April 11, 2004

Infrastructure issues

A lot of Thursday night's Town Board meeting was spent on infrastructure issues, ranging from sewer issues to cell phone towers to roads.

The meeting included two public hearings on sewer districts, one affecting the area north of the Village of Dryden and one affecting the Varna area. The Board changed the billing for the Cortland Road Sewer District so that it operates on billage by usage, at 125% of the rate for customers in the Village of Dryden, making it more like the billing used in the Village. This should lower the rates for most users; TC3 and its dormitories were cited as the two large users who will have to pay more than they did under the unit-based system. Billing will also now be quarterly. The contract with the Village for that sewer district has expired, and the Town Board approved sending the Village a letter of intent about moving forward on sewer contract negotations (but not water, a contested issue).

In a move affecting the Varna area, the Town Board approved modifications to the Joint Sewage Treatment Plant Phosphorous Removal Improvement Project, agreeing to pay Dryden's 1.9% share of a larger estimate for improving the City of Ithaca's wastewater treatment plant. Responding to questions about why Dryden was paying for the City's work, Town Attorney Mahlon Perkins noted that it was a partnership, and Supervisor Steve Trumbull quipped that "We get hooked into everything in the Town of Dryden." These extra costs will only affect the sewer districts connected to the City system, not the town generally.

There were supposed to be two public hearings about cell phone towers, but only one applicant showed up. Nextel, represented by attorney Jaqueline Murray, had applied to replace three whip antennas on the Walker Road tower with twelve panel antennas. The only change would be to the antennas - no additional towers or changes to towers would be necessary. The town's telecom consultant couldn't make it, but Henry Slater, Code Enforcement Officer, said that he had found this largely standard.

Ray Bakos, who lives across the street from the tower, had concerns with traffic and radiation generated by the tower. He complained of being unable to get out of his driveway as cell phone trucks raced past, as well as that the tower had blocked out his TV and radio and forced him to get a different cell phone. Murray noted that the tower produces "a fraction of what the permissible radio frequency exposure limit is under federal law", though that didn't seem like a particularly direct answer. Towers can be as close to the house as one and a half times the fall radius.

After discussion of terms, the town modified some of the consultant's recommendations in approving the contract, mostly lessening their requirements. Later in the meeting, the town voted to sign a contract with a new telecommunications consultant, William Sitzman of Trumansburg, pending confirmation that he had adequate ($1 million) professional liability insurance, and discussed streamlining the existing laws regarding telecommunications approvals.

In the Highway Report, Highway Supervisor Jack Bush talked about coordination with Rick Dietrich of the Youth Conservation Corps, which was hoping to work on some start-to-finish projects. Suggestions (some of which came from the Recreation Department) included a canoe rack at Dryden Lake, an outhouse at Montgomery Park in the Village of Dryden, and work on a baseball field.

Bush had assembled some material for Councilmen, which was distributed at the meeting, prompting Marty Christofferson to complain that "I got a big packet tonight. How come I got that packet tonight and not a week ahead of time?". Bush noted that he'd had the packet in to the Supervisor's office a week prior, but apparently it hadn't gone out to board members. Christofferson noted that "It's just very frustrating getting stuff at this table, having a stack of bills to review, all the other action items we have... I don't know where it all falls, but this is important." Town Clerk Bambi Hollenbeck replied that "We're trying."

Bush had a few items for the Board. He'd been talking with Tompkins County Soil and Water about a tire cleanup day, where people could bring in old tires for a discounted fee and the town would get a portion of the money without having to do much more than haul the tires. He also requested $80 for highway school, which was approved.

In larger projects, Bush noted that the mapping for the Hunt Hill and Genung Roads was complete, and that he'd be setting up meetings with community members, who have been attending Town Board meetings regularly, through a mailing. Also, the Freese Road sewer pump work was in progress, and Bush noted that the county was doing work on the adjacent bridge and found more to repair than expected, so it will take about an extra week. The water pipes on that bridge had leaked in 1996 after an accident, and the town will be doing intermittent work on the old insulation for those pipes later this year.

Sewer work, Freese Road
Sewer pump work at Freese Road

The town is also talking with the Bolton Point Water System about flow tests and paint for fire hydrants, but hasn't heard back yet.

In issues related to infrastructure management, the Town Board voted 5-0 to cover elected full-time employees of the town (the Highway Superintendent and Town Clerk) under the same insurance terms as appointed full-time employees, retroactive to January 1st, following up on discussion from the previous meeting.

Finally, just before executive session, the board voted on an appointment that may affect Dryden's infrastructure over the long term, appointing Jim Crawford, publisher of the Herald-Examiner, to the Planning Board. Councilman Mike Hattery said that Crawford's appointment would add "balance in terms of perspective in planning" in addition to the geographic balance of having someone from near Etna.

(Full disclosure: I applied for the Planning Board in December as well, but didn't even get an interview. It will probably be easier to cover from the audience than the table, though!)

Posted by simon at April 11, 2004 7:52 PM in , , , , , , ,
Note on photos