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July 16, 2009

 

Scott residents question idea of consolidation

Merger with Homer raises concern about services

By HOLDEN B. SLATTERY
Staff Reporter
hslattery@cortlandstandard.net

HOMER — A meeting held Wednesday night by a joint committee of Homer and Scott officials was intended to focus on the consequences and cost savings in the highway departments if the towns of Homer and Scott merged.
But it turned into a broader public debate on the idea of consolidating the two towns.
Many Scott residents in attendance asked questions unrelated to the highway departments, leaving the committee little time to discuss highway issues.
More than 50 people attended the meeting.
Marian Guy, a Scott resident, represented a group of Scott residents who met in Scott last Monday night. The group developed a list of questions for the committee and thought the purpose of Wednesday night’s meeting was for the committee members to answer residents’ questions, Guy said.
At one point during the meeting, after Guy asked a few questions, she said she would let the committee do the highway department work it planned the meeting to do, and she stood up to leave. Other residents began to leave, and the meeting broke up, as the people who remained in the room, including the committee members, held discussions among themselves.
“I think the public should have sensed that this isn’t a railroad job,” Homer Town Supervisor Fred Forbes said after the meeting.
“They thought we were trying to rush something through, which is the furthest thing from the truth,” said Scott Councilman Jerry Contento Jr., a member of the joint committee which formed to study the possible effects of the two towns consolidating to form one town and report their results to the town boards.
The committee consists of Forbes, Homer Councilman Dan Weddle, Scott Town Supervisor Stephen McMahon, Contento Jr. and Patrick Snyder, the attorney for both towns.
If the towns consolidated, the new town’s tax rate would be $1.29 per $1,000 of assessed property value, Forbes said.
Homer’s current tax rate is $1.58 per $1,000 of assessed property value, and Scott’s tax rate is $3.51 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The estimate made by the committee is based on eliminating positions in town government and receiving about $190,000 in additional state aid, Forbes said.
The meeting Wednesday was the third the committee has held. Committee members planned the research and meeting schedule during the first meeting, and they discussed budgets and how the consolidation could reduce town taxes for residents of the two towns during the second meeting.
Forbes said the committee will have to either hold a work session with the highway officials or discuss the highway department during the committee’s next meeting in August.
Contento Jr. said McMahon and he will hold meetings in the town of Scott to answer residents’ questions and report to them after meetings of the joint committee to make the joint committee’s workshops easier to manage.
Guy said she thinks the committee needs to gain a better sense of what Scott residents think of consolidating the towns before moving forward with anything.
Homer Highway Superintendent John Phelps said he thinks a successful consolidation is certainly possible someday. Phelps said he thinks the new town created after a consolidation would need to have the same number of highway department employees and continue to operate from the highway garage in Homer and the one in Scott, especially during the winter to remove snow.
Scott Highway Superintendent Gerald Hapgood said he thinks Scott residents would lose road services after a consolidation.
Hapgood described Homer and Scott as “different worlds” in terms of the weather and road conditions. He said the hills and the lake in Scott cause winter conditions to be 10 times worse in Scott than in Homer.
Dorothy Coon, a Scott resident, said she does not support the consolidation idea. She worries that Scott would lose its senior center and its park, she said.
“It’s not about the money. It’s not about the dollar signs. It’s about what we get. We’re a town of our own and we don’t want to lose it,” Coon said.

 

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