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Saturday, January 30, 2010

O'Brien-Dailey vs. Lyonsdale- Lewis County's Trail System Exposed

Lyonsdale Town Councilperson Nancy O'Brien-Dailey felt strongly that her town was acting outside their authority when they voted to open more than ten miles of town roads that allegedly connected to Lewis County Reforestation Land.
The Town of Lyonsdale was encouraged to open these roads to ATV traffic by Lewis County and ATV clubs, ostensibly so that ATV riders could get from one trail to another via town roads.
Lewis County has embarked on creating a countywide ATV trail system that involves connecting some Lewis County Reforestation Land to short sections of private trails to other areas of Reforestation Land all connected with long segments of public roads.
Critics, including this blogger, have long contended that what Lewis County has been doing with cooperation from some of the towns, violates Vehicle and Traffic Law. Short segments of roads can be opened so that ATVs can gain access to "areas or trails" that are "adjacent" to the road where it is "otherwise impossible" for ATVs to do so. Municipalities must prove that both trails are "adjacent" and that it is "otherwise impossible" to gain access before roads may be opened to ATV traffic. Instead, Lewis County has been opening disparate parcels of land and short segments of driveway like private trails as an attempt to justify opening mile after mile of public highway.
Ms. O'Brien-Dailey testified at her Board's public hearing against opening the roads, pointing out the legal problems associated with the action and the accompanying increased liabilty vulnerability the Town of Lyonsdale would be facing. It was all to no avail as the majority on the Board charged ahead, in a rush apparently to please the county fathers and a handful of ATV club officianados- the law and taxpayers be damned. Ms. O'Brien-Dailey pointed out that the town board violated both New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law and State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) requirements and sued the Town of Lyonsdale in New York State Supreme Court in Lowville, N.Y. Supreme Court Judge Joseph McGuire agreed.
In a ruling filed on January 20, 2010 Judge McGuire ruled that the Town of Lyonsdale violated New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law as well as SEQRA requirements.
In her lawsuit Nancy O'Brien-Dailey pointed out that Lewis County wants to make public highways part of the countywide trail system. Judge McGuire agreed saying "At the outset, the County's descriptionof the ATV trail system being evaluated by its GEIS process indicates that it does incude town roadways as part of that trail system."
This ruling should have important ramifications beyond the Town of Lyonsdale and even beyond Lewis County. It should be apparent by now that other towns in Lewis County, as well as the County itself, have far exceeded their authority in allowing ATV traffic on their roads. Even attempting to disguise the road openings as a way to connect to parcels of land has been exposed as the attempt to distort Vehicle and Traffic Law that it is.
Additionally, Jefferson and St Lawrence Counties have undertaken similar laws at the town and county levels and should take note.
The premise of the so called trail system by using public highways as connectors approach here in the north country, when in reality there is more highway than trail involved, is built on violating New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law.
Municpalities should follow the law. There are consequences, sometimes extremely costly consequences when they don't follow the law.
Hopefully, more thoughtful consideration to this issue will be given than what we have seen so far. The costs of doing things wrong far exceed the paltry sales tax generated at an ATV patronized gin mill and the effects felt far more widespread.
Nancy O'Brien-Dailey deserves our gratitude. Her actions may ultimately save the taxpayers of Lyonsdale and others areas a lot of money... but in the meantime isn't it a good idea that local government should operate legally?
Beyond the legalities, O'Brien-Dailey vs. the Town of Lyonsdale exposes the attempts at establishing so called ATV trail systems in the north country for what they are- connecting disparate riding areas or short private trails by using many miles of our public highways- in other words...they are a ruse.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Shell Game Continues...the County Manager's raise is where and how much?

The shell game involved in giving Lewis County Manager David Pendergast a raise continues. Last night the Lewis County Board of Legislators voted to rescind the $10,000.00 raise they gave him two weeks ago and voted to give what amounts to a $6,500.00 raise instead.
At first glance it would be easy to say good, at least it isn't as much as when we started, but when we look at how this raise is being established and the reasoning (or lack thereof) behind it, the whole process appears arbitrary and certainly unsubstantiated.
Two weeks ago we were told that the County Manager deserved the raise because of extra duties associated with the IT department and the new Public Transportation Department. The entire $10,000.00 raise was put on the Budget Officer position, even though the Budget Officer work is considered part of the County Manager's duties. Further, both the IT Department and the Public Transportation Department have people that head up those departments.
Now, two weeks later, the County Manager no longer needs $10,000.00, he needs $6,500.00.
Now, two weeks later, the Public Transportation Department is no longer part of the equation.
Now, two weeks later, the County Manager's position is being raised $3,750.00.
Now, two weeks later, the County Manager is getting $2,750.00 more for heading up the IT Department when there is already a person that heads up that department.
Just like two weeks ago, the current $6,500.00 raise is unbudgeted.
Just like two weeks ago, Department Heads are being asked to go without raises this year.
Just like two weeks ago, union employees are being asked to work five hours per week more for the same pay... and just like two weeks ago the rest of us are still facing tough economic pressures.
This whole thing wreaks of either slight of hand or a poorly thought out plan. The slight of hand
is obvious. Don't put it in the budget, wait until the last meeting of the year and hope nobody notices. Oops! Somebody noticed! Now, lower the numbers somewhat, juggle the titles, create a little confusion and hope everybody thinks they've won when we're still getting stiffed for $6,500.00.
When it comes to poorly thought out plans, this board takes the cake. Remember the big 52 job cut budget panic that they reversed themselves on? How about the Mental Health and Alcohol Clinic privatization plans that didn't work out, and of course the planned closing of the Transfer Station in Croghan under false pretenses? These are just the badly thought out plans we've been fortunate enough to have had changed. Other bad plans still exist like our permit based ATV system that has county taxpayers, when it comes to liability, exposed like a colonoscopy patient.
A raise? Folks when we look at the performance of this Board, and the County Manager is their point man, from a citizen's perspective a raise shouldn't even be on the table.
We have a shell game on the table, the hands are moving faster and the taxpayers better be paying close attention.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

To Veep or Not To Veep...or run for Assembly?

The votes were barely counted election night and Lewis County Legislator Rick Lucas was making it known that he was seriously considering running for the assembly seat now held by Dede Scozzafava. He even let it be known he'd consider running against Dede in a primary. I suggested in a previous post that perhaps Mr. Rick was a bit full of himself, but after tonight's Lewis County Board of Legislator's meeting perhaps the hubris involved in his ambition will be more evident.
You see, the man that would challenge Dede, the man that would be New York State Assemblyman, could not muster enough votes from his colleagues to regain his position as Vice Chairman of the Lewis County Board of Legislators. After brother-in-law Jack Bush was once again made Chairman of the Board, a resolution was put forth to make Mr. Lucas Vice Chairman.
With six positive votes required to pass any resolution, Mr. Lucas' attempt to once again become Vice Chairman was defeated by a vote of 5-4. With five votes in the affirmative he was one vote shy of regaining the Vice Chairmanship. Legislator Pat Wallace was absent from tonight's meeting and how he would have voted is uncertain.
Later in the meeting, newly sworn in Legislator Paul Stanford, put forward a resolution to make Legislator Jerry King from West Leyden the Vice Chairman. This resolution was defeated 4-5 with King receiving four positive votes.
Perhaps this should be considered a wake up call to Mr. Lucas. It's time to leave the political dream world.