MASSENA — The incoming Massena town supervisor cast the lone no vote on the transfer of the Massena Rescue Squad from the town to the village because of concerns about a portion of the language in the contract.
During a special meeting on Thursday, Councilor Susan Bellor said she didn’t agree with the contract between the village and the Massena Volunteer Emergency Unit because of a clause that could transfer the rescue squad operation back to the town.
“I’ve read through the inter-municipal agreement, and I do have concerns over the area for annual charges. It shows that at some point if the village feels as though they can’t take care of their obligations, that you’re just going to give us six months notice and transfer it back to the town.” Mrs. Bellor said. “To me, that’s not right. There should be a defined process on what conditions other than they can’t pay the bills to just hand it back to us. There should be some kind of agreement in there. That is certainly clear.”
According to the language in the agreement, she said, the village would have 180 days to say it no longer wants to oversee the rescue squad’s operation and wants to return it to the town.
“I can’t believe you guys could go along with this. I mean, I know you’re leaving office, most of you, but why would you want to do this to us? I don’t understand,” she told Town Supervisor Steven D. O’Shaughnessy, Deputy Town Supervisor Samuel D. Carbone Jr. and Councilor Thomas C. Miller.
Mr. O’Shaughnessy and Mr. Carbone were attending their final board meeting after choosing not to seek reelection this year. Councilor Albert N. Nicola, who was excused from Thursday’s meeting, also did not seek reelection.
Mr. O’Shaughnessy said the language would protect village taxpayers.
“The purpose behind that was that if for some reason resource recovery money goes away and they’re stuck where they have to pay, say through tax dollars. If we were to leave it with the village, that is just the village taxpayers that would be paying for it because they cannot charge the town for any of the services,” Mr. O’Shaughnessy said. “So, we came up with the solution to give it back to the town and then what we’ll do is we’ll be able to tax everybody in the village and in the town. So, you have a wider base, so it won’t be spread in with such a small number.”
Mr. O’Shaughnessy said he and former Councilor Robert Elsner spent six months reviewing the agreement and discussing it with village officials, the Massena Volunteer Fire Department foreman and members of the Massena Village Board of Trustees. They had also made an attempt to have a private agency take over the rescue squad’s operation, he said.
“Bob Elsner and I worked for probably another six months at least trying to peddle the rescue squad to a private agency. Not one that we contacted was interested. So, that led us to go talk to the village,” he said. “They already have a management team in place to run and organize. That’s one of the big things with the rescue squad is that they don’t have a management team. These guys, and not to take away from them, but these people are trained to go out and do rescue calls and save lives. They’re not meant to be managers and take care of the books and move on like that.”
“I think this is a good mix together,” Mr. O’Shaughnessy added. “If for some reason it doesn’t go well, then it should come back to the town so that we can envelop everybody and have the pain go throughout the town and the village.”
If the transfer doesn’t work out, he said, the town is in a position to take over the management again.
“I don’t know what the drawback is. We’re running it now,” he said.
“The previous scenario was that the village of Massena and town of Massena pay for any losses, and you didn’t like that. I think it’s going to work out well,” Mr. Carbone said, suggesting that everyone wanted to see the transfer work and it could be more profitable.
“But, if there’s still that opportunity and it doesn’t work out, (then) the town can direct it and the next way it has to go to make it survive,” he said.
Mr. Miller, a chief with the Massena Volunteer Fire Department, said he also believes the transfer will work well, and that village officials would work hard to keep it moving forward. He said when the fire department answers calls, it depends on the Massena Rescue Squad, and so do others.
“I don’t think anybody wants us to fail. This community relies on Massena Rescue to provide a medical service. So, I don’t think anybody is going to not work extremely hard to be successful at keeping this service,” Mr. Miller said. “I think the two lawyers came up with that agreement, just like the supervisor said, to make sure that the area that’s getting the service is paying its fair share, meaning that if the resource recovery does go away or it gets beyond the point of operational costs where it does have to go to taxpayers — and let’s hope that doesn’t happen because there’s going to be many people working to keep that from happening.”
Mr. Carbone said that if the town took over the rescue squad’s operation, every member of the current town board would be paying the bill.
“And I want to say this, too. I don’t appreciate you throwing that stone about us not caring and because we’re off the board. Tomorrow is our last day. I don’t appreciate that, I really don’t,” Mr. Carbone said.
“You express your opinion, I express mine. That’s fine,” Mrs. Bellor said.