By CRAIG FREILICH
POTSDAM – Potsdam Mayor Steve Yurgartis believes the village board’s vote last week to end its funding of the town-wide recreation program will result in a better-run department.
“We think the program will be better served if managed by a single entity,” Yurgartis said after the board’s 4-0 vote.
“Everyone would pay an equal share for what is a town-wide program,” he said.
But Potsdam Town Supervisor Marie Regan was taken aback by the move by the village to withdraw its financial support for the program in the assumption the town would take on the cost and the taxation for it.
Regan has called a special meeting of the town board Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the dilemma.
“I was absolutely astounded they would make a resolution like that without first having discussed it with the town board,” Supervisor Regan said.
“We’ve been discussing with the town the possibility of a town takeover for many years, but unfortunately we have made little progress,” Yurgartis said.
“The village board was reluctant to take sudden action like this, and we wouldn’t have if we felt we hadn’t exhausted all other options.
“We have attempted to establish a study committee with the town, but it had been turned down by the town.
“The board didn’t take this vote lightly, but considered it carefully and unanimously decided this was the right thing to do.
“I truly believe this is going to be better for the recreation program,” he said.
Regan accuses village government of disrespect and of “trying to look good” by lowering their tax rate while the town’s rate would go up.
She said she got a phone call from Mayor Steven Yurgartis after the village meeting informing her of the village resolution.
“I think they thought they could take us by surprise and have the public see us as the bad guy if the program ends,” Regan said.
“We’re not trying to make them look bad and make us look good,” Yurgartis said. “We’re trying to provide an equitable program. Why shouldn’t a single entity run the program?
“This is an opportunity for them to run it as they see fit,” Mayor Yurgartis said.
The annual cost for the program was about $320,000 in total last year, split roughly evenly between town and village governments.
Among the things they will talk about are the possibility of forming a recreation district, similar in concept to the Potsdam Library District, to handle the complicating factor of the Village of Norwood, which is part of the Town of Potsdam but which has its own recreation program.
Regan said to keep the Potsdam program going, the town would have to take on the total $320,000 cost of the program, but if it were a general fund levy, the portion of the amount in taxes Norwood residents pay would have to go up while they would see no extra benefit.
“We’re checking with lawyers and the state Association of Towns, and they’re telling us we can’t make them pay. The only way to get them to pay” through the town’s general fund, she said, “is to get them to also turn their program over to the Town of Potsdam. I don’t think they want to do that. Even if it was legal, they wouldn’t think it was fair.”