The Prattsburgh Town Board passed a road-use agreement with wind developer Ecogen Monday night, despite the protests of the town highway superintendent and an angry crowd.
The road use agreement, first proposed in September 2009, was the key issue in drawn-out legal disputes between Prattsburgh and Ecogen, which intends to put up 16 electricity-generating turbines in the town.
Ecogen has filed two lawsuits centered on the delay in signing the original agreement, saying the delay was in bad faith, and designed to prevent any development.
However, Highway Superintendent Chris Jensen said the agreement allows Ecogen to begin using several town roads without deciding first how to pay for damage heavy equipment may cause.
Jensen said payments set in the September 2009 agreement will fall far short of the real costs of repairing the roads. In one case, fixing a newly upgraded road could cost $100,000 more than the original estimate, Jensen said.
Town Attorney Ed Brockman told the board Ecogen is still legally responsible for road repair, adding if the town sets the costs too high, it could lead to another lawsuit.
Board members favoring the agreement said they were responding to the recent state Supreme Court decision, which ordered the two sides to finalize road use terms.
“If we try to change it now, who’s to say Ecogen won’t say that’s bad faith, too?” Anneke Radin-Snaith said.
The board voted 3-2 for the agreement.
Councilwoman Stacey Bottoni and dozens of angry residents sided Jensen, saying the needed to listen to the advice of a road expert.
The board’s action clears the way for Ecogen to begin work, with a court-imposed deadline of 168 days for the developer to solidify its rights to the project through substantial changes or improvements.
Radin-Snaith and councilmen Steve Kula and Chuck Shick voted for the agreement. Bottoni and Town Supervisor Al Wordingham voted against the agreement.
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