October 19, 2010
Scott supervisor rails against Homer merger
Kevin Fitch gives presentation about why Scott residents should oppose Nov. 2 referendum
SCOTT — Merging with the town of Homer will be detrimental for Scott because residents will lose the power of their votes in the merged town, Scott Town Supervisor Kevin Fitch said Monday at a presentation bashing the proposal.
Fitch gave his presentation at the Scott Senior Center to about 75 people.
Fitch, a staunch opponent of the Nov. 2 referendum, told the audience of mostly Scott residents that the problem with consolidation started with the committee researching the effects of consolidation.
The committee itself was biased and all of the members supported consolidation, Fitch said.
Until Fitch was invited to join the consolidation committee in May, the consolidation committee was comprised of Homer Town Supervisor Fred Forbes, Homer Councilman Dan Weddle, Former Scott Town Supervisor Steve McMahon, Scott Town Councilman Jerry Contento Jr. and Patrick Snyder, the attorney for both towns. Snyder said he helped the committee to clarify the law.
Contento voted for consolidation during a 3-2 June vote of the Scott Town Board against putting the consolidation issue on the ballot.
The exploratory committee dissolved with the vote by the Scott Town Board. Ten percent of voters in both Scott and Homer had to sign petitions for the consolidation proposition to be placed on the ballot.
Scott residents’ vote will be lost because the small government will be dissolved and members of the Homer Town Board will be interim members of the new merged town board until an election of the new town board is held, Fitch said. The likelihood of a Scott resident being elected for a new position is unlikely, as numbers do not favor Scott residents, Fitch said. There are approximately 730 registered voters in Scott and about 4,163 in Homer.
The numbers from the committee about the budget of the merged town are misleading for Scott residents, Fitch said.
A budget for the combined towns would be 5.7 percent less than the two individual budgets added together, according to the consolidation committee report. If the towns consolidate, the owner of a Scott property assessed at $100,000 would save about $200 annually in town property taxes, according to a report on the consolidation.
The consolidation would immediately reduce Scott residents’ general fund property tax rates by 64 percent and Homer tax rate by 8.6 percent, according to the committee’s projections.
The savings would come entirely from the removal of the Scott Town Board, Fitch said. Also, the report should have been done by an independent group, with no bias toward consolidation, he said.
If merged with Homer, Scott would lose its small town government, Fitch said.
“Smaller government, to me, is more efficient,” Fitch said, referencing Scott’s small government. A voter in Scott is integral in deciding the political operations in Scott, Fitch said.
“Your vote has more value,” Fitch said. “You know the person, you’re more or less going to vote for.”
To block the consolidation measure, Scott voters must vote, Fitch said.
About 176 people voted in the election which elected Fitch as town supervisor. Over 400 people did not vote in that election. If that is a foreshadowing to what might happen in the upcoming November election, those opposed to consolidation have to strategize to block the measure, namely getting more people who oppose it out to vote, Fitch said.
A group of Scott residents opposed to consolidation has been gathering support, said Marian Guy, who along with her husband, Phillip, have begun informing neighbors by placing signs around town stating opposition to the merger. One sign says “Live Free: Avoid a Homer Takeover.”
The other strategy is to call residents to inform them of events. Marian said by calling residents, she found out that McMahon, a supporter of consolidation and former Scott supervisor would not attend the meeting.
“I figured they would have showed up,” Guy said after the meeting, referring to McMahon and Forbes.
Whether McMahon or Forbes showed at the meeting is inconsequential, Pat Hapgood said. The responsibility is on the voters, especially the young voters, said Hapgood, who is 37.
“Most of the young people have left it up to the elders,” Hapgood said.
Saving Scott is a community effort, Hapgood said, if the community does not respond, Scott will not be the same. Hapgood is the son of Gerald Hapgood, the Scott Highway superintendent. The committee agreed to keep the superintendent of highways position for both Homer and Scott, because the Homer superintendent of highways, John Phelps, will likely act as a boss for Gerald Hapgood.
Programs and services, such as those for Scott youth and seniors will be lost with consolidation, Fitch said. Youth and seniors will have to travel to the Homer Town Hall, to participate in activities of the merged town, Fitch said.
The county will not support two senior centers in one town, Fitch said. Fitch did not talk to the Cortland County legislators but said this morning he had heard from his brother-in-law, Legislator Danny Ross (R-Cortlandville), that the likelihood of a town having two senior centers is slim.
Services to Scott residents will also become lackluster, Fitch said, and that will be shown through the new town hall. The hours of operation of the Homer Town Hall, the assumed town hall of the merged town, is during the day which is inconvenient compared to the hours of the Scott Town Hall, which operates during the weekend and evenings. A town hall with inconvenient hours would be a hassle for Scott residents, Fitch said.
“Are they going to be available?” Fitch asked the crowd.
A majority of voters in both towns must approve consolidation on Nov. 2 for the issue to pass. If the consolidation is approved, Homer and Scott would be merged to form one town on Jan. 1, 2012.
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