COPAKE—History, broadband and water are the subjects of several initiatives in the works for this town—all with the aim of making Copake a better place to live.
At its February 11 meeting via Zoom, the Town Board heard from Roberta Roll, chairperson of the Hamlet Revitalization Task Force (HRTF) about nominating certain areas of the town for historic designation.
In her presentation, Ms. Roll noted that several areas and buildings in town already have such designations through the State and National Historic Registers.
They include the Copake Grange and the United Methodist Church in the Copake Hamlet, and the Church of St. John in the Wilderness and the Ironworks in Copake Falls.
The designations recognize and honor the significance of a building or an area—historical, agricultural, architectural, industrial or cultural, she said.
In the Ironworks district—the museum, the restored ironworks and the walking trail have all served to enhance the character of the hamlet and draw visitors to the area.
Being included on the historic registers promotes heritage tourism and community pride, economic development, appreciation of historic resources and makes owners of residential or commercial properties eligible to apply for state and federal tax credits for rehabilitation and improvements.
As the HRTF works to build business and economic growth in the hamlet, it “realized that historic designation might be extremely useful in promoting the town, sustaining existing businesses, and attracting new business, also attracting visitors and new residents,” Ms. Roll said.
Historic designations in Copake have been initiated by not-for-profit entities so far, but after much discussion the Task Force came to the conclusion that “Copake would benefit from having active involvement by the town government in achieving historic designations,” she said, adding that the Copake Economic Development Advisory Committee (CEDAC) agrees.
Ms. Roll then recommended to the Town Board that it increase historic recognition of the town and all the benefits therein by seeking and facilitating historic designations wherever possible. It was noted that grants are available to assist in paying a consultant to work on the register application or it might be done for free by interested volunteer community members.
Copake Lake resident Lindsay LeBrecht asked if having this historical designation meant that a homeowner would be told what color white to paint their house? Ms. Roll told her that there are no restrictions on what one can do with their property, but if the owner wants tax credits for a certain improvement project, the owner would have to abide by certain guidelines.
CEDAC Chairman Tom Goldsworthy said his committee endorsed the idea because it is good for property values and has an honorary benefit.
Supervisor Jeanne Mettler said that since this was the first time the board was hearing about this they would consider the proposal next month.
Later in the meeting Mr. Goldsworthy discussed applying for a New York State grant for a water study in the Copake hamlet. He said the quality of the water in the hamlet has been a concern and ways to prevent the water table from being polluted need to be investigated. The concern is especially focused on the hamlet, where structures are close together and buildings and septic systems may be old. There is also a flooding issue for homes along the Bash Bish Creek, which may compromise septic systems as well.
The last water study was done 12 years ago. CEDAC contacted an engineering firm, which recommended that the committee apply for an Engineering Planning Grant. Mr. Goldsworthy said the town meets all the qualifications to apply for a grant of up to $30,000. He said the deadline for applying was the following day (February 12) so the committee had asked the Town Board to meet earlier this month to authorize the committee to apply, which it did; the application was completed and submitted in time.
He expects to hear back about whether the town has gotten the grant sometime this year. He said the town has a year from the date of the award to do the study.
‘It is likely that additional federal funds to expand broadband will be available in the new Covid relief bill.’
Also during the Town Board meeting, Deb Cohen, who was chair of the Town’s former broadband committee and now serves as “a point person” between unserved homeowners and Consolidated Communications Inc. (CCI), reported on meeting with Carl Atkins to explore his proposal for bringing high speed internet to locations in Copake that still do not have access to the service.
“Mr. Atkins is advocating for the town to partner with an internet service provider (“ISP”) to provide high speed internet service to anyone in Copake who does not have access to either Consolidated or Spectrum Cable,” said Ms. Cohen.
The Atkins plan proposes that the town pay for the installation by floating a bond with the internet service provider reimbursing the town for the interest and principle.
She said the “plan appears to put all of the responsibility for the bond on the town” and would cost the town about $5 million to partner with a new ISP to build a new network to serve 450 users, or the 15% of Copake households that are unserved.
Ms. Cohen said the cost would be that high “because a ‘newcomer’ ISP would have to build an entirely new network. There would be no sharing with Consolidated Communications or Spectrum. I leave it to the Town Board to determine whether undertaking a $5-million bond (and all of the responsibility that goes along with it) is reasonable or even legal.”
She also offered alternate scenarios, which would be for the town to partner with Spectrum or Consolidated to finish building out their existing networks. This cost sharing would cost $25,000 to $35,000 per mile.
She also mentioned promising new satellite technology called Starlink from SpaceX, which proposes to provide fast internet at competitive prices.
“It is likely that additional federal funds to expand broadband will be available in the new Covid relief bill. I would hope that CCI will try to access those funds for the benefit of its remaining unserved customers,” Ms. Cohen said.
CCI is currently partnering privately with individual homeowners on a case-by-case basis to build out fiber cable service to their homes. Unserved homes that are passed by in this process then also have access to the CCI fiber installed further up the road. “It is conceivable that the town could work with CCI, as Hillsdale is doing, to facilitate group cost sharing by all the neighbors on a given stretch of road,” she said.
Occasionally some customers are simply not aware that they already have access to high speed internet service. She explained that sometimes customers get incorrect information from Spectrum or CCI’s customer service department and sometimes a resident just doesn’t know to ask.
Ms. Cohen concluded her report by saying her information had led her to believe, “there are better, more viable alternatives to Mr. Atkins’ proposal.”
The Copake Town Board meets next Thursday March 11 at 7 p.m. Find Zoom meeting information on the Town’s website at https://townofcopake.org/.