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BOARD, TAXPAYERS GROUP CLASH OVER EMS STUDY

The normally cordial relationship between the Hamburg Town Board and a taxpayers association got a workout Monday night when board members accused the group of jumping to conclusions on a study of emergency medical services.

At issue is the "Municipal EMS System Feasibility Study" presented to the Town Board Dec. 15. The study, completed by a committee of volunteer firefighters, concluded an ambulance service operated by the town would not increase taxes.

Another committee of volunteer firefighters presented the option of keeping the status quo, with a commercial service backing up the nine volunteer fire companies in the town.

The pro-town service report initially was given just to Town Board members and then distributed to taxpayer groups and firefighters later in the week.

But at its own Dec. 15 meeting, the United Council of Hamburg Taxpayers Association went on record opposing the creation of a town-operated emergency medical service.

Stephen Strnad, president of the United Council, said he gave the association an update of the Dec. 15 Town Board work session, which met just before the association's meeting.

But Town Board members said Monday there was no way the group could have reviewed the nearly 50-page report before making its decision, when the Board has not had a chance to verify the figures in the report.

"To have the United Council give an opinion before reviewing the study . . . " Supervisor Patrick H. Hoak said. "We don't have the verification. We are looking into all those proposals. Could there be some numbers wrong here? Sure there can be. I don't know."

"The last 25 pages you can throw in the basket," Strnad said.

He said taxpayer groups are reviewing the report but remain opposed to a town-operated system.

"If the town takes over, the people will still be billed and taxed on top of it," he maintained.

Strnad also objected to the lack of taxpayer input, although board members said they would seek their input at the proper time.

"I don't see why taxpayers should not be involved with spending taxpayers money," Strnad said. "When you want an unbiased opinion on which way to go, you don't just need firemen, you need taxpayers."

Raymond Pawlowski of Big Tree Volunteer Fire Company said originally eight companies had representatives on the committee that produced the report, but three companies dropped off the committee.

He invited the community to a meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 6 in Big Tree Fire Hall to learn the details of the proposal.

"All we want is our fair day to show our plan," he said. "This plan has been demagogued, misleading statements spread and out and out lies."

Town Board members said they may make a decision in 1998 on how to proceed. It was a year ago that the town was notified by the state about a problem in response times for emergency medical services.

The town is negotiating a memorandum of understanding with Rural/Metro Ambulance, which is available to respond to calls when there are not enough trained volunteers responding.

Wayne Hayes, president of the Woodlawn Beach Taxpayers Association, urged the board to conduct a referendum on emergency medical service options.

"Let the people decide which way to go," Hayes said. "I know for a fact the fire companies can't even decide and its splitting them up."

Also Monday, the board conducted a public hearing on proposed changes to the zoning code.

"These zoning changes represent looking at Priority One items that came out of the master plan update," Councilman D. Mark Cavalcoli said.

The changes include spelling out the intent of various zoning classifications and putting size limitations on new construction in several zones.

"We are not changing any zoning on any particular property," said Andrew C. Reilly of Wendel, the town's planning consultant. "After we get the code in the correct language, then we will change some zoning."

The comment period was extended to Jan. 12 to give all residents a chance to comment.

The proposed revisions are available for public review at the Hamburg Town Hall, Hamburg Village Hall, Blasdell Village Hall, the Hamburg, Lake Shore and Blasdell libraries and the Chamber of Commerce of Hamburg.

The board also approved a home rule message asking the State Legislature to allow it to lease a small parcel of land at the town recreation site on Lakeview Road to Sprint Spectrum for a 220-foot tall communications tower. The 100-by-100 foot section is about 500 feet behind the ice rink and near the Thruway.

Sprint also is pursuing an alternate location on Pleasant Avenue for construction of a tower.

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