The Little Falls Common Council Tuesday evening unanimously passed a resolution urging the “costly and divisive litigation” between the city and the YMCA be mutually withdrawn.
“There is a legitimate concern on the part of the residents of this city and the Common Council that the litigation will be costly to both the YMCA and the city, and that the city will ultimately suffer from the divisiveness associated with the issue,” said First Ward Alderman Ronald Petrie.
The city of Little Falls and the Little Falls Family YMCA are currently in court over the proposed tax assessment on three YMCA owned properties at 43 Furnace St., 544 Garden St. and 589 Albany St.
“It is apparent to the Common Council that ultimately no positive outcome can be expected from the litigation. If the YMCA is successful in the litigation, the city’s attempt at assessment would have resulted in substantial costs on both the YMCA and the city, which will ultimately fall upon city residents, and there would remain serious damage to the positive relationship between the city and the YMCA that has existed for decades. If the city is successful in the assessment against the YMCA, not only would the same financial costs be incurred, but ultimately the positive residential programs which the city itself has supported and benefited from in the past would be lost,” said Petrie.
Mayor Robert Peters said the issue is out of the city’s hands as in November 2012, Oneida County Supreme Court Judge Norman Siegel determined the matter should proceed.
He added the resolution has been sent to lawyers involved in the case.
“As far as I am concerned, the city has washed its hands of this matter,” Peters said during a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon. “With the passage of the resolution, I do not see how the city can continue to challenge the assessment on the Community Co-op or the housing properties. This issue, at least to me, is over, pending the outcome of what the lawyers decide.”
City Attorney Edward Rose has said the next scheduled court date is Thursday, Feb. 28.
Rose was not present at Tuesday evening’s meeting.
The resolution states it is the Common Council’s belief that the expenditure of moneys for the litigation is not a “wise use of our resources, and that it will serve no ultimate benefit to the city and could endanger the availability of programs and services of the YMCA, which benefit this city.”
It also states the Common Council “will not approve or authorize payment of city funds for the cost of litigation beyond legal services appropriate to ending the pending litigation,” outside of payment for all services to date as well as services appropriate to ending the pending litigation, and that the Common Council recognizes the services and programs offered by the YMCA, including the community housing program and the Community Co-op, are consistent with the charitable functions and mission of the YMCA and provide a substantial benefit to the city and its residents.
Page 2 of 2 - “The two sides involved in this litigation have spent upwards of $30,000 to $35,000 combined on legal fees and it is the Common Council’s position that we are not going to authorize the expenditure of good money after bad,” said First Ward Alderman Jeffrey Gressler. “This has to end.”
YMCA board member and volunteer Bart Carrig thanked the Common Council for the passage of the resolution and said withdrawing the litigation could help restore the “spirit” of the city.
“Little Falls is a unique place. Yes we live in a beautiful setting, but it’s the spirit of the city and its residents that really sets it apart from other places,” he said. “We believe the best way to restore this spirit, which is one of cooperation, is to end the litigation and end the divide.”
“An unfortunate consequence of this resolution is more people could decide to grieve their assessment. Those disputes could have a significant impact on the city’s coffers, as well as the services the city provides,” said Peters. “That could be something the council will have to deal with.”