County debates eminent domain for Shady Tree Lane bridge


By David Avitabile

The issue of a larger and relocated Shady Tree Lane Bridge in the Town of Cobleskill elicited different opinions at Friday's county board meeting.
In addition to the need for a new bridge, a debate also centered around the need to possibly take three properties through eminent domain for the project.
The public hearing on the eminent domain issue will be continued at the county board's special meeting on March 31.
Most land owners have agreed to sell land to the county for the project which would reopen the Barnerville bridge after being closed by the state for about eight years, according to county attorney Mike West.
Three parcels, owned by two families, need to be included in the project, but the owners have not yet agreed to sell.
Mr. West is hoping that representatives of the two families, the Kers and the Michaleks, will contact his office soon and discuss a sale. The three parcels are very small, measuring .02, .04 and .19 acres each.
If the project does not go through, the county would have to return about $400,000 it has received in engineering costs, Mr. West noted.
Several residents of the road and town debated the need for a new and expanded bridge.
"Nobody wants the bridge," road resident Mike Proctor told supervisors Friday.
Despite claims to the contrary, there is no difference in response time for emergency vehicles because of the lack of a bridge.
It is not right to take the land, he added.
"I just don't understand why you want to spend the money."
Greg Duncan, who has a contract on one of the properties, said taking the land through eminent domain would take more than half of his yard and he would not even be able to put a lawnmower in the garage.
"I don't want a bridge in the front yard."
The new bridge is needed, argued, town resident John Sagendorf. The new bridge would benefit commerce, the farmers, and be a convenience, he added.
He told supervisors that a petition to reopen the bridge was prepared in 2009 and attracted 150 signatures.
"It's been eight years that we've been without a bridge and it's time to replace it...It's for the public good and the good of all the people."
Don Morey, who lives on Shady Tree Lane, countered that there has been no difference in response time for emergency vehicles without the bridge.
Neil Stanton of Barnerville, though, said that it took 20 minutes for a fire truck to respond instead of 10 because of the lack of a bridge.
He also noted that if something happens on Shady Tree Lane "there's only one way out."
Schoharie Supervisor Gene Milone is against the use of eminent domain. He asked if there could be another location for the bridge.
Mr. West said another location was explored but was not approved by the state.
The entire bridge replacement project is expected to cost between $750,000 and $1 million. It will be funded by federal aid of up to 80 percent and another 15 percent aid from the state.