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Schoharie County to reconsider stream-damage funding

Towns’ responsibility in projects raised

Monday, June 4, 2012
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— Schoharie County supervisors will revisit their decision to risk spending up to $6 million to repair $24 million in stream damage wrought by Tropical Storm Irene.

The county board has scheduled a special meeting for 6 p.m. Tuesday in the board chambers to discuss the funding for stream work.

In an unusual unanimous vote, the board last month agreed to act as sponsor for 11 projects aimed at stabilizing creeks and streams, including several stretches of the Little Schoharie and portions of the Platter Kill and tributaries in Middleburgh and Fulton.

Discussion focused on who is responsible. Some asked if the towns themselves should shoulder the burden.

It also centered on the cost of the work. The Schoharie County’s Soil and Water Conservation District secured the bulk of funding through a federal program, but estimates show the local share could run up to $6 million.

The decision to go forward sparked the ire of County Treasurer William Cherry, who said $10 million already borrowed to get post-Irene repairs going is spent.

Board chairman and Summit Supervisor Harold Vroman on Friday said he’s been researching the issue and he said he doesn’t believe the county will have to front all the money to get the work going.

Vroman said Tuesday’s meeting might turn into an information session rather than a vote on denying sponsorship for the work.

“I think we’ve just got to get a better explanation of how the funding is going to be done,” Vroman said.

He said there is risk in terms of the county having to borrow money, but he said the work is essential.

The entrance to several farms and residences along the Line Creek between Fulton and Middleburgh is one critical area.

Cobleskill Supervisor Thomas Murray voted to support the projects last month but questioned whether it should be a town responsibility.

But Murray on Friday said he went and took a tour of the sites and the Line Creek situation is “horrible.”

“These are just muddy, steep-sided banks with trees that are going to fall in there,” Murray said of the Line Creek along Mill Valley Road.

“It needs to be done,” Murray said.

Wright Supervisor William Goblet said some might look at it as the responsibility of individual towns. But a county, he said, “is an accumulation of towns.”

“Our job is taking care of the people in the county as far as something like this is concerned and I don’t see where we have any choice but to do it,” Goblet said.

Blenheim Supervisor Robert Mann Jr. said he thinks the decision to sponsor the projects should stand.

“Would it be difficult, yes. But just like most homeowners, they don’t get fully repaired by homeowners insurance or by FEMA. I think it’s unrealistic if the county thinks we’re just going to come back to 100 percent without any local cost at all. I think the projects are worthy of taxpayer support,” Mann said.

 
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