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Mayor, public blast town for not signing fire contract

The village of Tupper Lake presented its budget during a public hearing Wednesday afternoon and it featured a potential tax rate increase of nearly 9 percent.

That's because of an unusual delay from the town in signing a contract to pay for fire department services it receives from the village.

Town officials said they want to renegotiate their contract with the village. They explained during a board meeting Monday that they want a flat fee rather than a rate based on property assessments. The town is also dragging its feet on paying its share of a recent equipment purchase and helping to fund a village plan to build a new fire hall.

Town officials did not offer any specifics about how they would like the new rate to be calculated.

The village of Tupper Lake must approve its final budget in just two weeks. If it doesn't have a contract from the town by then, it will have to absorb the total cost of the fire department. This would add an extra $130,000 to the village's tax levy and increase its tax rate from 1.7 percent to 8.8 percent.

It would also leave the town without a contract for fire and rescue services.

During a village budget hearing Wednesday, Mayor Mickey Desmarais called the town's behavior "stupid."

"It's really a no-brainer," Desmarais said. "The amount a town resident pays [in taxes for the fire department] is less then a night out for dinner."

Desmarais also blasted town officials for hesitating to help pay for protective clothing and equipment for the department's volunteers.

"They can't fight a fire in their pajamas," Desmarais said, adding that the bills the town is getting are essential to the department's operation and are not up for negotiation.

One member of the public complained that the town has waited "until the eleventh hour" to try to renegotiate its contract.

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