hazelton’s salary, benefits and office budget.

“If you look back at the town board’s meeting minutes when this agreement first came up it was 50/50. They’re the ones who suggested 60/40,” Mr. Hidy said. “I don’t understand this. I don’t even know if they know what they want.”

Mr. Gray said he knows exactly what the town wants and that is to be treated fairly.

Several months ago Town Councilman John F. Macaulay inquired at a meeting whether the village’s share of the 60/40 ration often used for shared expenses included the entire village or only the portion that was in the town of Massena. After learning that the Louisville portion of the village was not included, Mr. Macaulay said that formula is something that needs to be re-explored.

Should the Louisville portion of the village be included in the formula, Mr. Macaulay said the split would then become 63/37.

“There’s a disparity there,” he said. “They were aware of it. We were not. It doesn’t make sense to me. I think they snuck one by us for years and years.”

Mr. Gray agreed.

“The town na´vely for two decades thought the village was being honest, but they were not, in my opinion,” he said, noting he was told the additional money the village would have paid had Louisville been included in the formula was kept by the village to cover its administration expenses connected to the recreation department’s employees, who are technically employees of the village.

“We’re not asking for 63/37, we’re asking for an accurate assessment of the village of Massena, something that for 20 years was conveniently did not include the portion of the village in Louisville.”

As for the fire inspection agreement, Mr. Gray, and other members of the town board, said they feel like town owned buildings should be inspected at no cost.

In the past when the village was paid a flat rate of $5,000 to all of the town’s fire inspections, Mr. Macaulay said those inspections included town buildings, now as part of a formula that bases the cost of each inspection on the square footage of the building being inspected the village is expected to collect $6,500.

Councilman Thomas C. Miller suggested adding the clause that town properties will be inspected free of charge to the agreement.

“Maybe they’ll go for it, maybe they won’t,” he said.

Following the meeting, Mr. Hidy said it’s not something he would recommend, but he’ll have to see what the other village board members think.

“It seems to me as if the town board wants everything for nothing,” he said.

Mr. Gray said he simply feels like the town shouldn’t have to pay the village to inspect its buildings.

“You mean like this one (the town hall), that they (the village) occupy 80 percent of,” Mr. Macaulay said.

“They’re $1,500 ahead. They could throw a party with that money for all I care,” he said. “They should be doing town buildings at no cost.”

Voicing his frustrations over the two agreements, as well as a water maintenance agreement, which was also discussed, Mr. Gray suggested dissolving the village, noting then they would no longer have to worry about joint municipal agreements.

“I said this 25 years ago and I wasn’t supervisor then. This isn’t a power play,” he said. “We should dissolve the village of Massena. There’s a problem here and it’s not the town of Massena. This is really frustrating and in my opinion there is no need for any of this.”

Mr. Hidy said it’s been three years since there has been a water maintenance agreement in place and he’s ready to put the issue to rest.

“My question is what in here is there an issue with?” he asked, as he held up a copy of the agreement. “For three years now we can’t come to terms with the water maintenance agreement. I’ve got Tim Ahlfeld here from the water and sewer committee and DPW (Department of Public Works) Superintendent Hassan A. Fayad here and we’re prepared to answer any questions.”

Mr. Gray said one issue he had with the agreement was the control it gave the village of infrastructure located outside the village.

“This agreement pretty much gives you complete control over our water system,” he said. “This is much to complicated to solve here. The town of Massena built that water system. We own the water system, and we control the water system, but that’s not how that agreement reads.”

Mr. Macaulay said he doesn’t understand why residents inside the village and outside the village pay different amounts for water.

“Every resident in the MED district pays the same and it’s not that way with water,” he said. “That doesn’t make sense to me.”

Mr. Hidy though, said the agreement has nothing to do with water rates and is simply a maintenance agreement that authorizes village employees to do work on waterlines located outside the village.

“As far as the water agreement, it’s simple,” Mr. Hidy said. “It’s a maintenance agreement. It has nothing to do with water rates and until they sign it, we’re not going to provide them with the required maintenance.”

Mr. Ahlfeld then suggested setting up a joint meeting to help work out and finalize the details of the agreement, something that Mr. Gray said was a good idea. A date for that meeting was not selected Wednesday evening.

Mr. Hidy called the town board’s lack of action on each of these agreements “a disservice to their residents.”

“I think it’s a disservice to their residents, as well as residents of the village. For them to think they are entitled to these services is absolutely wrong,” he said. “At the end of the day my board is responsible for the best interests of the village and I will continue to maintain that.”

Mr. Gray said Mr. Hidy’s appearance at the town board meeting was nothing more than “grandstanding. The mayor came to our meeting tonight to showboat, grandstand and help his re-election campaign.”

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