Sandisfield stands firmly against pipeline, hires administrator
SANDISFIELD -- Residents have passed a non-binding resolution against a natural gas pipeline proposed for the town and empowered the Select Board to hire a full-time town administrator.
The resolution, passed at last week's annual town meeting, called on the Select Board to "stand in opposition" to Tennessee Gas Co.'s plans to construct a new 36-inch diameter high-pressure pipe that would loop out of one of Sandisfield's two existing gas lines and reconnect with it after 3.8 miles.
Company representatives cited the need to create more storage capacity to service its customers in Connecticut as reason for the extra line, which they say would generate roughly $100,000 per year in new tax revenue for the town.
Roughly 100 people who attended the meeting -- a large showing for the town of fewer than 1,000 -- passed the resolution unanimously.
"Symbolically, it has an enormous effect," said Barbara Penn, a member of Sandisfield Taxpayers Opposing the Pipeline, a group that formed in response to the company's plans. "The Selectmen have certainly been with us on this but now they really have a mandate."
The company is advancing its plans rapidly. It is seeking a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity -- a mandate that would override any opposition from affected landowners along the proposed line. State agencies have begun taking public comments on the proposal.
The resolution calls such pipelines dangerous and TGC's proposal environmentally reckless and unnecessary. It furthermore asks state and federal lawmakers to disallow such projects.
The proposal and the amount of time it will require from town officials in part prompted a second vote from residents at the meeting to hire a full-time town administrator.
Lisa Blackmer has worked in this capacity since being hired in the fall, but only for 15 hours per week.
Selectman Patrick Barrett said Sandisfield needs someone to spearhead a town master plan, the deteriorating infrastructure and a townwide building assessment, in addition to taking the lead on concerns related to the pipeline.
"I think we're at a crossroads," Barrett said.
A majority supported the idea, though some felt the decision rash and a departure from Sandisfield's traditional means of governance.
Barrett said the Select Board will likely offer Blackmer the job.
Residents also passed a proposed $3.1 million budget for fiscal 2015 at the meeting.
To reach Phil Demers:
or (413) 281-2859.
On Twitter: @BE_PhilD