Deputy on paid leave after dock fire

A sergeant with the Madison County Sheriff's Department has been placed on paid leave of absence after a neighbor complained he was part of a group who set fire to his dock.

Sheriff Allen Riley confirms that Sergeant Pat Wrafter is "on leave with pay" because the department is "looking into conduct by a member as alleged by Mr. (Joe) Ferris." The sheriff emphasized Wrafter is not being disciplined and said "This is not an arson."

Joe Ferris lodged a complaint with the Sheriff's Department and State Police after the incident on Old Orchard Road in the Town of Lenox on July 5. F erris is retired and lives in a home on Old Orchard Road about 200 feet from Oneida Lake. Ferris says for 11 years he and his neighbors have been in a dispute over his claim to access to the lake. "It's been a disaster. I've been threatened, my windows have been broken, my tires slashed." Ferris told CNY Central.

Ferris says t hings got ugly when he says his neighbors set fire to six sections of his dock. "I came running back down and when I got here I seen three sections of my dock burning. Nobody was here. The people that were here went across the street, got up on the porch, and never said a word to me."

T here was no answer when we knocked on Sergeant Wrafter's door Thursday afternoon.

A fter learning of the incident , M adison County Administrator Paul Miller says he met with Sheriff Riley, Lenox Town Supervisor Rocco DeVeronica, and the town codes enforcement officer. "We'll do the best we can to fine out what the facts are and then try to be part of the solution." Miller explained

M iller learned that the land along the shore at the end of Old Orchard Road is owned by Madison County, according to the tax rolls. "I've ordered a title search so we can find out... whether the county is the rightful owner or not." Miller said.

When asked if landowners with docks and other structures along the shore could be encroaching on public land, Miller replied, "I would say that we could call it that 'yes'. How we would respond to that, I think, remains to be seen."

I t's not certain the county owns the land along the shoreline. Miller uncovered documents and maps dating to 1923 in which the shoreline may have been deeded to the Lake Oneida Beach Association. The county is trying to find out if such an organization still exists.

T he title search could take two weeks.