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Fenton Residents Upset Over Natural Gas Compressor

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TOWN OF FENTON, NY -

In front of a packed Town of Fenton Meeting, Supervisor David Hamlin said "we can't reconsider," much to the displeasure of the crowd.

He was referring to a project, that was approved by the Town of Fenton Planning Board to build a Natural Gas Compressor on West Service Road. The location is within a quarter-mile of Port Dickinson Elementary School and the route passes by the Chenango Valley Junior/Senior High School.

Residents voiced many concerns across a wide range of topics.

Town's Honesty

For many residents, they only found out about the project within the last week. The issue is that the plan was proposed six months ago.

"The Town of Fenton Board did not alert the citizens in an informative matter that this was occurring," said Adrienne Irons, Fenton Resident who started a petition. 

"They knew in January and most of us never found out about this until a very short time ago," said Mary Jo Bowie, Fenton Resident.

According to Irons, the Town didn't even notify the public in their latest newsletter.

"Two or three weeks ago we got a Town paper sent to every resident and there was no mention of this project," said Irons. "We didn't hear anything about it until after the vote had gone through, which was disconcerting."

Residents are not only upset that the Town failed to tell them about the project until it was already passed, but they believe the Town didn't do any research before approving it.

'There was no independent study done on the impact on the air quality, the water quality. There was no research done, nothing at all and that's disturbing," said Irons.

"The Town of Fenton Board did no independent research at all," said Joel Luchun, Chenango Valley School Board Vice President.

Leaving many of those in attendance at Wednesday's meeting with trust issues and more questions than answers.

"The Board's comments and their tone, I feel like we really weren't respected," said Bowie.

The "Open Comment" portion of the meeting lasted about 45 minutes with person after person asking for answers for the Board's decision. It eventually ended with Hamlin, telling the crowd that he would not longer accept questions.

The crowd booed and jeered before leaving the building visibly frustrated with the lack of answers.

Children's Safety

Chenango Valley School Board Vice President, Joel Luchun, says the school was told that there will be 100 trucks making a round trip everyday. That means 200 times there and back in total. 

Hamlin says the plan is to increase the number of compressors from four to twelve in the future, which has residents concerned that this will mean more trucks are passing through the area.

The Compressor site is within a quarter-mile of the Port Dickinson Elementary School and the route to take the gas passes right by the Chenango Valley Junior/Senior High School and people are concerned for the safety of the students.

"We don't want to see an accident with a school bus and a leaking tanker truck, where kids get hurt," said Luchun.

The other unanswered question is what would the school district do in case they need to evacuate the schools.

"The children would either have to walk half a mile out of the area or wait for school buses and that could take nearly an hour," said Luchun.

"If we are putting a facility there and there's an incident, I have concerns. How are we going to evacuate? Did they consider that?" said Joela Andersen, Fenton Resident.

The simple answer from Hamlin - it's up to the schools to figure that out.

Environmental Concerns

"You're breathing in, whatever they're blowing out and I don't know what they're blowing out," said Irons.

Community members are worried about gas leaks, spillage and other accidents that may occur when dealing with natural gas. Bowie says she prioritizes safety over money.

"My concern is the health of the community rather than the revenue any Town or County will get from this project," said Bowie.

Our community has experienced other health risks in the past that had to be mitigated.

According to Bowie, a number of years ago, both people in the area were being diagnosed with cancer and Officials couldn't figure out why, but eventually they connected it to previous construction.

"Our homes were tested and the grounds under our homes were tested and had to be mitigated," said Bowie. She says it would be devastating for something like that to happen again in the area.

Traffic

For anyone who has driven on West Service Road, you know it's extremely narrow.

"Traffic in those areas is already a problem, anyone who travels this area knows that and now we're just adding to it," said Andersen.

Adding 100+ trucks to the equation would certainly lead to more traffic in and out of the Town.

Property Values

Between construction and problems associated with a natural gas compressor, there was a lot of concern that the values of homes in the area will go down dramatically.

"It will increase the sound level as well as potentially give off an odor to the area and it has the potential to devalue our property" said Bowie.

Flooding

Irons says the area was under ten feet of water in 2011 and worries what might happen if it floods again.

"We're wondering what they might do when that floods out, how that might affect us, how it would affect the environment," said Irons.

TOF Supervisor Hamlin's Response

Town of Fenton Supervisor, David Hamiln, spoke with the media during the Board Meeting and says he did not sneak the deal through.

"The pubic could've attended any of our board meetings, which very few do, and we talked about it at that point," said Hamlin. He insists that the plan was discussed at the previous Town of Fenton meetings, but none of the residents in attendance agreed at all.

He is sticking to his plan saying "there is no rescinding it, it has to move forward." When asked if he is for the compressor he responded, "yes and so is the Town Board."

Hamlin says he has been in touch with the company in charge of the project, NG Advantage, and says the company has the environment and the community in their best interests. 

He also says the project is in the best interest of the Town and Broome County, but the Broome County Department of Planning and Economic Development was firmly against the project in a report in May.

The biggest concern came when Hamlin said the schools are on board with the compressor including Chenango Valley Superintendent David Gill, but on May 3 and May 23, Gill wrote a letter stating his concerns.

"Aside from the health and safety issues related to transporting compressed liquefied natural gas, I also continue to be concerned with the increased traffic flow of natural gas tanker trucks traveling on a direct route through our school district," wrote Gill on May 23.

You can read both of Gill's letters plus a letter from CV Board of Education President Stuart Elliot below:

Hamlin claims he has an email from Superintendent Gill saying that he is on board with the compressor project, but says he "cannot share it."

What's Next

NG Advantage officially broke ground on the project on Wednesday, June 7 and unless legal action is taken by an individual person or the school board, the project will be built as planned.

According to the Town of Fenton law, Chapter 81-17, Article 78 states "those aggrieved by the decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals may appeal such decision to the Supreme Court pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules."

You can read the full law below:

Others are asking for a Public Referendum to vote on the project.

"If we go to a vote and the residents vote to build it, then that will be it. If the public says 'we don't want it in our backyard,' then that should be it to. The Town of Fenton is not a Democracy," said Luchun.

In the meantime, NG Advantage will build the compressor to tap natural gas from the Millennium Pipeline and transport it to industrial customers. It will cost the company $100 million dollars.