By Dan Hust
HORTONVILLE While a newly formed commission prepares to meet on gas drilling in the Town of Delaware, residents have submitted a drilling-related petition.
The petition, now used in a variety of upstate townships considering drilling bans, is titled “You Don’t Speak for Me!”
In Delaware, it was circulated after Councilman Harold Roeder’s pro-drilling-and-property-rights resolution was passed by the board majority in an unexpected June vote.
Sent to about 1,300 people and signed by 430, the petition states that the resolution does not appropriately or accurately reflect their views on drilling and property rights.
“You can read the comments from your friends, neighbors and relatives,” Callicoon resident Zeke Boyle told the board as he handed in the petitions at Wednesday’s regular meeting in Hortonville.
That occurred minutes after Supervisor Ed Sykes announced the six members of the gas drilling commission he set up in the wake of the controversy over the June vote.
Members Earl Kinney, Fred Stabbert III and Matt Hofer were identified by Sykes as being pro-drilling, while members Kara McElroy, Cindy Menges and Craig Schumacher were identified as anti-drilling.
Sykes, however, acknowledged those are broad definitions.
“These people are all reasonable, objective people,” he told the capacity crowd in the town hall. “… They’re open-minded people.… They’re not zealots, and they don’t want to argue.”
The commission will begin meeting next month, he explained, to solicit both expert and local testimony as to the pros and cons of drilling.
“This is not a debate it’s a search for the truth,” Sykes added. “If it’s going to be a debate, it’s not going to work. ... Please, give it a chance.”
But a similar commission in the neighboring Town of Cochecton ended in failure, and several speakers in the audience that evening expressed reservation, even outright suspicion.
“Is it cynical to think the board is manipulating us with this commission, throwing us a bone while feeding us to the lions?” wondered Hortonville’s Roy Tedoff.
Like several that followed, Tedoff advocated for the rescinding of “the Roeder resolution” in order to demonstrate that the board will be open to the commission’s findings and recommendations.
Such a move was not taken by the board that evening, and both Sykes and Roeder were criticized for endorsing a pro-drilling letter recently sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo, urging him to finalize the regulations that will allow drilling in the state.
Such a letter, said Kenoza Lake resident Liam Murphy, indicates the commission “is a diversionary tactic.”
He and others advocated for a drilling moratorium while the commission does its work.
Otherwise, he cautioned, “the commission has no credibility.”
Even Long Eddy resident Noel van Swol, representing the pro-drilling Sullivan-Delaware Property Owners Association, worried that the commission may be “subverted” in this case, leading the town into a drilling ban. Nevertheless, he said he supported the creation of the commission.
New road treatment
Elsewhere during Wednesday’s Delaware Town Board meeting, Highway Supt. Bill Eschenberg said the town will try out a liquid salt mixture on town roads this winter, designed to be applied before a snowstorm in order to keep the snow and ice from bonding to the road.
It promises not simply to make the roads safer, he explained, but cheaper to treat.
“I can do 80 miles of road with two loads of material,” he predicted. “It is the wave of the future.”
The Town of Thompson has successfully used such a method for several years, Eschenberg added.
The $30,000 cost for the spreading equipment will likely be paid for within 8-9 storms, thanks to the savings over traditional methods, said Sykes.
Eschenberg affirmed that the mixture will include rust inhibitors but after the meeting added that it is not “fracking brine” from oil or gas drilling, listing the ingredients as salt, potassium, magnesium and calcium chloride.
Sole assessor chosen
Sykes announced that the first sole assessor for the town will be Reneé Ozomek, already an experienced assessor in the Town of Highland.
“She will start January 1,” he said.
Earlier this year, the board agreed to switch from an elected three-assessor system to an appointed sole assessor.
Callicoon looking good
Callicoon’s delayed downtown streetscape redesign “is probably 99 percent complete,” Sykes told the crowd.
“Now it’s just waiting for greenery to ‘soften it up’,” the project’s architect, Callicoon resident Michael Chojnicki, added.
Next year, he said, the railroad has indicated it will upgrade the crossing to make it more pedestrian-friendly.
“This will be a nice little center connecting Upper and Lower Main Street,” he predicted.
Minus absent Councilman John Gain, the board unanimously approved formalizing public comment rules for town board meetings.
The board will now enforce a three-minutes-per-speaker comment period that prohibits personal attacks, profanity (or otherwise abusive language) and political speeches.
Speakers must address the board, not the audience, and they cannot “grant” their remaining time to other speakers. Those who refuse to follow the rules can be barred from further participation or even be removed from the room and charged with disorderly conduct.
More details are available by checking the town’s website at www.townofdelaware-ny.us or calling the town hall at 887-5250.