Andes supervisor paints bleak picture of cost of NYC's acquisition program

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By Matthew J. Perry
Andes Supervisor Marty Donnelly used a quiet town board meeting on Tuesday to raise community awareness of an Environmental Impact Study that has been commissioned by the county to assess the affects of New York City’s land acquisition program.
A final draft of the study, which is being conducted by the Downeast Group, a consulting firm based in Nova Scotia, is expected in February 2009. This month, Downeast representatives are conducting informational meetings in Delhi, Walton, Middletown and Stamford. Preliminary study findings will be presented, and county residents will have the opportunity to comment and voice their concerns.
Donnelly, who attended the first progress report meeting last week, drew the board's attention to one preliminary conclusion that, he declared, “should scare everyone here.” Tax assessment challenges are cited as the "greatest threat" to the long-term economic health of the region. Downeast’s synopsis of its findings to date states that “successful future New York City tax assessment challenges could result in a 300 percent increase in tax for residents and local businesses” by the year 2019.
“This really ought to get everyone's attention,” Donnelly said, while reminding the board that Downeast Group may adjust this figure in their final analysis. “Even if they're wrong, and taxes rose by 'only' 200 percent, no one will be able to live here."
The preliminary report also stated that impacts of rising real estate values in the region are becoming "evident", and affirmed that agriculture and small businesses are hard pressed or in decline.
The next review meetings will take place in Delhi at 1 p.m. at the Ecenter and at 6:30 p.m. at Delaware Academy.
The meeting also included a review of the highway department's challenges during the snowstorm of October 28-29. Highway superintendent Mike McAdams reported that his crew was still clearing trees from the sides of roads. Donnelly thanked McAdams and his crew for their work during the crisis, and explained that the large number of felled trees had made snow removal on roads difficult and caused unusual delays.
Donnelly informed the board that in the event of another blizzard, the Andes Fire Hall will be the town's designated emergency shelter During the October storm, the Lower Main Street Methodist church housed the Red Cross Emergency Services, although no residents made use of the facility. The fire hall, which has showers and a large kitchen, was determined to be a superior location to house people during future emergencies. Fireman Joseph Berghammer is working out details for the shift with the Red Cross, according to Donnelly's report.
The board also passed a resolution to renew its contract with Tri-Town Services for snow removal. Donnelly stated that the terms of the contract would remain the same, with the exception of an increase in the fee for sidewalk shoveling. "I think this is in the best interest of the town," said Donnelly. "Things come up fast, and [Tri-Town] is always there when you need them."
It was also reported that two Lamont Engineering projects—at the bottom of Coulter Road and on High Street--had been completed. Both jobs corrected problems of drainage and storm water runoff, and were paid for by Catskill Watershed Corporation grants.