Aug 22, 2011 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
In what is becoming a familiar sight in town board meetings around the region, a standing-room-only crowd turned out to oppose hydrofracking in Skaneateles during the Aug. 18 public hearing.
At issue was a 90-day extension of the current moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the town, and a chance for local residents to voice an opinion for or against the extension.
The hearing, which lasted about 45 minutes, was full of citizens adamant and unanimous in support of the moratorium extension.
Speakers also were united and vociferous in their urging of the town board to outright ban the practice of hydrofracking the town altogether, many stating that the town board is in a position to lead the smaller surrounding towns on the issue and create a domino effect toward banning the practice everywhere in the region.
The Aug. 18 meeting was the second time the board voted to extend the original hydrofracking moratorium, which was originally enacted in 2010.
Town Supervisor Terri Roney said the board has needed additional time to allow its committees to study the issue and make recommendations to the full board. They have also been working on incorporating legal language into a public law that would characterize hydrofracking as “heavy industrial use,” which would then allow the town to regulate it, and the board has needed additional time for that as well.
Twelve people spoke out during the hearing, all citing the damage hydrofracking could do to the town, the lake, the watershed area, local businesses and citizens through health hazards, environmental and noise pollution, and increased traffic. As Dr. Paul Torrisi, President of the Skaneateles Lake Association, put it, “this will change the quality of life in Skaneateles as we know it.”
Skaneateles resident Jane Anderson asked the board to “consider seriously a ban” on hydrofracking, saying, “the consequences to many outweigh the benefit to a few.”
Sal Demillio, a 25-year-old newcomer to Skaneateles from New Jersey said that when he heard about the hydrofracking issue “it made me sick. The fact that this is even an option is reprehensible.”
Some residents, such as Sheryl Ketchum and Sydney Howard, said if hydrofracking is allowed in Skaneateles they will immediately move out of the area.
No one in the audience spoke out in favor of ending the moratorium or of allowing hydrofracking generally.
Town Councilor Nancy Murray thanked all the attendees after the hearing closed, saying, “All this information is very valid and true, and we must sit down and think about this carefully. Not everyone out there agrees with everyone here tonight.”
The board then voted unanimously to extend the moratorium for 90 days, which was followed by loud applause from the audience.
“We’ll get this done before the moratorium expires,” Roney told the crowd.
Also at the town board meeting:
—The board awarded town highway department employee Stephen Bryant a plaque in recognition of his 30 years working for the town.
—Owasco Town Supervisor John Klink asked the board to consider joining the Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council in an advisory capacity as an ex-officio member. The OLWMC is an umbrella organization dedicated to maintain and improve the quality of Owasco Lake, Klink said. It is currently comprised of the Cayuga County legislature, the city of Auburn, and the towns of Owasco, Fleming and Cipio, with the towns of Venice and Niles expected to join soon. As a member, the Skaneateles Towb Board would be responsible for sending a representative to each meeting to share information with the group and then relay information back to the town board.
“The more municipalities that join, the more success we will have,” Klink said.
He said the action would cost the town of Skaneateles no money or fees, it would simply be an advisory role.
The board unanimously agreed to look over the by-laws of the organization before making a decision, which may come at the September meeting.
—Town Historian Beth Batlle reported that she has coordinated with the Skaneateles Fire Department to have all 13 bells in the town ring at the same time, starting 8:45 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11, in honor of the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The bells will ruing three times, once for each crashed plane. Batlle created handout fliers that she will give to every church in town that will have a photo of the twin towers on the front and a poem about 9/11 written by Batlle on the back. There will be no cost to the town for the fliers because Batlle applied for and received a SKARTS grant for the project.
—Town Clerk Janet Aaron reported that there was a record revenue for swimming permits this summer totaling $4,106, and that hunting licenses went on sale Monday, Aug. 15.
—The board held a public hearing on the Shepard Settlement Fire Protection contract, which would contract with the Marcellus Fire Department for two years at a cost of $6,500 per year for fire protection in Shepard Settlement. No comments were offered during the hearing, and the board approved the contract unanimously.
—The board was told that the Western Gateway Project went out for contractor bids but received no bidders. Three companies were sent information packets but all declined to bid citing too short a window of construction time and too many other pending projects more lucrative. The board decided to reopen contract bids on the project during the winter so work can begin in spring, thereby giving contractors ample time to do the project.
—The board also was informed that it received no bids for a Zamboni contract for the winter season at the ice rink. They agreed to approve a $3,000 payment as backup in case a Zamboni must be rented for one month in October while a formal contract is achieved.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.