Westport moves forward with municipal facilities planning

WESTPORT Plans are motoring ahead in Westport for a municipal center that would contain a fire station, town highway garage, town and fire district offices, school bus garage, and fuel storage and dispersing unit for all three entities. At the Nov. 27 regular board meeting, Westport officials approved plans to move ahead with creating the new facility to be shared with Westport Central School, Westport Fire District 1, and the town highway garage. Supervisor Daniel Connell said a resolution was needed to enter into the agreement to seek shared services funding. The town of Westport would own the facility, and would extend long-term leases to the fire district and school. The agreement calls for the construction of the Westport Municipal Center at the site of the current highway garage. Very rough estimates show the project would cost $5 million, of which $4 million would have to be bonded. I would expect when we get all done, hopefully the maximum bonding would be $3.5 million - over 30 years, it may very well be an acceptable tax base for the residents of the town. I don't think it's going to be as big an increase of taxes as anticipated, said Connell. Each entity will apply for the maximum $200,000 the grant offers, for a total of $600,000 in funding. The town offices are not guaranteed to be a part of this - we're looking at that, hopefully it's going to be cost effective, said Tyler. Connell agreed the priority was to build a new fire station and town highway garage. Town officials believe it might be more efficient to sell the current building - known in the community as WADA - and have the offices in the new structure. The town board approved the motion, with Councilman Ed Smith absent. The grant application will need to be submitted by Dec. 14. If the grant is awarded, the project would have an "aggressive" schedule, since funding would need to be used within two years. Connell said that if the project moved forward, the town was planning on holding several public hearings on the subject to keep residents informed. Town officials also discussed a proposed telecommunications law for the hamlet area which was recommended by the planning board. Connell explained the law would put a process in place for the siting of new wireless communication facilities. He was in favor of moving the resolution to start the process. Councilman Tim Sherman said he was uncomfortable with the proposed law, feeling the 27-page document might be too restrictive. He wanted more time to look through the proposal before making a decision. If I was going to put up a tower, and I came in and read this, I'd be hesitant on the expense involved and where you can locate. I don't think you're going to see another tower in Westport, said Sherman. Tyler said he wouldn't make up his mind on the issue until after the public hearing. I don't want to micromanage the planning board, and I don't know if I'm going to vote yes or no, said Tyler. Connell said the document was very legal, and was written to stand up in court. He said having a law in place would make the process easier if another tower site was sought in Westport. If this had been in place on the tower of the golf course, we wouldn't have gone through all the heartache and headache, said Connell. Sherman said that if the law had been in place, the Verizon tower at the Westport Country Club wouldn't have been installed. It wouldn't have gone through, said Sherman. All councilman agreed to table discussion on the proposed law until next meeting, offering a chance to review the proposal. This very important, no sense in rushing this, said Tyler. In other business: The town agreed to be the lead agency in a Boquet River Association plan to seek a waterfront revitalization grant. A public hearing is planned for Tuesday, Dec. 11 prior to the regular board meeting to take public comment on a proposed extension of the water district to supply Camp Dudley with service. Town officials are working with ISO to get its fire rating increased. Due to the new water system, Westport has more fire protection in place due to more volume, increased number of fire hydrants and better water pressure. An increase in the town's rating should result in decreases in fire insurance rates for property owners. The town board approved an agreement to serve as lead agency for a coordinated assessment program with Willsboro and Elizabethtown. Under the plans, the three towns would share an assessor. Officials set the year-end meeting on Thursday, Dec. 27 at 6 p.m. The town's usual meeting needed to be rescheduled due to Christmas. The board discussed the clean-up at the brush dump, which was shut down by the Department of Environmental Conservation earlier this autumn for permit violations. Westport Department of Public Works employees have been straightening the site, and hope to receive a burn permit to dispose of remaining brush. Connell said it was unlikely that any burning would be allowed in New York State after the first of the year. He hoped to be able to reopen the brush dump, with DEC approval, for a couple weeks in December. Christmas trees, DPW Superintendent Jerry Sherman said, could be collected at the highway garage and chipped. The town board will revisit the issue at its Dec. 11 meeting.

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