Elmwood vote comes to a tie

Land buy bonding will see another vote in April

A public referendum taken last week in the Elmwood Park Fire District ended in a tie, prompting officials to schedule two public hearings on a proposed land buy before again putting the issue to voters in April.

A Tuesday, Feb. 8, vote to bond $315,000 to purchase a 6-acre parcel of land next to the North Bethlehem Fire Department firehouse on Russell Road came out 47-47. The outcome was delayed a few days because two of the paper ballots were questionably marked. One was thrown out.

That's a fairly high turnout for fire department referendums, said North Bethlehem Fire Department Chief Paul Fuino. Some clearly felt strongly about the issue.

One person said to me, 'I wish this firehouse would burn down,' Fuino said. "It was something I don't think we've ever seen before."

Chairman of the Elmwood Park Board of Commissioners (the district that funds the fire department) John Mahoney said people may be upset to see rises in their tax bills. The district's budget went up 2.5 percent this year, but due to the way assessment values impact the three-town district some residents saw their taxes increase by more than 6 percent.

He said a large part of North Bethlehem is comprised of the Beverwyck Nursing Home, which pays a PILOT fee to the town instead of taxes.

"We have no control over that," Mahoney said.

He added Beverwyck accounts for 30 to 35 percent of all the department's fire and EMS calls.

In addition to holding public hearings on March 8 and 29, the fire district's Board of Commissioners has decided to use a portion of its building repair fund to offset the cost, lowering the amount that needs to be borrowed.

When asked why the district hadn't scheduled public meetings for the first vote, Mahoney said the district hadn't expected much interest due to past history.

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