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Letter to the Editor: Proposed Conesville Law is in Town Residents Best Interests

Written By Michael on 7/5/15 | 7/5/15

Dear Editor,

Thank you for your request for information on the proposed Conesville Local Law Imposing a Lien on Insurance Proceeds for Buildings Damaged or Destroyed by Fire. Your interest in Conesville is appreciated.

The intent of this proposed local law is to remove a health and safety hazard while protecting the taxpayers of Conesville from potential financial burden by ensuring the property owner uses a portion of an insurance payout towards their legal obligation to remediate or demolish the structure in question by placing sufficient funds in an escrow account until the work is done.

I cannot claim this law as an original idea that I devised. After asking the New York State Association of Towns to help me investigate a possible solution for a potential problem structure in the Town of Conesville they found a local law in the Town of Rotterdam which addresses the very same issue. With some changes, the Rotterdam law was used as the Conesville template and has been reviewed by legal counsel and is in full compliance with New York State General Municipal Law and the New York Insurance Law. Interestingly, after hearing of the proposed law for Conesville; I am told several towns have since contacted our Town Attorney to discuss their interest in enacting a similar law in their town.

In addition to the need to protect the health and safety of our residents my concern is also the cost to the taxpayers of Conesville. A structure involved in a devastating fire which caused me to start this effort was condemned several months ago but the owner has failed to take action. Yes, there are legal remedies to force compliance. Unfortunately, if the owner does not take action it will be the taxpayers who will have to fund the demolition and then the Town would have to seek to recover those costs through legal action and a lien on the property which has minimal value. Our options for satisfactory recovery are limited.

At the public hearing some said this law is heavy handed and unfair to the owners of condemned structures who carry fire insurance. Not so. If the owner has the funds in their insurance to cover demolition or remediation, we are only ensuring they fulfill their legal obligations. Is it fair or unfair for the owner leaving the expense of demolition to the taxpayers of Conesville?

One individual at the public hearing claimed insufficient notice and publicity was given to the public hearing for this law. The local law was advertised in a legal notice as required, notice of public hearing was placed on the Town web site, publicized on the roadside announcement board at Town Hall and the proposed law was made available at the Town Hall. Since I took office I count as one of my accomplishments the fact the Town of Conesville has never been as transparent as it is now. Not even close.

The whole point of a public hearing is to solicit input and comment from interested parties. We did that and will incorporate some of the comments into a revised version without compromising the intent of what we are trying to accomplish which is to protect the health and safety of our citizens while protecting them from the financial burden of the Town picking up the tab to take down the structure if the owner does not.

It is the job of the Town to protect the physical and financial interests of all of us. When I saw the same law in another town in neighboring Schenectady County I felt it was my duty to bring forward the idea of this opportunity which would be of benefit to our residents. It will be the decision of the Town Board to decide if this proposed local law makes sense for Conesville. I can live with whatever is decided. But the residents of the Town of Conesville will also have to live with that decision.

William A. Federice, Supervisor
Town of Conesville
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