Washington County supervisors lent their support to the preservation of passenger rail service in Washington County, unanimously opposing a plan that would reduce Amtrak service in Fort Edward.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation has proposed rerouting the Ethan Allen rail line, which stops in Fort Edward and passes through, but does not stop in Whitehall on its way to Rutland.
The agency, along with the New York State Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration, conducted a two-year New York-Vermont Bi-state Intercity Passenger Rail Study aimed at improving rail service in the area.
That study offered three options to generate more revenue on the Ethan Allen line, including a controversial proposal to bypass Saratoga Springs and Fort Edward and send trains to Bennington and other points in Vermont through Mechanicville.
Vermont officials are looking to increase rail service in southern Vermont, which they feel is underserved.
Vermont has subsidized the Ethan Allen rail line, which has more stops in New York than Vermont, since 2009 when the federal government de-funded Amtrak rail services.
The Ethan Allen, which provides services between Rutland, Vt. and New York City, cost Vermont taxpayers approximately $3 million last year.
But the proposal would leave residents of Fort Edward and neighboring counties underserved and cut the volume of passenger rail service at the Fort Edward station in half and officials are opposed to any plan that would reduce traffic at the station.
They said rerouting the line to benefit underserved communities shouldn’t come at the expense of making other communities, like Fort Edward, underserved.
They also fear that it would have a negate impact on local tourism and on the operations of the Saratoga and North Creek Railway.
Negotiations between Vermont and New York officials are ongoing and alternative options include creating an entirely new joint-funded line that would travel through underserved areas or leaving the line as it is.
Nearly 8,000 people board a train in Fort Edward each year with more than a third of those boarding the Ethan Allen.
Hearing set on Invasive transport ban
Supervisors will seek input from the public on a proposed invasive species ban during a public hearing at 10:05 a.m. on May 17.
Supervisors introduced the proposed legislation during last Friday’s monthly meeting of the full board.
The law would ban the transport of invasive species within Washington County.
Under the law, it would illegal to launch any “watercraft” into a body of water that has nay aquatic species visible to eye attached to any part of that craft.
It would also require any aquatic species be cleaned off a boat before transport.
Violators could be fined up to $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for a second offense.
The law would be enforceable by the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and New York State Police.
County approves agreement with unions
The board approved three agreements with several employees unions as part of the county’s privatization of its Public Health Department and transfer stations.
The agreements were made with county employees who belong to Teamsters Local 294 and CSEA Local 1000 and are slated to lose their jobs when those departments turn private.
Employees will receive compensation for any unused vacation, personal or sick days they may have. Employees who are enrolled in the County’s group health insurance plan will continue to receive coverage through May 31 so long as they continue to make their contributions during that time.
Nine full-time transfer station employees lost their jobs earlier this week when Earth, Waste and Metal assumed control of the transfer stations and an undetermined number of employees may lose their jobs later this year when the health department is privatized.
Tax Assistance Program
Joan Prouty gave an informational presentation on this year’s volunteer income tax assistance program.
She told supervisors that 27 volunteers completed 921 tax returns resulting in nearly $1.9 million in returns.
She said the program has grown 85 percent in 10 years.
Fire Advisory Board
Clayton Ryder of the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company and Dan McClenning of Granville Hook and Ladder were among five volunteer firefighters from around the county appointed to Washington County Fire Advisory Board.
The next full meeting of the Washington County Board of Supervisors will be held on May 17.