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Hector will hold fracking meeting

    HECTOR—The Hector town board agreed to hold a moderated meeting about hydrofracking, with a tentative date of Feb. 4.
    Fracking and public concerns were discussed at the year-end Hector board meeting, Friday Dec. 30.
    Initially the conversation focused on a possible moratorium on hydrofracking in Hector, or barring that, on heavy industry. Supervisor Ben Dickens stated that the town Attorney, Robert Halpin of Montour Falls, advised against any action that could be construed as an effort to regulate gas drilling, and the town’s new ordinance on road use should address heavy industry.
Council member Jeff Mangus came out against any ban on hydrofracking, stating that he was “scared to death” of legal action against Hector similar to that being taken against Dryden. Board members Alvin White and Marie Stevens also stressed that such regulation could only be established by the state and the town could ill-afford to become embroiled in a law suit with the gas industry.
    The discussion then turned to a proposed public commentary meeting on hydrofracking, which had been requested several times by local citizens and citizens groups.
    The Hector Clean Water Initiative (HCWI) delivered a letter to the town board in December, making a third request for a public hearing on high volume hydrofracking. The board denied two previous requests from HCWI earlier last month.  In the latest request, HCWI asked the town to hold the hearing on or before Jan. 25, giving the board more than three weeks to place legal notice.
    Board members voted five-to-one in favor of holding a meeting Feb. 4.  Stevens voted no, stating that any such meeting would likely be dominated by anti-fracking commentary and would not reflect what she considered to be the true views of the community.  Additional concern was expressed by council member White that commentary would be uninformed and unstructured.  The board decided that the meeting would be structured and feature a moderator.
    Later in the meeting, Dickens went on to discuss his response to the New York state draft regulations on hydrofracking. He stated that he had written his second draft and the final product should be completed by Jan. 3 and available for review by the public and the board by the next meeting, Jan. 10. Included in the response would be a petition signed by over area 800 residents calling for a ban or moratorium on hydrofracking. Board member Mike Bergen noted that not all of the board members would necessarily agree with the recommendations put forward by Dickens, and that a vote on the submission might be necessary.
    In other business:
    A number of appointments were approved for town officials.  The town board then moved to confirm the reappointment of existing personnel for Hector’s water district, including the superintendent of water, his assistant/laborer, the account clerk/water billing and collection clerks, and the highway superintendent.
    All reappointments were approved unanimously and without discussion.  The town historian position went unfilled for the moment due to the retirement of Sandra Bradford. Clerk Jane Ike noted that Bradford had served the community well, and that her latest project involved tracking the 30 plus cemeteries in the town of Hector, many of them small, undocumented family plots.
    The highway and water superintendents both verbally accepted their appointments and each gave brief overviews of various projects in their areas, some of which involved expenditures, change orders and vendor appointments which were reviewed and approved by the board.
    The board also discussed he $49 million in economic development funds being granted to New York’s Southern Tier by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. One audience member asked what initiatives the town of Hector was taking to ensure that it was informed about this.  Dickens and Bergen stated that the town had representation on the Schuyler County Planning Committee and that the town’s interests would be addressed there.
    Assessor Dan Bizzell stated that he was quite busy with the town’s STAR and Advance STAR assessments, assessing the town’s school districts, and updating photographs of properties. He noted considerable increases in property values on Route 414.  He was targeting completion of this work in February.
     White stated that a questionnaire for the draft comprehensive plan was nearing completion and would soon be sent to Hector residents for their input. There was some concern around the cost of distribution and a bulk mailing was determined to be the best option. Electronic media was discounted, primarily because of the perceived potential for fraud and because older residents often do not have access to the Internet.
    The final topic of discussion was around a local road use and preservation law being drafted specifically to regulate heavy industrial traffic in the town of Hector.  The boards determined that the only acceptable provision would entail an escrow deposit of line of credit. Approval of the actual law was tabled.
    The next Hector town board meeting will be Tuesday, Jan. 10, at 7 p.m. The town hall is located at 5097 Route 227, Burdett.


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