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Orleans to take on water and wind project issues

Lafargeville – the town of Orleans gave Engineer Rob Campany the green light to submit paperwork accepting a grant agreement for the study, design and preconstruction of a water system along Route 12 during its May 10 meeting of the town board.

A portion of the town near Seaway Avenue and areas along Route 12 have been plagued with contamination of potassium chloride in private wells, thought to be caused by runoff from the Department of Transportation road salt barn in that area.

The Empire State Development Grant is for $500,000, and the town would be required to pay $274,000 before getting reimbursed for $100,000 of it. An additional $400,000 would be paid to the town after construction is under way. Board members discussed at length how to pay the initial $274,000 with little impact to the budget. The overall project could cost up to $11,000,000.

Town Attorney James Burrows voiced his concern, “Town residents have a problem with potable water, and it isn’t going away; it’s getting worse. Sooner or later you will be going down the same path but perhaps without reimbursement.”

Supervisor Kevin Rarick said he is ready to commit to doing the project, with Councilman Tom Johnston saying, “I think we have to move forward – we have contamination.” The board concurred.

Mr. Campany explained the next step is to study and design the water distribution system to arrive at a detailed plan. Once the study and cost estimates are complete, he will apply for additional grants through other agencies.

Supervisor Rarick and Councilman Johnston informed the board and public of the details of a recent meeting with a representative of Iberdrola Renewables regarding an industrial wind project in the southwest portion of the town.

Although details of the layout seem sketchy according to two town officials, Iberdrola Business Development Manager Jenny Briot told the board that the eight to 13 turbines would be 497 feet high.

Councilman Johnston asked Ms. Briot for a map of the proposed Horse Creek Wind Farm, but she said one did not yet exist.

She indicated that the company may, however, submit a Public Involvement Plan to the state by late June or early July.

Attorney Burrows explained that since the company will apparently apply through Article 10 of the New York Power Act for state review, the firm may receive permission to ignore local zoning laws that protect the town.

He said in part, “It strikes me that the purpose of zoning is to regulate zoning. It would be a shame if this goes to Article 10 with little input from the town.”

He suggested that the town consider reassembling its wind committee or establishing a new committee that would have Intervenor status, so that the town could have input on whatever issues arise. With Intervenor status, some funding would be available to hire experts on turbine related issues, such as noise.

“It’s a starting point. It’s not time yet, but this is a democracy, and you have to get your foot in the door,” he advised.

Of concern to the board is that, as an applicant proceeds, the towns of Orleans, Clayton, Brownville and Lyme will be allowed to appoint only two representatives altogether to a committee that reviews the application with the state. The four towns are expected to be part of the project.

Councilman Johnston urges the board and citizens to attend a May 21 pre-application conference to be held at the Cape Vincent Elementary School at 7 p.m… A state Public Service Commission representative and Department of Conservation representative will be on hand to answer questions by the public and municipalities.

In other business, commercial brush haulers will now have to pay to dump brush in the town landfill, and brush from outside of this town will be prohibited, effective immediately.

The board voted for a fee schedule after the meeting. Haulers, or residents who hire them, need to visit the town office for a permit before dumping at the transfer site. Individual residential brush dumping is not affected by the new policy.

The town of Orleans has purchased a widescreen TV to be utilized for town business and to display documents that board members are reviewing during meetings.

A section of NYS Open Meeting Laws Passed in February 2012 says that the public should have access to propose resolutions, laws, rules, regulations, policies or any amendment scheduled for board discussion or votes. It can be provided either at the meeting or on the municipality’s website.

During Orleans town meetings, the agenda and other information is broadcast on the screen, informing meeting attendees while saving paper and copying costs.