2007-08-02 / Front Page

Former town councilors weigh in on barn proposal

By Tom Shevlin

Three years after voters rejected a proposal to site the town's highway barn facility at Lower Taylor Point, debate has raged among council members and island residents alike over new plans on where to locate the much-needed facility.

Now several former town council members are weighing in on a new plan to site the town's highway barn at Upper Taylor Point.

With a vote slated for Aug. 28 on a referendum to either approve or reject a plan adopted by the town council to locate the proposed facility at Upper Taylor Point, the Press sought the opinion of past council members. Several former council members responded to inquiries, and while the current council was split 3-2 on the location of the facility, formers council members were unanimous in their support for the Taylor Point proposal.

Former council president Fred Pease, for one, supports the decision to locate the facility at Taylor Point.

"I've always thought a location in town made the most sense," Pease said when asked if he would support the Aug. 28 referendum.

Pease, who served as council president during what he described as a "toxic tort suit" in which the town was sued by a developer over contamination emanating from the town's landfill, based his decision on both environmental and economic reasons.

Citing the proposed location's proximity to the town's waste water treatment plant and central location, Pease said that the Taylor Point property makes economic sense for the town. He also stressed the need to relocate Department of Public Works (DPW) personnel from the current Ft. Getty facility as quickly as possible. At just six feet above sea level, Pease expressed concern that the current facility puts DPW workers and equipment at risk from a natural disaster.

As a long time island resident, Pease also reminisced about the changes to Taylor's Point - "known to old-timers as Potter's Point," he said. "No one misses Potter's Point more than I," Pease said. However, he also recognized the centrality of the old "Potter's Point."

Pease, an abutter to the town's property on Southwest Avenue, also went on record saying that he would not object to locating the barn facility at that site should a new plan need to be drawn up if the referendum were voted down.

Saying the "environmental concerns are very real" Pease also invoked the advice of an expert offered during the town's legal battle which he presided over as council president. "Let that sleeping dog lie," Pease said.

Another former council president, Guy Settipane agreed.

Settipane, who presided over the council in 2002 when a plan to site the barn at Lower Taylor Point was rejected by voters, also supports the decision of the current council.

"I'm very much in favor of the council's selection," Settipane said. "Tell me what's wrong with it?"

Settipane listed several reasons for his support of the Taylor Point proposal. From cost effectiveness to the minimal environmental and neighborhood impact the Taylor Point property presents, Settipane said that while there is a group of residents who believe that a north end facility would be acceptable, "no one can guarantee that disturbing the site won't disturb toxins."

Echoing the sentiments of his predecessor, Settipane also expressed his concern for the working conditions faced by the town's DPW workers.

"This facility is long overdue given the substandard working conditions DPW personnel have been subjected to over the past 20 years," Settipane said.

"This option is a great, great option to take advantage of," Settipane said, adding, "(it) makes a heck of a lot of sense."

Former councilor Mark Liberati agreed, however he said that he supports the Taylor Point property based on economics rather than environmental concerns.

"I think a location in town is preferable simply from the point of view of the amount of highway time it would save," Liberati said. Provided that the costs are not prohibitive, Liberati foresaw no reason why he would vote against the proposal.

Calling claims that a facility at the town's transfer station could lead to groundwater contamination as a "red herring," Liberati dismissed environmental concerns raised by North End opponents.

"Frankly, I don't understand the environmental concerns (over Lot 47)," Liberati said. Still, Liberati was supportive of the council's decision and was eager to see the matter resolved.

Bruce McIntyre, who sat on the original town barn committee, also agreed that it was time to move forward with the project.

"Time is money in the construction world," McIntyre said. According to McIntyre, the debate over the highway barn represents a "protracted and relatively sad chapter in Jamestown history."

"Residents need to come together and build the barn," he concluded.

Several other former council members were sought out, but were not available at the time of publication.

Island residents will be able to decide for themselves if they agree with their former councilors on Aug. 28 when the polls open.

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