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Hannawa Falls woman calls out Colton Town Supervisor

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PIERREPONT - The controversial subject of the Raquette River Blueway Corridor has dominated Colton board meetings this month.

Now, discussion of the issue has made its way to neighboring Pierrepont, as Hannawa Falls resident Beth Gerrish shared her concerns with the plan with the Pierrepont Town Board Tuesday night.

South Colton property owner and blueway critic Walt Paul also notified the board of the concerns he had shared with Colton town officials in recent weeks.

“I was invited to a meeting in the town of Colton last year by someone who was forming a group to try to get Brookfield to deal with soil erosions and water levels,” Ms. Gerrish said.

“ ... I think Walt was the only one that showed up at that meeting from the RAC. So a neighbor of mine, she took one list of the board members and I took one list of the board members.

“Then I got a hold of one person and it was (Colton Town Supervisor Dennis Bulger’s) wife and he was on the board. I left a couple of messages, he never called back, and finally I got her one afternoon and I said, ‘I’d like to talk to you about this Blueway Corridor thing. We have some land issues.’”

Ms. Gerrish, who also spoke in Colton last Friday, continued her recollection of what transpired in her conversation with the supposed Mrs. Bulger.

“These groups all signed off that there were no land issues on the Raquette River, no easement issues on the Raquette River and that they could issue them their low impact license, which they got. And nobody in St. Lawrence County knows, they had five things passed through FERC. They had the run of the river for our section of the river, they had the low impact license approved, they had the run of the river on the Norfolk end of the river, and it was all done without public comment,” she said.

“The way they did that was, Brookfield had (Daniel F. Parker) on the St. Lawrence County Legislature, and he went directly to Sallie Brothers and said, ‘We don’t need a public meeting, this is all cut and dry.’ And it all got passed without any public meeting at all. Five times they did that.”

On Wednesday, both Mr. Parker, who represents District 11, and former County Legislator Sallie A. Brothers claimed that Ms. Gerrish’s statements were without merit.

“I left Brookfield employment in November 2011, the end of my first year in legislature,” he said. “I’d be really interested to get her source of information. First of all for the five things that got passed.”

“There is no legitimacy in that statement whatsoever. There is absolutely no way that occurred,” Ms. Brothers added.

Ms. Gerrish added that when she asked who she says was Mrs. Bulger about her husband’s involvement with the group, she responded, “That group is nothing. He doesn’t attend that. They meet at John Omohundro’s house for coffee. They don’t talk about anything, they don’t do anything, it’s paper. And he’s not involved with it anymore because it’s not anything.”

“Here (Mr. Bulger) is sitting on the town board. He’s been in this group, he knows what this group is about, but yet he’s still supporting it like they’re accomplishing something,” Ms. Gerrish said.

“They’re getting grant money. He asked for grant money to do a study of lobbying on the Raquette River. Why does he need a grant for that? They’re spending a lot of money on bogus things for this group,” she charged.

When notified of Ms. Gerrish’s comments, Mr. Bulger was baffled and explained that her recollection raised many red flags.

“I would like to know how she spoke with my wife last year – she passed away in 1998. Ms. Gerrish is either confused or intentionally trying to mislead readers and other town officials,” he said.

“Who is Beth Gerrish? She spoke for the first time to me at a special board meeting in Colton last Friday. The subject of the meeting was RRBC and not Brookfield. Nevertheless, she was given time to voice her concerns with water control issues involving hydropower facilities here and in Potsdam – a non-related subject.”

As for the alleged grants for lobbying the Raquette River, Mr. Bulger called them “totally bogus.”

“I don’t know of any grant money asked for lobbying. If she knows of some grant money for lobbying, I’d like to see it,” he said.

According to a project description packet detailing the RRBC Enhancement Project, the town of Colton, on behalf of the RRBC Advisory Committee successfully applied for a $104,250 grant through the state Department of State’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program in 2009.

Mr. Paul said that he approached Pierrepont Councilman Roger Murray earlier on Tuesday about his worries with the RRBC.

“I’ve been following this since 2010 and at one time was a member of their Steering Committee. I joined that committee because I was concerned that the people there were fairly like minded and there weren’t sportsmen at the table,” Mr. Paul, who is a member of the New York State Conservation Council, said.

“The work and the leadership of that group is pretty much been volunteers, with a handful of four or five that make up this Steering Committee. ... This group doesn’t have the authority to make any designation like (the Blueway Corridor.) You’re primarily a group of volunteers. I don’t see anything in the statute of regulations that allows you to do something like that.”

Ms. Gerrish also discussed her problems she has had with RRBC Advisory Group Chairman Fred J. Hanss.

“That Fred Hanss stood up in that meeting the other day and said, ‘I went down to Norwood and I fixed the beach and I went to Massena and I put in a boat ramp.’ Those are things that they’re required to do as part of their FERC license,” she argued. “What is he wasting valuable resources from New York state to do things that (Brookfield) is supposed to do?”

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