New Bovina highway garage gets green light from board

 

By Matthew J. Perry

The Bovina Town Board has voted unanimously to locate the town’s new highway garage on the site of the existing structure, on county Road 6, the hamlet’s Main Street. The vote took place last Wednesday at a board meeting following a public hearing, 

After an extended debate, during which opposing voices were given open air time to make their arguments, the board remained committed to a plan which they described as the most timely and cost effective way to handle a potential crisis—the lack of an adequate facility for the highway department—while not overburdening the town with new taxes.  

Doug VanDeusen of La-mont Engineers reviewed construction features and costs of the new garage that he first presented on March 4.  Speaking directly to citizens who questioned the decision to focus the project on the existing site, he stated the priorities that had informed Lamont’s work up to this point.  The needs of the highway department topped the list, followed by finding the best location and cost.

Supervisor Tina Mole predicted that Bovina will be “shocked” when the final bill comes due, even if the garage stays where it is and includes only necessities.  The board 

concurred that their primary responsibility to the town was to keep tax rolls manageable, especially for younger residents and those on fixed incomes.  “It’s our job to make sure that people can continue to live here,” said Supervisor Mole.

All members of the board stated that they had solicited the opinions and priorities of as many constituents as possible.  Overwhelmingly, they said, the primary concerns were higher taxes in the immediate future.  

Opposition to the board’s plans concentrated on two factors:  the benefits of exploring greener construction methods and incentives offered by New York State Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and the benefits of placing the new garage outside the hamlet, specifically at the Inman Farm on county Route 5.  

Bovina residents Corneel Verlaan and Neil Bevilacqua argued that NYSERDA has helped to fund the construction of highway garages that utilize green technology, and that an innovative move away from oil and LP gas systems would be “a feather in the cap” for a small town looking to attract new residents and well-heeled taxpayers, such as the proposed Aman Resorts.  A green garage, it was argued, would also decrease taxes in the long run by not relying on fuel that is likely to become ever more expensive.  

Planning board member Lynn Resch argued that to purchase acreage on the Inman Farm would pave the way for the town to realize a greater vision of community centers, a new town hall and garage all on the same site, with truck traffic in the hamlet reduced.  

But the board, facing the reality of limited existing funds and the burden of a municipal bond that could cost the town $600,000 or more, responded that these proposals for the future do not address the fiscal realities of the present.  Speaking to the NYSERDA discussion, Van Deusen stated that securing aid from that authority requires money to draft proposals and conduct exploration of a building site, with no guarantees of reimbursement.  

Several board members made it clear to the gathering that they did not disagree with opposing arguments out of hand.  “Would we like to do it another way?  Sure we would,” said Supervisor Mole.  “Can we afford to?  Absolutely not.”

“The bottom line is affordability and taxes,” said Councilman Chuck McIntosh.  “It’s our job to be fiscally responsible.  If we approve a tax increase of 50 percent on Bovina, what are people going to call us?”

After the public hearing was closed, the board remained confident that they were speaking to the concerns of the majority of Bovina residents.  

Councilman Ken Brown, harking back to an earlier controversy, stated that he believed the board was acting with the approval of the town at large.  “We had a year and a half of meetings over the wind turbines, and it was clear that a majority of the town opposed them.”  Contrasting those meetings with the public hearing that had just ended, with a handful of residents expressing opposition, he concluded:  “I think the people who don’t show up at these meetings speak as loudly as those who do.”

A budget workshop for the garage project was scheduled for April 16, at 6 p.m.