“I did quite a bit of looking through our files,” said economic development director Steve Neratko. “For that section of trail we only have two easements signed and then one snow removal easement signed. For some reason those are the only three easements we have available. There were 12 properties involved, so we should have 12 easements. I would have thought they would have been recorded.”
The singular snow removal easement notwithstanding, the board wanted to review all of the regular easements to see if snow removal was included in them. After a quick review of the two easements that were available, chair Josh Cohen said both did include language allowing for snow maintenance and for motor vehicles for the purpose of snow maintenance.
“But looking at the two we have they’re not quite the same,” said Cohen, noting that the board would want to be sure they were not violating an easement by giving the OK for plowing to commence. “I hate reaching out to an attorney, being one myself,” said Cohen. “But we have to. We have to find these easements.”
“I’m absolutely flabbergasted that the town would not record them,” said vice chair Vicki Capitani. “We spent a lot of money on those easements — a lot of money.”
No one present, including former board member Adam Levine who was on the board at the time the easements were collected, could recall who the town attorney was at the time the easements were signed. The board suggested that Neratko start by calling Cady & Dugan, who the town currently works with.
Levine urged the board to make a decision pending confirmation that the easements allow for snow maintenance. “That’s why this is on the agenda for tonight,” said Levine. “You’ve made many decisions as a board contingent on something.”
Board member Sarah Shippee said she was uncomfortable making a decision without the easements in hand. “The research we did on this, which we thought would be very straightforward, has opened quite a can of worms,” said Shippee.
Mahon reiterated his concern, which he expressed at previous meetings, that plowing may damage the trail. “Plus, we have a slight indication that a gentlemen on one section of the trail does not want snow on his property,” said Mahon, referring to Layla’s Riverside Lodge owner Sandy MacDougall’s pronouncement at the board’s last meeting that he did not want snow from the trail dumped onto his property. “That means (road commissioner) Bobby (Holland) would need to bring equipment to the trail to load snow off of it. It’s not like a cut-and-dried thing here. I wish it was, but it’s not.”
Levine noted that the easements don’t end at the trail.
“No, it’s 10 to 15 feet on each side,” said Mahon. “But Sandy has been adamant about not putting snow on his property. We have that 10 feet, but there’s a lot of snow on that path when the snowplow trucks come down through. So can we keep the snow out, or is he going to be coming in here yelling at us that there’s snow on his property? Is he going to put a rope out there? Who knows. Then we have to start hauling snow away, that’s the issue.”
“Isn’t this a public safety issue?” said board member Dan Baliotti. “I don’t care what you tell me. It’s a sidewalk as far as I’m concerned. You can call it the Valley Trail if it’s good for tourism, but it’s a sidewalk.”
Phil Bowen said he needs the trail. “I have to walk in the street every goddamn morning,” said Bowen. “I walk it twice a day. I’m out there at four o’clock in the morning. I have to jump into the snow when the state plow comes by.”
Capitani said she would like to get the area cleared for foot traffic as well but that she felt the board needed to approach it the right way.
“Unfortunately I think we need to table this until we have the easements,” said Cohen. “I think it’s safe to say no one here is comfortable making a motion without the paperwork. Let’s table this.”
The board next meets on Tuesday, January 2 at 6:30 pm.