i's Not Dotted, t's Not Crossed, Brookhaven Town Board Nixes Residents' Plea In Long Island Fire District With Highest Taxes Per Capita
In August, this blog reported on the grassroots campaign of Gordon Heights residents to dissolve their fire district, a special districts serving some 800 homes, with an average tax of $1,344 -- and that's just for fire services. [SEE, Dissolve Two Fire Districts...]
Now, the Brookhaven Town Board, citing irregularities in the Petition -- a Petition, residents allege, signed by 70% of Gordon Heights homeowners -- has rejected residents' request to dissolve the local fire district.
According to a report in Newsday, the irregularities included a failure to verify and authenticate signatures, and signature sheets that were not properly bound or notarized.
"They screwed it up," Brookhaven spokesman Michael Pitcher told Newsday. "Election law is a minefield and if anyone is doing a petition subject to New York State election law, the first thing you've got to do is hire an attorney to write it."
Resident activists have vowed to try, try again, and this time, to enlist the aid of counsel.
Rosalie Hanson of Medford, one of the Gordon Heights taxpayers who helped organize the first Petition drive, was undeterred.
"What was incorrect about our petition, we learned yesterday morning from the Brookhaven Town attorneys, was quite insignificant and merely technical," Hanson said in a letter to Newsday, copied to the not-for-profit watchdog group, Residents for Efficient Special Districts (RESD), and forwarded on to The Community Alliance.
"This should not discount the fact that this petition contained over 70% of the residents whose signatures were individually verified and notarized; or the fact that people in this community had the courage to step up to the plate and face unchartered waters in an effort to finally do something about an issue that has plagued them for more than 20 years... "
Hanson says that residents had requested the Town to provide the proper petition format before they began the Petition drive. The Town was unable to provide this information. [Did you really expect help from the Town?]
Residents are now faced with the task -- and the expense -- of hiring an attorney to launch a second wave upon the fire district by way of a renewed Petition to dissolve.
Gina Previte, a resident paying nearly $2600 each year to the Gordon Heights fire district, told The Community Alliance, "We desperately need legal help. The problem is Gordon Heights is mostly a low income community which is least able to afford an expensive legal battle. Yet doing nothing is creating a financial burden."
"We have done alot to expose the Commissioners who have no regard (for either residents or theoir money)," said Previte, "and who proved it again last week when they submitted the same $1,481,000.00 budget as last year, creating a tax rate of $64.00 per $100."
The search is now on to find an attorney, possibly someone willing to offer services on a pro bono or reduced fee basis, to assist residents in their continuing battle for equity, justice, and a fair tax rate.
Anyone reading this blog who is or knows of an attorney familiar with the Election Law and willing to help the residents' Petition Committee in their quest to dissolve the Gordon Heights Fire District should contact Residents for Efficient Special Districts at RESD@aol.com.
And to the residents of Gordon Heights, take heart. If at first you don't succeed in battling either special district or Town, try, try again. You can take on Town Hall and win!