Committee will discuss snowmobile use

A committee with two members each from the Village Board, the local Board of Education and the Pathf

A committee with two members each from the Village Board, the local Board of Education and the Pathfinders snowmobile club will be formed to discuss ways to resolve concerns over snowmobile use in the village, Mayor Omer Cousineau said Thursday.

Village resident and longtime snowmobile critic Michael Whaling called on the village “to consider banning snowmobiles in the village,” but the board did not respond. No other comments on the subject were allowed Thursday because the subject was not on the meeting’s agenda, Cousineau said.

Whaling had requested time to speak about snowmobiles Wednesday and was placed on the agenda.

“I thought there was going to be some discussion [after Whaling’s remarks,]” school board President Karen Cookson said later.

Several of the approximately 15 people attending the meeting appeared to be supporters of snowmobilers, but made no comments.

Cousineau indicated that he believed many people had come unnecessarily to the meeting because of a Daily Gazette report that Whaling’s planned snowmobiling comments were on the agenda.

Concerns over where and when snowmobiles may be operated in the village have been brewing for several years. On Jan. 28, the school board decided in a 4-0 vote, with Vice President James MacFadden Jr. absent, to ban all snowmobiles on school property.

The ban followed a recent incident when a snowmobiler went through school grounds while children were playing outside in the early afternoon, according to school district officials.

District Superintendent Patterson Green said last month that officials and the district’s insurance carrier were concerned about students’ safety.

Whaling, Cookson and Cousineau have said some snowmobilers have since been riding along Chestnut Street near the school to get from a state trail to gas stations or a restaurant in the village.

Cousineau told the Gazette on Wednesday that village law bars any snowmobiles from being operated on village streets or sidewalks. Other than on private property or designated and posted routes, that would leave state Trail 7F as the only authorized route.

During his public comments, Whaling contended that allowing snowmobiles in the uphill part of the village where the trails, U.S. Route 20 and the school are located, puts that area at a disadvantage compared to the “renaissance that is finally happening in [lower] Sharon Springs.”

Whalen lives adjacent to the part of the school grounds where snowmobiles had previously been allowed.

“Property values in the upper village are seriously hindered by the noise and stink of snowmobiles,” he said. “I reject the idea that because a trail exists near the village, the village is obligated to provide fuel and food [for snowmobilers].”

During a parking lot discussion after the public portion of the meeting, former mayor Bill Barbic said that concerns over noise, fumes and safety were blown out of proportion.

“There should be more [police] enforcement,” Barbic said, but he suggested that responsible after-hours snowmobile use on school grounds should be allowed.

Categories: Schenectady County

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