Mold in Port Leyden buildings creates heated dispute between village, fire company

Published: Jun. 9, 2023 at 5:18 PM EDT
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PORT LEYDEN, New York (WWNY) - Mold in Port Leyden’s field day buildings is creating a dispute between the village and the fire company which uses the property to raise money.

Wrapped in caution tape, Port Leyden’s field day buildings are off-limits to the entire community including the village’s fire company.

“Our focus and everything right now is to protect the taxpayers and the village,” said Mayor Shawn Smith.

A recent inspection found black mold and water damage. The village plans to tear it down and put up a community pavilion.

The fire company, with supporters, is pushing back.

Though the building is owned by the village, the company says it takes care of it and raises money by renting it out - a handshake agreement from decades ago.

“All the people that have ever bought a raffle ticket from us, a piece of chicken, bought one of our fundraising tickets over the last 40, 50 years have paid for that. That’s their building. We’re only the custodians,” said Timothy Thayer, a board member for the fire company known as J.S. Koster House Company Inc.

The fire company offered to pay for fixes to the buildings.

“On June 5, the fire company had passed a motion at their monthly meeting to make the repairs required to make the building safe for the public,” said Jon Capron, president of J.S. Koster House Company Inc.

The village attorney says it’s not that simple.

“In order for work to be done on the buildings, we as a board actually have to pass a resolution moving forward with a request for bids on it,” said Ian Gilbert.

The issue has gotten heated at times. Both sides have sent letters to the other telling them to keep off the property, with the village attorney then digging up the deed and proving the village owns it all.

The village issued a cease and desist letter banning the fire company from holding any fundraisers on village property, things like barbecues or parties unless the village agrees.

The village maintains it’s protecting the taxpayers. The fire department says it doesn’t feel heard or appreciated.

Meetings with the village mayor, the president of the fire company board, and their lawyers, are already being scheduled to come up with a possible resolution. The first meeting is being held next week.