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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious...NOT!

If you recall, we blogged about an item that Highway Superintendent Roger Cleveland had on the agenda for executive session on December 12, 2007 - Possible litigation. It later turned out to be concerning the New York Susquehanna & Western Railway.

Then, at the January 23, 2008 town board meeting, Highway Superintendent Roger Cleveland asked Councilwoman Krupa if she had time to look over the invoices for the railroad. Here's an audiotape of the conversation.

As you will hear on the audiotape, Councilwoman Krupa acknowledged that she looked over the invoices...nothing was out of the ordinary...therefore, she felt the railroad was due the money and should be paid to the tune of $30,000.

You will also hear Town Supervisor Earle Reed say that "these invoices were ignored for years...they were thrown in a corner and told not to pay them." Councilwoman Krupa agreed saying "and they are under contract". Supervisor Reed and Councilwoman Krupa...that sounds like a political "pot shot"...is it really necessary?

Now for the real story:

Several members of Concerned Citizens have been attending Town Board meetings on a regular basis since 2003. During a meeting in January 2003, the invoices from the New York Susquehanna Railroad were first mentioned.
REGULAR TOWN BOARD MEETING
January 15, 2003


Railroad and Property Tax Exemptions
The Oneida County Industrial Development Agency and EDGE invited Councilman Waszkiewicz to a meeting on January 29, 2003. Councilman Waszkiewicz extended an invitation for the Town Supervisor to attend this meeting, which will be held in the EDGE conference room in Rome, NY beginning at 9:00 A.M. to review railroad phenomena, easements, IDA, PILOT and/or tax exemptions.
Then the railroad was mentioned again:
REGULAR TOWN BOARD MEETING
March 5, 2003


EDGE
Supervisor Humphreys and Councilman Waszkiewicz have met with the EDGE Board members. The bottom line is that there is a consensus that they would approach the railroad and have the easement charges negotiated away if PILOTS were going to continue.
And yet again:
REGULAR TOWN BOARD MEETING
August 6, 2003


Councilman Woodland:
Railroad Crossing – Washington Mills Athletic Park
To Councilman Woodland’s inquiry about the claiming the Town isn’t paying them railroad crossing fees at the Washington Mills Athletic Park, Supervisor Humphreys explained that the railroad turned over their property to and entered into a contract with EDGE (granting them tax-exempt status) and that this contract has now expired. The Supervisor will talk with EDGE officials further but, meanwhile, has refused to pay the annual railroad-crossing rental.
And then finally:

REGULAR TOWN BOARD MEETING
November 5, 2003

Agreement – Railroad Crossing (New York Susquehanna & Western Railway).
Oneida County says not to pay the Railway’s bill for a public grade crossing.

The fact is, during that time, the New York Susquehanna Railroad had a PILOT with Oneida County Industrial Development and therefore did not pay taxes to the Town of New Hartford. Here is a pdf document using the 2007 Final Assessment Roll database showing each of their parcels and the fact that no taxes were paid prior to 2007.

Side Note: As of the 2007 Final Assessment Roll, the assessment records still had Oneida County Industrial Development owning the railroad even though the county ended the PILOT, and the exemption was removed from the railroad parcels making them taxable, but that's another story.

Being greedy, the railroad was constantly "nickel and diming" the town as evidenced by the $30,000 of invoices. The previous administration, looking out for the best interest of the taxpayers, felt that if the railroad was not paying taxes, the town should not be paying them for inspections, etc. The deal that was struck between everyone was that if the railroad was to continue with the PILOT, the town would not pay these invoices. It was even noted in the November 5, 2003 town board minutes that Oneida County agreed the invoices should NOT be paid.

The PILOT was granted until August 2007 when the County cancelled the railroad's PILOT because of the NYRI situation. So now the railroad approaches Highway Superintendent Roger Cleveland and Supervisor Reed demanding payment of the past invoices. What does the town board do? Of course, cave in and vote to pay them. This would be the same New York Susquehanna Railroad who is involved with New York Regional Interconnection (NYRI)...the people who want to put power lines right through Oneida County and in some of our backyards.

Here's the real irony. To verify what we remembered was the case, we spoke to the prior Town Supervisor, Ralph Humphreys. Ralph said he had at least one (1) meeting with Earle Reed to explain the situation regarding the unpaid railroad invoices and Earle Reed supported the non-payment of these invoices. To top it off, there is actually correspondence between the Town and the railroad that is available in Butler Hall. So did something happen to make Supervisor Reed change his mind or did Supervisor Reed completely forget the discussion he had with Ralph Humphreys or what was the problem?

And for the record, who else besides Concerned Citizens attended these board meetings when the aforementioned discussions took place? See for yourself...we think you will find Roger Cleveland attended each of these town board meetings and Councilman Rich Woodland was there as well. Was Councilman Woodland asleep at the switch on January 23, 2008 when the town board unanimously voted to approve the $30,000 payment?

Since Councilwoman Krupa is a lawyer, wouldn't you like to think that she would exert 'due diligence' before she rubber stamps something that she knows nothing about. Common sense would tell you that if the invoices were ignored for years and there was no reason for it, litigation would have been initiated long before now.

Further, that $30,000 is not in the budget...Highway Superintendent Roger Cleveland says he will try to negotiate a payment schedule and the town board unanimously agreed!

And now you know the "real" story...let's hope that the town board is able to admit their $30,000 mistake and make it right!

8 comments:

New York Mills Voter said...

Christine Krupa may be an attorney, however, this is what makes her even more dangerous. Why? Because she does not practice law. Even if she did, she would be useless because she knows nothing of the law - except to throw the fact in Village & Town residents that she is an attorney.

Mrs. Krupa will be held personally liable, if the Town pays any monies back to the Susquehanna Railroad, etc. This I promise!

Strikeslip said...

Since all this involves real property, all agreements would have to have been put in writing. Whether or not someone at Oneida County said that the bills should not be paid is irrelevant. (Besides, can you really believe anything you are told by Oneida County or EDGE???).

So, if the RR wants money from the town, the RR needs to show the document that entitles it to payment. And if the Town claims that the RR is not entitled to payment, the Town needs to produce the later document showing otherwise. It SHOULD be as simple as that (But with OCIDA involved, is that possible).

New Hartford, N.Y. Online said...

Well, Strikeslip, the paperwork is available or should we say WAS available. As I said in my blog, there is or was paperwork at Butler Hall...letters between the railroad and the town. In fact, during Ralph Humphreys' administration, the paperwork was attached to the bills that Earle Reed claims were thrown in a corner and the town board minutes agree with Ralph's story. Don't you think the railroad would have come forward sooner if their bills were unpaid for that many years? Doesn't make sense.

Add to that the fact that Ralph & Earle had a meeting on this and Earle agreed on the way it was handled.

Councilwoman Krupa got a phone call from Ralph Humphreys last night. When she was told that the paperwork was attached to the invoices she said not when they were given to her. Strange...now why would the paperwork suddenly be missing? Ralph Humphreys gave her the names of a couple of people who can attest to what went on and why the decision was made.

You have to wonder why all of a sudden the paperwork would be missing...sort of makes it sound more sinister than it does like Earle Reed's forgetfulness...doesn't it? We are sure that Ms. Krupa will be getting to the bottom of the situation very soon.

Anonymous said...

Why is Rogger Cleveland negotiating this anyway? He has nothing to do with.

Or maybe he's found a way to get a piece of the 30000

New Hartford, N.Y. Online said...

Anonymous,

Roger is involved because he is the Highway Superintendent. Earle Reed never gets involved with anything, thus is why he always looks and acts like he is "clueless". He lets the dept. heads handle situations.

As far as Roger, we know for a fact that he was fully aware of the correspondence between the town and the railroad. His motives for what was done at the January 23, 2008 town board meeting are unclear, but sooner or later we will probably all find out.

Anonymous said...

Further, that $30,000 is not in the budget...

Maybe they could sell some surplus town property to raise these funds.

But seriously, why the sudden need to pay Susquehanna RR? Is Susquehanna going to scratch someone's back in return?

New Hartford, N.Y. Online said...

Anonymous,

That's a good question...why has it all of a sudden become an issue. Further, why are the letters outlining the agreement between the railroad and the town suddenly not attached to the invoices?

We will definitely be keeping an eye on the situation.

Anonymous said...

The problem with OCIDA is that Bob Calli, Attorney and New Hartford School Board Member may have a conflict-of-interest in these two positions.

While it has been said that Mr. Calli has been suspended from practicing law...no one can tell the public that this man uses his legal training - even while being suspended.

I question the validity too, of these so-called "sweetheart" deals made by Town of New Hartford, County of Oneida and New Hartford School Board members. Seems to me that there is a law on the books that precludes using tax revenue in the manner that was put forth in the recent O.D. article(s) involving New Hartford and Hartford Insurance Company et al.