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Brasher Supervisor concerned water district opposition tearing the community apart

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BRASHER FALLS - Brasher Town Supervisor M. James Dawson said he’s afraid that a proposal to create a joint water district for Brasher Falls and Winthrop is tearing the community apart.

Resident Glen Perry mounted a campaign against the proposed district and has been providing white bleach bottles with the word “NO” written on them to residents to indicate opposition to the project. Many of those bottles now hang from mailbox hooks around the community. Mr. Perry also has a truck with a bleach bottle-shaped sign that reads, “Keenan Dirty Water. Now with more lies,” referring to Councilman John M. Keenan, the town’s liaison for the project.

Mr. Dawson said during Wednesday’s monthly meeting board meeting that Mr. Keenan should not be singled out, that whatever happened with the district would be the town board’s decision, and he said he was concerned about the friction in the community over the proposal.

“Things have transpired. I kept a pretty low profile for a long time. But I’m not going to do it anymore,” Mr. Dawson told councilmen and an audience that included Mr. Perry.

He said that, during his travels, others have complimented the town for its efforts in keeping a close-knit community through activities such as the town’s annual car show and recreational opportunities that include activities in the Tri-Town Community Center. But that wasn’t the case these days.

“My response has always been it’s because people work together. They cooperate and work together for the common good of the community,” Mr. Dawson said. “I have been distressed lately because I see good people in the community taking sides in an issue where they don’t have a lot of information.”

The proposal to create a joint water district was one that was shared by the entire board and not Mr. Keenan alone, according to the town supervisor.

“All of us are in this together with one common goal - to do what the people elected us to do,” Mr. Dawson said. “I’m distressed by what this has become.”

He said the use of the Internet and social media sites like Facebook had just caused more friction.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that this kind of thing has become a weapon of mass destruction for individuals wishing to tear down another individual,” he said. “I don’t think we’re that kind of people that get at each other’s throat.”

Mr. Dawson said that, while he supported the right to express an opinion, “with an opinion comes responsibility.”

He said he had been told by an individual that all they were hearing was bad news and that person wondered about the positive aspects of the project.

Among the positives, he said, were potable water and the opportunity for a reduction in homeowner’s insurance policy by having fire hydrants available that were tested regularly and ready in case of an emergency.

“I said when you look at these things, there are positives and negatives to every project,” Mr. Dawson said.

At this point, he said, they couldn’t answer some questions about the project, such as the cost to the individual homeowners or if they would be eligible for grant funding. Grant recipients for money under the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund will not be announced until the end of August or beginning of September.

He noted that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had taken money from that fund to pay for the demolition of the Tappan Zee Bridge and construct what’s being called the New New York Bridge. That means less grant funding will likely be available.

“That makes the scuffle harder,” Mr. Dawson said.

He suggested that they ask their engineer to come up with a “reasonably accurate figure” on how much residents would pay if the project passed and then hold a public meeting to “actually deal with some facts.”

He also suggested sending a letter to residents with answers to their questions, followed by a public referendum.

“Before we go off half-cocked, let’s get the facts. I don’t want the people to be at each other this summer in Brasher Falls,” Mr. Dawson said.

Mr. Perry responded to some of Mr. Dawson’s comments during the privilege of the floor, and he noted that two surveys had gauged interest in the project and “the overwhelming majority” said no. One of his concerns is the potential cost for homeowners in the district, including those who are happy with their wells.

“You started off by saying our job is to listen to taxpayers. I don’t think your actions back that up. Four years later it’s still going. The writing on the bottle should be the writing on the wall,” Mr. Perry said.

Mr. Dawson said that wasn’t an accurate indication of support or opposition to the project because not all residents had answered the questions.

Mr. Perry responded that 244 homes had received the petition and 120 responded, representing a 50 percent response rate.

“How can you ask for a better representation of what’s wanted? The very first one was the most accurate method I think you could have done,” he said.

Yet, Mr. Perry said, town officials continue to move forward, with both the towns of Brasher and Stockholm committing $5,000 each for the services of the Development Authority of the North Country.

“You’re going against the wishes. That’s why the (bleach bottle campaign) has taken off,” he said.

He noted that he was approaching 50 percent of the Brasher Falls residents who would be hanging the white bottles in their yards. The bottles, he said in an earlier interview, mean no bleach - meaning no to the water project.

“At what point are we going to call it quits?” Mr. Perry asked.

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