‘Frack’ pact offer worries town

GERMANTOWN–The Town Board agreed at its March 19 meeting to hold a public hearing on a resolution for a local law permitting “an 18-month moratorium on natural gas and/or petroleum exploration activities, natural gas and/or petroleum extraction activities and/or natural gas and/or petroleum support activities in the Town of Germantown.”

Public comment will be heard Monday, April 16 at 6:30 p.m. in Town Hall, Palatine Park Road, in advance of the regularly scheduled Town Board meeting. 

The matter came up because a local business owner was contacted about whether his property was available for use in the exploration process, Supervisor Roy Brown told the board. “I don’t know what that means,” he said, and “not knowing where New York State will be at the end of this process,” he is proposing the local law.

In two court decisions last month state Supreme Court judges ruled that local communities may use zoning laws to prohibit “fracking,” the term used for the oil and natural gas extraction process called high volume horizontal fracturing. Fracking involves deep wells into which large amounts of water and chemicals are pumped to force out gas trapped in rock formations. The state currently has a moratorium on the procedure while the state Department of Environmental Conservation considers new regulations on the process.

Town attorney Tal Rappleyea advised board members that they could not “sit still” during the 18-months of the proposed moratorium. They will need to study the issue and the town’s zoning code, and be ready to “bring a solution to the table,” he said.

In other business, the board:

*Learned from Sewer Department head George Sharpe Jr. that the backup generator has been repaired. It is being tested and should be returned within a week. He had heard nothing more about the scoping of a property owner’s lateral line that was discussed at the February meeting.

*Learned from Andrea Dunne and Brittany Dufresne of the Parks Commission that they had met with Councilman Donald Westmore and Mr. Rappleyea and have almost completed the paperwork for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status for the commission.

*Learned from GTel head Bruce Bohnsack, who now chairs the Economic Development Committee, that he and Corinne Curry, former chair, met with Ken Flood, county planning and economic development commissioner, to talk about grants. “He had some great ideas for us,” said Mr. Bohnsack, such as a planning grant, and the committee will pursue this idea.

*Learned from Mr. Westmore, who chairs the Communications Committee, that the group is working on related, “mutually reinforcing” ideas. The redesign of the town website is moving forward. A telephone information line is ready to go live. A newsletter will be launched soon, as early as April. Sites are being investigated for information kiosks, one each for public notices and official notices.

*Learned from Mr. Brown that he had scheduled a first-quarter budget workshop for Wednesday, April 18, at 6 p.m.

*On the sidewalk extension project, Mr. Brown noted that the town awaited approval of the state Department of Transportation office in Poughkeepsie of the firm, GDI, which the town had chosen to do the work.

*Learned from Councilman Michael Mortenson that he agreed that staying with Brian Fitzgerald, appointed “interim” accountant in January, would be best for the town this year. Mr. Brown suggested that the board send out an RFP for accountant services in September, looking toward a January 2013 appointment, and Mr. Mortenson agreed.

*Learned from resident Martin Overington that the annual Riversweep will be held on Saturday, April 14. Volunteers will start at Lasher Park in the northern part of town and work their way down to Cheviot, picking up litter. A Highway Department truck will haul it away.

Mr. Brown reported that Dave Black, of Dave’s Plumbing & Heating, had already begun the spring clean-up effort as he does every year, picking up litter by himself along Route 9G at the southern end of town.

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