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Letter to the Editor: Proposed Conesville Law Unduly Burdens Town Residents

Written By Michael on 7/4/15 | 7/4/15

Dear Editor;

Homeowners in Schoharie County who purchase Fire Insurance beware of a controversial town lawproposed by Conesville Supervisor Bill Federice.

A Public Hearing held Wed. June 10 allowed comment on the law imposing lien on insurance proceedsfor buildings in Conesville affected by fire. Its intent claims to compel property owners to clean up after fire, giving surety that the insured not abandon their property upon receiving their settlement.

The proposed law cites purpose as: ‘more often than not when a building is damaged or destroyed byfire, that property owner will abandon that premises and fail to clean up, demolish and remove buildings and debris, even though insurance payments may have been received.’

The standing room only crowd presented mixed opinions, most believing that the law would assist the town in ridding itself of ‘condemned properties’, potentially saving the town/county costly removal. The actual number of homes abandoned from fire over 10 years by Mr. Federice’s own admission - ONE and that owner continues paying taxes on a building with interior damage. To date, no building in Conesville has been removed by town or county due to fire loss.

Federice opened the hearing by reading a prepared synopsis defining his objective, never reading aloud the proposed law. Assuring mortgage liens satisfy first, the town lien then superseding any other liens. Debate began when residents questioned differences in his explanation of law comparing to the document text. Evident his overview didn’t match the law’s wording; he admitted one change was necessary, encumbering further expense placing public announcement for a new hearing.

It’s passage allows the town to claim against insured’s proceeds implementing municipal law article 22 causing establishment of a ‘tax district’. The district is then authorized and empowered to take claim to proceeds of a fire insurance policy when perfected with article 331 of insurance law. A special account is created securing monies until the Supervisor feels satisfied to release funds. The release process unduly burdens homeowner’s already suffering hardship from their loss requiring filing of an affidavit and fulfill 6 intrusive requirements.

Some suggested discrimination against homeowners with insurance, others agreeing it fails to address existing eyesores collapsed from snowload, storm damage or neglect, and lack of provision addressing future occurrences of the same.

Suggestion was made to update current building codes (unchanged since 1984) incorporating and enforcing present NYS laws protecting against abandonment. The hearing adjourned without a vote promising more conversation on July 8. Councilmen Paul Tubiolo and John Sweatman voiced opposition leaving Kelly Smith and Mr. Federice supporting the law, leaving absentee Councilman Bob Proudman as the potential tiebreaker.

How does this affect you if you do not live in Conesville? Mr. Federice boasted that other Supervisors within county show interest in proposing this law in their towns. Unable to stop Federal government from such wide over reaches, small town rural areas can. If not for overwhelming public interest and opposition this law could have passed, only to be realized at one’s most devastated moment, whenfacing hardship of recovering from something so emotional and life altering.

Unfortunately, WE need to seek out information. With more residents attending meetings, there’s less a chance of these types of loophole laws passing by dark of night. I urge you to contact your town officials voicing opposition to any possibility of this law being proposed. Inform your neighbors, log on to the County website, force transparency. In order to make our communities more pleasant to live in we must realize that good neighboring starts with informed public engaging in the process of governing.

Joanne Noone
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