ELIZABETHTOWN - Divisions amongst the members of the Elizabethtown Town Board were evident April 21 as they discussed several contentious topics.
For the first time in two months, all five board members were present, including councilman Phil Hutchins, who had taken a lengthy vacation to Florida. Both Hutchins and town supervisor Noel Merrihew addressed a letter to the board criticizing Hutchins for his extended absence, arguing that it caused a delay of important town business.
Merrihew said the assertion was "simply untrue," and that the board only needed four members present to vote on a proposed local law.
"I believe it was important enough to have all the board members present for that," he said.
"There's an assumption that, because I was away, the town couldn't function," said Hutchins, "and that's absurd."
Councilmen Joseph Martin and Ken Fenimore also recorded absences in either February or March.
Back to the drawing board
With all board members present, voting on a proposed local law restricting outdoor wood boilers was first on the agenda. The law would have placed a ban on the furnaces after a three-year phase out period, during which, any existing furnaces would be required to meet strict operational guidelines.
Fenimore suggested adding an amendment to the law that would reduce the phase-out period to two years and increase the setback requirement to 250 feet. The amendment would allow OWB owners to convert their existing furnaces into newer, less pollutant phase two furnaces. Also, it would allow the town's public health officer to order discontinued use of a device if it was determined to be a nuisance or a health hazard.
Merrihew explained that, if any amendments were made, the law would have to again be presented at a public hearing and given 30
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days for the public's review. Fenimore, therefore, withdrew the amendment.
Both Merrihew and councilman Mike McGinn expressed opposition to the law's policy regarding the eventual removal of pre-existing OWBs.
"I cannot support this tonight because of that one provision," Merrihew said, explaining that voting down the law would not interfere with the standing ban on new OWBs. "I think we are all in agreement to move forward with another local law."
Board members voted unanimously against the proposed law.
"We will move forward," said Merrihew, "and we will probably schedule a work session to discuss some of the language that Mr. Fenimore has presented."
Sewer plans progressing
In other business, the board voted to move forward with plans for a new sewage treatment plant and pipeline system in the hamlet.
Don Fletcher, an engineer for Barton and Loguidice, the firm in charge of the project, said the Adirondack Park Agency and the Department of Environmental Conservation have been pushing for final plans on the project so that it can be ready in time to apply for federal stimulus money.
Plans to construct the treatment plant at the former Elizabethtown Fish and Game club property were halted after the DEC discovered the Murdock Bird Sanctuary along County Route 8 extended past the road to the banks of the Boquet river. Restrictions prevented the proposed sewage pipeline from crossing the land.
"Unfortunately, that did put us back a little bit," said Merrihew, noting that the town is considering alternative sites on Woodruff lane or River Street in contrast to the added cost of diverting the pipeline around the bird sanctuary.
"If it's a million and a half less to go to Woodruff, that's probably where it will go," said Martin.
Though the location for the treatment plant is yet to be determined, the board voted unanimously to allow Barton and Loguidice to commence work on drawing up the final plans.
Golf Course Woes
Discussion over the Cobble Hill Golf Course grew heated as the board rushed to set rates prior to the course's opening.
Merrihew and Fenimore presented the consensus of their committee meeting with golf course manager Bruce McPhail. They suggested keeping all rates level except for an increase on membership fees for ELCS students from $30 to $75. They also suggested removing the special rate for play after 4 p.m.
"In light of the current economic times, we did not feel there was an area where we were willing to step forward this year. We didn't feel this was the time to be raising those costs."
Martin argued against the modest changes, however, saying more fee increases were needed to keep the course profitable."
"The bottom line on this is the course isn't making money," he said, arguing that the course should be treated as a business even though it is municipally owned. "The rest of the public doesn't want to pay for something they're not using."
Martin said that the rates have remained virtually the same for the past five years and cutting down on personnel at the course would not be feasible.
"I can't agree with not raising the rates this year," Martin said, suggesting raising all membership rates for residents by $50, or possibly making them equal to non-resident rates.
"Even though the economic times are bad, this is a luxury," he added, "it's not a necessity."
"I still believe and support the idea that the residents should get some break," argued Merrihew.
Fenimore said significantly raising the rates would probably drive away golfers to other nearby golf courses.
Merrihew added that steps were being taken to reduce expenditures at the golf course, including a negotiation with the power company to reduce electricity costs. Even though the course is in the red, it still adds value to the town and its businesses, he said.
Hutchins suggested gradual increases in rates may be in order, so golfers wouldn't be as surprised by a drastic increase.
Ultimately Martin withdrew his suggestions, allowing the board to vote on the initial plan. Martin was the only councilman to vote against it.