Wind law, Bernocco back in Richmondville
By Jim Poole
The wind-turbine law and the appointment of a new town board member are stirring the pot in Richmondville.
Councilmen earlier this month scheduled a wind law workshop with the planning board and appointed former supervisor Betsy Bernocco to a vacant council seat.
Both moves sparked outcries from critics, who responded with phone calls and letters to the editor.
Ms. Bernocco’s return came after Councilman Larry Zaba submitted his resignation because he has difficulty attending board meetings.
At the February 12 town meeting, Councilman Scott Bennett nominated Ms. Bernocco to fill the vacancy. Fellow Democrat Vern Hall joined Mr. Bennett, as did Republican Councilman Roy Bilby.
Supervisor John Barlow, a Republican, voted no.
While acknowledging that some residents oppose her, Ms. Bernocco said she was humbled by the appointment.
“I know the wrath they may get,” she said of the councilmen, “but they asked me to come and help for my background and guidance.
“I’ll do the best I can for Richmondville.”
Mr. Bilby, whose crossover vote made the appointment possible, agreed with Ms. Bernocco.
“I don’t play party politics,” he said. “I always pick the best person for the job.
“Betsy has vast experience as supervisor and mayor [of the Village of Richmondville] and she is community-minded. She stands to gain nothing from this except daggers and spears.”
Although he voted no, Mr. Barlow said he “has no problem working with Betsy.”
Ms. Bernocco will fill out Mr. Zaba’s term, which lasts till the end of this year.
As for the wind law, which covers turbine setbacks and other issues, the town board will meet with the planning board on March 10 at the RVES building after the planning board’s regular meeting.
Several councilmen said there’s new information about turbine noise that may change the law.
The controversy stems from the town’s October meeting, when a citizen’s committee, which drafted the law, presented it to the town board.
Councilmen voted to accept the law, and the issue stopped there. Some at Richmondville’s well-attended town meetings believed “accepting” the law meant it had been approved.
“It was just a motion to accept,” said Town Clerk Maggie Smith. “The law didn’t go to the county or the Secretary of State, like it’s supposed to. There was no public hearing. It’s still a draft.”
Mr. Bilby said he asked for the workshop not only because of the new information but because the town should get moving on the law.
“We’ll all look at it together,” Mr. Bilby said. “We may be happy with the way it is. We may change nothing, we may change everything. It’s not done till the ink is dry.”