ONEONTA _ The chief of the Oneonta Fire Department has floated the idea of a liquor surcharge for the sale of alcoholic beverages in Oneonta.

At a Board of Public Safety meeting last month, Robert Barnes also discussed collecting payments from Hartwick College and the State University College at Oneonta to help offset the cost of providing services to the college population.

"Everybody is concerned about revenue flow, and more than 50 percent of our protection obligation in the city is tax exempt," Barnes said last week.

Both colleges are exempt from property taxes.

Barnes also said a one- or two-cent tax on each alcoholic beverage sold in the city could help pay for emergency services for those involved in alcohol-related incidents.

"A penny or two a drink isn't going to make an ounce of difference to those who are going to be drinking," Barnes said.

Barnes has pitched such ideas to the Common Council in the past, without success.

"This isn't the first time this has come up," he said.

The Board of Public Safety consists of all eight city aldermen on the Common Council.

The Common Council has no plans to adopt either suggestion, Mayor John Nader said last week.

But Nader said he intends to explore the idea of having the two colleges make a payment-in-lieu of taxes to the city to cover the cost of providing emergency services.

"I'll be discussing it with the new presidents when I have the opportunity to meet with them," Nader said,

Margaret L. Drugovich took over from Richard Miller as Hartwick president July 1. Nancy Kleniewski officially becomes SUCO's president today. She is taking over from Alan Donovan. Donovan and Miller both retired.

Nader said he was not aware of Barnes' proposal for an alcohol surcharge and did not know if anything similar was being done elsewhere in the state.

"I can check with NYCOM (New York Conference of Mayors) on it to see what is being done," Nader said.

Police Chief Joseph Redmond said it is worth examining ways in which the city can generate revenue related to its expenditures.

"It can't hurt," he said last week.

Redmond said he could not immediately quantify how much the city spends on law enforcement that is directly related to alcohol consumption.

"It is substantial," he said.

But Barnes discussed some figures with the Board of Public Safety.

It costs about $21 an hour in basic expenses for each firefighter who responds to an emergency, Barnes said.

Barnes estimated that in ambulance calls alone, the city spent about $9,100 to respond to both college campuses in 2007.

This does not include fire calls, the cost of responding to off-campus student housing or to incidents involving students downtown.

"What we do is not cheap," Barnes said.

Barnes said he understands there could be resistance from bar owners to a surcharge on alcohol or from the colleges on payments.

"I feel that part of my job is to bring the idea forward," Barnes said. "My hope is it at least gets discussed."

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