Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Public Meeting

On August 8, 2011 the St. Lawrence County legislature conducted its normal monthly meeting in Star Lake, NY, in the 500 seat auditorium of the Clifton-Fine Central School. (The much diminished school now has only 350 K students in K-12, down from 1,300 at its peak enrollment.) The choice of location was intended to inform the local public about the current status of efforts to clean up and redevelop the J & L (Benson Mines) industrial site.

Unfortunately, trivial, routine, and unrelated business took up most of the allotted meeting time, and attendees were impatient by the time the main topic came up for discussion.

Mining activities were terminated 34 years ago, and the mine plant was partially dismantled. As a zoned "industrial site" within the highly restricted Adirondack Park, citizens have long hoped to attract some other business to the site. It is known to suffer from pollution from spilled petroleum and other contaminants, however, and any re-use is contingent on assessment of hazards and clean-up. 

In what turned out to be a setback, an environmental consulting firm hired to conduct needed assessments failed to provide the services for which it was contracted, and moreover stuck the county for over $400,000 in out-of-pocket expenses. One purpose of the meeting was to update citizens on the status of negotiations with the company for redress.

As was said more than once during the meeting, 34 years is a long time for a problem of this magnitude to persist. The fortunes of the community have deteriorated significantly during that period, and will continue to wane while the issue remains unresolved. Unfortunately, even needed assessments have not been conducted, and there are no good prospects for a quick fix.

Ruins of the mine plant, as seen from State Route 3 in 2002

No comments:

Post a Comment