Union in the News for December 1, 2005
College and city PILOT talks continue
By Kathleen Moore - The Daily Gazette
The proposal that Union College voluntarily pay the city for police and fire protection is "compelling" and "important," a college spokesman said Wednesday as he praised Mayor Brian U. Stratton's pitch for financial help from nonprofits.
But no decision will be made on the proposed payment of lieu of taxes (PILOT) until at least June, when new college president Stephen Ainlay takes over, college spokesman Bill Schwarz said.
Schwarz declined to discuss whether Ainlay has been persuaded by Stratton's figures, but said he is "committed to improving town-gown relations. He's made that clear to us."
He added that current college officials were impressed by Stratton's argument that Union should pay for fire and police protection. Stratton had estimated that cost at $500,000, including benefits.
"This is a different approach, a compelling approach," Schwarz said. "We are absolutely committed to reviewing the proposal at length. We are certainly looking forward to vetting the proposal."
Stratton said he proposed the fire and police protection payment because he wanted a PILOT that was grounded in actual figures.
His proposal details the number of times police and firefighters responded to calls for help from Union College. In 2004, the fire department was called to the college 275 times for fire or emergency medical services, while the police department went to campus 207 times. Cost of fire department protection was estimated at $239,000, or an average of $869 per visit. The police department's costs were estimated at $240,000 to $250,000, or about $1,183 per visit.
"This isn't just, 'give us this money and we'll take some off the top for plowing,' " Stratton said. "This is police and fire protection. I think I'm on solid ground."
Schwarz seemed to agree.
"There's no question this is important," he said. "We do have a very good relationship with the city, we want to continue that, and we want to make sure we do contribute." Stratton said he's heartened by that response.
"The fact that there's a willingness to engage in a dialogue on the subject can be interpreted as nothing but positive," he said. "The college has at least expressed a willingness to talk. They have not dismissed it."
He doesn't plan to push the college to make a decision before Ainlay takes over, he added. "[Interim] President James Underwood made it clear he's not going to encumber a new administration," Stratton said.