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Town Board deals with Broadband, speed study and fire district’s fueling request

NORTH EAST — The Town Board held its first meeting of the new year on Thursday, Jan. 14, on Zoom due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic; it was brief and addressed only a few simple matters.

Broadband Committee

For one, the board is forming a Broadband Committee, to be able to investigate “where the gaps are in Broadband service in our town and to work with Pine Plains and Ancram, which have been doing that work already and which have some good models for us to pursue as we look into it,” explained town Supervisor Chris Kennan a few days later.

Loosely defined, the term Broadband refers to high-speed internet access that is on around the clock and runs much, much faster than traditional dial-up internet service.

“The lack of Broadband in rural areas is something that is very well known and something which can present a real challenge for people,” said Kennan, “and we want to see what we can find out about it and see if there is something can do about it.”

The reason why, he explained, is because without high-speed internet access in the modern world, people are at a disadvantage. 

“If you have children who are trying to attend school virtually it’s a huge obstacle,” said the supervisor. “And it’s very unfair because some children will have greater access to one [type of] learning than others will, and this past year already has been such a huge challenge for kids, and such a huge interruption in their education, so that lack of Broadband makes it worse.”

Kennan said that Broadband service in the Millerton business district and throughout most of the village is fine, and that he’s never received any complaints from either residents or business owners about it. However, in other, more rural parts of town, Broadband service often breaks down and residents frequently have trouble accessing the internet, said Kennan.

Speed studies OK’d

The Town Board also authorized a couple of speed studies that were conducted last year for both Winchell Mountain Road and Route 22 North, where the speed drops from 55 mph down to 35 mph “just like that,” according to Kennan.

Residents had complained that the roads were unsafe and frequent accidents occurred at both locations. 

Winchell Mountain Road was cited as an especially dangerous spot during the winter, when snow and ice could lead to accidents with cars driving down the steep hill too fast, yet still according to the state speed limit. Another problem, said residents on that road, is the amount of commercial truck traffic due to GPS. The devices route traffic along Winchell Mountain Road as a short cut, despite its steep slope, making it difficult for homeowners to pull out of hidden driveways into fast-driving traffic, again creating dangerous conditions. A number of those living in the area requested the speed studies last year. 

Fueling request

Lastly, Kennan said the North East Fire District asked if it could fuel its vehicles at the town and village’s new joint highway garage, which has a fueling facility, adding “the board would like to make that happen.”

“We’re moving forward with that and figuring out how to get that done,” said Kennan. “For them, the benefit is this is a facility they could access anytime day or night, and we buy our fuel under state contract, which is a wholesale contract, so there’s a financial benefit to them. And if the town could be helpful to our fire company, we would like to.”

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