A substantial majority of Otsego town residents have concerns about natural gas drilling, according to a telephone survey conducted by a Fly Creek woman.

Julie Huntsman of the Fly Creek/Otsego Neighbors group conducted the survey in February with the assistance of more than 20 volunteers affiliated with the community group. The volunteers used voting registration records to reach out to town residents, but Huntsman said the list had many outdated or missing phone numbers, and volunteers had trouble reaching some people out of town during the winter break.

The volunteers made contact with 1,159 of the town's approximately 3,900 residents and asked them a single question: "Do you have any concerns at all about the drilling that is proposed for our area?" The volunteers recorded "yes" or "no" answers, as well as respondents who were undecided or declined to respond.

Huntsman said 945 respondents, or 81.5 percent of those surveyed, answered "yes" to the question. Fifty-five answered "no," and 159 were undecided or declined to answer.

The phone survey is the third such initiative undertaken by the Fly Creek/Otsego Neighbors group, which Huntsman said started in August, when she got together with a few neighbors to share their concerns about gas drilling.

"What brought us together was the threat of high-volume hydrofracking -- not just in our town, but in the Fly Creek valley and the whole region," Huntsman said.

Previously, the group submitted a petition to the Otsego Town Board in February, asking it to prohibit heavy industry. Huntsman also presented the results of her survey to the town board March 2. The town has sought public comment from residents about gas drilling at recent meetings, but town Supervisor Meg Kiernan said previously that no vote on a ban was planned for the Wednesday meeting.

"We'll just be determining which way to go," Kiernan said.

The group has also sent a mailing to town residents seeking support for its efforts to ban gas drilling.

Huntsman said she is sympathetic to property owners who have signed gas leases, or are considering doing so.

"We are aware of, and sensitive to, the pressures" property owners face, Huntsman said. But, she said, the risks of natural gas drilling seem to outweigh the benefits.

Huntsman was appointed to the Otsego County Natural Gas Advisory Committee by Rep. James Powers in February. She is a veterinarian.

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