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Wheatfield councilman demands cash for fire companies from developer

WHEATFIELD – A 30-year payment plan for a not-for-profit assisted living complex in Wheatfield is on hold after Councilman Gilbert G. Doucet called on the developer to make extra payments to the five volunteer fire companies serving parts of the town.

The developer, DePaul Group, doesn’t have to make any tax payments at all because of its not-for-profit status, its attorney, Michael A. Piette of Bond Schoeneck & King, told the Town Board on Monday.

“They could pay nothing. They’re volunteering to pay $12,000 a year,” Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe noted.

The plan was for that payment-in-lieu-of-taxes to rise 2 percent a year for 30 years, reaching $21,309 by Year 30.

But Doucet said, “I’d like to add $2,000 to each of the five fire halls. It’s a $4 million project. Somebody must be making money on this, or you wouldn’t be building it.”

The proposal was tabled until the April 18 meeting for Piette to relay the request to his clients.

DePaul Group is a Rochester not-for-profit housing developer. The 60-unit assisted living facility and memory care facility on Forest Parkway is to be called Wheatfield Commons, and DePaul is building it under the name of Vincent Properties.

Forty of the units are for assisted living and 20 for memory care. Doucet said the volunteer firefighters are swamped, with most of the companies handling about 1,000 calls a year.

Doucet, a member of St. Johnsburg Fire Company, said calls to low-income housing account for a lot of the load, especially for the ambulances. “They use the fire halls like their chauffeur service,” he complained. Doucet, whose motion for a total of $10,000 in annual payments to the fire companies was seconded by Councilman Arthur W. Gerbec, said some of the calls involve “picking people up off the floor, helping them off the toilet.”

Shawnee Fire Company Chief Marc E. Kasprzak, chairman of the town’s Fire Advisory Board, said he’d like to see DePaul create a policy on how to handle picking up fallen people who aren’t hurt, and whether cardiopulmonary resuscitation should be performed on people who have filed do-not-resuscitate orders.

Kasprzak said there is at least one nursing home in Wheatfield where staffers won’t pick up fallen patients for liability reasons, so firefighters are called to do it.

Doucet said the extra payments would be “a sign of good faith … We’ve got houses that are 3,000, 3,500 square feet that pay $12,000 a year in taxes, just one single house.”

He suggested that the $2,000 to each fire company might have another benefit. “Your company might be able to use it as a write-off. It could be a donation to the fire companies,” Doucet said.

Piette reminded him that DePaul is tax-exempt and doesn’t need write-offs.

DePaul also has another project on the drawing board in Wheatfield: Aero Apartments, a 60-unit low-income housing project to be built on Williams Road near the LaSalle Expressway on-ramp. Twenty apartments are to be reserved for persons who need mental health care.

DePaul is proposing a 30-year PILOT for that, too, starting at $15,000 a year and rising 2 percent a year. The developer asked that the measure be withdrawn from last week’s agenda, however. Cliffe said a sewer issue remains to be resolved.

In other action, the board altered the budget to pay Town Attorney Matthew E. Brooks a salary rather than a fee as an outside contractor. Brooks, who is paid $54,000 a year, wanted to become a part-time employee so he could accrue state pension credit. As an independent contractor, he would not have that benefit. His salary did not change as a result of the move.

Cliffe also reported that Budget Director Edward Mongold had filed the annual financial report to Albany, stating the town had a $2.2 million unappropriated fund balance, or surplus, as of Dec. 31. That figure went down about $70,000 during 2015, Cliffe said.