Fulton and Granby have agreed to disagree over the city’s wastewater treatment plant, and now a judge will have to decide who’s right.
The city and town held a joint public hearing Monday night on the city’s plan to annex the plant. Fulton owns the land on which the plant sits, but it’s in the town of Granby. As a result, the city pays about $118,000 a year in county, town, school, fire district and highway district taxes.
The city is making improvements to the plant under an order from the state and officials believe that will increase taxes on the utility property even further.
Property can only be annexed if it shares a boundary with the city. Fulton is making the novel argument that the treatment plant property, along Route 48, shares a boundary with Indian Point Landing park, which is along Route 481, across the Oswego River.
Fulton Mayor Ron Woodward said the annexation was about lowering the city’s costs so it could more readily offer breaks on water and sewer fees to big companies hoping to locate in the city. He said the prospective buyers of the closed Birds-Eye plant are asking for large subsidies from the city for water and sewer service.
Granby resident Peter Holmes criticized Woodward and the city for potentially raising taxes on other communities by taking the plant off the tax rolls. He said that it’s a “facade that you’re running this city in an economic manner” and that the purpose of the annexation is “so you can enjoy the ridiculous spending that the city does.”
“You’re entitled to your opinion,” said Woodward.
Rose Anthony, a former Granby town board member, said that Granby residents will “have to carry more taxes for you people in Fulton.”
“Why don’t you people work your own problems out,” she asked.
“Why does everyone as a whole have to cover for you guys,” asked Tim Carley.
“You guys keep giving it away and the only ones who suffer are the ones who have been here for years and years and years. And you don’t care,” said Cheryl Holmes. “You guys are bad.”
But Fulton resident Don Ross noted that utilities should not be taxes. “It’s patently wrong for anybody to tax a waste treatment plant and we shouldn’t be stuck with it.”
Dennis Merlino of Fulton echoed Woodward’s comments that reopening Birds-Eye would provide paychecks for the entire region, not just for Fulton. “If we do nothing, do we stand a better chance of stagnating the region,” he said. “If we grow the region, it seems the finances will take care of themselves. Do we want to take a very myopic view or do we want to develop the region?”
Granby Supervisor Ed Williamson said the town did ask the state to reduce the tax assessment on the treatment plant property, but the state refused.
Several speakers wondered why the city didn’t try to work a compromise with the town to avoid a court fight. The city’s lawyer, John Allen, said that the city believes that there was no legal way to do so, leaving only the court fight as an option.
As a result, “the guys with the robes are going to have to sort this one out,” said Chatfield.
If Fulton decides to proceed with the annexation effort, and Granby refuses to give up the land voluntarily, the case will be decided by a judge. Woodward thinks the case could go directly to the state’s second highest court, the Appellate Division.