Franklin County may forbid developers from using its roads to reach existing and proposed wind farms if delays in road-repair negotiations continue.
Contractors working for Noble Environmental Power drove heavy vehicles and dump trucks on Brainardsville Road to reach wind-farm parks in Clinton County last year, which left cracks and other damage on a highway that had been totally refurbished for $12 million in 2000 and 2001.
Franklin County is seeking about $50,000 as compensation for damage on County Road 24 and was to meet with Noble officials in the fall to tour the road, document the problems and come up with a plan to return the roads to their pre-damaged condition.
Highway Superintendent Gary Lewis told legislators Thursday that Noble Project Manager Dan Boyd now wants to wait until spring to do the assessment.
But with frequent snowplow traffic and continued use by Noble contractors, officials are afraid the damage will be worse and that Noble’s compensation won’t be calculated fairly and be enough to cover the repair expenses.
Lewis said there was plenty of mild weather where the assessment could have been done, but he couldn’t get Boyd to return his calls.
“He’s kind of an elusive fella,” he said.
That news did not sit well with legislators, who have intended to use these negotiations as an indicator as to how future talks with Noble would go as it plans to build wind-farm projects in eastern Franklin County.
“He should understand the performance on Route 24 will dictate what happens with Burke, Bellmont and Chateaugay, and he might want to keep that in mind when he’s talking to us,” said Legislator Daniel Crippen (D-Burke).
“They’re going to have to get from here to there.”
One idea was to give Noble an ultimatum: Either finish the work by May 1 or the county will post the road to a certain tonnage limit, forcing Noble and its contractors to use U.S. Route 11, which is a longer, more expensive travel route.
Drawing on his past business experience, Timothy Burpoe (D-Saranac Lake) said, “You get their attention by hitting them in the pocketbook. Our first mistake was not requiring a bond right away before we start negotiating.”
Before Clinton County would even sit at the table to discuss its road-damage compensation with Noble, it demanded and got $400,000 up front.
Lewis was going to contact Boyd to set up a meeting with him and the Public Works and Services Committee to discuss terms.
By Denise A. Raymo
7 February 2008
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