HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. — With the water contamination issue still raging, village officials are also trying to make headway on other projects.
The village Board of Trustees on Wednesday talked about recovering money spent on energy bills and moved forward on the first update to zoning code in nearly 40 years,
But water still dominated discussion. Residents who had rallied in the capitol that morning repeated a call for action from legislators and state health agencies.
"We're there demanding answers for every Hoosick Falls resident," said Loreen Hackett.
Village officials spoke of a need to "keep moving forward" in the face of adversity.
"Has it moved as fast as everyone wanted? No," Mayor David Borge said. "But this is a new thing. And the new guy pays the price."
Village residents couldn't drink their water for months because it contained PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, a potentially harmful chemical used to make Teflon. The village was declared a Superfund site and residents filed a class-action suit against two companies the state says are responsible — Saint-Gobain and Honeywell, as successors of factories that operated in the village for decades.
Local and state officials have received fierce criticism from residents who question why a no-drink order wasn't issued months before. Officials point to progress in getting residents off of tainted water.
Officials "won't back down from critical and important discussions," Borge said. But he said some statements on social media or otherwise warrant investigation.
"Some communications have been received that are actually quite threatening and quite disturbing," Borge said, adding he would not say what kind of communications they were. "Those communications have been turned over to the police."
Michael Hickey, a former board member, addressed the trustees and mayor. Hickey is credited for discovering and warning village residents and officials of the chemical two years ago. After his father, a factory worker, died of kidney cancer, Hickey tested his own home's water for PFOA.
He said he was unfair to board members in some news reports he was quoted in and that he wanted to apologize for any problems that may have caused in their personal lives. Hickey said he may have lost sight and spoke of his father, whom he never heard say anything bad about anyone.
"I think we all made mistakes along the way, including me. But I think we're going in the right direction," Hickey said.
Hickey then shook hands with Borge and village trustees.
Borge spoke at length about the need for the community to stay together, drawing applause from attendees.
Among other business taken up by the board this week:
Trustees approved the first "Rock the Block" celebration for Aug. 3. Main Street will be closed from the corner of Route 22 to Elm Street for a chicken barbecue and pot luck dinner.
Trustees approved a payout for the three village office staff members, who did not take vacation time this winter because of the water issue. Borge said he expects the village to be reimbursed for those funds under the consent orders, which state the companies have 45 days to negotiate with the village. Those negotiations are ongoing, he said.
Borge announced the village had recouped money it didn't know it had. Troy & Banks audited a decade of the municipality's utility bills and determined the village overpaid $64,857.90. The village will get about $39,000, Borge said. The firm will get a percentage of what was recovered, in this case, $25,000.
Trustees revisited the first major update to the village's zoning since 1977, an issue they took up about two years ago, but put on the back burner because of the water issue. The village had previously received grants, engaged Barton and Loguidice and held public hearings. Trustees voted to have the village attorney review the latest draft. A public hearing on the draft will be held during the July 12 board meeting at 6:30 p.m.
The draft zoning code is available on the village website: www.villageofhoosickfalls.com/Departments/zoning.html.
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979