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Colden Town Board passes new moratorium

COLDEN — Discussion about hydraulic fracturing and Colden Town residents’ expressed fear about the issue are recurring themes at Colden Town Board monthly meetings. During the regular board meeting held Oct. 4, citizens united with Colden Well Being in the expressed hope of securing safety for their fellow residents.

The Colden Town Board voted in favor of a new moratorium to try to keep hydrofracking out of Colden. The town’s original moratorium expired on Oct. 11, so board members said they wished to put a new one in place, as soon as possible.

The current moratorium includes a new clause, protecting the rights of National Fuel, a federal gas company, to maintain its storage wells on land currently owned by that company.

Colden residents in attendance at the meeting questioned the usefulness of this moratorium, as it does not stop National Fuel’s drilling activity, which is what they said they were hoping this moratorium would do.

It was explained that a failure to include the clause protecting National Fuel’s right could have resulted in a lawsuit. “National Fuel was going to file a lawsuit, but when we wrote up the new moratorium protecting their interests in the storage fields only ... they agreed to retract it,” explained Supervisor Annie Hoffman.

The supervisor added that members of the board are trying to be as “proactive” as they can, in trying to keep hydraulic fracturing out of Colden, and understand that a lawsuit could be detrimental for the town.

“We can’t stop National Fuel from maintaining their storage wells,” Hoffman said. “They have been doing it for 60 or 70 years.”

Councilwoman Patricia Zurbrick voted no to the moratorium. “I want to ask Councilman Zurbrick why she voted no on the moratorium?” Linda Thomas said.

Zurbrick responded, “I still have issues on one paragraph that’s in there ... Personally, I am not comfortable with it, at this point.” Per Zurbrick, the paragraph in question is the exemption clause.

The board has recently helped form a committee in Colden that will take steps to keep hydrofracking out of the town. “The committee is up to the challenge of maybe trying to write a new moratorium,” Hoffman said.

The board’s stated intention for the forming of this committee is to have a “group of informed people find a logical and legal way to write a solid moratorium.”

In other board news:

– The Community Development Block Grant had a public hearing at the beginning of the meeting. The board requested a new rural transit van, generators for the senior center and possibly the town hall, exercise equipment for the senior center, and repairs for the handicap ramp in front of the town hall.

– A public hearing was set for the Time Warner Cable and Internet franchise. The hearing will be held during the Nov. 8 board meeting.

– The public hearing for the 2013 budget will also be held at the next town board meeting.

– The repair of broken, state-owned sidewalks was discussed. The highway and parks department is unsure who will have to pay for these repairs.

– The town recycle day is set for Oct. 20 from 8 a.m. – noon at the town highway barn.

– The Colden website is still undergoing repairs and changes.

– Payment for unpaid water bills will be accepted until Oct. 29.

– Requests for brick engravings at the veteran memorial, to be installed in the spring, will be accepted until Nov. 15.

– The AARP defensive driving course is still accepting new students. Veterans who take the class in November will not have to pay.

The town supervisor reported that the creek bed restoration study is currently under review.

The next town board meeting will be held Nov. 8 at 7 p.m.

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