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Schuyler County approves working with land coalition

MONTOUR FALLS—Schuyler County will join forces with a landowners’ group in an attempt to get the best possible terms when leasing county land to natural gas exploration companies.
The county legislature Monday, March 9 approved listing county-owned properties with the Schuyler County Land Owners Coalition.
The coalition is pooling the properties of its members in an attempt to negotiate favorable terms for natural gas leases. If a lease agreement is reached for those property owners involved in the coalition, the county will be free to join in it or reject it.
Any county property included in the agreement would be assessed a $20 per acre fee.
The county has an existing lease with EOG Resources Inc. for about 34 acres of land and roadway in the area of County Route 16 and Meads Hill Road, said County Administrator Tim O’Hearn. That lease contains an automatic five-year renewal and would not be affected by an overall agreement reached by the landowners’ group.
Schuyler County also owns about 50 acres of land in the Sugar Hill area of the town of Orange that could be included in a group settlement, O’Hearn said.
The Land Owners Coalition has held a series of public information meetings this winter, the last of which is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 11 at the Monterey Fire Hall.
The group is working with Empire Energy Consultants of Berkshire, N.Y., to develop a request for leasing proposals from gas exploration companies.
The goal of the process, according to the group’s Web site (www.schuylerloc.org), is to negotiate the highest possible lease bid with the best environmental, noise and traffic provisions.
Last year, a coalition of 300 landowners in the Binghamton area negotiated an agreement for lease payments of more than $2,400 per acre on properties where gas companies want to explore the potentially lucrative Marcellus Shale formation.
Since that time, the price of natural gas has fallen dramatically and lease prices have also declined.
The county legislature also approved two resolutions seeking additional state and federal funding for the conversion from lever-operated to electronic voting machines.
Legislators said funds provided under the federal Help America Vote Act may not cover the cost of software required to operate the new machines. That cost could exceed $100,000, they estimated.
So far, the county has bought 19 new voting machines for its 17 polling locations at a cost of more than $190,000. About 95 percent of the total will be paid with a federal grant.
The county has not yet used any of the new voting equipment, although it was available for the presidential election last November.
The lawmakers also called on New York state to permit the continued use of lever voting machines for an indefinite period, said Stacey Husted, legislature clerk.
 


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