Johnsburg Town Hall
Of the issues tackled by the Johnsburg Town Board at their June 4 meeting at the Wevertown Community Center, the most important went beyond the town itself. Between a proposed speed limit change and a funding mixup with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Johnsburg is up against both state and federal bureaucracy.
The proposed speed limit change would amend the 55 mph section of State Route 28 — a stretch from the current 45 mph limit sign north of Stewart’s past the Ski Bowl Park and the nursing home — to a 45 mph zone. The desire for the change is nothing new. Board members said they are especially concerned given the number of car accidents on Route 28 in the past, but speed limit changes have to go to through the state. And the state has rejected every request Johnsburg has sent so far.
Town Supervisor Ron Vanselow introduced a motion to send in a new request, this time with the support of state Sen. Betty Little.
Councilman Gene Arsenault wondered why there hasn’t been an opportunity for dialogue with the state on this issue. Vanselow noted that the criteria to make the change are very strict.
“Either you meet the criteria or you don’t,” Vanselow said, noting that the process can “get political.” He hopes Little’s support will be enough to surmount those politics and give the town’s request the headway it needs to be approved.
Board members unanimously approved the motion to submit another request.
The latter half of the meeting was dedicated to a grievous error in FEMA funding from 2011/2012, one that could cost Johnsburg $57,000. The town originally requested money from FEMA to repair roads damaged during Hurricane Irene in 2011. However, due to what was explained as “a FEMA employee checking the wrong box,” Johnsburg received $97,000. Now FEMA wants the excess money back and has contacted the Town Board regarding repayment options.
Board Secretary Cherie Ferguson assured the board that she double-checked with FEMA to make sure the amount was correct, and was assured that it was.
Councilman Peter Olesheski voiced concern over the fact that the error was on FEMA’s end and wondered if Johnsburg should be responsible for paying the money back. No one knew at the time if it was possible to challenge the decision or what the process might be for doing so.
Though several options for repayment were discussed, no official action was taken regarding FEMA’s request.
The next Johnsburg Town Board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 18 in the lower lobby of the Tannery Pond Community Center.