Legislature votes to reopen marina negotiations
SCHUYLER COUNTY—The Schuyler County Legislature voted to reopen contract negotiations for the marina lease extension at the Seneca Harbor Park. The measure was passed in a five to three vote during the regular meeting of the legislature Monday, Feb. 10. Legislators Phil Barnes, Van Harp and Michael Lausell voted against reopening the contract negotiations.
This comes a month after the legislature agreed to put negotiations on hold following public interest in seeing the lease go out to public bid when it expires. The lease expires in 2018. The Schamels have held the lease since 1983.
“We suspended negotiations last month based on the discussion regarding the village marina lease,” Chairman Dennis Fagan said. “The legislature had discussions during committee meetings and the legislature has directed County Administrator [Tim] O’Hearn to reopen negotiations with the Schamel brothers on the village marina lease. The reason for this directive is the potential for significant new revenues for the county.”
Fagan said if the negotiations do not result in significant new revenue for the county, then the current lease would not be extended.
The Schamels are renegotiating a lease extension with the Schuyler County Industrial Development Agency (SCIDA) prior to conducting a $150,000 dock repair at the site. Ed and Teresa Woodland, owners of Frog Hollow Marina in Watkins Glen, spoke during the meeting about it not being the best option for the Schuyler County taxpayers if they do not allow the lease to go out for bid.
“The only way that you can find a fair value on anything is that you open it up, you out it out on the block,” Ed Woodland said. “That’s the only way.”
Nick Kelly of Frog Hollow Marina said he was shocked by the announcement to reopen the negotiations and that other people may be willing to give more than the Schamels.
“You all sit here for us and everybody else in the county to get the best value,” Nick Kelly said. “[...] The only way to get the best value of this property is to see what people are willing to pay, not what the Schamels are willing to pay. What if somebody else is willing to give you more?”
Harp questioned if this course of action by the legislature was the best course of action to get the best value out of the lease. Harp said there should be an opportunity for public comments after the negotiations are conducted.
“If there is going to be any amendment to that contract, then I strongly suggest that contract then be declared null and void and open it up to public competition, Harp said. “The reason you look at the quality exemplified in the direction of the waterfront is to ensure that we do get our very best value.”
Legislator Tom Gifford said it is not the legislators who are negotiating the contract, and that O’Hearn is the one negotiating for the IDA.
“The IDA has deferred to the legislator for their input because the money flows through the IDA into the county, so technically the IDA is seeking guidance from the legislature,” O’Hearn said.
Fagan said if the county declares the contract null and void now, then there will be no opportunity for negotiations with the Schamels through the remaining length of their current lease. Fagan said they would not be able to render the contract null and void without there being a proper reason.
Ed Woodland cited several instances of late payments made to the county, saying those could be listed as reasons to terminate the contract. Guy Schamel said the late payments are due to his collecting dock payments at the end of June, adding the county has always received it’s money and has not been more than a month or two late.
Lausell said he would vote against the opening negotiations, as it would not be fair to exclude bids from outside parties.
“As government officials, we have to avoid the appearance we are favoring one party over another,” Lausell said.
The legislators then voted five to three to reopen the negotiations at the end of the meeting. Legislator Barbara Halpin said just because the county is reopening negotiations it does not mean they will accept anything.
In other business:
• Lausell said he believes it is time the county reviews it’s emergency preparedness plan to bring it up to date. He said he has concerns with what the county plans to do in case of a natural gas spill as it is being transported through the county.
“We are inviting an industry into our county, we know there are dangers in the transport of propane,” Lausell said. “[...] This is a danger we do have to recognize.”
Fagan recommended Lausell attend the next public safety committee meeting and voice his concerns there.
• The legislature approved a local law allowing the county to award bids based on best value purchasing during the meeting. A public hearing was held for the proposed law, during which no one spoke.