By JOE MAHONEY
The Daily Star
---- — The Constitution Pipeline Company, the promoter of a controversial 121-mile natural gas transmission system that would run from northeast Pennsylvania to Schoharie County, has doled out nearly $300,000 in community grants for such projects as making the Franklin village hall accessible to disabled people.
The largesse was divvied up among many of the communities that would be traversed by the pipeline should it be approved by federal regulators, according to an announcement from the project developers.
Among the awards was $20,000 to create an Afton Chamber of Commerce. Afton was one of the locations for a series of three scoping hearings that drew hundreds of people who argued allowing a new natural gas line would be unnecessary and threaten fragile ecosystems for wildlife while dropping home values.
A relatively small number of people spoke in favor of the project, saying it would help promote economic growth and potentially lower the energy costs for schools and businesses.
The maximum grant handed out was $25,000, and those hoping to launch a new regional ambulance service in the village and town of Sidney were very pleased to learn they scored that sum for their project.
“This grant will certainly help us consider what our needs are going to be in the future and help us get the answers,” said Andrew Matviak, the mayor of the village of Sidney. “With our volunteer services, it is getting very difficult to supply the manpower needs of our local communities.”
Anne Marie Garti of East Meredith, one of the organizers of the grassroots opposition group, Stop the Pipeline, said the group’s accepting the money “are aligning themselves with the community’s enemy.”
“When you take the enemy’s money,” Garti said, “you are in bed with the enemy.”
But Matviak said he doesn’t think the pipeline will spawn hydrofracking operations in upstate New York if the project does get the green light.
“The pipeline has nothing to do with drilling,” Matviak said. “It’s just running infrastructure, and I don’t know how people can be opposed to that.”
Other community grants from the pipeline include:
• $25,000 for the Bainbridge Community Foundation Walking Trail. The money is directed to improve and pave the walking trail at General Clinton Park.
• $23,717 for the Richmondville Volunteer Fire Project for emergency communication enhancements.
• $23,955 for the Pindars Corners Volunteer Fire Department to purchase turnout gear.
• $22,000 to expand the Summit Fire Department.
• $25,000 to purchase a power load system for the Scho-Wright Ambulance Service in Schoharie County.
• $6,900 to purchase a pool lift to help the Sidney Municipal Swimming Pool come into compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act revisions.
• $23,500 for the Sidney Boys and Girls Club, with the money earmarked for programs serving young people with disadvantaged backgrounds.
• $22,995 for the Masonville Fire Department to purchase turnout gear and gas meters.
• $3,715 to the Franklin Community Educational Foundation in order to send young people to the American Museum of Modern History in New York City.
The pipeline planners said they are preparing to accept another round of grant applications, with March 15 being the cutoff date for submitting them to the company.
The pipeline is a joint venture of Williams Partners (51 percent), Cabot Oil and Gas (24 percent) and Piedmont (24 percent).
Plans call for the $750 million project to carry 650,000 dekatherms of natural gas per day, enough to power some three million homes. The project planners are hoping to begin construction in April 2014.