Edgemont voters today authorized the Greenville Fire District to borrow up to $1.785 million next year to fund the purchase of a new ladder truck, do repairs to the firehouse and cover an unprecedented five-fold increase expected next year in Town-negotiated tax certiorari refunds.
The vote was 81-11 in favor of borrowing up to $950,000 for the ladder truck, 82-10 for up to $285,000 in repairs to the firehouse, and 73-16 to bond up to $550,000 in tax certiorari refunds. Veteran fire commissioner Walter Groden ran unopposed for a new five-year term and received 88 votes.
All five fire commissioners had supported the bond issue, which also won the unanimous support last week of the Edgemont Community Council. Today’s vote was a rebuke to Town Supervisor Paul Feiner who many believe was campaigning against the bond issue, although he denied having done so.
Mr. Feiner recorded an anti-fire tax telephone message that was sent yesterday to hundreds of Edgemont residents who live in the 10530 area code. Even though the message was intended for a pro-consolidation candidate for fire commissioner that Mr. Feiner was supporting in the neighboring Hartsdale fire district, Greenville poll workers reported that several residents who voted today said they had either heard the phone message or received one of Mr. Feiner’s flyers warning that fire taxes are “almost as high as town taxes.” In fact, fire taxes in Edgemont are substantially less than town taxes.
Mr. Feiner was also quoted in the Journal News as being opposed to Edgemont borrowing to pay for the upcoming tax cert refunds, insisting that the fire district reduce spending, which fire commissioners said would put fire protection services in Edgemont at risk.
The Greenville fire district raises about $9 million annually in taxes to fund emergency services in Edgemont and receives no other sources of income.
By contrast, the Town has an annual budget in excess of $80 million and receives millions of dollars of additional revenue each year from mortgage taxes, sales taxes, cable franchise taxes, as well as numerous application and user fees.
The Journal News also published an election eve story about a letter to the Westchester District Attorney’s office alleging that Greenville fire district officials had committed “insurance fraud” in connection with an insurance claim it filed over two years ago to cover $4,000 in damages to its aging ladder truck which was involved in an August 2012 collision with a car at the corner of Old Army and Ardsley Roads.
Journal News did not say who had filed the complaint or why it chose to publish the story on the eve of the fire district’s bond vote. Fire officials denied any wrongdoing and said they were unaware of any investigation.
Former Journal News editor Milt Hoffman, who supports Mr. Feiner’s campaign to consolidate the Hartsdale, Fairview and Greenville fire districts, which Edgemont leaders opposed because it would have resulted in a 24% hike in Edgemont fire taxes, sent an email blast shortly after the story was published Sunday warning Edgemont voters that the Journal News had uncovered a “million dollar fraud” in its fire district. Neither Mr. Hoffman nor Mr. Feiner corrected that misinformation.
Similar misinformation was published in the online publication The Daily Greenburgh Voice, which reported that the million dollar ladder truck had been “lost” in the 2012 accident. Efforts yesterday to get the story corrected were ignored by editors of that publication, which continued to run the misleading story all day today.
At the end of the day though, none of those concerns seemed to matter as Edgemont voters overwhelmingly approved the bond issue.
Mr. Feiner had better results for himself in the Fairview and Hartsdale Fire Districts where the two candidates for fire commissioner he backed were successful in their races. Mr. Feiner used the Town’s email list to congratulate the two candidates he supported, as well as applaud the efforts of Mr. Hoffman on their behalf.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Feiner made no mention tonight of Mr. Hoffman’s election eve smear tactics over the weekend against the Greenville Fire District.
Mr. Feiner, who does not live in any of the fire districts, made no secret of his efforts to politicize the races in Hartsdale and Fairview and in tonight’s town-wide email blast, he called the two candidates he supported the “reform” candidates — a term many would take issue with.
Even though Mr. Feiner chose to run no candidates in Greenville, and given Edgemont’s support today of the bond referendum, they would almost certainly have been trounced if he had, some Edgemont fire officials are worried that if Mr. Feiner succeeds in politicizing the Hartsdale Fire District, which appears to be his aim, the long-standing cooperation between Hartsdale and Greenville could begin to unravel, with Greenville having to rely more frequently on neighboring fire departments in Scarsdale and Yonkers.