Unless we take a stand, we will all lose what we love so much about our Hilltowns

To the Editor:

I had to sue the town of Berne to compel them to follow the law. This, after having brain surgery, and trying to recover. I had to do it because it was ethically and morally wrong and I hate being bullied. Don’t you?

The town of Berne has voted in bullies. Bullies who do not care about procedure, decorum, personal relationships, our environment, our children, our elderly, or our farmers.

They lead by intimidation: smearing people’s long-standing good names, making people afraid for the safety of their loved ones and their livelihood, and public humiliation. It’s like a witch hunt if you do not agree with them.

I have been approached by people from all political bents (not all from Berne) that have commented on the “Berne Fiasco” and this is what I have surmised.

No matter your religion or political leanings, wrong is wrong and right is right. Children are taught this at a young age — to respect people, to be kind to others, and to always try and “do the right thing.”

Joel Willsey, the remaining Democratic town board member, has brought up real problems facing the town. These are not small problems. These are big-picture issues that could hurt the town for decades to come.

Fiscal irresponsibility, lack of public involvement, unsafe roads (which has actually caused injury and loss to operators), violating open meeting laws, secret deals made in private with unions, and lack of an adequate COVID response for our most vulnerable populations are just a few of these issues.

Now the Town of Berne’s “Fiasco Party,” including [Supervisor Sean] Lyons, [Highway Superintendent Randy] Bashwinger, [Deputy Supervisor Dennis] Palow, [Councilwoman Bonnie] Conklin, and [Councilman Mathew] Harris, all with the backing of [Thomas] Spargo — a convicted felon and ex-New York Supreme Court Judge — seek to destroy our community by having the planning board revise our comprehensive plan. 

This plan was carefully crafted in 2017 with input from various levels of government, a year-long resident survey, and a sizable grant from New York State. This plan is what we brought forth when Dollar General was planning to build. Dollar General brought the planning board a set of plans like every other plain Dollar General and we asked them to create a beautiful building that would fit within our comp plan of increasing agrotourism.

Now, in my opinion, we have one of the most beautiful Dollar General stores. The planning board ensured that this happened by using the comprehensive plan.

People come up from all areas of New York to visit our farms, businesses, and revel in our fall foliage. We have maple tours and farm tours yearly that farms depend upon for income and marketing. Now, instead of being known for our beautiful landscape and farms, we are known for this board’s derisiveness and hostility. It is a sad state of affairs.

Serving on the planning board is my honor and an honor that I do not take lightly. They have tried multiple times to destroy me and my farm, destroy the planning board, and now destroy our Hilltown heritage. Why? One has to thoughtfully ponder this question.

I moved to Berne in 2013 to farm. It is a beautiful area — like waking up in a postcard daily. Now it is like waking up in a bad dream.

Good people are moving from Berne because they “don’t want to be next.” Citizens of Berne need to become involved. It is a sign of the times globally as well.

Without concerned citizens demanding answers to why these people want to bankrupt Berne and destroy our landscape and farmland, they will continue to run amok.

In the end, it will lead to higher property taxes, lower home sales, and a school that will not be filled with children. Switzkill Farm will be destroyed and all those who have enjoyed it forgotten.

The Hilltowns, as you know it, will become a thing of the past.

Doing the right thing is never easy. Believe me, I know. Unfortunately, unless we all take a stand, we will all lose what we love so much about our Hilltowns.

Get involved. Your vote counts.

Emily Vincent


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