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Board Reaffirms Blenheim Bridge Project

Written By Editor on 9/16/16 | 9/16/16

By Tyler James

The Blenheim Bridge was a major topic of conversation today at the Board of Supervisors meeting. Multiple residents and supervisors opined about the future of the project.

Treasurer Bill Cherry asked the board to give permission for Blenheim Long Term's chair Don Airey to speak. Airey thanked a number of volunteers for work done on behalf of Blenheim and working with the County on the Blenheim Bridge projects. He also thanked members of the flood committee and Cherry for work "behind the scenes" on flood recovery.

Airey described the new Blenheim Bridge project as, "something the County will ultimately benefit from." He stated that surrounding towns would also benefit economically due to the bridge project. He highlighted an individual that preserved many original pieces of the bridge.

Concern was raised about the cost and timeliness of the project by Supervisor Bill Federice of Conesville. He asked what would happen if Blenheim led the project with Schoharie County acting in the background. He praised the residents of the town.

Supervisor Phil Skowfoe of Fulton stated that he has supported the program all along and now that it is "down to the wire," the board should not change course. Supervisor Leo McAllister stated that the course of the project and new cost projections created "concern." Chair Earl VanWormer stated that the southern part of the county could "use a boost in the arm." He said that this project could bring new visitors to the area. He also said that if the money wasn't spent locally it would be used elsewhere and not for the benefit of Schoharie County. McAllister replied by stating that such issues were part of the reason the federal government has a $20 trillion debt.

"What happens if this goes over the $10.2 million budget?" asked Supervisor Chris Tague from Schoharie. He also asked if FEMA would cover any overage. Tague recommended that Blenheim should take on the project on its own.

"You're confusing your streambank project with this project," said Treasurer Cherry. He said that the flood wall project is finishing on time and budget. "With due respect, the flood recovery projects cannot be lumped into," this one. He mentioned that the County Board asked the flood recovery committee unanimously to pursue the Blenheim Bridge's replacement. "FEMA has approved the project. FEMA will cover all the costs of this project," Cherry said. If there were issues beyond the current scope, FEMA would reimburse the county.

"I didn't bring up anything about the streambank project, Bill. I asked you a simple question," Tague replied.

Cherry asked that the County should make a decision today and that if there was to go forward or not, the time for saying so was soon.

"We're not just wasting money. We're bringing money back in," said Supervisor Skowfoe.

Treasurer Cherry was asked what would happen if the county dropped the project at this point. The Treasurer replied that the county would have to pay back $600,000 to the federal government for project costs already spent. Supervisor Shawn Smith of Blenheim said that the Town would assist the county as much as possible.

Supervisor Tague stated that "after the project is done. What we would like to see if the folks of Blenheim own that project... We're not against the project." Tague stated that he believed Cherry did a great job as the flood recovery coordinator and asked again about what would happen if the project went over its budget.

The measure came to a roll call vote to reaffirm support of the project. Of the supervisors, the vote was unanimous except for Supervisor Pete Coppolo of Middleburgh, who voted no.
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1 comments:

upstateny1000 said...

The last Blenheim Bridge Art Walk brought 3,500 visitors to Blenheim, almost 9 times the town’s own population. Many of those visitors came from out of the area and also visited gas stations, shops and restaurants as part of their visit, benefiting not only Blenheim but also Schoharie and Middleburgh. They also generated county sales tax revenue. The new Blenheim Bridge, to be built without local monies, will leverage that experience and expand the bridge into a true economic development engine for the southern part of the county. The supervisors who affirmed their support for the project should be lauded for their foresight and vision, as should the tireless private citizen volunteers who have dedicated years of effort to bringing the bridge back as symbol of recovery and an expression of confidence in the future.

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