Speed-limit reduction to be considered on section of Route 26

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TOWN OF LEE — A proposed speed-limit reduction along an approximately 1.5-mile stretch of Route 26 in the northern edge of Lee, and a 3-2 vote to set a pay amount for a new water department laborer position, were among Town Board topics Tuesday night.

Among other items at the meeting, the board tabled a town Planning Board request for a moratorium on upcoming commercial solar farm projects.

• The board approved submitting a TE-9 form requesting a state study on whether to reduce the speed limit from 55 to 45 mph on a section of Route 26 from the Weaver Road intersection to the Ava town line.

“People asked us” for a speed-limit reduction in that sector, Lee Highway Superintendent William Baker told the board. He noted “garbage trucks fly up through there,” and there also are “so many Amish buggies” in that area. A speed-limit reduction is a “nice idea,” he commented.

Baker observed there can be difficulties for vehicles trying to turn onto the busy road from side roads such as Belcher Road and others. Councilman Karl Matt said it can be a “bad intersection” regarding driving visibility. Baker added that “over the years” there have been a “lot of bad accidents” in the West Branch hamlet which includes the Belcher Road intersection.

• The board voted 3-2 to pay a $8,000 annual salary for a new part-time water department laborer position to assist town water district Supervisor Joshua Szyper.

Voting in favor of the motion were Town Supervisor John Urtz and councilmen Karl Matt and Alan Trombley. Voting against it were councilmen Joseph Goetz and L. James “Jamo” Jones Jr., who questioned whether the pay was too high based on the amount of work that may be involved.

The backup position is required by the state Health Department, Urtz has said; the position will help in such instances as flushing hydrants and dealing with water-line breaks, plus be on-call when Szyper is unavailable such as during vacations. The town previously had such a position when the water district supervisor position also was part-time. When Syzper was named to the water district supervisor job last year it became full-time based on additional work anticipated, and a previous laborer stepped down at around that time.

Jones asked “how many hours do you see” the laborer job requiring, and the estimate was about 400-500 hours a year. Urtz said the average hourly rate in the area for such a position was about $22 per hour, later adding that the rate would equate to about $8,000 in a year based on 400 hours worked.

However, Jones commented the pay amount “seems like too much,” and there were questions about what if the laborer did not reach 400 hours of work in a year.

Urtz said after the meeting that three people have applied for the position, and the board will decide soon on who to appoint to it.

• Urtz and Planning Board members reviewed the requested moratorium on commercial solar farm projects for several minutes before it was tabled to be examined further.

The discussion was launched by Planning Board Chairperson John McMahon, who said the town’s regulations have been “somewhat vague” and the board wanted to “take time to update them properly” in conjunction with state initiatives for solar development.

Planning Board Vice Chair Edward Davis added the board wants to “enhance the focus” and make the process more efficient including for the zoning districts involved. He referred to areas of specific definition that “need to be enhanced...stop potential ambiguity.”

Urtz, though, said “you’ve got the best of two worlds right now” that includes flexibility for reviews of special-use permit requests which can come before the Planning Board and also the Town Board; he later remarked he was “not in favor of a moratorium.”

He also cautioned “you could take the Town Board out of the loop” based on potential zoning definition changes being discussed. Urtz additionally asked “who among you” is going to “keep up with legislation transpiring through New York State....Who will take that responsibility among you?”

Urtz at one point said “you need to go back and think about it” more.

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