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Ghent takes its time on PCB plant review


GHENT–TCI of NY was once again a subject of discussion when the Town Board met last week.

Resident Mark Johnson expressed frustration with town government at the meeting last Thursday, January 17. He called for the board to express an opinion about Town Attorney Ted Guterman following requests from residents at previous meetings that the town cite TCI for violations related to the major fire at the company’s West Ghent facility last summer.

“We elect you guys,” said Mr. Johnson. “I would just like to know where we stand with our lawyer.”

TCI’s Falls Industrial Park Drive facility burned and exploded in early August, generating a plume of smoke and led to air quality alerts in Columbia County and around the region. Residents have since been actively urging the town to hold TCI accountable under the town zoning code.

Last October Mr. Guterman recommended that the board not cite TCI, saying that there was not enough information to determine whether any codes were violated because it is unclear what the company’s original permit allowed TCI to do.

Last week Mr. Guterman told Mr. Johnson, “We’re still fact-finding,” and the attorney said, “I think it’s very important that the town has to have a neutral position to hear any applicant. We can’t form any opinion until we’ve heard all of the facts.”

TCI has submitted plans to rebuild its facility, which prepares old electrical transformers for recycling by removing fluids that contain PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, an industrial chemical known to be hazardous to human health and the environment. PCBs were among the substances that burned at the plant last summer.

The Ghent Planning Board began the environmental review of the site plan January 2. At that meeting the Planning Board requested more information about the company’s proposal. Planning Board Chairman Jonathan Walters said that his board had just begun what will be a long process.

At last week’s Town Board meeting Mr. Guterman said, “If the Planning Board starts making decisions prematurely… that would basically violate the process to the point where it would be arbitrary.”

Deputy Supervisor Larry Van Brunt added that the town never jumps to conclusions. “When we get all the information, then we can make an educated decision,” Mr. Van Brunt said.

Town Supervisor Larry Andrews said there will be a time in the decision making process for the public to comment. He added that the town received 18 letters from residents regarding TCI.

The Ghent Planning Board will meet February 6 at 7 p.m. to continue its review of TCI’s site plan. Supervisor Andrews says there will also be a joint meeting of the Town Board, Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals January 7 at 7 p.m. to discuss TCI, among other topics. Mr. Guterman said this is open to the public, but will not be a public hearing.

Also at the January 17 board meeting:

*Board member Richard Sardo talked about his view of the Capital Region Sustainability Plan. The plan is a product of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Cleaner, Greener Communities Program. The plan’s website,, says the plan is intended to create sustainable and efficient communities and improve “economic and environmental health” through smart funding and development practices.

Mr. Sardo said that he recently became aware of this plan, and said it reminds him of the United Nations’ Agenda 21, an action plan for sustainable development.

“Basically the sustainability plan calls for regional planning and zoning,” Mr. Sardo said, “which basically would eliminate home rule in this town.”

Mr. Sardo said he didn’t know enough about the plan yet, but wanted the board to discuss it further in the future. “We don’t go for international planning and development of the town of Ghent,” he said, “because we recognize home rule.”

*The board approved a resolution that gives permission to the Emily Eckstrom Equine Scholarship Program to hold a 5K Run on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, at 11 a.m. starting at the Ghent Firehouse. The Ghent Fire Department has agreed to host the event.

*Highway Superintendent Mike Losa said he wanted to remind the public that there is no parking on the highways between November 1 and April 15.

*Supervisor Andrews said the board will discuss possible amendments to a local law regarding festivals and concerts at the February 7 joint meeting.

*Resident Albert Wassenhove said during public comment that Jim Haggerty, the director of veterans’ affairs for Congressman Chris Gibson’s office, will be giving a presentation to the Board of Directors of Peter Young Industries regarding the Pine Haven project January 31 at Pine Haven.

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