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May 29, 2016
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Bethel Democrats rift healing? Party withholds backing of candidates

The following year, the split in the Bethel Democratic Party was once again evident as members were divided about who to support in the race for the state senate; Sager mounted a challenge against long-time incumbent John Bonacic. On Route 17B, there was a battle of campaign signs. One supported the candidacy of Republican Senator John Bonacic, and said it was paid for by Bethel Democrats who support Bonacic. The other supported Sager, who officially had the support from the Bethel Democratic Committee.

This time, the two members of the party who are successful in gaining the party nomination will face Republican Joseph Rossiter in the November election.

In the election for supervisor, it seems likely that Dan Sturm will win another term because he is running on the Democratic, Conservative and Independence lines, with no one running on the Republican line. Judith Maidenbaum, owner of the Fat Lady Café, is running on the Fat Lady line.

Press release from Bethel Concerned Citizens

Town Board Candidates Unanimously Oppose Fracking

The three candidates vying for two open seats on Bethel’s town Board have each issued public statements in opposition to shale gas drilling. This comes in response to a request by the organization Bethel Concerned Citizens for the candidates’ positions, particularly Bethel’s effort to change its zoning ordinances, in anticipation of the town’s democratic primary on September 13th.

The statements – made by Bernard Cohen, Robert Blais, and Vicky Vassmer-Simpson – supported the latest findings on the dangerous impacts to public health and safety and reflect the candidates’ desires to effectively amend the town’s zoning ordinances.

Excerpts of the statements are below:

Vicky Vassmer Simpson: “We also rely on unfiltered aquifers for our water supply, as well as our beautiful lakes and streams.”

Bob Blais: “The natural gas has been there for a million years and can stay there for another million years.”

Bernie Cohen: “The contaminants from hydro-fracturing and the pollution from hundreds of daily truck trips would put at risk all Bethel has become.”

These positions also come in the wake of a recent statement expression of serious concern about hydraulic gas drilling by the supervisor of the town of Bethel at its meeting held on Saturday, August 27, attended by approximately 250 residents, most of whom oppose gas drilling in Bethel.


Statement by Robert Blais, Candidate for Town of Bethel Councilman. (Incumbent)

As the Councilman in Bethel for the last 16 years, I know my number one priority is to protect the safety and health for our residents. After the new DEC regulations came out on July 11, 2011 & after careful thought & analysis I do not want Hydrofracking in the Town of Bethel. The natural gas has been there for a million years and can stay there for another million years.

I completely support the effort currently underway by our Town of Bethel to add an amendment to our zoning similar to 3 neighboring towns. I will also work to move this process along as quickly as possible and make sure it is done well.

Statement by Bernie Cohen, Candidate for Town of Bethel Councilman.

I have taken a hard look at what the results would be of bringing heavy industry, especially hydraulic-fracturing, into the Town of Bethel. Over the last year, I have educated myself on the pros and cons of gas drilling.

I am convinced that hydro-fracturing would be a disaster for our Town. It threatens our health, air, water, economic well-being and property values. The contaminants from hydro-fracturing and the pollution from hundreds of daily truck trips would put at risk all Bethel has become.

The beauty of our Town has attracted second homeowners and increased tourism. This growth has created support for local businesses and farming and promises to expand our economy, creating jobs, outlets for local produce and increasing our tax base, which will lower local property taxes.

As I have already stated publicly, I will fight to amend our zoning ordinances to prohibit any heavy industrial activity in the Town of Bethel. This must be done immediately to protect our future.

Statement by Vicky Vassmer Simpson, Candidate for Town of Bethel Councilwoman (Incumbent)

Over the past couple of years, I have attended several meetings, spoken with many people, and read countless articles in order to educate myself about hydraulic fracturing. I have always had as my number one priority, the health, safety and quality of life for all Town of Bethel residents.

Nothing that I have learned has made me feel comfortable with the process of hydraulic fracturing. New York State now says that drilling can be permitted, but not in the NYC watershed, near Syracuse, or near several large unfiltered aquifers. If it is not safe for some, why would I trust it will be safe in Bethel. We also rely on unfiltered aquifers for our water supply, as well as our beautiful lakes and streams.

I support the efforts in the town to amend the zoning in order to prohibit heavy industrial industries, including gas extraction.

I will work to move the zoning process along to ensure the safety of all the residents of Bethel.


Bethel Concerned Citizens is composed of full-time and part-time residents of the Town of Bethel. We are working people and retirees, long-time residents and newcomers, and most of all we are neighbors who have serious concerns about the potential impacts of shale gas exploration and other heavy industrial activity within our town.

Currently, there are no heavy or high impact industrial uses situated in the Town of Bethel. Accordingly, we call upon the Bethel Town Board to preserve and ensure the Town’s future as a recreational and tourist destination, desirable second-home community, and clean, safe, and healthy place to live and raise all of our families.

We appeal to the Board, to act now to protect Bethel, and its character and quality of life, consistent with the town’s Comprehensive Plan, by strengthening the Town’s zoning ordinances to expressly prohibit high-impact industrial activity, including shale gas extraction.

We aim to collaborate with Lumberland Concerned Citizens, Tusten Concerned Citizens, and Highland Concerned Citizens to protect and enhance the rural and agricultural character, scenic beauty and tourism-oriented economy of our Sullivan County region.