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Potsdam village board passes recreation agreement

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POTSDAM — The village has approved a memorandum of understanding to set in motion the town’s eventual takeover of the Potsdam recreation program.

The agreement will now be sent to the Town Council.

The village’s Board of Trustees passed the agreement 4-0. Trustee Stephen J. Warr was absent.

“I’m saying aye reluctantly, because I think there are a lot of demands in it, but I think it’s the best we’re going to get,” said Trustee Ruth Garner.

With this vote, the town and village are close to coming to an agreement after months of negotiation over the future of the recreation program.

The village is currently responsible for half the cost of the program, but the board voted in March to drop financial support for recreation, turning over full control to the town.

If everything goes according to plan, the takeover will happen at the start of 2015.

Under the agreement, the village will sell all of the land and facilities from the recreation program to the town for $1, including Sandstone Park and Pine Street Arena. Recreation equipment like the Zamboni, two pickup trucks, four lawnmowers and hockey equipment will be turned over to the town at no cost.

In addition, the village will pay the retirement benefits of former recreation employees George Jerome and Frank Bradish.

The town and village will split the cost of health benefits for current Recreation Director Timothy W. Carey, both while he is employed and once he is retired. The village will be responsible for the remainder Mr. Carey’s retirement benefits.

The village will provide water and sewer service to Sandstone Park at a flat rate of $1,000 annually. This rate will increase in proportion to any increases in the village water and sewer rate.

Finally, the village will pay half of any matching-fund agreements required to earn state grants for the program for five years after the town’s takeover. This will be paid in cash or services.

The town will be responsible for paying off the remainder of a $675,000 bond that was taken out in 2010 for improvement to Pine Street Arena.

The town has yet to approve this memorandum, but since it worked with the village to create the agreement it is expected to pass a town board vote without a hitch.

“We’re making excellent progress,” Mayor Steven W. Yurgartis said. “I’m excited to see this go forward.”

The town plans to create a special recreation taxing district to fund recreation. The district would include all property except in the village of Norwood. Village of Potsdam tax rates would drop once the village no longer has to support recreation, but town tax rates would rise accordingly.

Town residents will have the chance to petition for a vote before the special taxing district takes effect. If a petition gathers 140 signatures a referendum will be scheduled.

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