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Decision: Fulton Sewer Plant Annexation Is In Overall Public Interest

FULTON, NY – The city of Fulton’s annexation of the town of Granby property and city’s sewer treatment facility “is in the overall public interest” according to the Supreme Court Appellate Division decision announced Friday.

The final decision that the Fulton Wastewater Treatment Plant could become part of the city was announced by the New York State Court of Appeals in a memorandum and order that declares the decision of the panel of three referees assigned to the case and the appellate court judges’ approval.

“The Referees unanimously concluded that the proposed annexation is in the overall public interest and recommended that we grant the city’s petition in its entirety, and we agree with that recommendation. We therefore confirm the report of the Referees, grant the petition and grant judgment in favor of petitioner adjudging that the proposed annexation is in the overall public interest” according to Friday’s decision.

The city of Fulton carried the burden of proving why the annexation was in the overall public interest and the referees said in their advice that there was no question that the annexation would significantly benefit the city.

Calling the waste water treatment facility the “nerve center” of the city’s sewage treatment system, it was further noted the plant is “a vital component of the city’s municipal utility infrastructure.”

While annexation would allow the city to “better manage, preserve and protect the system,” the higher court also noted that including the parcel as part of the city of Fulton would “significantly reduce the city’s tax liability and, therefore, the facility’s operating expenses.”

The document states that through annexation the city would be relieved of town, town highway, fire district, school district and county real property taxes “which totaled $116,183.46 in 2012.”

The decision notes that the town agreed that the increased tax burden on its residents would be “minimal,” with a projected increase of only about 7.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

According to the document, the town further agreed that “[t]he City’s tax savings of approximately $116,183.46 per year far outweigh the minimal loss in tax revenue to the Town, Town Highway Department, and Granby Center Fire District, combined, of approximately $12,983.41 per year.”

Noting that because the city already provides full time police and fire protection, water and sewer, and road maintenance to its treatment plant facility, and is better able to handle chemical spills or other emergencies – even though the property is located outside the city limits – the referees said annexation would also benefit the territory overall.

The issue of annexing the city of Fulton’s sewer treatment facility began in 2012 when the state raised the assessed value of the plant and the land from $3,012,047 to $3,934,044.

Based on the higher assessed value, the city was responsible to pay more than $116,000 a year in county, town, school, fire and highway district taxes.

Town of Granby Supervisor Ed Williamson said during a public hearing in 2012 that the town did ask the state to reduce the tax assessment on the treatment plant property, but the state refused.

In October 2012 when the matter of annexing the Granby property was appealed to the DEC, Commissioner Joseph Martens upheld the city of Fulton’s position as lead agency.

The annexation relies on a novel interpretation of the adjacent property rule, using the riverbed between the east bank of the Oswego River at Indian Point and Pathfinder Trail and the west bank where the treatment plant is located as the connection to the parcel.

According to Martens’ decision the land beneath the river belongs to the state but is under the territorial jurisdiction of the town.

With the DEC siding with the city, the town of Granby then filed a petition with the County Clerk denying annexation.

The next month the city of Fulton filed a petition in Supreme Court for a judgment in the matter of annexation, according to documents filed with the Oswego County Clerk.

In response to that petition, in May 2013 Supreme Court Judge James McCarthy ruled the argument by the town “in support of its position that the city of Fulton failed to comply with SEQRA is without merit, its challenge to the actions of the city is in all respects denied, and its petition … is in all respects denied.”

The town of Granby appealed but Friday’s Appellate Division upheld McCarthy’s decision.

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City of Fulton, outlined in red, has cleared the latest hurdle to annexing its sewer treatment plant, highlighted in yellow.