Resident questions town logging

To the editor: In the July 6 Press Republican Elizabethtown Supervisor Noel Merrihew said, One of the primary uses of gasoline at the Cobble Hill Golf Course was logging. The town budget earmarks $20,000 in gross revenue from the approximately 800 acres of forest the town owns. In the past this has helped keep the tax levy down. This includes about 100 face cords of firewood, which Elizabethtown residents could purchase. On July 28, I requested copies of town logging records under the Freedom of Information Law. I wanted to know how much wood was cut and how much it cost the town to cut it. I also asked who bought the wood and how much money the town received. If town records were kept according to state regulations it would be easy for the Supervisor to answer my request. One week later I received part of my request; copies of 13 sales receipts from December 2007 to May 2008 that showed seven people bought firewood during those six months and paid $40 per face cord. Two of the buyers were the Supervisor and his secretary. A total of 18 face cords of firewood was sold and the town received $720. Also sold were pulp and hardwood logs for $3,408. The town earned a total of $4,128. During those same six months, when the golf course was closed, the town spent $1,135 on diesel fuel for the bulldozer, $2,854 for gasoline and $3,723 for heating oil for the maintenance shed, for a total cost of $7,712. This does not include the cost of labor for the town employee who cut the wood or the $15,000 paid, in February 2008, to repair the bulldozer, which is primarily used for logging. The total spent was $22,712. It seems to me the taxpayers of Elizabethtown are subsidizing firewood and log cutting. There is no evidence that the town advertised firewood for sale. The supervisor admits to keeping a list of people who are notified when firewood is available. Selling firewood at $40 a face cord means the town is competing with and undercutting local wood dealers. All citizens should ask this question: Should our taxes support a logging operation that benefits only a few people and costs far more than it takes in? We can only know the truth if we look at the actual records, which according to NY state law must be open and available for inspection at all reasonable hours of the day. Harry Gough, Registered Republican Editors Note: Supervisor Noel Merrihew readily provided records to the Valley News regarding revenues and expenses for the logging and sale of wood in the Town of Elizabethtown. Though town records show that the costs for logging have exceeded revenues for 2008 so far, the records for 2005 through the present indicate an average annual net revenue of $12,632, though that does not include the cost of bulldozer repairs. Nor does it include fuel used at the golf course, which Merrihew said was used heavily in 2008 in a 30-day effort with Moriah Shock prisoners to clear and transport brush from the logging site to the DEC-mandated burn site on Roscoe Road. Though Merrihew admits that there has been little public advertising of firewood sales, he holds that any landowner in Elizabethtown is welcome to add their name to the list of notified buyers and that a limit of two face cords per person per year is sold only to landowners in Elizabethtown.

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