Schoharie County

Wright Town Board takes road debate to court

Wright Town Board hauls supervisor and highway superintendent into court.

Unable to come to any consensus internally, members of the Town Board are hauling the town supervisor and highway superintendent into court in an effort to reverse action this summer that brought three private roadways under town ownership.

Republican Town Supervisor William Goblet this summer signed off on paperwork assuming ownership of Valley View Drive, Hilts Drive and Manchester Roads with intention of having the roadway plowed for residents there.

But the transfer took place without approval of the Town Board, and now three Town Board members are taking the matter to a judge.

Council members Alex Luniewski, a Republican, and Edward Thornton and Jean Burton, both Democrats, signed on as plaintiffs in the Sept. 28 petition to the state Supreme Court demanding the road transfer be reversed.

The petition targets Republican Highway Superintendent James McLean and demands he be barred from “improving, maintaining, plowing snow and ice or otherwise treating these roads as though they were public roads.”

The situation leaves people on the roadways in limbo in the event there’s a snowstorm, though officials had different opinions on how an emergency might be handled.

Goblet last week said he’s asked McLean to stay off of the roadways until the issue is resolved.

“I told him not to go there. Right now, if they have a snowstorm tonight, they’re on their own,” Goblet said.

Thornton, one of three bringing the matter to court, said he’s not being mean-spirited but rather seeks to ensure proper steps are followed according to town law.

He said the Town Board, not the supervisor, has the power to assume roadways, and he believes doing so for all three roads in question is a bad idea.

Thornton said there are other private roads in the town, and assuming ownership of these three will open the door for residents on other private roads to demand similar attention by the town.

Thornton said he believes Manchester Road is not built to the same specifications as other standard roadways, and complying with town law would require upgrades costing $100,000 or more.

McLean, who lives on Valley View Drive, one of the roads in question, has said his crews have applied dust-control material to all three roads earlier this year — a process he said has taken place under the leadership of other highway superintendents in the past.

He’s also said the roads are strong enough to handle plow trucks, which have served residents there for about 25 years.

Up until now, residents on these roads have hired private plow trucks despite paying highway taxes like all residents in the town. But Thornton noted that town residents who live on county and state roadways also pay the same highway taxes despite not being served by the town’s trucks.

But he said he would order plowing for these roads in the event of an emergency.

Goblet said he believes the issue is rooted in nasty politics, not concern over the town’s budget.

“This thing was all good-intentioned. I moved to this town over 50 years ago and I could see it’s a mean-spirited town. But it’s improved a lot over the years since then,” Goblet said.

Town Board member Amber Bleau, a Conservative, said Wednesday she thinks the controversy is rooted in “personality conflicts” in which people are not willing to work with each other.

She said she believes elected officials are expected to “work things out” even if they don’t agree or like each other, and she’s optimistic the town government is making progress to that end.

“It takes a little bit of time and give-and-take from everybody. At the end of the day, we’ve all got to work together,” Bleau said.

The state Supreme Court petition calls for the issue to be heard Oct. 26.

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