A combined food pantry and emergency squad hall on a parcel of town-owned land was approved by the North Collins Town Board by a 3-2 vote. The vote was a bit of surprise coming with the town attorney absent and no public hearing on the matter.
The plans reflect the year long appeal by the Eden-North Collins Food Pantry to gain rights to a property where it could erect its own structure to conduct its programs. The pantry currently rents space in Holy Spirit R.C. Church. The new plan sees the Emergency Squad, which has also been looking for a new facility, joining in the process. The plan also involves a new parcel, town-owned land along Route 62 next to Holy Spirit Cemetery. That site had been originally planned to house a new town hall and is currently being fashioned into an additional soccer field. It also replaces the pantry’s original desire to locate its facility on town-owned land next the the town’s senior citizens building.
The pantry has been regularly appealing to the town board for site approval in order to begin soliciting funding for the project.
Don Schasel, director of the pantry, said the new structure would be significantly larger than originally planned to house the Squad, and estimated that all necessary improvements could raise the estimated cost to as much as $1 million.
Voicing opposition to the move were Councilman Jeffrey Krauss, who thought the board should wait until the town attorney could review the new proposal, and Councilman George LoBianco, who repeated his concerns that the pantry would end up costing the taxpayers. LoBianco has continually urged an agreement be reached with neighboring towns that also benefit from the pantry program, Collins, Eden and Brant, to share any costs that might arise from its location in North Collins.
While Schasel said that the pantry would be able to erect and maintain its portion of the structure using grant monies, he did state that he had no idea how successful the Emergency Squad would be in raising funds.
While the pantry would erect the structure, it would transfer ownership of it to the town and lease it back at a nominal cost. The Emergency Squad, now operating independently of the town, would also lease its space.
Voting for the measure were Supervisor Rosaline Seege and Councilmen Marian Vanni and Michael Perry.
Seege presented documentation showing that the majority of bills so designated, had in fact been sent to the offices of the town clerk and highway superintendent. She offered the document to clear up what she called a “public misinformation by the clerk that she (Seege) was diverting mail from department heads.”
The action again brought strong protest from Town Clerk Margaret Orrange who at one point said “back off, Rose, I’ve been offering my help to you since election night.”
The debate among the two sparked strong criticism from the public. Several residents spoke out led by Bonnie Noto who summed up the public frustration with the ongoing debates, “The town and village elected you two to work for the town.”
Seege had come with a prepared statement that in part stated “I have been in office six full months and the system she found was both adverse and challenging.” She also responded to a previous charge from former Supervisor Thomas O’Boyle stating, “our bookkeeper is not overworked.”
Seege did pledge that she would not bring up these matters from this point forward. The public message seemed to have its effect as Seege and Orrange began to amicably exchange information on various budget lines.
In other business the board:
• Approved renaming 15 town accounts, some of which have not been used since 1997 and have been labeled decertified. The change was necessary to allow them to show up in the town’s annual report in compliance with current state law.
• Heard a complaint by Senior Citizen President Noto over unknown persons using the Senior Building in the mornings and leaving a mess. Perry said he will investigate the matter.
• Heard Highway Superintendent David Winter report that he will need to purchase a new pickup truck and that he would be drilling wells at both the Langford and New Oregon Parks. Winter also reported that he had 40 volunteers from Camp Pioneer creating a grove and building picnic tables at Fricano Park and that the Boy Scouts have agreed to assist in locating the property lines of all three town parks.
• Code Enforcement Officer Phil Tremblay reported one permit has been issued for a new house construction.
• Sue Alessi reported that Legislator John Mills will bring his hot dog fund-raising project to the North Collins Library on July 30 from 4 to 7 p.m. She also noted than a juggler and unicyclist will also be on hand to provide entertainment.
• Recreation Director Rozalin Warren reported that Mike Gullo and other coaches have stepped up and are grooming the ball fields. She also that summer camp is going well with 100 youth attending, and a planned summer musical has attracted an all-female cast.
Town Historian Georgianne Bowman reported that the Historical Society will open its new photographic exhibit on July 22.