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Hidy fires salvo back at town board

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MASSENA - Massena’s mayor is criticizing town officials for suggesting the village board can’t be trusted.

“Mr. Macaulay (Town Councilman John F. Macaulay) speaks about trust, but it was the town board without giving any consideration or correspondence to the village until after the fact that they cut funding for Avis’s (Code Enforcement Secretary Avis Hazelton) salary from 50/50 to 60/40,” Massena Mayor James F. Hidy said. “So perhaps it should be the village that should be a little leery of the future intentions of the town.”

At the center of the debate is the town’s code enforcement officer, Peter T. Devine, who was hired by the village on Aug. 20 but resigned just one week after accepting the post. He was appointed after a joint session where representatives from the two boards interviewed candidates for the code enforcement officer following the retirement of Gregory Fregoe.

The town and village had been negotiating an agreement for a joint code enforcement officethat would have called for the village to pay for 50 percent of Mr. Devine’s salary, and the town to pay the other half.

However, following Mr. Devine’s resignation that agreement is now out the window, as the village is planning to use its paid professional firefighters to fulfill its code enforcement duties. Both Mr. Hidy and the town board agree though, a second agreement is needed to discuss how Ms. Hazelton’s salary will be divided between the municipalities.

Mr. Hidy said that agreement is currently being negotiated between the village attorney and the town attorney, but Mr. Hidy is of the understanding the salary split will remain at 60/40, with the village paying the higher percentage.

As for Mr. Devine’s resignation, Mr. Hidy said there is a great deal that has gone on behind the scenes that people may not be aware of.

“With regard to Mr. Devine, there’s more to the story than meets the eye,” he said, reiterating that Mr. Devine resigned from his position.

Mr. Macaulay, speaking at this week’s town board meeting, said that while an agreement between the town and village is still needed to finalize the terms of who pays how much of Ms. Hazelton’s salary, at this point he doesn’t trust the village.

“We can’t trust them anymore,” he said at the meeting. “They voted to hire that guy too, if they’re (village board) allowing the mayor to do what he wants in that office, shame on them.”

Mr. Macaulay said Mr. Hidy doesn’t have the authority to hire or fire anyone.“It doesn’t matter what he thinks,” Mr. Macaulay said. “The mayor cannot unilaterally take action without the board agreeing to it.”

Mr. Hidy said he is fully aware of the limitations of his office.

The mayor then questioned whether the town’s unionized employees can trust the town board.

“When Mr. (Town Supervisor Joseph D.) Gray says that he doesn’t give a damn about a union contract, he needs to realize the village board has to stand by our agreements with our employees,” Mr. Hidy said. “I don’t understand with the town having unionized employes as well how he could make such a comment.”

Mr. Hidy also said he believes the town board should be doing more to help the village, noting that the village is actually part of the town.

“Another issue of concern is the fact that all village taxpayers pay town taxes, but no town residents pay village taxes,” he said. “Yet day to day they all take advantage of the infrastructure within the village without consideration of gaming compact monies to help defray financial challenges to the village.”

Mr. Hidy said the town will receive nearly $1 million in gaming compact money, which is supposed to be used for economic development.

“After communicating with Kevin Felt, county treasurer, I was told the town will be receiving close to $1 million, none of which we’ll see,” he said. “Those are monies that could be used for economic development and the revitalization of the village. They should be sharing that wealth with the village.”

The bottom line though, Mr. Hidy sai,d is he and the village board answer to the village and its taxpayers, not the town board.

“At the end of the day the village board has a fiduciary responsibility to its residents and that’s the oath this board will continue to maintain,” he said.

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