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Potsdam races to create recreation district

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POTSDAM — The clock is ticking as the town tries to take control of its recreation program by the end of the year.

Potsdam will need to create a new funding district to move forward with its plan. This requires public feedback, which means the resolution to create a district would have to be passed by both the town and the village before the end of July to allow public hearings and petitions before Election Day.

The district will include the village of Potsdam and the town outside, not including the village of Norwood. The cost of recreation was split evenly between the town and village until village trustees voted in March to drop the program by the end of the year.

If the new district is created, those within it will pay an estimated 79 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. This is an increase for those outside the village, but village residents may end up paying less.

If the resolutions to create the district are passed this month, the town will need to hold public hearings in August and allow time for a petition in September. If the petition gathers enough signatures, the matter will be subject to a townwide vote Nov. 5.

The first hurdle is passing the resolution, and several obstacles stand in the way. Town Council members agreed at a meeting Tuesday that they would not pay benefits for past or present recreation employees, instead leaving that task to the village. Recreation workers are technically village employees and are under the village contract. They all would be laid off with the creation of the new district and rehired at the town’s discretion under a new contract.

Town leaders say the village likely will resist the plan, but the town has no legal obligation to former employees.

“They can say what they want, they can send us a bill, but we don’t have to pay it,” said town Councilman Michael J. Zagrobelny.

Council members also insisted that the village pitch in 50 percent of any costs needed to procure grants to fund recreation for the next 10 years and that the village turn over ownership of all recreation property to the town.

Both municipalities may be applying for a large grant later this summer to create an RV parking site for camping near Pine Street Arena.

The town is trying to schedule a meeting with village trustees for next week to discuss these topics and move forward.

If no agreement is reached, the recreation program may be in jeopardy, town Supervisor Marie C. Regan said. “We have to have a meeting with them that they can agree with, or we’re down the tubes.”

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