By Dana Cudmore
SCHOHARIE A check to reimburse Schoharie County for work at the Gilboa Dam is in the mail, the Board of Supervisors learned, but it is much less than what supervisors were expecting.
Board Chairman Earl Van Wormer III, R-Esperance, inquired about the overdue payment Friday after the New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s monthly update on repairs at the 80-year-old dam.
The county had invoiced the DEP for $240,000 in late April, presenting the department’s spokesman Paul Brady with an envelope stuffed with receipts to document the local expense.
Brady told the board to "expect a fax" from the DEP commissioner announcing that of the total, the city would pay $1[an error occurred while processing this directive]80,000. He also announced the city would pay $200,000 for an early-warning siren system the county is installing.
The problem, according to supervisors, is that the system costs $360,000.
Van Wormer said the county’s expense is nearing $750,000 for work at the NYC-owned dam. Asking county taxpayers to fund that much of the city’s work would result in a property-tax increase of about 7 percent, he said.
"That amount may not be much in New York City," he said. "But it’s a big expense here."
Middleburgh Supervisor Dennis Richards said he was "disgusted" by the offer and that it was an "insult" to offer only $200,000 toward the early-warning system. He also said it was the DEP that had approached the board wanting to be a good neighbor, and it wasn’t acting that way.
"Be a good neighbor pay your bills," he said.
Richmondville Supervisor Betsey Bernocco said the alarm system was authorized by the supervisors who were acting on "good faith" that the city would absorb the cost.
The board urged Brady to relay its comments to the DEP and seek the full amount due.
Work on the dam continues, Brady told the board, although it has been temporarily delayed because of the June flood. Supervisors discussed the siphons placed in the reservoir for repair work, as well as a notch at the dam to lower water level. Those features, many felt, helped prevent serious flooding in the Schoharie Valley.
In a related matter, Dam Concerned Citizens representative Howard Bartholomew led supervisors through an audio-visual presentation that concluded an independent, third party should be created to regulate the release of water from the dam.
Bartholomew, of Middleburgh, charged the DEP with being bad neighbors ever since the dam’s inception, and argued that an independent group could effectively regulate the release of water from the Gilboa reservoir and provide some measure of flood control.
Bartholomew said this governing body should consist of weather experts, engineers, local officials, and representatives of the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the DEP.
In other business Friday, the board:
Heard a presentation by Hope Coons, of Cobleskill, on expansion plans for the "Historic Treasures" museum at the Cobleskill Fair. Coons said the all-volunteer group is raising funds to construct a 30-by-60-foot annex to house the growing collection of Schoharie County artifacts, particularly those related to agriculture.
Learned of steps being taken by the county’s Social Services Department, Health Department and Office for the Aging to create a local "Point of Entry" program modeled after state sources. The goal is to provide a single source of information for residents’ long-term care options.