Chatham Town Board hears plans for Rail Trail

CHATHAM–The Town Board scheduled a regular monthly meeting for Thursday, July 19, but with only three of five members present, decisions on several agenda items were postponed.

Town Supervisor Jesse DeGroodt said Councilwoman Maria Lull was out of town and that Councilman Henry Swartz, Jr. was absent due to a medical issue.

In addition to Mr. DeGroodt, Councilwoman Jean Rohde and Councilman Bob Balcom were present.

At the beginning of the meeting, the board heard a presentation from Lenny Collins, Columbia County’s associate chairman of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. Mr. Collins walked through the construction status of each section of the proposed 46-mile trail, which he called, “Not just a bike trail.”

Mr. Collins said the trail can be used by “all kinds of non-motorized vehicles,” as well as motorized wheelchairs.

“You see walkers, as well as kids learning to ride bikes,” said Mr. Collins. “There are some Spandex-Lance Armstrong-types, but not many.”

The trail begins near the Metro North train station in Wassaic in Dutchess County and, once completed, will end in the Village of Chatham. Two sections are already in use: an 11-mile section from Wassaic to Millerton and a 4-mile section from Under Mountain Road in Ancram to Copake Falls in this county.

Local Rail Trail backers have recently been focusing their efforts on building public support for what they call the Northern 11, the 11 miles of the old Harlem Valley Line railroad bed that runs between Philmont and Chatham. The group is seeking a state planning grant that would be matched by local contributions.

The business the board did accomplish last week included:

A decision to advertise a job opening and collect resumes for town comptroller. Mr. DeGroodt said current Comptroller Earl Kelsey is retiring at the end of the year. The supervisor said he would like to have a replacement on the job by the beginning of October for training purposes. The board set a deadline of August 31st for applications

Approving a $71,500 payment on a 2008 International Truck, which will reduce the principal owed by half

Appointing Ms. Lull Town Board liaison to the Chatham Agricultural Partnership

Waiving a building permit fee for the East Chatham Fire Company

Three other items discussed, but tabled until the full board is present were:

Proposed changes to the Conservation Advisory Council law. Town Attorney Tal Rappleyea explained that a small group met last month to review the current law, a proposed law and a third alternative presented by Mr. Balcom.

“We pretty much blended them all together,” said Mr. Rappleyea.

Possible moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) similar to one recently passed in Germantown. Mr. Rappleyea, who is also the town attorney for Germantown, said the town passed the moratorium after a Germantown resident was contacted by a hydrofracking company to use his land for storage and other activities related to the hydrofracking process used to extract natural gas.

“One of the prongs of a successful moratorium is that you have something on the horizon,” said Mr. Rappleyea.

He suggested that if the town did want to pass a moratorium, that it limit the moratorium to six months, “to show we are actually working on [learning more about fracking], rather than throwing out a blockade.”

Mr. Balcom said he’s concerned because, “It’s all dollars and cents to the fracking companies. If they’re looking at Germantown, they could be looking here soon.”

NYSEG Town lighting proposal. Mr. DeGroodt said the power company is proposing replacing some street lights with bulbs that use less energy. The board agreed it wanted more information before approving the changes.

The board members also recognized Chatham High School’s Ross Wightman for his outstanding accomplishments in track and field. As a junior, Ross was named an All-American after taking third place in the 2000-meter Steeplechase at the national track and field meet in Greensboro, N.C. in June. Ross will be back in the fall for his senior season with the Panthers.


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