Claverack seeks more scrutiny of music fest prep

CLAVERACK–The Town Board, concerned by the recent decision by the town Planning Board to approve an August music festival called The Big Up, has recommended that the Planning Board create a committee to ensure that concert preparations comply with local laws and regulations.

The Planning Board approved the three-day rock festival scheduled for August 8-to-10 at Hemlock Hollow Farm on county Route 11. Town Supervisor Robin Andrews said at last week’s Town Board meeting that the Planning Board’s decision has “created a lot of controversy.” Local residents are concerned about the potential for noise and drug use at the event. The music festival was last held in Ghent in 2011, and several arrests for drugs were reported at the time.

Councilman Michael Johnston said he’s received many calls from concerned residents, and he feels the decision by the Planning Board may be premature. “I think they moved too quickly on this,” he said. “It’s not prepared. It shouldn’t be this far into it.”

Councilman Robert Preusser agreed, adding that if the town holds the event, it “has to be done right.”

Ms. Andrews said that the committee would be responsible for making sure everyone in the process is informed and knows their commitments.

“The Planning Board did approve it,” she said. “So our role is to mitigate any issues that may be raised from the festival.”

At the March 14 meeting the board also discussed whether to move forward with fixing the bridge on Millbrook Road. The bridge has been closed for years and will need to be replaced at a cost Ms. Andrews said is estimated at a total of $400,000. The town Highway Department would be able to cut $50,000 off the total by doing some of the work , and another $100,000 could come from the fund balance. But that would leave $250,000 that the town would have to borrow, and the supervisor over 15 years that would mean an annual cost of $22,000. She said this would either have to be added directly to the property tax levy or included annually in the highway fund. She is not comfortable with either option.

“I would love to have the bridge fixed,” she said. “I’m just concerned about what it does to the budget.”

Councilman Cliff Weigelt said the bridge is part of the highway system, so it should be brought back.

Mr. Johnston agreed. He suggested splitting the annual $22,000 cost between the Highway fund and tax levy.

“This bridge is a town asset. It’s no different than this building,” he said. “We have to maintain our asset.”

Ian Nitschke, chair of the Historic Preservation Advisory Committee, said the bridge is historic and should not be replaced. “It’s one of the oldest concrete arch bridges in the county,” he said. “It would be a shame to destroy it.”

He also added that the residents by the bridge would not want it open because of safety concerns.

“I want that bridge open for emergency services,” replied Mr. Johnston. “This Town Board has a responsibility for the safety of the community. That means that that bridge needs to be opened.”

Ms. Andrews said her issues were not with replacing the bridge, but with having a plan to finance it.

“I think this needs to be settled,” said Mr. Preusser. “I think we can be fiscally responsible enough to come up with the $22,000.”

The board agreed to continue the discussion at the Town workshop meeting, scheduled for March 26 at 7 p.m. in the Town Office.

In other business at the March 14 board meeting:

*The board unanimously adopted a resolution calling on members of state legislature to “reexamine the enactment” of the SAFE Act, New York State’s new gun control law with “public and expert opinion.” (See story on Page 12.)

*The board agreed to participate with the towns of Greenport, Stockport, and Valatie in a grant application for a functional consolidation of the municipalities’ water districts. Ms. Andrews said that a consolidation of water districts would bring long-term benefits to Claverack, though the town would likely have the least to gain at first “because we are in far better shape with our water district,” she said.

Mr. Johnston added that if consolidation proves beneficial, then it could expand into one countywide water department.

“That won’t happen overnight,” he said, “but this is the first step to see if that’s the way to go.”

*Agricultural Advisory Committee Chair Peter Reiss said that Columbia County’s Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board is now finalizing a Farmland Protection Plan for review and approval by the county Board of Supervisors. The plan’s purpose is “to set forth specific recommendations for how the county can support and sustain both farming and the farmer,” he said.

The next regular Town Board meeting is scheduled for April 11 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.



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