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Propane friction in the Town of Callicoon

Posted 10/16/19

JEFFERSONVILLE, NY — Andy Hahn, who owns Hilly Acres Farm with his wife Tanya, is a registered Republican but running as a Democrat for a seat on the Town of Callicoon board in the November 5 …

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Propane friction in the Town of Callicoon

Posted

JEFFERSONVILLE, NY — Andy Hahn, who owns Hilly Acres Farm with his wife Tanya, is a registered Republican but running as a Democrat for a seat on the Town of Callicoon board in the November 5 election. David Kuebler and Chris Hubert are running for seats on the board on the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines.

Earlier this year, the Hahns and some other residents had a disagreement with the town board over a proposed propane-heating deal with Combined Energy Services (CES) of Monticello. The board in February agreed to allow CES to place a 30,000 gallon propane tank on a portion of town property that also houses the town highway barn.

According to Callicoon supervisor Tom Bose, in return CES would, free of charge, provide the town with new equipment to switch from burning oil at the town hall and wood at the town highway barn, and supply enough propane to heat the town hall and up to 2,500 gallons of propane per year to heat the highway barn.

The site of the proposed fuel depot was alongside the town garage, near the three-way intersection of Callicoon Center Road, Hemmer Road and Wahl Road known as “donkey corners.” Local residents say it’s one of the most dangerous intersections in the county. The site is directly across the road from farmland that the Hahns recently put in conservation easement so that it would remain as farmland forever. There was concern that the deal was being pursued without an environmental assessment.

Several residents turned out to the April town meeting to voice concerns about the plan. One objection was that the propane tank was not a permitted use according to town code. The town barn property is situated in a “rural zoning district,” and one of the allowable uses in the district is “machinery storage.” The town board had earlier determined that a propane storage tank is “sufficiently similar” to machinery storage and that the plan could go forward.

Two different residents at the April meeting expressed the view that the board’s decision regarding the zoning was erroneous. Town attorney Marvin Newberg was in attendance and said, essentially, that a government entity is not bound by its own zoning. He also said he made the determination that the 30,000 gallon tank is “sufficiently similar” to machine storage to allow the project to move forward. He said the matter was forwarded to the planning board for its consideration.

Alternative energy activist Linda Reik also noted that if the town was going to change its heating technology, the town should consider alternative sources such as air-source heat pumps.

There was also concern that any fuel purchased beyond that provided would have to be purchased from CES, and that would not be done through a competitive bidding process. Bose said that because CES was essentially giving most of the fuel and all of the heating equipment to the town for free, he did not believe the deal would be subject to a competitive bidding process.

Mike Taylor, owner and general manager of CES, said he thought it would have been a win/win situation for the town and CES. He said in the deep winter cold, and with so many people now using propane generators when the power goes out, his company needs more storage space in that part of the county.

Records in the Sullivan County Clerk’s Office show that in May, an attorney for the Hahns filed a civil suit against the town asking the court to reverse the decision that a 30,000 gallon propane tank was “sufficiently similar,” to machine storage.

In response, the town board on July 8 passed a resolution noting that CES no longer wanted to move forward with the construction of the propane tank and CES did not wish to become involved in litigation related to the issue. Therefore, two previous resolutions the board passed regarding the tank were rescinded and the issue was “moot.”

Bose and Hahn will have letters to the editor about this matter in next week’s issue.

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