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Editorial Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 16, 2008

A matter of public safety and public trust

Illustration by Forest Byrd

Joe Neil bought his Knox home with his life savings. It’s a nice-enough home, nothing extravagant, but his life savings and his quality of life are in jeopardy.

His yard on Beebe Road and that of his across-the-street neighbor, William Parsons, flood frequently.

“In the winter, it’s like an ice-skating rink,” Neil said of their land. “And the spring thaw is unbelievable.”

“Can you imagine driving on that in the winter?” Parsons asked. “Somebody’s going to get killed out there.”

As it is, school buses won’t drive down the road, the neighbors say. And Parsons estimates he spent $2,500 on landscaping his yard again this year alone. Every year, the neighbors have to put in new stone and re-do their yards.

“And it’s all gone,” said Parsons.

They have home videos that show the water in their yards several feet deep, flooding over the top of Beebe Road. All of this was documented last month in a story by our Hilltown reporter, Zach Simeone. We hope delineating the problem leads to a solution.

Parsons and Neil have been after officials for close to 20 years to try to get the problem solved. The town points to the county and the county legislator says it was probably due to poor planning in the first place. That may be, but the houses were built and the current owners had no warnings about the flooding. Now seems like the ideal time to solve the problem since Beebe Road, a county road, is currently under reconstruction.

Parsons believes the culvert under Beebe Road that runs between the two properties is inadequate to handle the heavy flow of water. He thinks putting a second culvert in would eliminate most of the flooding. “You don’t have to be an engineer to see that there isn’t enough room for the water to go under the road,” said Parsons.

A county engineer is currently studying the problem, according to Michael Franchini, commissioner of the Albany County Department of Public Works. But Franchini says the culvert is not the cause of the problem. “I’ve been told the creek is pretty close to their house,” he said. “If you live near a creek, you’re subject to flooding.”

He also warns that changing the course of water could lead to lawsuits if other property is damaged. ”I don’t see how that could happen,” counters Neil, explaining it’s woods for a half-mile behind his house.

Franchini also says the water can’t be channeled behind Neil’s place since it is a federal wetland. The town’s zoning administrator, Robert Delaney, says, “According to the maps that I have, it does not show it as being a federal wetland.”

Neil and Parsons are understandably frustrated by the conflicting information from the town and county.

”We have an engineer calculating the size of the watershed to determine what is the correct size for that culvert,” said Franchini. “We’re going to study the watershed and figure out what the usual flows of water are,” he said. “That’s all we’ve promised.”

We promise to keep on the story to see what the county’s engineer concludes.

Officials recently have compared the situation to that in Colonie — where the town came under fire for highway department work at a private sportsmen’s club — and said they can’t use public equipment on Beebe Road to solve a private problem.

That excuse doesn’t hold water any better than the undersized culvert on Beebe Road. The problem on Beebe Road is caused by an inadequate public drainage system, which needs to be made functional.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer, editor

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