January 3, 2010
Merger nixed, drilling issues emerge
Towns prepare for hydrofracking impact, Scott says no to Homer
Issues that crossed town lines involving government consolidation, natural gas drilling and wind power were among the most significant stories in the towns and villages of the Cortland County area in 2010.
Scott residents rejected a proposal to merge with the town of Homer through a proposition on the November general election ballot.
Scott said no by a vote of 358-106. Homer said yes by 1,051 to 968. The proposition required the approval of both towns.
Kevin Fitch, the Scott town supervisor, fought for months to convince residents to say no, arguing they would not benefit much from consolidation and that only landowners who own hundreds of acres would receive a financial break.
A few Scott residents erected signs along Route 41 saying they did not want a “takeover” by Homer and urging defeat of the proposition. Town Councilman Andrew Fuller said after the vote that he knew residents opposed the idea “and that’s why I opposed it from Day One.” Homer Town Supervisor Fred Forbes, who favored consolidation, said in November that the issue will not go away, as Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo supports consolidation in school districts and municipalities.
“I think the issue will come back eventually but the odds are greater that the state will mandate it before that,” Forbes said Nov. 3. “I was hoping to get ahead of it before that.”
Concerns about proposed natural gas drilling and wind power projects were discussed at the county and town levels throughout the year. Among the issues raised were worries about possible harm to the environment and fears that heavy equipment associated with the operations would damage roads.
As it drafts regulations, the state has delayed issuing any permits for natural gas drilling using the controversial hydraulic fracturing method that injects large volumes of chemically treated water to break up deep shale deposits and free gas. Hundreds of property owners in the county have signed leases with gas drilling companies.
The Willet Town Board was the only public body to support drilling, passing a resolution in August urging the state to veto legislation for a statewide moratorium. The board stated it was confident in the state environmental review process, and emphasized the need for tax revenue and jobs that drilling would create.
The proposal for a wind turbine project that would build units in Cortlandville, Homer, Solon and Truxton has been delayed while the towns draft regulations that would govern the approval process. TCI proposes building 39 2.5-megawatt wind turbines on county and private land in the area surrounding the county landfill north of Route 41.
Now each town is at various stages of drafting laws. Homer is considering laying out specific setback requirements. Cortlandville passed a six-month moratorium on the project which expired at the end of the year.
Throughout the year, the initial data gathering and interviews were completed and the recommendations were put together for the Homer, Preble and Scott farmland protection plan.
The goal is to provide a series of recommendations for the towns to support farming in those communities. The towns would be the first in the county to have farmland protection plans.
Although they were not released, the recommendations for each town could include the formation of an agricultural advisory committee with representatives from each town, adoption of a local Right to Farm law, and possible changes to current zoning. There will be public meetings scheduled early this year with each of the towns to get reaction from residents.
A storm that dumped 4 to 6.5 inches of rain on Cortland County on Sept. 30 caused extensive flooding in some areas, prompting states of emergency to be declared in Cuyler, McGraw and Solon. Despite the local damage, there was not enough statewide to warrant a federal disaster declaration.
Many other issues affected individual municipalities in the area this year.
McGraw continued to wrestle with funding a $3.3 million water main replacement project, which would replace 22,000 feet of main and upgrade other parts of the water system. Areas of the current system are making water undrinkable and unusable.
The town and village of Dryden discussed ways to solve water main problems on Cortland Road, as the village decided it could no longer support the aged, breaking main that serves 11 customers.
The village of Dryden also held hearings on a proposed 144-unit housing project across Route 38 from the high school. The issue is scheduled to be taken up again Thursday.
The Cuyler Town Board election rematch between incumbent Democrat Donald Beattie and his Republican challenger Michelle Newton Stafford proved just as interesting as their first race.
In January 2010, the two candidates had to cut a deck of cards to determine a winner after a 147 vote tie in the previous year’s elections.
This November, the unofficial count listed Beattie as the winner by a count of 120-42. When the recount came in, it showed Stafford actually had 142 votes, and was declared the winner. She will serve the remaining three years of a four-year term.
The oldest operating farm in Cortland County auctioned off about 270 dairy cows and 68 bred heifers in March. The sale ended the Van Patten family’s 200-year history of dairy farming at the Otisco Valley Road farm in Preble.
The farm, operated by brothers Bruce and Tom, will continue to operate by boarding animals for other farmers and by harvesting crops such as hay and oats. The farm kept about 150 cattle from birth to 15 months.
In November, Kinney Drugs announced it was closing its Marathon store on Main Street, leaving the village without a drug store. The company blamed low sales and reduced reimbursement rates for publicly funded insurance programs for the decision to close, said Mike Duteau, director of pharmacy operations for Kinney Drugs.
The drugstore chain will offer delivery service in the Marathon area to patient homes and directly to the Marathon Health Center if requested.
The drugstore chain has been at the Main Street location since 2006. The drug store had several private owners before then, dating back more than 50 years. It was the only Kinney Drugs to close in New York state last year, Duteau said.
The state has pushed back the start date for the $12 million Route 281 construction project from the spring of 2010 to sometime in 2011 and again to the most recent estimate of summer 2013. State Sen. James Seward echoed the Town Board’s call for construction to start as soon as possible in a letter to the state Department of Transportation. The letter said the merging traffic at the north end of the previously expanded section of road creates a hazardous situation.
State budget problems have limited funding for the project, which is designed to improve traffic flow on Route 281 and eliminate a bottleneck where the road narrows to two lanes north of the Route 222 intersection. Plans for the work were first announced more than a decade ago, but were delayed and scaled back to narrow the roadway in some sections and have less impact on some homes and businesses along Route 281.
The second phase would widen the road from two to four lanes along a roughly two-mile stretch from Luker Road to Fisher Avenue. The first phase of the reconstruction was completed at the end of 2009, but the board was notified in September that the second phase would be put off from 2011 to 2013.
Taylor Center Methodist Episcopal Church and a one-room school house, both from the late 19th century, were added to the state Register of Historic Places in May and at the request of the Taylor Historical Society.
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