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May 15, 2014

Official says road-use law would protect taxpayers

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — A road-use law and protection program is like health insurance and would shield a municipality from the costs of road damages incurred from development, an engineering firm official told the Oneonta Town Board on Wednesday night.

The board held a public hearing on a proposed road-use law and will vote on the measure at next month’s meeting. The board, which met in Town Hall in West Oneonta, also heard about plans for a meeting next week on the proposed Southside Water District and approved personnel actions, among other business.

Town Supervisor Robert Wood said road-use law originally was proposed in 2012. However, misinformation led to some resistance on the board and the matter was set aside.

Three new members joined the town board this year, and the proposed law was revived for consideration. Wood said he expects the measure to pass.

“The board is very interested in adopting it because it protects our taxpayers,” Wood said.

The law would require parties responsible for construction that would generate traffic likely to cause damage or require improvements to town highways to ensure such upgrades are made, the proposal said, and that such work would be at the parties’ expense.

The program has been introduced to municipalities throughout Otsego County. Wood said the town of Oneonta paid Delta Engineers, Architects & Land Surveyors of Endwell about $8,500 several years ago for the law project, which included an inventory of roads and assessment of road conditions.

The Delta Road Protection Program provides forms, training and other details on procedures to implement the program, according to a Delta document.

Seventeen other Otsego County municipalities have adopted the program, Melanie Chapel, program coordinator with Delta, said during the hearing.

Wood said that town board members received an updated version of the proposed law this week. With a vote set for next month, there will be sufficient time to publicize the law again, post it online and receive public comment, he said.

The road-use law initially was considered when the town board was reviewing moratoriums on natural gas drilling. The board adopted an anti-fracking law in March.

Chapel said the law was “neutral” toward development and neither encourages nor discourages such activity. The law doesn’t seek regulation of everyday traffic but does aim to identify “a huge spike” of traffic that would be generated by a developer, she said.

Municipal officials, including the highway supervisor, would determine any potential for damages to roads, and the law would be part of a broader review process involving town planners and environmental impact reviews, officials said.