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September 18, 2018

FRB to Fulton: $400,000 Grant With Strings Attached


FULTON, NY – After six months of research the city of Fulton received its review report from the state’s financial restructuring board on Monday (June 30) which includes several recommendations and an offering of $400,000 in grant money if certain conditions are met.

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(click to open report in a new window)

“There’s still more they want us to do,” Mayor Ron Woodward said on Tuesday.

During the Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments meeting on Monday (June 30) Todd Sherman, of the state’s budget division, reviewed for members the freshly published comprehensive reviews for the first three communities that the committee agreed to undertake, including the city of Fulton.

“The first applicant community was the city of Fulton,” Sherman said during that meeting. “The erosion of the economic base in the city of Fulton is a particular challenge. With the loss of the facilities of Nestle, Birdseye and Miller Brewing over time the community has lost in excess of 3,000 full time positions. So that is really the fundamental challenge that we face.”

The city asked for help from the state’s review board last October after Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli declared the city in fiscal distress due to its higher than average property tax rate and dwindling financial reserves.

Monday’s FRB meeting and released report fulfilled the board’s initial obligation to the city of Fulton to assist the ailing municipality with its foundering economy by devising a comprehensive review plan within six months of its November application acceptance.

In the 27 page Comprehensive Review Report ratified by the FRB on Monday, there are a few caveats noted before any grant money would be awarded.

The first is that in order to quality for any financial assistance the city must first develop a shared services plan with the county and “its other governmental neighbors.”

“It really is the gateway recommendation,” Sherman told FRB members Monday. “At the point where we have a shared services plan we will come back to the board with that recommendation, then there are other recommendations that we would also come back to the board with specific grant recommendations.”

During meetings with FRB staff over the past six months, Woodward pointed out that the city already shares services as outlined in the chart below, but the board’s report states, “successful development and implementation of this shared services plan is a prerequisite to receiving any other potential board award or grant.”

The FRB notes that its chart also highlights “significant duplication of services” between Fulton, the county, and the towns of Granby and Volney.

FSB Svs Chart

Although board members did not state in their synopsis any exact requirements or recommendations to meet the shared services condition, the report states, “If the city of Fulton is to begin to restore balance to and rebuild its financial structure and annual budget, it must maximize available savings from pursuing and implementing a new shared services plan with its governmental partners. An effective plan will not only enable the city to reduce its cost structure going forward, but should also help partnering governments to reduce their costs as well.”

Once that condition has been met, the FRB has offered the city of Fulton $50,000 in grant money for leaders to update and/or revise the community’s “Comprehensive Master Plan” as a way to identify challenges, opportunities and resources “to reinvent the municipality with a five-, ten-, and twenty-year road map for the future.”

With respect to future development, the board recommends Fulton’s leaders continue to pursue developers and buyers for the city owned former Fulton Terminals superfund site along state Route 481.

While Woodward has indicated there are commercial investors interested in the property, without adequate sewer – which the city does not have money to install – those remain pipe dreams.

Once the Comprehensive Master Plan is in place, “the Board may, in its sole discretion, award a grant of up to $100,000 to the city to help defray the costs of extending sewer infrastructure, tied to a plan to secure new businesses and job creation. … (but) any potential award … shall be contingent upon the successful development and implementation of the recommended shared services plan,” the report states.

The FRB’s report also acknowledges the forward momentum at the former Nestle’s plant and its interest in helping to further that progress by way of a $250,000 grant to help the city “create shovel ready land to attract new businesses development and ownership.”

If the city obtains ownership of the property, the grant money could be used to help the city defray the costs of demolition and asbestos removal, and would be tied to a plan to bring new businesses and jobs to the community, according to the report recommendation.

Meanwhile, Woodward said on Tuesday that the city is monitoring current owner Carbonstead LLC as it works through its contract obligations already in place to bring an ALDI’s Food Store to the property, at the same time city leaders are working to secure the community’s interest if the scrap company’s owner is unable to fulfill his obligations.

Other recommendations noted in the Comprehensive Review encourage the city to alter its relationship with the county for collection of unpaid property taxes; and to budget within the state’s 2 percent tax cap in order to qualify for 2015 tax relief offered by the state.

The FRB also advised city leaders it would be in the community’s best interest to:

  • Pursue special state legislation to create a Real Property Tax exemption program with incentives for new development and redevelopment to grow the city’s tax base and help to minimize or reduce blight, while also increasing the overall quality of life for residents;
  • Address during its upcoming contract negotiations with its fire and police unions the “certain contractual work rules or requirements leading to unaffordable costs”;
  • And consider City Code revisions to raise thresholds on competitive bidding, adding more detail to its supplemental purchasing policy, and consider hiring a purchasing agent.

The resolution unanimously approved by the FRB Monday states, “If the city agrees to abide by and implement one or more of the recommendations contained in the Comprehensive Review report, the board may, in its sole discretion, award funding to implement the recommendations of the report; the specific structure and conditions of any such funding, which would be developed in consultation with the city, and any other aspects of such funding would be subject to an affirmative vote of a majority of the total members of the board at a later date.”

“This is just the end of the beginning,” FRB Chairman Robert Menga said. “We need more work to get done and that’s certainly true with the Comprehensive Review Report for the city of Fulton.”

The New York State Restructuring Board for Local Governments was staffed with 10 appointees last fall to make recommendations to qualified local governments on improving fiscal stability, management and the delivery of public services.

The board is empowered to provide awards of up to $5 million per municipality through the Local Government Performance Efficiency Program to eligible applicants and also serves as an alternative arbitration panel for binding arbitration between municipalities and unions such as police and fire.

City leaders received the report on Tuesday and are reviewing its content and recommendations.

7 Responses “FRB to Fulton: $400,000 Grant With Strings Attached”

  1. IM Watching
    July 4, 2014 at 10:41 am

    I would not go anywhere near that Nestle’s plant would be taking on another Brown field, the city will own that problem also. The big elephant in the room is the police department, sit down with the Oswego County Sheriff negotiate a takeover of the Department with the patrol personnel trading in their uniforms for deputies uni’s, get rid of upper level supervisors and all other clerks, Fire Department close one house and make a deal with mutual aid. Turn over all the deliquent properties and city owned tax properties and surplus land to the county to auction yearly to get them back on the tax rolls as quickly as possible. That’s the kind of consolidation the state is looking for, privatize the garbage collection with a tax credit back to property owners so they can pay for private services, snow removal can be consolidated with county highway plows. Until you reduce labor costs you will continue to head toward the city’s bankruptcy and non existence. Nobody is going to bail out the city (one of many in NY), poor leadership has kicked the can down the road too long, stay tuned for the solution to that.

  2. Proud of my city!
    July 5, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    Negotiate with the Osw. Co. Sherriffs? I don’t think I’d feel safe being protected by them, sorry. Better idea….negotiate a take over by the NYS Troopers….they’re better trained and actually do the job right the first time. As for the former Nestle’s site…I trust that my city government would know if their were any major problems there so, “Brown field”…I highly doubt it. Fire Department? I certainly hope that if one of the stations is forced to close….it’s not on your side of the river because I’d hate to listen to you complain about how long it took them to come and assist you, if…God forbid you ever needed their help.
    You did however make some good suggestions about consolidating services like snow plowing with the county and privatizing garbage collection.

  3. Janet Rebeor
    July 6, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    IM Watching and Proud of my city!,
    Police protection is clearly something that has been discussed. Page 27 of the financial restructuring committee’s report is a staffing model for Fulton’s police department created by the Division of Local Government Services and based on information provided by the mayor’s office.
    The mayor said in January that police calls data was one of the few pieces of information that the FRB requested.
    Even if city leaders do not accept the potential grants, the fire and police department budgets represent the lion’s share of the city’s budget. This is an important discussion for the community, so let’s have it.
    You both agree that the local police force should be re-assigned. Without slinging mud – can you say why? What services are mandatory in order to serve a community?
    Also, would you feel safe with a citywide volunteer fire department in place of the current paid fire service?
    ~jlr

  4. IM Watching
    July 6, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    You need to be looking to the future, nothing dramatic is going to happen to change the decline in the city. If anyone thinks we can continue paying three salaries for each police, fire personnel in the city if just isn’t going to be possible. Three salaries mean the present person, the one that just retired and the one that retired before him are being paid. So being proactive we need to consolidate with either the sheriff or the state troopers if possible thereby continuing police protection but eliminating some positions to scale down as well as the fire department; ie. how many people are sent out for a fender bender lets do some analysis of that and other work rules to see what we can creatively change.
    The Fulton Public library needs to try to strike a deal with the local college and make it a combined college and citizens library to share these costs.
    The writing is on the wall, this city will not exist if they continue doing it the same way and once if files bankruptcy all contracts end and things won’t get funded. Thinking somebody is going to bail out this “little city” is terrible planning and leadership.

  5. Proud of my city!
    July 6, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    “You both agree that the local police force should be re-assigned. Without slinging mud – can you say why? What services are mandatory in order to serve a community?”

    There is honestly no way for me to answer this question without potentially “slinging mud”. So I’ll leave it at this, based on past experience, IF we were to merge with an outlying agency I would feel 100% safer with the NYS Troopers.

    As to the fire dept. issue…No I can’t say that I would feel safer with a city wide volunteer fire dept. If you look at other Volunteer fire depts. in outlying areas, you’ll notice that volunteers are hard to come by and that’s not just an issue at the fire depts. either. I think having a paid fire department guarantees us that the station is manned and ready to go 24/7, while with a volunteer department, you have to wait for the volunteers to get to the station. Volunteers have other jobs that they get paid for so they aren’t always available to be on call, paid firemen/women are already there ready to go.

  6. We need a change
    July 7, 2014 at 10:11 am

    I agree with Proud of my city as far as NY State Troopers vs OC Sheriff’s … also, the city needs to quit playing landlord and sell the properties they hold … there is one next to me that when I look out any window on one side of my house it looks like a mini dump … city owned/rented out …

    I don’t believe closing any fire station and depending on mutual aid is a grand idea at all … close the one on the west side, a fire happens at the high school and the east side has to come with mutual aid from Granby? Cody? … Close the east side and a fire happens at Pathfinder Courts and the west side has to come with mutual aid from Volney? Palermo? … which are volunteer FD? … will people be available in time? …

    Before you suggest cutting needed and possible life saving services, THINK …

  7. Fulton- city with a future
    July 7, 2014 at 10:50 am

    I would have to agree with proud of my city. The one thing you guys are forgetting is the main objective is to keep jobs. Fulton biggest problem is there is not enough job placement. If the nestles plant isn’t repaired it will continue to be an eye sore. If there is opportunity to bring more jobs to fulton I say go with it! Also I do agree that the city police should merge with the state troopers, who are possibly more trained and effiecent. I don’t believe we should make our fire departments all volunteer. Speaking personally I lost my house to a fire in volney and the response time could have been better if it wasn’t volunteer . Fulton has so much potential if we just had to motivation to fix the city and a mayor who really cares to fix it. Fulton- city with a future!

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