MARTINSBURG — Most of the more than 30 people who packed Martinsburg City Hall at the February city council meeting wanted to know what was going to happen to the Flat Rock Road snowmobile trail. Will it be paved and plowed?
Local resident John Scanlon asked City Supervisor Terrence J. Thisse why Flat Rock was being targeted for paving instead of other roads.
“We understood that someone was making an offer to pay us the money to pave the road,” Mr Thisse replied at the town meeting on February 16.
In an interview on Saturday morning, however, Mr Thisse said that had changed.
“At this time, it appears that (Avangrid’s) offer is not on the table and the City and County are preparing for the possibility of this (problem) on minimum maintenance roads throughout the county at the future,” he said. “If anything came of all of this, at least everyone thinks that as the population grows, as the demographics change, be prepared for this kind of thing to try to keep the trail system in Lewis County.”
At the meeting earlier this month, Mr Thisse described the option as ‘just a conversation between two people, nothing official’.
“The council had a discussion about it, and the discussion right now is favorable if we wanted to pave this road or if they wanted to pay us to pave this road,” he said at the time.
As the public comment period continued, however, it became unclear whether Avangrid, owner of the Roaring Brook Wind project which includes wind turbines on Flat Rock Road, was prepared to pay for the road works, including the idea was – the city or the wind company – and what it would take to make room for the paths adjacent to the paved road.
In a brief exchange with the crowd about the road paving controversy, a council member said a rumor was started by Lewis County Legislator Joshua P. Leviker, R-Turin, who represents the cities of Turin, Martinsburg and Lowville in District 7.
Exception to the ‘rumor’ charge, Mr. Leviker countered by reading the approved minutes of the Jan. 5 board meeting which read: ‘Highway Superintendent (Tyler J.) Jones has reported that Tod Nash of the Roaring Brook Wind Project is offering to pay to have Flat Rock Road paved to Joe’s Pond Road – the city limit.
Mr. Leviker is also a member of a snowmobile club and president of the Lewis County Snowmobiling Association. He noted that he had received hundreds of phone calls and emails about the problem and had met with Mr. Thisse and county officials to try to find a solution.
An unidentified participant said that Mr Nash, who is the manager of the Roaring Brook factory, had visited the barn of a snowmobile club, alleging that he had made no suggestion regarding Avangrid’s payment of the paving. The city’s road superintendent, Tyler J. Jones, eventually claimed at the meeting that he had suggested paving the road to Mr. Nash.
Mr. Nash declined to comment for this story.
For the city supervisor, however, whether the city approached the wind company or vice versa was not important.
“The statement that was false was that they approached us,” Mr Thisse said. “We haven’t been approached officially…but that doesn’t matter. One day, it is (the paving) that will happen.
He reiterated to attendees that he feels it is the city’s duty to investigate the possibility of having the road company pay for it, because with tax revenue of approximately $487,000 and the cost of paving Flat Rock estimated between $500,000 and $900,000, tax revenue would need to double for two to three years. He added that if paving suddenly became a requirement because a seasonal camp user decided to stay year-round despite local minimum road maintenance law, the city could be sued and forced to plow, like this. happened in other cities.
Although paving is not necessary to clear a road, even dirt roads must be at a certain level to minimize damage to plows.
Recognizing that there would be benefits in paving the way in terms of accessibility to emergency medical services and law enforcement, a meeting attendee who belonged to a snowmobile club outside the county made a suggestion.
“If you paved the road and … made a one-way trail on the north side of the road and a one-way trail on the south side of the road, EMS could make it happen,” he said, adding that one-way trails unique would be “reduce accidents, save lives.
Mr Thisse said that idea is one that has been discussed, but the challenge is getting permission from landowners along the route to use their land for the plan and to remove some of their trees.
“In some places the road is wide enough for what you are asking for and in some places it is only 16 feet wide,” Mr Thisse said.
Later in the meeting, he said a committee would be formed to look into the matter and decide how to approach landowners. The man who shared the idea said he hopes snowmobile clubs will be approached to join the committee and help coordinate with landowners.
A number of attendees were business owners, such as Tony Young, co-owner of Tug Hill Hook and Ladder and Superintendent of Roads for the Town of Montague.
Mr Young said Mr Thisse shouldn’t ‘scare everyone into thinking that if someone goes down a low-maintenance road, you have to plow’.
“You people in the city should know that you don’t have to and you can fight it,” Young said. “And most people don’t have the money to go to court…so don’t be afraid that anybody can go build anywhere they want and you’ll have a problem.”
He noted that lawsuits have been lost over building permit issues, not minimum maintenance law challenges.
Mr Young also said that while it is a great idea to create pathways on either side of the road, once it is paved there is a good chance that electricity will be brought onto the road, which will eliminate one side of the road for trails to do. path for power lines.