POUND RIDGE, N.Y. – The Pound Ridge Town Board has voted down a plan to create a home heating-oil program that supporters say would have allowed participating homeowners to purchase oil at a lower price.
The measure was defeated in a 3-2 vote Thursday night, with Town Supervisor Gary Warshauer and board members Peter Falco and Richard Lyman voting against it. Board members Ali Boak and Dan Paschkes were in favor.
The proposed program is similar to one being used in Cortlandt, Yorktown and Peekskill in which a bulk-purchasing price is negotiated with oil vendors who wish to participate and then sold to homeowners who voluntarily sign on for a small fee, usually around $5.
Board members who voted against it felt that the plan bordered on price fixing and collusion and that it was not the government’s place to get involved in the retail open market. They also felt it created bigger government, which they said would cost taxpayer money.
Warshauer said that creating the program would ultimately cost taxpayers money in order to monitor it and work out a negotiated price with the oil companies.
“There’s a lot of questions associated with it,” Warshauer said. “The question is, will it really save residence money? We would have to assign it to someone on staff to administer it, so the idea of spending taxpayer money was rejected by the board.”
Warshauer also said that Pound Ridge couldn’t be compared to the other communities that were successfully using such a program.
“The make-up, location and size of those communities are different from Pound Ridge,” he said. “They are bigger towns and there are 30 or more oil companies working those areas. Those towns also have bigger staffs and assigning someone to run the program is an easier thing to do. We already have people on staff who are doing multiple things. We would be growing government and it’s not worth it at this particular time.”
Paschkes countered by saying the program could be operated with minimal expense to the town, and would likely be operated by Steve Conti in the Finance Department. He said the most significant cost – about $2,000 – would have been for a townwide mailing introducing the program, but that money would have been recouped through the fee charged to homeowners who joined.
Paschkes added that he researched the programs in Cortlandt, Peekskill and Yorktown and believes that while Pound Ridge is more rural and the oil price might be “couple of cents” higher, there would not be a significant variation in price with those programs. He also noted that those who have participated in those programs are pleased with the results.
“Cortlandt has 1,800 families involved,” he said. “All I’ve gotten is positive feedback.”
Still, Warshauer, Falco and Lyman remained unswayed.
“I don’t think it’s an appropriate role for government to dip into the marketplace like this,” Lyman said.
Warshauer pointed out that there is already a group of homeowners in Pound Ridge that have created a similar program without government involvement.
“A group of residents have created their own consortium and bid out their own oil prices,” he said. “That’s probably the right way to go. Getting government involved it is not the right way to do it. Having us get in the middle doesn’t make sense.”
Paschkes said he was disappointed with the board’s decision and disagreed that such a program would involve price fixing or collusion.
“Calling the process of negotiating a fair price in an open meeting ‘collusion’ is simply a smokescreen for a refusal to assist our residents with a program that has been tested and proved successful in other communities,” he said “The home-oil program, first adopted in Cortlandt and replicated in numerous other communities, is voluntary on the part of both the residents and the participating companies and has been lauded as an example of good government. Unfortunately, it is something our residents will not get the benefit of in Pound Ridge."