The Woodstock Town Board heard pleas to stop the buildout of 5G wireless service and implored people to be civil in the ongoing debate over a referendum to dissolve the library district, at its October 16 meeting.
A large group showed up in opposition to the next generation of wireless communications, referred to as 5G, in Woodstock. The new technology is intended to blanket towns with high-speed wireless internet and phone connectivity. The downside is it requires many more transmitting antennas, sometimes as close as 200 feet apart. Those in opposition fear ill health effects from increased electromagnetic radiation.
Toni Weidenbacher said town residents don’t need to be guinea pigs subject to unproven technology. Abbey Mitchell echoed that sentiment. “Don’t believe industry propaganda that wireless is safe,” Mitchell said, noting children are most vulnerable.
Steve Romine said he has a god-given right to live in a world that was here for millions of years.” I demand the town join all of us and stop this all-out assault,” he said. Weston Blelock presented a petition with 300 signatures of town residents asking the town oppose the buildout of 5G technology.
Supervisor Bill McKenna said the town has been looking into the situation for quite some time. He is concerned because the Federal Communications Commission appears to be usurping home rule by requiring municipalities to allow companies to build a 5G infrastructure. He believes they should be subject to planning, zoning and other review just like any other entity.
Setting facts straight on library debate, calling for civility
Sam Magarelli spoke in support of a November 6 referendum to dissolve and terminate the Woodstock Library District, saying it’s time for a change in governance. He praised the Town Board for its handling of building projects and suggested it would be best for the town to handle the library rebuilding project, then hand it back over to a library board.
“Eighty-five or more percent of the people want to see a better library,” Magarelli said. “It’s really a tragedy we’re at this point.” Magarelli is part of a group that waged a successful petition campaign, gathering more than 700 signatures to get the referendum on the ballot.
McKenna, who has been largely silent on the subject, attempted to calm fears and uncertainty over what happens if the referendum passes and if the town then assumes control.
“Were the library board wanting to give it to the town, I would take their budget and put it into the presentation for the town budget,” he said. McKenna added it takes a majority vote of the Town Board to pass a budget, but he is confident there would be no objection to including a library budget as proposed.
“Our library will not go away, no matter what happens, now or a year or two down the road,” he said.
McKenna also cleared confusion about funding for 2019 by noting the library’s budget was approved by voters and that is not in danger. The town will collect taxes on behalf of the library as it always has, then pass it on to the library in either January or February.
In response to those who raise doubts about what happens several years in the future, he acknowledged there is no guarantee how a future board may act.
Councilwoman Laura Ricci, who is the library liaison, said there is no guarantee the library will go to the town if the referendum passes. Town control is one of many choices. It could go to one of the three school districts that cover Woodstock or a nonprofit entity. It may also revert to an association library, as it was before becoming a district in 1989. Ricci said Assemblyman Kevin Cahill’s office has informed her the state Legislature will not approve any new library districts, so dissolution may be permanent.
McKenna noted the push from the governor’s office is for consolidation.
Councilman Lorin Rose said he hasn’t seen animosity get so ugly in a long time. Rose said he had Friends of the Library members “cuss me out in front of my wife” while at a local establishment. Rose has taken part in meetings with the pro-referendum group.
“Some of the stuff is getting out of hand,” Councilman Richard Heppner said. “I had to stop reading it,” he said, referring to a growing number of Facebook discussion threads.
County referendum defends against gerrymandering
Former Ulster County Legislator Gary Bischoff reminded people of a referendum on the November 6 ballot that would amend the County Charter to form an independent commission to make redistricting more equitable and combat gerrymandering. He serves on a committee that has come up with a structure where the minority and majority parties on the county Legislature each appoint to people to the commission every ten years ahead of the Census, who then choose three additional people.
“The idea is to get independent people appointed,” Bischoff said, explaining the commission is intended to one party from imposing influence on the redrawing of legislative districts.
Water, sewer budgets pass with no fanfare
The Town Board held public hearings for the water, hamlet sewer and on-site sewer districts in which only one person spoke to ask a question about water rates.
The water rate is unchanged at $17 for the base meter fee and 42 cents per 100 gallons.
In the on-site sewer district, assessments total $51,550, down from $52,103.
The hamlet sewer district base meter fee is unchanged at $17, while the rate per 100 gallons is up 1 cent to $1.03.
A public hearing is scheduled for November 8 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall for the General Fund and Highway budgets.