Tioga County Soil and Water started the spillway modification at Spencer Lake last week. Spencer Town Supervisor Al Fulkerson told the Spencer Town Board at its Aug. 11 meeting that the dam project was scheduled to start on Aug. 12 and would likely take five to six weeks to complete. This project has been discussed for many years, but the Tioga County engineers decided it should finally be done.
The water level in Spencer Lake will be effectively lowered with the goal of preventing downstream flooding during a high water event. Many property owners around the privately owned lake have objected to this project, as they fear it will ruin the lake for swimming and boating.
Fulkerson also said that Soil and Water was already at work on the three Dean Creek Watershed flood control ponds — cleaning out the silt and gravel. The three locations are Burheight Glen, Dean Creek and the Spencer-Van Etten High School. The basins tend to fill up quickly so that the water level is routinely high, almost at the rim. Then, when a huge rain event happens, the basins cannot catch and hold the excess water.
The catchment basins are supposed to hold and then release excess rainfall slowly to prevent the roads from flooding and washing out. Burheight Glen was particularly hard hit in recent years by water damage, and much of the road was washed away. The repairs took months, and nearby residents had to take long detours to and from their homes.
Finishing up repairs on the damaged bridges continues to occupy much of the board’s time. In the Village of Spencer, the two box culverts and rip rap are now in place on Tompkins Street and Railroad Avenue. The last two steps are to pave the surface and install guardrails on each bridge.
The paving bid went to Spencer Paving, who said it could do it during the week of Aug. 17. The bid for the guardrails went to Chemung Supply. They plan to install the guardrails the last week in August. With any luck, the two village bridges will finally be open for traffic again by early September — two years after they washed out.
The Hulbert Hollow bridge bids were set to be opened on Aug. 12, so there was no update on that project other than submitting the engineering bills to CHIPS for reimbursement. The Hart Road bridge is going to cost the town a great deal of money to repair — the engineers estimate it at $160,000. How to pay for that large an expense is a real issue for the board. They agreed to think about options, such as bonding it, and decide next month on what they will do.
The old Ford F550 truck that the town is trying to sell will go to Auction International for the high bid of $3,000. Spencer Town Councilman Ray Bunce urged the board to adopt a planned replacement schedule for highway department vehicles. He believes the town spends too much money on maintenance and repairs for their aging equipment. The advantage to turning over vehicles more quickly is that most repairs would be covered under warranty, and the town could sell them while they will still bring in a good price, which can be put toward the next vehicle purchase.
The board agreed this would be a sensible way to go and will consider it during budget preparations.
Having met with Aaron Decker earlier, the board appointed Decker to fill the town board seat left vacant by Barney Smith’s unexpected passing. Decker will serve out the last five months of Smith’s term for this year, but must run in the November election to fill the seat for the 2021 year — the last year on Smith’s four-year term. Decker did get the needed signatures and filed a nominating petition to run this November. If he wants to continue on the board after 2021, he will need to run again for a full four-year term.
Fulkerson told the board that a property owner has filed a lawsuit against the town to try to get his assessment drastically lowered. This forces the town to send its attorney, William Troy, to represent the town before the state supreme court. Troy said that he might have to bring in an expert witness in assessments to successfully litigate the town’s case.
For many years the town has been considering its need for a much-improved highway barn. They have had a site assessment of the current barn and town hall done as a first step in thinking through what approach, if any, to take.
The meeting ended with the board going into executive session to discuss personnel and a possible land acquisition. The next meeting of the Spencer Town Board will be on Tuesday, Sept. 8, at 6 p.m.