Hope Coons, who organized Cobleskill's Fourth of July celebration for five years, believes the village's decision to charge for parades will come back to bite it.
Ms. Coons presented Mayor Mark Galasso and trustees with a stack of petitions opposing the $1,200 fee Tuesday, but admitted after hearing their explanation that she couldn't suggest any alternatives.
Mayor Galasso proposed the fee in the spring as a way to cover the village's costs for police coverage for what he sees as Schoharie County-wide events.
"It's not a fee but a reimbursement of the costs expended," Mayor Galasso said, pointing out that the actual cost could go as high as $3,800 depending on the event.
Trustees, he said, decided to start at the low end.
But Ms. Coons believes the charge will mean the end of parades and the community pride in builds-something she said is sorely lacking.
She also pointed out that the people attending and participating in the parades spend money here on gas and food.
"Memorial Day, the Maple Festival, the Fourth of July...I chaired the Fourth for five years and I can't imagine trying to raise $1,200," she said. "We had all we could do to raise enough money for fireworks."
The decision, Ms. Coons continued, is giving Cobleskill a reputation of not caring.
"Other communities are chuckling at us," she said, "and inviting us to their parades where they don't charge."
Mayor Galasso said the village explored a variety of alternatives to using officers to handle traffic for parades, but the intersections are "complex," he said, a situation that doesn't exist in other communities.
"The only safe way to control traffic is with the Police Department."
Mayor Galassso also said the sales tax generated by sales at local businesses at events like parades goes to the county, which then distributes some of it to the towns, but not to the villages.
Ms. Coons asked about using fire police for traffic control; Trustee and longtime fireman Howard Burt said their numbers have dwindled to two, both men in their 70s.
"There are a lot of factors to consider," Chief Larry Travis added. "For me, it's a safety situation."
That discussion prompted Ms. Coons' husband, Morris, to point out that during the Fourth parade, he saw village police cars with two officers in them as well as Sheriff's Department and State Police cars going by his South Grand Street home.
"What about foot patrols?
"What about bike patrols?"
Chief Travis said the department has begun doing foot patrols again but because of changes in the law, officers have to be trained at a Bicycle Academy to patrol on bikes.
He also said that they often share rides to save on gas-and to get to and from the station on Mineral Springs Road.
"I understand the strain this puts on volunteers," Mayor Galassso said. "We don't like it either. But I don't think it's fair either to expect village taxpayers to pick up these costs."