Villages Still at Odds Over Fire Protection

Cold Spring may simply change how it bills

By Michael Turton

There may be light at the end of the tunnel in the protracted dispute between Cold Spring and Nelsonville over the cost of fire protection — a squabble that the Cold Spring Fire Company says has left it short of funds.

Nelsonville has purchased fire protection from Cold Spring since 2001, when it disbanded its own fire department. The conflict centers on an invoice sent in October 2016 by Cold Spring to Nelsonville for $21,679 for its twice-yearly billing. Nelsonville responded with a check that withheld $1,004 it identified as a contribution to the Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP), a pension for the volunteer firefighters.

Nelsonville Mayor Bill O’Neill said the village felt a referendum was necessary before it paid into the fund. Cold Spring has said it will not cash the check until Nelsonville acknowledges it is a partial payment.

Adding to the tension has been the fire company’s refusal to respond to the Cold Spring board’s request for a detailed accounting of its operating expenses as part of the annual budget process.

After calling the board’s request “intrusive,” Fire Company President Matt Steltz said he would discuss the issue with the company leadership. At a village board meeting on Oct. 10, Merandy and Village Attorney John Furst emphasized that the board was simply meeting its fiduciary responsibilities.

At the suggestion of CSFC member Dan Valentine, the board will review how it bills for fire protection, including removing reference to LOSAP. Instead, the invoice might only indicate the total owed, a practice that Furst said is typical throughout the state.

In addition, Cold Spring has not billed Nelsonville or Philipstown, which also uses CSFC services, for the cost of operating and maintaining the Main Street firehouse, which the village owns. That also may change.

In other business…

  • The village received a $215,000 grant from the New York State Clean Water Fund for the Market Street Pumping Station Replacement Project.
  • The Cold Spring Police Department answered 59 calls in September and issued tickets for 41 parking and 19 traffic violations. It also made one arrest.
  • Nick Groombridge and Kim Connor, co-owners of Groombridge Games, said it will again sponsor the July 4 fireworks in 2018.
  • Deputy Mayor Marie Early has negotiated increased fees from Seastreak to cover the cost of having an additional police officer on foot patrol when its cruise ships dock at Cold Spring.
  • Tectonic Engineering has completed the schematic design report for proposed repairs to the upper dam.
  • Superintendent of Water and Waste Water Greg Phillips reported that a meeting was held with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s regional representative in an attempt to move toward an agreement with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection that will enable the village to tap into the Catskill Aqueduct. The connection will provide water to Cold Spring and Nelsonville during repairs to the village dams. Negotiations with DEP began in 2011.

One thought on “Villages Still at Odds Over Fire Protection

  1. Without fail, every time I come across one of these reports about the Cold Spring board, I am flabbergasted at the incompetence and complete lack of consideration for the taxpayers. I often wonder how some of these people get elected to office in the first place. But then again, public apathy is more the rule than the exception.

    As far as obtaining records from the Fire Department — perhaps attorney Furst is not aware of the requirements of the Freedom of Information Law in this regard. As a public agency, the CSFD is legally obliged to provide all of their financial records to anyone who requests them, including lawyers, members of the public and board members. Not only that, but because the board holds the purse strings, it has an absolute right to those financials with or without a FOIL request.

    The problem is that nobody wants to get on the wrong side of the emergency services voting block, so everyone walks on eggshells rather than calling out the fire departments for their records. This is particularly outrageous during budget season when the board needs every bit of financial documentation to devise next year’s budget.

    Also interesting is that it found another way to shake down the Seastreak for the cost of a police foot patrol. Maybe if the board was a little less spendthrift, it wouldn’t have to keep hitting on the merchants for more cash. As it is, why on earth do we need a police patrol for the tourists who are the most peaceful and affable people you’d want to meet? Why not put someone to direct traffic where they really need it out at Breakneck?

    It is really disheartening to read this stuff week after week, year after year.