CENSUS SPURS MONEY DISPUTE

ERIN DUGGAN Staff writer
Section: MAIN,  Page: A1

Date: Thursday, December 12, 2002

Still stinging from the 2000 census ruling that put a University at Albany dorm -- and its 1,357 student residents -- over the city line into Guilderland, Mayor Jerry Jennings fired off a letter demanding the town pay back $37,600 for city fire and emergency medical service calls to that area since 1999. Jennings also vowed to stop responding to fire and EMS calls at the Indian Quad and the UAlbany Recreation and Convocation Center from Jan. 1. ``I can't spend our taxpayer dollars on providing services to other municipalities,'' Jennings said Wednesday.


Guilderland Supervisor Ken Runion's response: The check won't be in the mail.


Runion upped the ante in a letter back to Jennings, asking the city to give Guilderland the $363,000 of county sales tax revenue the city reaped in 2001 for those 1,357 residents.


``I don't intend to give them any money,'' Runion said, ``because I feel they owe us about $370,000.''


And the suburb's leader says he's already talked to UAlbany officials and plans to start providing fire service and EMS at the start of the new year.


``The McKownville Fire Department has already started doing drills with the Westmere Fire Department in preparation,'' Runion said.


The war of words began this fall, with Jennings' Sept. 13 letter. Runion didn't respond until the end of October, and the two leaders haven't budged since.


``He hasn't spoken to me, nor have I spoken to him,'' Jennings said.


The genesis of the spat could reach back to 2000, when Jennings asked the Guilderland Town Board to let Albany annex the Indian Quad land before the census was completed. The board refused, and Albany lost the population in the census.


The final census number brought Albany down to 94,301, the first time the city population has slipped below 100,000 in almost a century. Guilderland's population rose to 34,045.


``What's really precipitated it is he's looking at his population decreasing, looking for SUNY population to overcome some of the loss that's taken place over the last 10 years,'' said Runion, who added he didn't regret taking the population, because students are also part of the Guilderland community.


``They can't take credit for what they don't have,'' he said.


Nor, said Jennings, should the city have to serve what it doesn't have.


Since 1999, city fire and EMS has responded to 188 calls to the Guilderland part of the campus, which in his letter the mayor said added up to $37,600 in service fees.


``I think we underestimated what they owe,'' he said Wednesday.


As for Guilderland's $363,000 bill, Jennings said he hadn't given it too much thought yet.


``We'll discuss that with them,'' Jennings said. ``I'm not going to hassle over dollars when we're talking about life or death here.''