December 21, 2011 —
The Town of Bethel, which has been more aggressive than most in Sullivan County when it comes to clearing away eye-sore buildings, took another step in that direction when a public hearing was set for January 4 over the demolition of a building in Swan Lake.
The building that used to house Kilcoin’s Tavern was badly damaged in a fire about two years ago and has since been vacant. At the town meeting on December 14, supervisor Dan Sturm read a letter from Glenn Smith, the town engineer, which said that, in Smith’s opinion, it would not be economically feasible to repair the damage, and he recommended that the structure be demolished.
The town held an initial public hearing on the building back in July, and absent any action from the owner, who Sturm called uncooperative, the town will seek bids to tear down the building after the next public hearing. Typically, the costs of the demolition are added to the property tax bill of the owner.
Also at the meeting, the board voted to pay a $5,000 fine to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regarding the town’s sand and gravel mine, which it uses, among other things, to provide sand for town roads.
Sturm said the DEC had concerns about the mine dating back to 1998, and said changes were needed to protect the Middle Mongaup River. In 2008, the town installed a leach field at the mine at a cost of $175,000. Sturm said the DEC initially said the agency would reimburse the town for half the cost of the project but when the time came to pay, the agency did not have the funds due to serious budget cuts in Albany related to the nation-wide recession.
The DEC agreed to reduce the fine, which had been as high as $80,000 at one point.
Building activity up
One of the bright spots of the meeting was the building report. For the month of November, both building fees and construction costs were well above November of 2010, so much so that construction costs were driven well ahead of last year’s level. Sturm said that the amount of money spent on construction projects in the town through the end of November of 2011 was $7.9 million; construction costs for all of 2010 were $6.2 million.
Much of the November costs were due to a Dollar Tree store that is being built on Route 17B, but there are also about a dozen other projects of varying sizes underway.
Sturm said, “So in a very tough economy we still managed to beat last year. We’re not to where we were a few years ago, we’re still far from that, but at least we’re on the upswing.”