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Village of Adams to resume talks to borrow money for fire hall expansion

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ADAMS — The village Board of Trustees on Monday night will again consider borrowing up to $1.2 million for an expansion of its fire hall.

Despite the protests of residents, including the head of the village’s Planning Board, Mayor Patricia C. Sweetland said she was confident that the board would move forward with the project and that it would cost less than the maximum borrowing amount.

“I believe the board has done its job in getting these pieces together,” she said.

William J. Doe, Planning Board chairman, said Tuesday that he hoped the board would take the matter straight to a public vote, rather than force him and other opponents to track down the signatures.

“If this community were fully supportive of the fire company, then so be it,” he said. “But they should educate the people and sell the project if they really need it, then put it out to referendum.

The board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday.

Ms. Sweetland appeared less than enthusiastic about the possibility of taking the matter to the ballot, as it would mean the project would take more time, adding additional costs to the project.

Mr. Doe said he met with Ms. Sweetland early Tuesday to make his case again, in a meeting described as contentious by those with knowledge of its subject matter.

The board tabled a decision about the project after absences of Deputy Mayor Nancy C. Murphy and Trustee Todd M. Race and the abstention of Trustee Philip F. Chatterton left it with only four votes in favor of the borrowing. The board will need five trustees to make the borrowing official.

If approved, residents will have 30 days to return a petition with 185 signatures to force a referendum for residents to vote on in November.

The mayor and Robert D. Simpson, former village department chief and a member of the department’s building committee, met with the Times at her office Tuesday afternoon.

A major point of contention for Mr. Doe is that many of the department members go to help areas outside of the village where residents pay for service.

“We think there should be an equitable distribution of those costs,” he said.

Ms. Sweetland countered that raising costs for covering portions of the towns of Adams, Lorraine and Ellisburg may cause those municipalities to drop their service. She said the outside service brings in about $36,500.

“You’re running the risk if you push too hard,” she said. “You gotta be reasonable.”

Mr. Simpson said the municipalities could decide to tap the village department’s service only through mutual aid, which it could receive for free.

“That’s not going to help us and it’s not going to help them,” he said.

Mr. Doe also has opposed the project because of impact on taxes. In advance of costs for the project, the village increased its tax rate by 6 percent in April, to $7.10 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Ms. Sweetland contended that the project could not wait any longer, and that the building’s size problems create a safety hazard.

“Nobody likes taxes; I don’t like taxes,” she said. “But if you’re going to have services, you have to pay for it.”

However, Ms. Sweetland, Mr. Simpson and trustees including Keith S. Perry have argued that the village has done its part to cut costs from its initial price tag of about $3 million to its current estimate of about $1 million to make it more agreeable to taxpayers.

“This is a garage with two bathrooms,” Mr. Simpson said.

Among the cost-cutting methods for the board and department have been reducing features in the building, changing certain dimensions and building materials and transferring some of the paving and exterior work to village and town of Adams workers.

NOTE: This story has been edited to correctly list the name of Robert D. Simpson.

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