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Politics and Government

Fulton city lawmakers considering dissolution proposal

Payne Horning
Fulton Mayor Ron Woodward, pictured here in his office by an old map of one of the two villages that were merged to form the city, is opposed to a new proposal to dissolve the city for financial reasons.

More than a century ago, Fulton was formed when the villages of Oswego Falls and Fulton, which were separated by the Oswego River, merged. Oswego County Legislator Frank Castiglia says now, it's time for the city to split into two again.

Castiglia says the cost of maintaining a police and fire department for the city of 11,000 is ballooning beyond what Fulton residents can afford.

"We don’t have the people, the population or the industry in this city to support the costs for those public safety departments," Castiglia said. 

The city is $9 million in debt, borrowing for such routine purchases as patrol cars. It is also facing a declining population and high property taxes. So, Castiglia is encouraging city officials to consider entering a state-sponsored consolidation competition.

The Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition, first unveiled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year, is an attempt to reduce the amount of local governments and thus taxes. The state is offering to pay for studies that would determine if a municipality like Fulton could benefit from the consolidation. The best plan will win a $20 million grant.

Castiglia says ideally, Fulton could split apart and merge with the nearby towns of Granby on the west side of the Oswego River and Volney on the east. Fulton mayor Ron Woodward says that's a nonstarter.

"If the people in Fulton voted to dissolve, which I know they won’t, then we don’t become part of Granby and Volney unless they vote to take us," Woodward said. "Why would they want us? Why would they want our bills? It doesn’t make sense."

Woodward said dissolving into two villages would not reduce the amount of public services those residents need and could even make the situation worse as Fulton would receive less state aid. He said most of the council are opposed to the proposal, but they are talking with Oswego County officials about the free study.

Dave Turner, Oswego County director of community development, tourism and planning, said there are no indications that Volney or Granby officials are interested in the proposed merger. That would be a prerequisite for the study application, which is due at the end of the month.