ELIZABETHTOWN - Essex County leaders expressed both appreciation and concern toward New York's executive leader earlier this week.
Adam Bacon, the new regional representative from the office of Gov. David Paterson, appeared before the Essex County Board of Supervisors April 5 to ask for their support of a bill Paterson authored to place tighter restrictions on texting while driving.
The bill, similar to others previously introduced, would make the use of handheld electronic devices while driving a primary offense, meaning drivers can be ticketed for it regardless of whether they are ticketed for other violations. Currently, law enforcement officers are not allowed to pull a driver over for texting alone.
Bacon cited a study by Nationwide Insurance that estimates one in every five drivers, and two thirds of 18-to-24-year-olds, send or receive text messages while behind the wheel.
Jay Supervisor and Board Chairman Randy Douglas lauded the bill, stating how he had called for similar legislation last year.
"It's very, very dangerous," said Douglas, "and we can't commend the governor enough for this."
Still, many other supervisors took the opportunity to reiterate concerns expressed by government leaders throughout the North Country. North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi pointed to regional opposition of the governor's proposal to close Moriah Shock and an executive ban on municipal brush burning enacted by the Department of Environmental Conservation.
"I know you're probably not here to address these issues, but all of us have them on our minds," Politi said.
Bacon said the proposed closure of Moriah Shock and other North Country prisons were among several budget issues still being debated in the State Legislature. He offered to look into the brush burning issue.
Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston said a top DEC official appearing at the New York Association of Towns conference in February insinuated towns could burn brush if it were done as firefighter training.
"I contacted our local forest ranger about it; he then contacted his boss, John Streiff, at the DEC offices in Ray Brook," said Preston. "I really never did get a clarification until a couple of weeks went by."
The response, Preston said, was the suggestion by DEC lawyers that allowing brush to be brought to a landfill area would be in violation of solid waste law. Preston said this seemed contradictory to the legal alternative for brush disposal.
"So I'm going to be cited under the solid waste law if we bring it to have a fire training," Preston said, "but not if we chip it."
Morrow said the ban made little sense because burn permits were still being issued to individual residents, resulting in hundreds of burn piles creating potential fire hazards instead of one controlled burn.