August 13, 2008: Preserve and protect a local treasure

in

To The Editor:
I am among many in Halcottsville who is concerned about the hamlet’s bridge reconstruction. This bridge crossing is the means of entrance and egress for the majority of our (Bragg Hollow) residents. A long-term bridge closing would oblige us to use tertiary roads to access Margaretville, Roxbury and beyond, a not insignificant issue considering the additional response time of emergency vehicles this would cause.
The primary concern of many of us, however, is the fate of Jim and Susan Kelly’s country inn, Susan’s Pleasant Pheasant Farm. The inn, which is located quite near the bridge, is an important historic landmark, a primary architectural feature of the village and a significant tourist destination.
The county has indicated that the Kellys could not seek redress if construction undermines the structural integrity of their inn, a lakeside millhouse that is almost 200 years old. This suggests a rather cavalier and dismissive attitude concerning the consequences of the project as well as a careless disposition toward a citizen’s legal rights. I would hope that the bulldozer mentality reflected in this communication does not characterize the general inclination of the county D.P.W’s office.
Town Supervisor Leonard Utter stated at a town board meeting (as reported in the Catskill Mountain News, 4/16/08) that the Town of Middletown has “absolutely nothing to do with” the Halcottsville Bridge Project. It seems to me that this is another egregious example of a local government agency divesting itself of responsibility; it is a violation of the spirit if not the letter of the board’s regulatory guidelines and its mission statement.
The town board should be the steward of and advocate for every community within town borders. Whether formal or informal, judicial or advisory, the Middletown Board should address this issue. The least it could do is provide a forum and venue for a presentation/discussion regarding the bridge reconstruction project at a time when all Bragg Hollow/Halcottsville property owners could attend—on a weekend. Beyond that, the town board might intervene on behalf of the Kellys, who have been trying, so far unsuccessfully, to obtain reconstruction project details from the county. Pertinent details of the plan have been unavailable for review by an engineer since the Kellys requested them seven months ago.
I hope our local government agencies become more responsive to the concerns addressed herein. As is the case for every governing entity in this country, their purpose is informed and should be driven by a centuries-old imperative, to preserve and protect.

Richard Elrauch,
Halcottsville