Bridge over troubled water

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:46

    Buttermilk Falls residents want unsafe bridge treated differently than a dilapidated building Warwick — Warwick Supervisor Michael Sweeton and the Town Board were given an earful by residents about an unsafe bridge located at 49 Buttermilk Falls Road, a property owned by John Silverman. Those residents are angry that Silverman has chosen to remove the bridge to which they claim to have deeded easement rights. According to code, once the town deems a structure unsafe, its owner has the choice to replace or remove it. Private road Buttermilk Falls Road is private and the town has no issue with the road only the unsafe bridge. Because the estimated cost to make the bridge passable again is approximately $100,000, Silverman has chosen to not replace it. Furthermore, according to town attorney John Hicks, Silverman’s attorney has found no easement rights cross that bridge. “That may change if anyone has any proof,” said Hicks, who said that forcing public access over the bridge would be a matter for a civil lawsuit or one in which private rights are determined. The town is working with Silverman’s attorney to erect proper barricades around the bridge and install “private property” and “bridge out” signs nearby to prevent both pedestrian and vehicular access. The town will also use its authority to impel Silverman to remove all debris from the around the bridge and the stream under it. Trespassing In addition to their claims of having deeded easement rights to the bridge, residents want the bridge replaced because neighborhood children go around the barricades to the unsafe bridge, visit each other and fish in the stream. Both Hicks and Sweeton explained that behavior constitutes trespass and the town is not responsible for individuals trespassing on private property but some were unwilling to accept their answers. “We want the board to agree that the bridge ought to be there,” said one resident, who wants the town to takeover the bridge using eminent domain. “To pass over Silverman’s property, that is a private issue between you and Mr. Silverman,” said Hicks, who believes that the bridge may not meet the requirements for acquiring title to private property for a public purpose. A long road Some residents believe that not having that bridge in place delays emergency vehicles from reaching those in need; however, the supervisor said first responders have not complained to him about a delay in response time due to the bridge being out. Other residents complained that without the bridge, their children must walk up to two miles to get to the school bus stop. Some residents want the town to hold a meeting for them with the school board and fire commissioner to help their cause and save the bridge. All deeds lead to Goshen “Go to Goshen, get a certified copy of your deed, get a lawyer, and take on your neighbor. That’s what’s going to solve your problem and I would recommend (an attorney) who is well versed in land use,” said councilman Floyd DeAngelo, who listened to the strong outpourings of emotion from residents. And Hicks agreed, adding that he would review their deeds for easement rights and pass his findings on to Silverman’s attorney. Although an unsafe building hearing does not include a provision for public comment, Sweeton permitted lengthy comment by residents. Yet when the meeting devolved into a seemingly endless barrage of shouting, Sweeton closed the unsafe building hearing and took a five-minute break before starting the Dec. 8 regular meeting, during which residents raised the issue again during privilege of the floor and cooler heads prevailed. Sweeton, who inherited the problem with the bridge when he took office, has gotten the bridge reinstated for $140,000 in federal funding through the Orange County Transportation Council. A And the supervisor apologized for failing to call a meeting for the residents as promised and said he would send letters to all Buttermilk Falls Road residents for a meeting to discuss procedures by which that bridge can be repaired. The unsafe building hearing remains open. In other news The Warwick Valley Humane Society is in need of feline or equine pine pellet bedding, bleach, Simple Green, laundry and dish detergent, heavy duty garbage bags, paper towels, ground cat food, large dog bones, and Hills Science Diet dry cat or dog food. “Please think of our humane society and the animals they take care of,” said Councilman Floyd DeAngelo in the spirit of the season.