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Otis controversy bridges New Year

ELIZABETHTOWN Essex County supervisors will enter 2008 with old issues at the forefront. That fact was made clear during the annual year-end meeting of county board Dec. 27, as supervisors rehashed the contrtoversial issue of replacing the Otis Bridge in in Elizabethtown. A resolution to hire Barton and Loguidice for consulting work for the Otis Bridge project passed, but not without debate. The $3,800 of consulting work is needed as part of the projects environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). Prior to passing the resolution, Supervisor Jeanne Ashworth (D - Wilmington) brought up a letter she had received from the Otis Mountain Home Owners Association member Harry Gough, which questioned the process the county was undertaking for the bridge. Gough and his wife, Margaret Bartley, sued the county to stop the planned bridge replacement because the county had not done a complete SEQRA. The letter was emailed to 14 of the 18 supervisors on the board. Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R - Moriah) asked for a five-minute recess to review the letter, which was granted. After the recess, County Attorney Daniel Manning went through the letter, addressing certain points contained within. I never received this email. Often times I get blindsided with matters I don't have an opportunity to research. I'd like to ask the board that if they have any issues or matters - don't ask me in an open meeting before I have the opportunity to research, said Manning. My style's not to address matters or make determinations in the newspaper or court of public opinion. Scozzafava stated he felt the bottom line was that it was the countys responsibility to replace the bridge with a model up to the current standard. He said the other option was to abandon the bridge. They have a right to log the property - why should they be prohibited? said Scozzafava. Ashworth said she felt better communication was needed, since she hadnt known a pre-application meeting with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) had been held. It's things we all need to know in order to make a good decision about a project is going to affect a lot of people, said Ashworth. Supervisor Ronald Jackson (R - Essex) called the letter a delaying tactic. It seems to me that the time and selectivity was to further delay the process - it appears it's an effort to continue the delay process that some people have been trying to do since the beginning. Take it with a grain of salt, said Jackson. When contacted for comment, Bartley stated communication had been sent to supervisors who might bring up the issue during the meeting. Harry (Gough) sent the e-mail to several supervisors that he hoped would bring up the question. It wouldn't have made sense to ask supervisors, who support the Otis bridge replacement, to bring up the question, said Bartley. Supervisors Gerald Morrow (D - Chesterfield) and Daniel Connell (D - Westport) said they supported the resolution because they felt an outside perspective was needed on the contentious issue. The resolution was approved by the board, with Glebus and Ashworth in opposition. Newcomb supervisor George Canon was absent. It was the last county meeting for Shirley Seney (R - North Elba), Jeanne Ashworth (D - Wilmington), Anthony Glebus (R - Lewis), and Robert Ashline (R- Willsboro), whose terms expired on Dec. 31. The first meeting of 2008 will be held on Jan. 7.

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