Fire Dept. only bid for PJ land

By Matt Clayton - For the Sidney Daily News

PORT JEFFERSON — A new firehouse in Port Jefferson came one step closer to reality during the regularly scheduled council meeting, Monday, April 2.

Mayor Steve Butterfield told council that since the village advertised the land north of the PJ Community Center for sale, he had received only one bid. Butterfield opened the sealed envelope containing the lone bid in the presence of council and the additional 13 people in attendance. The bid was from the Port Jefferson Fire Company (PJ Fire Department), met the $22,000 minimum bid and included a check for the 10 percent down payment of the purchase price, as required. Butterfield then handed the check to Fiscal Officer Judy Fair, noting the time for submitting bids was over.

“Now we will send this bid to our village solicitor for his approval of all the paperwork. After determining everything has been handled properly, we will be able to proceed with the land sale with council’s approval. A resolution must be considered and passed by council before the sale can be completed,” said Butterfield.

Just prior to opening the bid, Butterfield had opened the floor for discussion concerning the land sale and heard several questions and a comment from village resident Dana Geuy. Geuy read a prepared statement asking if council had asked all residents if they were in agreement with the proposed land use and if the issue had the support of the township trustees. She also asked why residents were not given the right of first refusal to purchase the property, considering it was village property, and also asked for statistics concerning the number of runs the fire department makes in a year.

Addressing her first comment, Butterfield said, “There is no existing protocol for contacting each individual resident or landowner every time there is a question about land use. That’s why we present all our plans at public council meetings. The facts concerning the land sale were revealed several times at council meetings in the past and residents had ample time and opportunity to make inquiries or comment on how they felt, if they chose to do so.”

PJ Fire Chief Tom Fitzpatrick said, “We have been discussing this issue at council meetings for the last two years, and there have been numerous reports published in the Sidney Daily News about the land sale and intended use. The village also ran advertising for several weeks in the newspaper about the land being for sale and the fact they were accepting bids for the property as required by village and state law. As for how many runs we completed, it averages about 95 per year, and we will be more than willing to provide any information requested concerning this issue.”

Council member Loretta Cook pointed out that anyone could have asked about purchasing the property, but no one else did.

“We didn’t just decide to put the property up for sale. The fire department came to us a long time ago at a council meeting requesting we consider the land sale as the fire department was in dire need of a bigger building to accommodate new and larger equipment they were planning to purchase. This is something that will benefit all the village residents, as well as a great number of other people living in and around Shelby County,” said Cook. “Everyone had the same opportunity to bid on the property. It just happens that we received only one bid and that’s all we have to work with.”

Village resident Chris Geuy then asked if the land were sold to the fire department and for some reason it did not go through with building a new station, would the village buy the land back and offer it for sale again.

“If the sale goes through, it will be final,” said council member Dave Clem, “We have no intention of buying it back or holding the purchase funds in escrow until such a time it is determined everything went as planned on their end.”

Butterfield said he received a notice from the Commission of Liquor Control noting it was time to renew their permit.

“There is currently a grace period for anyone who wants to contact me or file for a rejection of the renewal before it is renewed. At present we have three permit holders: The PJ General Store, Hussey’s Restaurant, and the 47 Bar and Grill,” Butterfield said.

The mayor then noted the upcoming closure of Spring Street between Wall and Main streets. The street will be closed to all traffic from April 23 until approximately June 1.

“I just wanted to give everyone a heads-up beforehand and note the police will ticket any cars parked or driving on the roadway during the time of construction for safety reasons,” Butterfield said.

Butterfield asked council to accept an application by Donald T. Kennedy III to fill are recent vacancy in the village police department.

Council approved his appointment. The mayor also asked about approving the purchase of two body-cams for the police department along with a service agreement for two years.

“In today’s environment this is something we need,” said Butterfield. Clem agreed, noting, “Liability-wise it is a very good idea.” Council agreed to allow for the purchase using police department funds at a cost of $1,140.

By Matt Clayton

For the Sidney Daily News

The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.

The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.