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Hearings set to get input for grants

The City Council, in a brief special meeting Monday, set up requirements to apply for up to $25,000 in planning money from the state's Small Cities grant program.

To meet an application deadline of Nov. 21, the Council will hold two required public hearings to gain community input on possible projects.

The hearings will be held at 4:30 p.m. Monday and Nov. 5 in City Hall.

If the city receives the $25,000, it must provide 40 percent in cash or in-kind services toward the cost of preparing a comprehensive master plan.

The community planning program was set up by the state's Housing Trust Fund Corp.'s Office of Community Renewal. About $500,000 is available for local communities to identify development challenges and needs, and establish a strategy to address them.

In his memo to the Council, City Manager Jason R. Molino said the plan also could identify other potential funding sources, including state, federal and private financing.

In another matter, the city's intermunicipal agreement to provide ambulance service to 18 towns and fire districts -- whose one-year extension is due for renewal at the end of the year -- came under fire from spokesmen for the Corfu and East Pembroke volunteer fire districts.

Both claimed the service has become too expensive, and the city's bill for the extension came after 2009 budgets had been adopted.

Despite the complaints, the city maintains that response outside the city is close to 100 percent.

The plan, initiated a year ago, was to charge for emergency response by the city Fire Department to calls outside the city limits.

Based on frequency among the various entities, the $110,000 in fees would permit the city to add a new ambulance to its fleet every year.

Councilman-at-Large Frank C. Ferrando said that "the city should not be in the business that is partly subsidized by city taxpayers."

The Council also came under fire from Howard Owens, publisher of the Batavian, a stand-alone online newspaper.

Owens contended city officials aren't cooperating with his request for information.

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