The following stories were posted on the Bob’s Local Reporting webpage with datelines during September 2019:
Much-delayed Enfield Wind Law poised for Public Hearing
by Robert Lynch, September 25, 2019
With the end of a thrice-extended moratorium looming, the Enfield Town Board has invited the public to weigh in on its new Wind Law in mid-October.
The Board Tuesday (Sept. 24th), after yet another in its series of marathon review sessions to tweak details of its redrafted document, informally set October 16th for the first of what could be two Public Hearings on its proposed new wind regulations. The Board targets adoption of the new law before the wind moratorium’s expiration November 30th. The revised Wind Law, largely the product of the town’s Renewable Energy Advisory Committee, would regulate both commercial and individual wind generation facilities.
Procedural steps, agreed to by consensus Tuesday, would next forward the revised Wind Law draft to Tompkins County planners for their required input, and also seek approval under the State Environmental Quality Review law (SEQR). Town officials have indicated that an optional second Public Hearing could occur if either of those reviews, or initial testimony, forced them to substantially revise the measure as now written.
Tuesday’s informal editing of the now 56-page turbine-regulating document focused exclusively on editorial changes recommend by attorney Gary Abraham, an environmental law specialist from Great Valley, Cattaraugus County. Abraham was retained by the Town to spot any legal weaknesses in the document or provisions which might not survive legal challenge.
Town Board members Tuesday termed Abraham’s critique proprietary and declined to make it public. Nevertheless, members openly discussed the attorney’s approximately three dozen proposed revisions. Most of Abraham’s recommended changes raised highly technical points which altered neither the tone nor the impact of the proposed law. Board members, accepting the advice of the Advisory Committee, informally incorporated most of the changes.
The proposed Enfield Wind Law is “well structured,” Abraham summarized in his conclusion.
In June 2017, following protracted controversy over the proposed, but now defunct, Black Oak Wind Farm, the Enfield Board imposed what it had intended to be a 12-month moratorium on accepting applications for new commercial wind generation facilities. When the Advisory Committee took longer than expected to draft its home-grown regulations, the Board first in June 2018, and then in December, extended the moratorium’s deadline. The Board authorized its third, and presumably final, extension August 14th.
During as many as seven special meetings since late-May, the Town Board has labored over language of the new Wind Law. It would replace an earlier measure adopted in 2009, a law Board members believe is inadequate to protect town residents from the adverse effects of commercial turbines. Members at many of the meetings agonized in exacting detail over major, but often minor, provisions of the proposal’s highly-restrictive regulations; those which at least one Councilperson has concluded would constitute an effective “ban” on commercial wind power in Enfield.
Attorney Abraham’s review, commissioned by the Town Board in August, came at the joint request of Councilperson Mimi Mehaffey and Advisory Committee Chair Jude Lemke, who themselves shared a majority of its cost. The Town committed only $500 in public funds.
The Town’s most recently-updated Wind Law draft, dated August third, is posted online at its website: http://townofenfield.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Wind-Law-8-3-19-clean-draft-no-comments-1.pdf.
Mehaffey indicated Tuesday that a further revised draft document may be posted within the next week. Mehaffey suggested the revision, with editorial markups, could number 70 pages or more.
Sheriff’s Substation likely coming soon to Enfield
by Robert Lynch, September 24, 2019
A Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department satellite substation will likely be coming to Enfield soon, occupying a portion of the Town’s Old Highway Barn.
Sheriff Derek Osborne, who attended the Enfield Town Board’s meeting Tuesday night (September 24th), described the Enfield location as a “great opportunity geographically; a perfect spot.” Osborne later predicted the modest facility could be up and running as soon as the Town sees fit, possibly as early as next month.
Enfield Supervisor Beth McGee and her husband, Darren, himself a candidate this year for Enfield Councilperson, first advanced the concept of a satellite substation last Thursday (Sept. 19th) before the County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee. Restating his proposal before the Town Board Tuesday, Darren McGee said the Enfield location would provide the Sheriff a “strong presence” in Enfield, reduce deputies’ response times to Enfield emergencies, and lead to a “potential decline in crime.”
Osborne cautioned that the satellite office would not be staffed full-time. It would be “more of a workplace,” he said, where deputies could start and end their shifts, use restrooms, and store their patrol car.
Osborne claimed the office would benefit not only Enfield, but also the neighboring towns of Newfield and Ulysses. Newfield had a satellite office once, he said, but it “went away years ago.” The Department currently dispatches deputies from its headquarters on Warren Road in Lansing.
Though no votes were taken Tuesday, the Board greeted the McGee-Osborne plan enthusiastically. Supervisor McGee predicted costs to renovate a portion of the Old Highway Barn would be minor, less than $5,000. Board members suggested they might request Tompkins County lawmakers share or split the cost. The Legislature’s Public Safety Committee will discuss the Enfield initiative October 17th.
As proposed, the satellite station would occupy only a small portion—just the northernmost bay—of the five-bay Old Highway Barn, vacated years ago and now used only for storage. Deputies would utilize a small office in that area, forcing relocation of the Town Historian. The Town has no plans to wall off the Sheriff’s portion from the remaining space. As for the office, “It’s ugly as Hell,” Osborne later quipped. “But we don’t need it to be pretty.”
Supervisor McGee predicted the only necessary renovations to accommodate the Sheriff would be replacement of the workspace’s heating system, plus a window or two and a fire door. The Town’s operational cost would be limited to providing heat.
Councilperson Becky Sims voiced the only reservation. “I think there’s definite benefit,” Sims asserted. “But not everybody sees law enforcement as friendly;” but rather “more adversarial.”
Sheriff Osborne reassured Sims that the office’s presence would not be “an opportunity for officers to target Enfield.”
“We don’t have any more problems we have to address in Enfield than in any other town,” the Sheriff stated.
Town Board members indicated that both of Enfield’s county legislators, Anne Koreman and David McKenna, back the satellite station. Also, Enfield Town Justice Betty Poole is “really excited about it,” Supervisor McGee remarked.
Enfield Center’s Sad House may be torn down soon
by Robert Lynch, September 12, 2019
Enfield’s ugliest house, and arguably its most dilapidated and hazardous, may soon be coming down—and not by its own volition.
The former dwelling and one-time hair salon at 198 Enfield Main Road, in the heart of Enfield Center, nicknamed by some as the “Sad House,” stands at imminent risk of collapse. Part of its roof has fallen in, its south wall is bulging out, and torn blue tarps drape from its eaves. Town officials condemned the building more than a year ago. But now those same officials are optimistic that a contractor retained by the owners will soon commence tearing down the asbestos-infested structure.
Expect to see action in the “next couple of weeks,” so demolition can proceed, Alan Teeter, Enfield’s Code Enforcement Officer, informed members of the Town Board Wednesday night (Sept. 11).
Teeter today said that the Rochester-based Expert Environmental and Construction Group (EECG) will undertake the carefully-regulated demolition. Matt Popen, a regulatory compliance officer for the firm, contacted for this story, could not specify a demolition start date. But, said Popen, the project is “completely on track.” Popen deferred any further comment to EECG management, who were not immediately available for comment.
Owners Lois and Andres Gallegos, who reside in the adjacent converted church at 7 Enfield Center Road West, bought the Sad House in 2018 for $500, intending to demolish it and use the site for a garage. The discovery of asbestos-contaminated plaster complicated the demolition process, which must now follow strict environmental guidelines mandated by the New York State Department of Labor. Lois Gallegos recently pegged the expected demolition cost at $34 Thousand Dollars.
Gallegos said that she and her family are securing a home equity loan to underwrite the cost. But to ease their burden, the Gallegos also launched a GoFundMe initiative at https://www.gofundme.com/f/enfield-superfund Reaching their $25,000 donation goal has proven to be a challenge. Total online contributions have stalled at $185 for several weeks.
On June 20th, at the Town Board’s direction, Code Officer Teeter issued the Gallegos’ a Notice of Violation and Order of Remedy, the most serious citation readily available to the Enfield Town. Teeter said the notice could, if enforced, require the owners to pay fines of up to $1000 per day or incur jail time for the owner should a judge impose it. So far, the Town has declined to take the owners to court, hoping, instead, for voluntary compliance.
Some towns, but not Enfield, have stricter enforcement tools available, including the power to demolish a structure at Town expense and then attach the cost to the owner’s taxes. To date, Enfield Board members have stated their reluctance to enact such a local law, some fearing that an owner might simply default on the assessment, surrender his property to government, and leave the town shouldering the demolition expense.
Teeter informed the board Wednesday that Department of Labor officials have expressed last-minute concerns before signing-off on the regulated demolition. Teeter today explained that the hesitancy related to the age of the Town’s more than year-old condemnation order. The Codes Officer said an updated condemnation, issued by him, should satisfy the Labor Department’s concerns.
Enfield Board Approves Override of Tax Cap; Supports Fire Truck Purchase
by Robert Lynch, September 12, 2019
With minimal discussion, following a sparsely-attended Public Hearing, the Enfield Town Board Wednesday (Sept. 11) unanimously approved an override of the State’s so-called, but misnamed, “2 per cent tax cap” for its 2020 budget.
The approval, Board members said, permits the Town more flexibility as it drafts next year’s Budget, scheduled for adoption this November.
State-determined limits, revealed to the Town Board last month, would enable Enfield to impose a maximum tax levy of $1,864,858—a 4.16 per cent increase over the current year’s amount—before the cap would be reached. Exceeding the tax cap imposes no real penalties. A 60 per cent majority vote to override the cap—which the Board did Wednesday night—renders the State limit moot.
Only two residents addressed the legally-required Public Hearing on the cap’s override. Neither speaker voiced an objection. Rather, each merely expressed the most tepid of concerns that Board members consider the impact on taxpayers when budgeting.
“Do I understand you want to do this [the override] just in case?” asked Cortney Bailey of Gray Road. Town Supervisor Beth McGee assured Bailey that the override was only necessary to cope with unforeseen emergencies, should they arise.
Echoed Councilperson Mimi Mehaffey, “The risk of not doing this is too great.”
In other business:
- The Town Board ratified a financing measure which will enable the Enfield Volunteer Fire Company to purchase a new $375,000 Tanker Truck with tax-free financing. [See story, this site, Sept. 5th.] Supervisor Beth McGee emphasized that the Board was only extending its municipal status so as to save the Company money, not actually buying the truck. “The Town Board has no say in what they buy,” she stressed.
- The Board reallocated $12,000 in Town funds to underwrite an outside audit of town finances. Supervisor McGee strongly supports the audit, as she believes it will help the Town better manage its money. Members maintain that an outside audit is far more comprehensive than those mandated by the State Comptroller. The auditor has yet to be chosen.
- The Board imposed a $75 publication fee for applications, primarily building permits filings, which require a newspaper Public Notice. Until now, the Town has underwritten the advertising expense.
Enfield Board ends plot sales at three cemeteries; leaves one open
by Robert Lynch, September 11, 2019
Enfield’s four municipal cemeteries are filling up. And following Town Board action Wednesday (Sept. 11th) new families wishing to purchase burial plots will be given only one choice, the so-called “Christian” Cemetery north of Enfield Center.
With minimal discussion, the Town Board unanimously adopted its Cemetery Committee’s recommendations, outlined last month, that would effectively foreclose future burials or cremations at the Presbyterian, Budd and Rolfe cemeteries. A Committee inspection this summer concluded that those three latter cemeteries are, for all intents and purposes, full.
The Board’s newly-adopted policy would retain 50 plots at Christian Cemetery for either burials or cremations. An additional 12 plots at Christian will be set aside, to use the Board’s words, “in the event there is confusion from past sales when records were not kept carefully.” Burial or cremation plots will be sold at $300 apiece.
In June, Town Board members had, without warning, raised the prospect of quickly extricating the town from cemetery sales. Members discussed selling, perhaps over a brief, two-year window, cremation-only plots at Christian Cemetery. A majority of Board members had then voiced support for ending long-term involvement in burial plot sales. Wednesday’s action effectively “buried” that earlier, short-lived idea.
The Cemetery Committee’s recommendations, adopted by the Board, would close Presbyterian Cemetery in Enfield Center, the committee having concluded it is full.
Limited space at the two remaining cemeteries, Budd and Rolfe, would be restricted to those already having loved ones buried there. Burial at Budd Cemetery, on Gray Road, will be permitted in six plots already sold, with an additional four plots reserved in the event of prior confusion.
Similarly, a few plots at Rolfe Cemetery on Applegate Road will be reserved for a pair of families with relatives buried there. Additional cremation plots will also be set aside for other families with relatives interred at Rolfe.
The religious references to Enfield’s cemeteries have no modern meaning. Those of any—or no—religious affiliation may be buried there.
Enfield Fire Company moves toward new tanker purchase
by Robert Lynch, September 5, 2019
A new tanker truck, costing well into the six figures, will likely soon become the Enfield Volunteer Fire Company’s newest piece of apparatus.
EVFC President Dennis Hubbell presided Thursday (September 5th) over a sparsely-attended public hearing, a legal requirement to allow the Fire Company, and ultimately the Town, to secure a tax-exempt, low-interest loan for the new truck’s purchase.
“Sparsely-attended” is an understatement. Only Hubbell and this reporter, Town Councilperson Candidate Robert Lynch, sat in the Hearing room. No Town Board members or other Town officials chose to attend.
“I’ll make this sweet and short; I support it,” Lynch said of the tax-free financing, a statement he offered primarily to get testimony of some sort onto the otherwise-blank Hearing record. No other comments were submitted.
Following the hearing, and pending approval next week (September 11th) by the Town Board, the Enfield Company will execute purchase of a new tanker manufactured in Iowa by Toyne, Inc. and priced at $375,000. The vehicle has yet to be built. Hubbell expects delivery early next year.
Hubbell predicted that the new purchase will not significantly affect the Town’s tax burden. He explained that the EVFC has a revolving loan fund whereby the retirement of one equipment loan leads to the commencement of another. EVFC secured the tanker’s loan from the Bank of Greene County.
The forthcoming tanker will replace a 1996 model that the Enfield Company sold for $67,000 to a fire department in Washington State. The old truck left the Enfield fleet last May. Since then, the Department has relied on its lone remaining tanker, a 2005 model.
Is Hubbell worried that just one tanker will leave Enfield volunteers in a bind? “No,” the Company President responded. “That’s why we have mutual aid.”
Hubbell said his officers attempt to keep apparatus on a 20-year replacement cycle, in part, to ensure compliance with safety requirements and to limit potential liability. He admitted the old tanker remained in Enfield longer than he’d wanted. He also acknowledged that some departments, including the used truck’s west coast purchaser, may be too cash-strapped to adhere to Enfield’s stricter standards.
Hubbell predicts a nearly 20-year old fire engine will be the next unit replaced, perhaps in 2021 or 2022.