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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 28, 2009

Town board divided on wind-law counsel

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — The town has begun a process to draft a wind-turbine law with a split vote on hiring a lawyer to advise it.

Last week, the town board chose Todd Mathes, of Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, LLP, from a pool of three lawyers.  Mathes’s rate is $185 per hour.

Councilwoman Peg Neri recommended Mathes to the board and got support from Councilman Richard Reilly and Councilwoman Deborah Baron.

Councilman Douglas LaGrange, a farmer, had spent the nearly summer-like day working in the fields and did not have time to properly review the information Neri had e-mailed board members earlier in the day regarding the three proposals from lawyers, he said after the vote.

Dolin voted against the motion, and explained this week that Mathes has a potential conflict of interest since he has ties to a local wind-energy group.

“I have been involved in an advisory capacity with Helderberg Community Energy’s efforts to study the feasibility of constructing a wind energy facility, consisting of three 1.5 megawatt wind turbines in the town of Knox,” Mathes wrote in his proposal to the town.  “While I am not of the opinion that my involvement with Helderberg Community Energy has created a professional conflict requiring waiver within the meaning of the Lawyer’s Code of Professional Responsibility, this issue should be considered more fully prior to any engagement of the firm by the town.”

Neri highlighted the firm’s experience with guiding municipalities towards wind-energy laws, noting the work done in the nearby town of Duanesburg.

“We drafted a local law for consideration by the three towns,” Mathes wrote, referring to Duanesburg, Princetown, and Rotterdam, “and subsequently assisted each town with consideration of the law and enactment in accordance with the requirements of the town law, Municipal Home Rule Law, General Municipal Law and” the State Environmental Quality Review Act.  The law addressed commercial- and residential-scale wind projects, he wrote.

Last year, Shell approached landowners in New Scotland and the Hilltowns about building commercial wind turbines on the crest of the Helderbergs.  New Scotland, like neighboring towns, had no zoning addressing the turbines.  Shell has since withdrawn, but other companies are interested.  Towns across the state are now drafting legislation.

The board was also divided on the idea of a wind-energy committee, with Reilly introducing the idea by saying he agreed with an earlier suggestion from LaGrange.

“I don’t understand the reluctance to have a committee,” Baron said after Neri and Dolin each expressed hesitation.

“It’s a circular process,” Dolin said of appointing a committee.  “It’s a diversion.”

Ultimately, the law will be the town board’s decision, he said, so board members need to be educated and including committee members would just add another layer, he said.

The board reached no formal decision on naming a committee.

As far as his choice for an advising attorney, Dolin said yesterday that he would have chosen Peter Henner, who practices in Clarksville and has experience representing municipalities.  The third proposal was from Young, Sommer, Ward, Ritzenberg, Baker, & Moore, LLC. 

Other business

In other business at recent meetings, the board:

— Heard from Cheryl Domanico that it has been over a year since her first complaint to the town regarding the noise generated by her neighbors’ use of dirt bikes.  She and Richard Belleville, also a resident of the New Salem area, showed the board a roughly 10-minute video of racing bikes and pleaded for an ordinance to address motorized bike use in New Scotland hamlets. 

John Dearstyne, who lives on Clipp Road, told the board that he has similar problems with people riding motorized bikes behind his house.  At an earlier meeting, the board discussed getting a decibel meter to be used by the town’s enforcement officer, Jeffry Pine, and has since purchased one for roughly $600;

— Received a check from Tom Smith, captain of the Voorheesville Area Ambulance Service, for $39,077 from income generated by the ambulance service’s revenue recovery system;

— Heard from Deschenes that the town is seeking applicants to fill two part-time positions — assistant building inspector and building department office clerk;

— Heard from Deschenes that the town is looking for volunteers to drive the senior van, which does not require a commercial driver’s license;

— Heard from Dolin that Todd Britton has resigned from the zoning board of appeals, effective June 30;

— Voted unanimously to give Highway Superintendent Darrell Duncan permission to order about 20 radio remote meter heads for the Swift Road water district at a cost not to exceed $3,000.  These allow the meters to be read at a distance;

— Heard from Duncan that all necessary paperwork has been submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency regarding the December 2008 ice storm disaster application;

— Discussed a report submitted by the town’s engineer, Mark Dempf of Stantec Consulting, on the Feura Bush water tank.  The report identifies tank recoating and replacement of aging pumps, at a cost of $282,000, as the preferred alternative and estimates the cost of replacing the 1983 tank at $528,000;

— Heard from Dempf that, weather permitting, there is no eminent catastrophic failure on Krumkill Road, but work on slope stabilization needs to be done;

— Voted unanimously to approve the second phase of the water quality improvement project for the northeastern water district submitted by Dempf.  “In summary,” the plan says, “the proposed treatment of the water will be done by use of sequestering agent to control the iron and manganese.”  The cost of services from Stantec is estimated at $5,150;

— Voted unanimously to accept a bid from Pollard Disposal for solid waste collection at a cost of $288,022.  The board had considered changing to a hauler, County Waste, that provided wheeled units to be used by residents, which would have cost $257,500, but decided that it should look into the options further before committing to such a change, considering the length of many residents’ driveways in the rural parts of town;

— Voted unanimously to give the New Scotland Historical Association permission to update the electrical service in two areas at the community center.  The historical association will hire a licensed and insured electrician and pay for the work;

— Voted unanimously to formalize a policy that pets are not allowed in town vehicles; and

— Discussed providing a cell phone for use by drivers of the senior van.

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