Why is the brand new firehouse on Owens Road in Sweden still empty?
That’s the question residents of Brockport, Sweden and Clarkson are asking almost ten months after ownership of the new firehouse was officially turned over to the new Brockport Fire District by the Town of Sweden.
And the answer is:
The Town of Sweden built the new firehouse on a plot of land that does not have any access to water.
I know that sounds like a dumb stunt, and it is. But how could it happen? How and why would anyone build any building, much less a firehouse, that has no water?
The answer lies buried in the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the village, the two towns, and the representatives of the new fire district back on August 3, 2011.
The new fire district was created on July 28, 2011 when the Sweden Town Council, and the Clarkson Town Council, and the Brockport Village Board approved a Memorandum of Understanding for the creation of the fire district.
According to the Memorandum of Understanding:
11. Contingent upon the successful establishment of a joint fire district, SWEDEN agrees, at its sole expense, to transfer to the joint fire district a building, the location to be determined, for no consideration. The construction and acquisition costs of the location and building will have a minimum value of $125,000.00.
Amazingly, other than the assessed value of the building, no other specifications were set forth in the Memorandum of Understanding. No wonder it sits empty in the middle of nowhere.
Neither the Fire district Commissioners nor the Sweden Town Council, nor the town attorney realized that a critical piece of information had been omitted from the Memorandum of Understanding.
The Memorandum of Understanding never mentions that utilities had to be in place before the fire District would accept ownership of the new firehouse.
According the minutes of the December 30, 2013 Sweden Town Board meeting, here is what the Sweden Town Board voted to do about the new fire house and why.
RESOLUTION NO. 132 Owens Road Property
Subdivision and Site Plan
Approval/Tax Account Number 069.03-1-1
WHEREAS, the Town of Sweden (Sweden), the Village of Brockport and the Town of Clarkson entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which contemplated the establishment of a joint fire district thereafter established as the Brockport Fire District (The District); and
WHEREAS, as set forth in paragraph numbered and labeled “11” of the MOU, upon the successful establishment of The District, Sweden is obligated to transfer to The District a building allowable pursuant to General Municipal Law§ 72h; and
WHEREAS, in compliance with this obligation Sweden did acquire property on Owens Road (Owens Road Property), Brockport, New York, tax account number 069.03-1-1 by Bargain and Sale Deed dated February 9, 2013 and recorded in the Monroe County Clerk’s Office in Book 11223 at page 290; and
WHEREAS, a Public Safety Building (one-bay fire hall) is under construction at the Owens Road Property by Sweden in accordance with the MOU and upon completion is to be dedicated to The District;
The Bell Opinion further points out that since the Owens Road Property came from a much larger parcel owned by the Brockport Rural Cemetery Association, there was judicial intervention and approval required in this Regular Meeting of the Town Board December 30, 2013 process. Sweden did previously petition, seek and receive judicial approval for the acquisition of the Owens Road Property from the Monroe County Supreme Court. This Petition detailed the prospective use of a portion of the property by The District, all pursuant to the Matter of Application of Brockport Rural Cemetery Association in Monroe County Supreme Court, Index Number 2012-12336. This Petition resulted in a Court Order, as approved by the New York State Attorney General, dated January 18, 2013 and entered in the Monroe County Clerk’s Office on February 13, 2013.
Once again, there is no mention of utilities; including electricity and water. Most people would assume that nobody would build a firehouse without electricity and water.
But the Town of Sweden did just that.
During the past ten months, since the fire district took ownership of the building, electricity and cable (for the fire departments alarm system) have been run to the site at 80 Owens Road.
But there is still not water to the site.
According to Jim Sauberan, Chairman of the Fire District Commissioners, the Monroe County water Department and the Monroe County Health Department are squabbling over extending a water main to 80 Owens Road
The Suburban News reported on January 5, 2014, that things were supposed to go a lot faster. But almost months later, the building is still in limbo,
Brockport Fire District Board of Commissioners Chairperson Jim Sauberan says completion and transfer of the public safety building is a great way for the district to start off the new year.
He explained that the new public safety building will be used as a training facility.
“It will fill a very big need for the district,” Sauberan says. “It is a positive thing for the fire district.”
He added that, “before too long,” the facility could also house a fire engine.
But first the site has to have water, and no one seems to know when that will happen.
Why did the Sweden Town Council choose a site that’s in the middle of nowhere and has no water?
The Sweden Town Council choose the site because it was already off the tax rolls. The site was part of the larger parcel owned by the Brockport Rural Cemetery Association.
So the Town Council members didn’t have to make the tough decision to find a piece of land suitable for a firehouse and then take the land off the tax rolls.
That might have raised the taxes of the people who live in the Town of Sweden outside the Village of Brockport.
By using a piece of land that had no access to water for the new firehouse, the Sweden Town Council has almost certainly pawned off the cost of utilities for the site to the residents of the entire fire district.
In effect, the Sweden Town Council has raised everyone taxes in the fire district, but they’re going to go around saying they didn’t raise anyone’s taxes.
If it wasn’t an incredible display of incompetence, it would be funny.