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Hammond Town Board overrules two state laws

HAMMOND – In a three to two vote, the Hammond Town Board overruled the Power New York Act of 2011 that gives the state the authority to determine permissible sites of power generating facilities that generate 25 megawatts of energy or more. Councilman Douglas Delosh, James Tague and Supervisor Ronald Bertram voted in favor of the resolution while Councilmen James Pitcher and James Langtry voted no. The board also voted to override the two percent cap on property tax levy. Both votes took place at the Oct. 10 town board meeting. The law pertains to all types of power generators, including wind turbines, power dams and nuclear power facilities.

The Power New York Act amended the public service law and established a siting board to make decisions in the best interest of the town, and may even circumvent local laws. Supervisor Bertram introduced the local law negating the Power Act, saying it transfers power to a “faceless bureaucracy.” He also sent a letter to all of St. Lawrence County’s town supervisors and to the county legislators, urging them to follow suit.

“I think this is a disturbing trend, as is the two percent tax cap. They both take the power away from the town,” Mr. Bertram said. Other councilmen voiced increasing concern over the state taking away the towns’ “Home rule”.

The tax levy limit override was passed by a vote of 4-1, with Councilman Langtry voting against it.

During a brief hearing prior to the vote, Howard Demick asked why the state wrote into the law that towns may override it. Councilman Tague voiced his opinion – that Governor Cuomo is attempting to put the onus of high taxes on the towns, “to make us be the bad guy.”

Supervisor Bertram felt the state tax cap law was a waste, stating, “In my mind, the law is needless because is only takes 60 percent of the council, or three members, to override it. And now we have to hire the town attorney to write our new local law.” He also said that the overrule does not necessarily mean that the levy will increase more than two percent.

St. Lawrence County Legislator Alex MacKinnon attended a portion of the meeting. He agreed with the local board, commenting, “I’m a home rule person. Anything dealing with local issues ought to be home rule. With the tax cap – home rule is the way to go.”