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Fri., Oct. 9
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Potsdam recreation district won’t be ready by election day


POTSDAM — Hopes for a Nov. 5 vote on the creation of a recreation district have slipped away as Town Council members continue to hash out the details of the necessary agreement with the village.

The board held a special meeting Monday to discuss the draft of a memorandum of understanding between the municipalities. The draft was written by village officials and outlines the duties of each municipality should the town take sole control of the recreation program. The program now is funded evenly between the town and village, but the village voted in March to drop support and hand off full responsibility to the town.

The town plans to create a special taxing district to fund the program. The district would include all town residents except those who live in the village of Norwood, which has its own recreation program.

The board would have had to vote in support of the memorandum of understanding by Monday to fall within the tight timetable required for an election-day referendum, but that did not happen. Board members agreed with the broad strokes of the agreement, but the devil is in the details.

“I think there’s a lot more that needs to be worked out with this before we go ahead,” Councilman Michael J. Zagrobelny said.

The village has agreed to turn over all recreation properties, assets and equipment to the town. Town board members said they wanted a full list of what they will be getting before finalizing the agreement.

Board members also wanted to know how much the village would charge the town for water and sewer services to Pine Street Arena.

The main concern is the future cost of retirement benefits for longtime Recreation Director Timothy W. Carey. Mr. Carey is a village employee, and is only three years away from being able to retire with full benefits. The village has a larger health and retirement package than the town.

The memorandum of understanding calls for Mr. Carey to continue in the new program with the same pay and benefits, with the cost split evenly between the town and village. Upon his retirement, the town and village would continue to split the cost of his retirement benefits.

Most board members agreed with this compromise, but asked that it be worded more specifically to clear up confusion in the draft agreement.

Board members will revise the draft and send it back to the village for consideration.

If the agreement is passed, there will have to be a waiting period during which the town would hold public informational meetings before it takes effect.

During that time those within the affected area can file a petition to force the issue to a vote. If a petition gathers 140 signatures, a referendum will be scheduled, possibly in early 2014.

Had the town board passed the agreement Monday, it might have been possible to complete the required steps in time for a Nov. 5 vote. However, board members agreed that acting hastily could be harmful.

“Now we’re dead in the water for the Nov. 5 election,” Town Supervisor Marie C. Regan said.

Ms. Regan said she is glad the process will not be rushed. More details have to be finalized, she said, and by delaying for a few more months, the board can avoid criticism that it is trying to rush the process.

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