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October 3, 2012

 

City OKs lease for Rosen site rail facility

Rail transport hub will be built at south end on polluted former industrial site

By NEIL BENJAMIN JR.
Staff Reporter
nbenjamin@cortlandstandardnews.net

The city Common Council agreed Tuesday to lease a former industrial site off Pendleton Street to the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway Corp., which would build a rail spur and use it as an offloading facility for local businesses.
Because gas prices are so high, the spur in the former Rosen site will give local businesses a way to save money on transportation costs.
The Rosen site was declared a federal Superfund site in 1989 due to illegal dumping and soil contamination.
Mayor Brian Tobin, City Administrator Mack Cook said and aldermen all said leasing the site will be an economic boost to the city.
The city is charging $7,200 per year to lease the site. Cook said that is what the city would have received in property taxes if the land was on the tax rolls. The city will charge $100 for every rail car that is either loaded or unloaded at the site.
The lease is for 30 years and includes annual increases tied to the consumer price index.
In a public forum prior to the council meeting, the hot topic was whether leasing the land would attract the natural gas industry.
Ruth Grunberg, a 7th Ward resident and one of two citizens to speak, said the lease of the site is going to open the doors to hydraulic fracturing, in which large volumes of chemically treated water are injected deep underground to break up shale and release trapped natural gas.
The state has imposed a moratorium on the controversial process while it finalizes regulations.
Grunberg said she worries that the process is not safe and she does not want it in her area.
“Does the city have a comprehensive plan for fracking?” she said.
Her other main concern has to do with an increase in truck traffic going to and from the site.
Nathan Fenno, president of the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway, stepped up to the microphone and quickly dismissed the idea that hydrofracking is going to make its way to the city.
He said he has been working on a plan for the site since 1994, and said the time has finally come for it to be put to use in a positive way.
He said the logistics of the city make it nearly impossible for gas drilling because drilling requires a running water source from a well within 30 miles of where the drilling is happening.
“You can draw a 30-mile line and run it around a circle from Cortland and you won’t find a well,” he said. “We have absolutely no intention of using the site for hydrofracking.”
The Common Council mirrored Fenno’s thoughts. As a whole, the council would have voted against leasing the site if hydrofracking was in its future.
“I would vote against this if hydrofracking were involved in any way,” said Alderman Dan Quail (R-5th Ward).
One train car hauls the equivalent of what four trucks can haul, said Fenno. He added that small businesses would benefit the most, since those businesses generally do not have access to hauling goods by freight.
Concerns about idling trucks around the spur was an issue, as well. There was some confusion about where the trucks would idle, and the noise they would make.
Cook said that not many trucks are expected — maybe up to four a day to start.
“The bottom line is this is a proposal to put a Superfund site to good use,” Tobin said. “There’s not much that can be done with it, so why not open the doors up for our local businesses?”
Among other business Tuesday:
l Tobin scheduled a public forum to hear residents’ input and concerns about drafting the 2013 city budget. From 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday at City Hall, there will be a meeting to solicit feedback in advance of the budget being presented at the Oct. 16 meeting.
“We need the public’s input on this, so this meeting is a great idea,” Tobin said.
l Quail said the 5th Ward Neighborhood Watch has scheduled a walk-through of the neighborhood on Oct. 11.

 

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