Fire Protection Dispute Coming to a Head

Special meeting may tell the tale

By Michael Turton

After smoldering for more than a year, a dispute between Cold Spring and Nelsonville over fire protection costs may finally be settled next week.

At the Dec. 19 meeting of the Cold Spring Village Board, Mayor Dave Merandy said that a public meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 10, will involve only one agenda item: Nelsonville’s payment for fire protection. The Nelsonville Village Board and leadership of the Cold Spring Fire Company have been invited to attend the special 7 p.m. session at the Cold Spring Village Hall.

The conflict stems from an invoice for $21,679 sent by Cold Spring to Nelsonville in October 2016, part of a twice-yearly billing. Nelsonville responded with a check that omitted $1,004 identified as its share of the cost of the Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP), a pension for volunteer firefighters. Cold Spring has yet to cash the check over concerns that doing so would indicate formal acceptance of the smaller payment.

Merandy has consistently stated that he would not accept what he considers partial payment. At a June 27, 2017, meeting, he said that the Nelsonville invoice reflects “fair distribution of fire company costs. We’re not making money on it.”

Nelsonville Mayor Bill O’Neill indicated at the time that a referendum may be held in 2018 to determine if Nelsonville residents support paying into LOSAP.

The Village of Cold Spring may be guilty of having been overly transparent in its billing. John Furst, the village attorney, has pointed out that in New York state municipalities typically issue fire protection invoices that list the total amount due, without breaking down costs.

Because of the impasse, the Cold Spring Fire Company is out the funds it normally receives from Nelsonville’s payment, which are used to cover operating expenses.

In other business …

  • Merandy and other Village Board members thanked Arne Saari and Greg Gunder for their many years of dedication. Gunder joined the Zoning Board of Appeals in 2005 and began chairing it in 2015. He is moving to Florida and stepped down on Dec. 31. Saari served on the Planning Board for 12 years. He was the only member to serve through the entire, and often controversial, Butterfield redevelopment review.
  • The mayor and trustees received the Historic District Review Board’s draft update of Chapter 64 of the Village Code, which deals with the Historic District. They will next respond to the HDRB, taking into account Furst’s comments. A public hearing will be held after the proposed text has been ironed out.
  • A request by residents for installation of “Children at Play” signs on Fair Street was not granted. Mayor Merandy indicated that, legally, such signs can only be used near playgrounds and schools. The village insurance company also advised against the signage.
  • The board approved Officer-in-Charge Larry Burke’s request to add a surveillance system at Village Hall and the Cold Spring Police Department office. A grant obtained through the office of New York State Sen. Sue Serino will pay half of the $5,015 cost.
  • An appreciation night for village employees and volunteers will be held on Friday, Jan. 26, at 6 p.m. at the Cold Spring Fire House.

One thought on “Fire Protection Dispute Coming to a Head

  1. I doubt it. No matter what the villages do, the fire company is caught in the middle of a dispute it did not start. No one else would provide services without getting the funds to operate. Keep in mind: Volunteerism has its limits.

    My personal opinion: There is another agenda working in the background and this is the preliminary battle. I am a life member of the Cold Spring Fire Company but no longer a village resident and not speaking for the fire company.