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Illuzzi, Lyndon Rescue Play Dodge Ball Over Tower Fees

October 20, 2011

Brighton Volunteer Fire Chief Richard Hannux (left) looks on as Mark Podgwaite, Director of Lyndon Rescue, reviews a new contract with the Brighton Selectboard. Photo by Jenn Hanlon

BRIGHTON, VT - Mark Podgwaite, Director of Lyndon Rescue, proposed a new emergency medical services contract to the Brighton Selectboard on Wednesday, one that did not contain any increase based on a fee for using a repeater on a tower owned by Sen. Vince Illuzzi and his brother Joseph Illuzzi, who own Site Acquisitions, LLC, based in Montpelier.
The contract did nothing to calm the dispute between Lyndon Rescue and the Illuzzi brothers over who pays how much for using the tower, however.
Podgwaite said at the meeting that he had not been told an exact amount by Illuzzi, but if there was to be a fee increase for the tower, it would be passed onto taxpayers in Brighton, Norton, and the Unified Towns and Gores, which are all served by Lyndon Rescue.
The new, one-year contract between Lyndon Rescue and Brighton proposes a standard 3.8 percent CPI (cost per incident) increase, which would bring the total the town would have to pay to $61,213, due in two installments.
"In the past years, we've averaged between 123 to 152 calls for the area, and this year we've had 106 as of September 30, which is right on course," said Podgwaite.
Since Illuzzi did not attend the meeting and the board had no new information regarding the tower fee, they didn't have much to discuss. However, by Thursday morning, Illuzzi said that he has set the fee at $300 per month based on what other non-profits pay across the state.
"I've challenged Mr. Podgwaite and Lyndon Rescue to volunteer their services like the fire department personnel and he laughed it off," said Senator Illuzzi.
Podgwaite challenged Illuzzi to write off the fee as a tax deduction, which he mentioned he was going to do at the meeting. On Thursday he said: "I called Vince to throw out those two options I mentioned at last night's meeting. He is interested in neither. He is steadfast in his theory that LRI is using his property and not paying for it. In actuality, we are using Brighton's property, which is mounted on his.... Since this is Brighton's property, Illuzzi should be charging Brighton anything extra and then leave it to Brighton and LRI to figure out how the charges will work between them. He keeps saying we are refusing to pay, which is not true. We are not looking for a free ride, yet. Until today, he made no mention of a figure. When I tried to explain to him that industry standard is that the owner of the radio equipment pays a fee for use (rental) and then charges the end user, he said he didn't care about industry standards."
The conflict began when Illuzzi realized Lyndon Rescue was using Brighton Volunteer Fire Department's repeater for their services.

"While Brighton Fire is a totally non-profit entity, Lyndon Rescue is not," said Illuzzi. "They receive a lot of revenue from reimbursed expenses billed to private citizens who use the services, insurers, and the government, such as Medicaid, on top of what they charge the town."
Podgwaite says the contract with Brighton is based on an ambulance fee and a population fee.
Later in the meeting, Brighton landowner Joe Catalina arrived because he "wanted to get the facts" directly from Illuzzi, who was going to be at the meeting, according to one of the two newspapers he was toting. "I don't like seeing the tower from my house on Bilodeau Road," he said. He went on to say, "The senator (and his brother) don't act like he's got Vermont values and he's going to nickel and dime the town for a necessary service."
Catalina was disappointed he missed the permitting process for the new tower construction, which Town Administrative Assistant Joel Cope explained falls under Act 248 and was fully warned to the public.
Since August of 2007, when the Illuzzi brothers purchased the tower, the Town of Brighton has been paying $100 per month for rental space. Prior to Illuzzi's acquisition of the tower in 2007, the town paid Adelphia/Comcast an "insignificant fee of about ten dollars a year," according to town clerk and treasurer Lucy Stevens.

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