Hillsdale agrees to share cost of gas spill cleanup

HILLSDALE—At the December 16 meeting of the Hillsdale Town Board, Supervisor Art Baer reported that the town has contributed $12,500 toward a settlement with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) involving the Cobble Pond Farm gas station at the corner of Routes 22 and 23.

According to Mr. Baer, about five or six years ago a resident reported an “environmental problem” to the DEC after coming across an unidentified smell. The DEC determined that there was “contamination—some type of leakage” in the area. Officials later determined that the gas station was the source of the contamination. Contacted after the meeting the supervisor said it was a petroleum product, probably gasoline, that had leaked.

Mr. Baer said that the DEC imposed a fine on the owners of the gas station, who then counter-sued the town, claiming that the town was also responsible for the contamination. The town eventually decided that going to trial “would cost more money in the scheme of things.”

“I felt it was in the best interest of the taxpayers to settle,” said Mr. Baer.

Mr. Baer emphasized that the town’s agreement to make a contribution towards the payment of the fine was not an admission of guilt. “You hate to settle when you don’t feel you’ve done anything wrong. By giving this money to the DEC, we’re not admitting that we did anything wrong,” said Mr. Baer. He also said that, while he did not know the total amount of the fine, the $12,500 from the town was a small percentage.

The owners of the gas station were not available for comment. A spokesperson for the DEC referred questions on the matter to the office of state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. No one in that office could be reached before press deadline.

During the meeting the board also discussed advertising for appointed positions on the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Board of Assessment Review, which have one, one and two open positions, respectively. The current terms end December 31.

The town has been having some difficulty in finding applicants for the Board of Assessment Review. Earlier this year, the town increased the number of members on that board from three to five. Only one person applied, and then one of the board members passed away, leaving the board back at its original number of three members.

Mr. Baer said that “as far as the workload is concerned, it’s not that much. There’s some training up front involved…[but] it meets once or twice a year to hear grievances.”

Applicants for any of the boards will be interviewed by that board, and the boards’ recommendations will be sent to the Town Board, though the Town Board is “not obligated” to accept the recommendation.

But Mr. Baer said, “If a person who is on the board has served in good stead, and the board recommends we reappoint them,” the Town Board has generally agreed.


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