Tempers flare over Afton road law

AFTON – Twenty-five year veteran Supervisor Robert Briggs of Afton thought twice about running for office again in ‘09, but the 80-year-old Republican said he had a couple of years left in him.

He may wish he hadn’t.

About half of a standing room only crowd attending a public hearing Thursday night in the village’s municipal offices and community room asked for Briggs’ resignation on conflict of interest grounds. Several accused him of conducting illegal meetings and appointing biased committees. One individual said he was “immoral.”

The other half of the room shamed Briggs’ attackers, calling them “out-of-towners” and “extremists” with an agenda that had nothing to do with Afton’s government nor constituency.

There hasn’t been a larger turnout for a Chenango County-level public hearing in nearly a decade, so it was most certainly a record for this sparsely populated town of 2,851. And it was another sure sign that New York’s three-year debate over hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale has hit home.

As has been the case at other meetings throughout the county concerning the environmental consequences, financial opportunities and municipal regulating authority surrounding the issue of natural gas development, security officials were on the premises.

Eleven people spoke from the podium during the 30-minute hearing of Local Law # 1 of 2011, a proposal that would effectively throw out town road use legislation that was passed in late December. The first road use ordinance, Local Law #3 of 2010, would have prohibited natural gas-related trucking from within 1,000 feet of schools, residential neighborhoods consisting of five or more houses, hospitals and health care centers. The board narrowly adopted that measure by a vote of 3 to 2.

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