Event praised as a success by town officials
Selkirk residents turned out Monday night for the first of what is promised to be a series of informal community meetings around the Town of Bethlehem, and had a chance to ask questions of town officials.
Of the 30 or so residents in the audience, many were concerned about the building of sidewalks in the hamletor rather the lack thereof. Many said sidewalks are a priority in Selkirk due to the high volume of commercial traffic from the area’s industrial base, which makes walking or biking the hamlet a dangerous affair.
Supervisor Sam Messina said absent grant funding, which is difficult to come by, there is little money for sidewalk projects.
I think we’re dealing with an economic environment where with so many cutbacks, worthwhile things like this just aren’t getting funded,` he said. `It really just gets to be a money issue right now.`
Cottage Lane resident Cindy Radliff, who has long been petitioning the town for a cost-effective way to extend sewer service to her area, also spoke at the meeting.
`I’ve been trying for 32 years to get sewer on my home on Cottage Lane,` she said. `I look at Feura Bush and and they got sidewalks… It seems like this little area here gets nothing.`
Radliff and her neighbors were told in a meeting last year the cost of extending sewer to the neighborhood would run in the millions and have to be assumed by the homeowners.
But residents weren’t the only ones doing the talking Monday. Representatives from several town departments made presentations on what’s happening at Town Hall and in Selkirk specifically.
Sergeant Robert Helligrass of the Bethlehem Police Department advised residents of the www.citizenobserver.com Web site, which the department uses to send out electronic alerts, and the newly-launched Offender Watch program, a new sex offender tracking Web site. Both are accessible through the town’s Web site.
William Vail told attendees about the programs offered by the town’s Senior Services Department, and members of the town’s Planning Department offered updates on some of the initiatives underway in the area.
These include the massive Wemple Corners project, which is in the planning stages and has not been formally submitted to the town, and an apartment development at the corner of Hague Boulevard and Route 9W that is before the Planning Board.
Assistant Engineer Terry Ritz outlined the big picture plans for the area, which include populating the Selkirk Road Industrial District. While the town is also focused on the Vista Technology Park for high tech, office and commercial use, Selkirk remains the town’s hub for industrial use, he said.
`We want to make that a desirable location for the next industrial wave through Bethlehem,` Ritz said of the district.
Expanding the area’s industrial use means creating better access to I-87, he continued. The Clapper Road/Thruway Interchange Concept Plan`or the Selkirk Bypass project`has identified several ways to do this, all of which are expensive. Funding promised to the project would only cover a third of the least costly option, if its able to be obtained at all.
`Somewhere in the state there’s $7 million in a safe deposit box. We don’t know where it is or who has the key,` Ritz said.
He jokingly produced a glass jar labeled `Selkirk Bypass Fund` containing a handful of coins.
Messina said he was pleased with the meeting and that it was a proof of concept for holding the informal sessions.
`People really appreciate it when you get out to their neighborhood and giver them some information they haven’t heard,` he said.
The next step will be trying to transfer the meeting into reality, he continued, especially on items like sidewalks.
`There’s support for these concepts, so let us see what we can do to dust it off and get it moving,` he said.
Town Board members Kyle Kotary, Mark Hennessey and Joann Dawson were also in attendance.
Hennessey said the meeting opened up a good dialogue with residents who might not have reached out to the town otherwise and may not regularly view Town Board meetings.
`I thought it was very illuminating,` he said. `I was really surprised at some of the priorities that people identified.`
Messina said the town plans to continue the meetings on a quarterly schedule. The next one would be in North Bethlehem.“