Town hears pleas from residents for buried cables
CLAVERACK–The Town Board has taken an official stance against the proposed power line expansion plans for running new high voltage lines through Columbia County. The board adopted the resolution opposing the project at the December 12 board meeting, where the town hall was filled with residents wanting to comment on the impact the proposed project would have on the town.
Also last week the board defeated a resolution that would have removed Nathan Chess from the town Planning Board.
The power line project is part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s New York State Energy Highway Plan meant to transmit excess power from upstate to downstate areas where it is needed. Four proposals were submitted by the October 1 deadline, and only one will be chosen in this phase of the Energy Highway plan.
Three of the four proposals would go through the Town of Livingston, with one of them going through Claverack. The towns of Stuyvesant and Stockport are also on the route that would pass through Claverack. Overall these lines would run from the Upstate community of Oneida 153 miles to a substation in central Dutchess County.
Ian Solomon, who lives on Webb Road in Claverack near where the line would pass, said the project would use mostly existing rights of way, but that the rights of way could expand up to 125 feet through eminent domain. He has started a citizens group called Farmers and Families for Claverack to inform residents of the issue and to organize against the current proposals.
A group with a similar name has been organized in Livingston. It attracted over 200 people to a public meeting at the Livingston Highway Department Garage late last month.
At last week’s Claverack meeting Mr. Solomon said the utility companies have filled out the first half of their application to the state Public Service Commission and the PSC is accepting feedback and comments on the proposals until February 21. After that, he said an administrative law judge will review the feedback and make a ruling on what the power companies need to address when they complete the second half of their applications.
“It’s pretty crucial that we talk about the issue as a town because we want to give feedback to the Public Service Commission about what we find acceptable and what we want them to do differently,” said Mr. Solomon. “It’s a citizen-driven process that the state has set up.”
He said the citizens group had just been granted party status, making it eligible to apply for intervener funds to hire consultants to provide expert information about their case.
“I don’t have a problem with more transmission capacity and I don’t want to try to get this out of my backyard and into somebody else’s,” he said. “I just want it to get done in a way to where they’re not going to take people’s land and destroy farms and beauty of the area.”
Other residents in attendance read letters opposing the project from neighbors who could not make it to the meeting.
Pam Kline, head of Farmers and Families for Livingston, said she is a former Claverack resident and loves the town’s beauty and farms. She called for Claverack to leave politics out of the issue.
“What I don’t like about Claverack is that sometimes it becomes so politically polarized that it can’t see what’s best for its people as opposed to what’s best for its party,” she said. “This cannot be one of those times.”
Town Supervisor Robin Andrews said she agreed it was a “community issue, not a political one.”
Ian Nitschke, chair of the town Historic Preservation Advisory Committee, said he was an employee of the PSC for many years before he retired. He said he knows personally a couple of the people in the PSC overseeing the process and said, “They’ll listen to you.” He also suggested to the public to “set your sights a little higher.” He said that the technology is there for the proposed lines to be run underground.
All board members present voted in favor of the resolution opposing the project. Michael Johnston was absent.
The other high profile action on the agenda last week was the board’s vote against a resolution that would have removed Mr. Chess from the Planning Board. In early September Mr. Chess received Notice of Intent to Remove him from the board for his behavior at Planning Board meetings. The notice was followed by two hearings conducted by Ancram Town Supervisor Art Bassin, after which the Claverack Town Board reviewed the case and voted 3-1 against removing him from his position.
Supervisor Andrews said in a prepared statement that while she does not condone Mr. Chess’ behavior, the case made “was very weak and in my opinion, not enough magnitude to warrant removal.” She said she hopes the process “has helped him to clarify where the lines are for inappropriate behavior.”
Town board member Robert Preusser said the town’s personnel policy did not adequately address employee or board member behavior. He said he could not vote in favor of removing Mr. Chess, and suggested that the incoming Town Board, which takes office in January, work on reviewing the personnel policy to address behavior.
Member Katy Cashen said she did not believe his behavior warranted removal, and added that she’s noticed “a major change in his behavior over the last several months.”
Board member and Supervisor-elect Cliff Weigelt was the only one voting in favor of removal, saying that there are certain expectations for people who are appointed to serve on boards.
Also at the December 12 meeting:
•The board adopted the town’s new local law regulating concerts, festivals and exhibitions. The law requires special permits with restrictions and regulations for certain large events. The law is on the town website, www.townofclaverack.com.
•The board set the 2014 town organization meeting for January 2 at 7 p.m. at the town hall.
•Mr. Weigelt, who takes office as supervisor next month, asked that anybody interested in serving on any board should contact the town office. Ms. Cashen said that the town is also looking for a new webmaster.
•Ms. Andrews, conducting her final meeting as supervisor, received a standing ovation from the public at the end of the meeting. Mr. Weigelt called the last four years working with her “enjoyable.” Mr. Preusser, who also will not be returning next year, said he was thankful for the “privilege to serve on the board the last four years.”