April 23, 2008: Binnekill stream is ready to go dry

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To The Editor:
By the time you read this, the Binnekill stream in Margaretville will be drying up again. For the last four years the village focus has been on gaining control of the Binnekill bulkhead, not on fixing the problem that is causing the stream to go dry. Their approach has been ethically, legally and technically wrong; and they are spending your tax dollars to cover up their mistakes.
For those of you who care about the esthetic value of the stream running through the village, it is time for you to ask the village officials for some explanations. For the village residents whose taxes (or rents) are affected by village expenditures, it is time for you to ask your village officials for an accounting of your money being spent on the Binnekill and for what purpose.
Some questions you might ask:
Ethics: Why was there never a problem from 1980, when the current landowner became responsible for the property, until after 2003 when William Stanton and Robert Allison became mayor and deputy mayor? How was the bulkhead repair handled after the 1996 flood? Why did the village refuse to allow the landowner to participate in the meetings with FEMA that developed the scope for the Binnekill bulkhead repair?
Legal: Why did the village elect to ignore the landowner’s concerns about the scope? In March 2006, the village filed a lawsuit claiming sole possession of the bulkhead and access to it that would eliminate the landowner’s right to object to the proposed work. In a rebuttal to the suit, the landowner established that the village and landowner are partners in ownership of the bulkhead. Why has the village refused to acknowledge this?
Technical: How does the village explain that both DCS&WCD and DEP have disapproved the village scope? Why in the four years since the Binnekill has been going dry, the village has not filed a permit request to DEC for work to be done? Why has the village made no effort to gather facts to better understand the problem that exists at the bulkhead?
For the taxpayers who are footing the bill, you should be asking about the lawyer’s fees already incurred and what more can be reasonably expected in the future. Ask about surveyor fees, assessor fees, and why the village approved a $20,000 contract for engineering in the weeks following the eminent domain public hearing, supposedly after the project design was completed.
For background, be aware that the landowner arranged for free engineering through DCS&WCD and a $25,000 grant through WAC in mid-2007 in an attempt to get this project back on the right track. Because of the village’s stubbornness, DCS&WCD opted out and the grant will be withheld until an appropriate scope is established. My estimate is that the village has already spent or forfeited more than $70,000, they can expect another $25,000 in legal fees, their FEMA grant for $59,000 is in jeopardy, and nothing has been done to even start to solve the Binnekill water problem.

Lauren Davis,
Margaretville