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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 5, 2012

Westerlo forms committee to study hydrofracking

WESTERLO — Following the lead of neighboring Rensselaerville, the Westerlo Town Board has voted to form a committee that will research the pros and cons of hydraulic fracturing in town. Alfred Field, the newest town board member, volunteered to represent the board on the new committee.

“I think we should try to get a group of folks that are going to be involved and engaged,” Councilman R. Gregory Zeh said Tuesday of forming a hydrofracking committee. “I’d suggest we try and form a committee of our own, that’s comprised of a member from each of our town boards, to get up to date and kind of keep each board educated on what they need to do, and what their responsibilities are.”

This week, the board held both its re-organizational meeting and regular meeting. It made its annual appointments, and approved salaries. Employees of Westerlo’s library were the only people to get raises in this year’s budget, though Councilmen Edward Rash and R. Gregory Zeh had voted against the salary hikes for this year. All other town employees had forgone salary increases for 2012, and some took pay cuts.


High-volume hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, is a drilling process used by gas companies to reach shale deposits, “done in multiple stages, typically using 300,000 to 600,000 gallons of water per stage,” according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Westerlo is located on the edge of the Marcellus Shale formation.

The DEC released a revision of its supplemental generic environmental impact statement for hydraulic fracturing on Sept. 7. The document reviews the potential environmental impacts of hydrofracking, and how to minimize those impacts; and the public comment period for the DEC’s proposed regulations on hydrofracking has been extended to Jan. 11, 2012.

The DEC would have the responsibility of granting permits for drilling, and the state’s Environmental Conservation Law says that it “shall supersede all local laws or ordinances relating to the regulation of the oil, gas and solution mining industries.”

Some argue that municipalities can exercise some control over hydraulic fracturing by using their zoning laws. The Rensselaerville committee will determine what’s right for this rural Hilltown.

During the Westerlo Town Board’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Edwin Lawson, the town’s building and zoning administrator, directed the town’s attention to an article in the latest issue of Talk of the Towns, a bi-monthly magazine published by the Association of Towns of the State of New York, which urges local municipalities to become educated on the subject; examine the potential effects of the process on water resources, roads and bridges, zoning, and the local economy; and determine whether or not the town has the capacity to handle an emergency caused by a hydrofracking accident.

“If they’re drilling in Berne, it can affect Westerlo,” Lawson said. “If they’re drilling in Rensselaerville, it can affect Westerlo.”

While reporting his findings, Lawson noted that, in some cases, “The chemicals used to do the hydrofracking with high-pressure water are proprietary chemicals,” the compositions of which are not publicly known. “If you had to clean up the spill, and you don’t know what you’re dealing with, I think you’re in a little bit of trouble,” Lawson said.

Leonard Laub, a Westerlo resident and former planning board chairman, said from the audience, “The articles pointed out that there is the opportunity for towns to take some action, and the idea of a moratorium sounds like a closed door; that isn’t necessarily what’s needed.”

Laub also referred to a conversation from a previous meeting, when some discussed the value of a baseline water test, to gain knowledge of the content of the town’s water before a hydrofracking company came to town and potentially altered it.

The town board voted unanimously to form the committee.

Said Zeh, “Now comes the fun part: Looking for volunteers.”

Other business

In other business at its Jan. 3 meeting, the town board:

— Established a $200 petty-cash fund for the town clerk, to make change while collecting taxes;

— Heard from Supervisor Richard Rapp that the town has paid back $100,000 of the $145,000 it borrowed to cover the cost of the Westerlo School, which it purchased from the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School District to be converted into the new town hall. The town received its $225,000 in state grant money last month, which is to be put towards the cost of the school and any necessary renovations;

— Voted to borrow $40,000 for a tax anticipation note, to cover payroll before town residents pay their taxes; and

— Announced a meeting at Greenville High School on Jan. 28, from 10 a.m. to noon, where the community will discuss school taxes for the coming year.


The town’s elected and appointed officials and boards are as follows, with terms to expire on Dec. 31, 2012, unless otherwise noted:

Town Board: Richard Rapp (supervisor), and councilmen Edward Rash (Dec. 31, 2013), R. Gregory Zeh (Dec. 31, 2013), Anthony Sherman (Dec. 31, 2015), and Alfred Field (Dec. 31, 2015);

Planning Board: Wilfred Van Iderstine (term on board expires Dec. 31, 2013), Gerald Boone (Dec. 31, 2014), Kristen Slaver (Dec. 31, 2015), and Richard Kurylo (Dec. 31, 2016), Edwin Stevens (Dec. 31, 2012);

Board of Assessment Review: Dawn Belarge (term expires Sept. 30, 2012), Eugene Coogan (Sept. 30, 2014), and Suzanne Rash (Sept. 30, 2013);

Zoning Board of Appeals: Gail Snyder (chairwoman, term on board expires Dec. 31, 2012), Virginia Mangold (Dec. 31, 2012), Gerald Woodruff (Dec. 31, 2015), and Robert Beck (Dec. 31, 2013). There is one vacant seat;

Consultant: Robert E. Fisher;

Town Clerk and Registrar of Vital Statistics: Kathleen Spinnato;

Deputy Registrar and Deputy Town Clerk: Gertrude Smith;

Zoning Administrator and Code Enforcement Officer: Edwin Lawson;

Highway Superintendent: John Nevins;

Deputy Highway Superintendent: Jody Ostrander

Deputy Code Enforcement Officer: Bruce F. Bunzey;

Court Clerk: Florence Derry;

Deputy Supervisors: Edward A. Rash and R. Gregory Zeh;

Town Attorney: Aline D. Galgay;

Town Judge: Kenneth Mackey (term expires Dec. 31, 2013);

Town Historian: Dennis Fancher;

Dog-Control Officer: Jody Ostrander;

Assistant Dog Control Officer: William Scott III;

Zoning Board Clerk and Planning Board Clerk: Rita Perciballi;

Assessor’s Clerk: Claire Marshall; and

Official Newspaper: The Altamont Enterprise.


Salaries for town officials this year are as follows:

Supervisor: $15,000, to be paid weekly;

Highway Superintendent: $54,060, paid weekly;

Deputy Highway Superintendent: $20.30 an hour;

Transfer Station Operator: $19.28 an hour;

Recreation Maintenance Person(s): $19.28 an hour;

Utility Laborer: $19.28 an hour;

Sub-Foreman: $19.78 an hour;

Laborer A: $18.74 an hour;

Laborer B: $19.23 an hour;

Town Justices: $10,000 each, paid quarterly;

Town Board: $7,250 each, paid quarterly;

Town Clerk and Tax Collector: $31,400, paid weekly;

Administrative Aid: $21.52 an hour;

Deputy Town Clerk: $16.58 per hour, paid weekly;

Town Attorney: $20,000, paid quarterly;

Assessors: $22,000, paid weekly;

Clerk to the Assessors: $16.50 an hour paid bi-weekly;

Zoning Administrator: $6,000, paid quarterly;

Code Enforcement Officer: $13,500, paid quarterly;

Deputy Code Enforcement Officer: $8,500, paid quarterly;

Court Clerk: $16.58 per hour, paid bi-weekly;

Dog-Control Officer: $4,200, paid monthly;

Assistant Dog-Control Officer: $3,000, paid monthly;

Planning Board Clerk: $16.58 per hour, paid bi-weekly;

Planning Board Member: $1,250 each;

Planning Board Chairperson: $2,250;

Board of Assessment Review: $200 each;

Zoning Board Member: $1,250 each;

Zoning Board Chairperson: $2,250;

Zoning Board Clerk: $16.58 per hour, paid bi-weekly;

Town Historian: $1,500, paid annually;

Youth Council Coordinator: $2,000;

Library Manager: $20.70 an hour;

Library Clerk 1: $11.80 an hour;

Library Clerk 2: $14.40;

Library Clerk 3: $12.00;

Library Clerk 4: $11.80; and

Library Page: $8.50.

By Zach Simeone

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