On Friday morning the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors considered the potential use of eminent domain to build a new bridge in the Town of Cobleskill, with both proponents and opponents of the measure addressing the county board.
Slated to be built on Shady Tree Lane, which is located in the Cobleskill hamlet of Barnerville, the bridge is being proposed to replace an older structure that has been closed for seven years and has been a point of contention in the community.
Explaining that any use of eminent domain must meet a two-fold requirement of being both in the public good and having no alternate location, County Attorney Michael West warned that because it is a capital improvement project, "If we do not move forward it will cost us $400,000."
Ironically enough, the Board of Supervisors had voted to oppose the use of eminent domain by natural gas companies against the will of county residents just four weeks before Friday's hearing.
At the crux of the dispute is the proposed bridge's path through two parcels of land, which affected property owners had decided against signing on to the project because it would cut into their front yards. One resident commented that he did not want to see "the bridge on my street."
Cobleskill resident Michelle Stacy stated her opposition by quipping that she was, "really against eminent domain in any way, shape, or form. Drawing a comparison to authoritarianism, Stacy would later comment, "We don't live in [the] Chinese mainland."
Not everyone was opposed to the proposal, however.
Arguing that "There is a public need for the replacement of this bridge," resident John Sagendorf hoped a compromise could be negotiated between the county and homeowners, but that if not, "eminent domain would have to be used," because of the project's critical nature.
Neal Stanton, a lifelong resident of Barnerville, concurred with Sagendorf on the need for a bridge by pointing to several instances of emergency services taking upwards to twenty minutes to respond to calls because the old bridge is no longer is service.
Awaiting the arrival of final assessments to come in, the county board kept the public hearing on the eminent domain proposal open through a special board meeting set for Tuesday, March 31st at 5:00 p.m.