According to a well-placed source, TCI of NY is scoping out another site in a different Columbia County town as a temporary home—during what will likely be a lengthy, multimillion-dollar cleanup in Ghent.
According to a U.S. EPA-commissioned report on the August 1st TCI fire, the company’s Ghent facility was “a hazardous materials recycling facility that specializes in high
concentration [>500 part per million (ppm)] PCB-containing oils. [...T]he facility contained materials including sodium metal, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), various waste oils and PCB oils. It is approximated that the facility contained 80,000 gallons of oil.”
In other TCI-related news, Ghent Town Attorney Ted Guterman retracts one of his previous statements in a letter entitled “Correction,” saying that “I indicated that Town Officials were not contacted by her Office about this meeting. [...] I have now confirmed that the Town was also notified by Assembly Member Barrett's Office prior to the meeting.”
Where was the Ghent Town Board on the night of August 16th? For 50 minutes, they were at another Ghent meeting. For the remaining two hours, they were... apparently somewhere else.
On that night, an estimated 300 residents attended the public meeting at the West Ghent firehouseorganized by State Assembly member Didi Barrett to discuss the massive fire which leveled TCI of NY two weeks earlier. Also present were officials of a wide variety of County, State and Federal agencies.
Not present were any representatives of TCI, nor any of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors except Claverack’s Robin Andrews. Also missing in action were the members of the Town Board of Ghent.
A recent letter to The Register-Star by the Town Board’s attorney (who did attend) sought to rebut a previous letter by Democrat Lee Jamison, explaining that their absence was because Barrett’s meeting “conflicted with an already-scheduled Town Board meeting held the same night.”
However, the draft minutes of the August 16th Town Board meeting have now been posted to Ghent’s website... and they show that the meeting ended at 7:20 pm. Four Board members were present, with the Town Supervisor absent (reportedly due to a planned vacation). Only a handful of routine items of business were transacted: approval of the use of the West Ghent Community Center for an unnamed event, a brief budget update, monthly reports, and the paying of the bills before a motion to adjourn.
The Barrett meeting began just 50 minutes earlier, a little after 6:30 pm, and lasted until at least 9:30 pm, with attendees milling outside well after that. The Google map directions above show that the Ghent Town Hall is barely a 10 minute drive from the firehouse, and that’s if you drive it slowly.
In short, it would appear that the Town Board members could have attended about two-thirds of the supposedly “conflicting” TCI meeting. (As for the 22 missing County Supervisors, they have not bothered to issue an excuse—not even a flimsy one—though Hudson’s Ellen Thurston no doubt would have attended if not for illness that night.)
This site also is told that a retraction of parts of the above letter from the Board’s attorney will soon to be published at the request of Barrett’s staffers, who had clear evidence contradicting a claim “that town officials were not contacted about this meeting, nor asked to participate.” Meanwhile, a peculiar opinion piece from Planning Board chair Jonathan Walters (an registered independent voter, who was present for a portion of the firehouse meeting) sarcastically noted that “Ms. Barrett probably pick[ed] up a dozen or so votes for her re-election.”
One gets the unfortunate impression that partisan political jockeying—specifically, GOP irritation that Democrat Barrett was getting credit for taking a lead on the TCI in the midst of a heated election campaign—has taken precedence over discussing arguably the biggest emergency in Ghent in the past quarter century or more.
The Ghent Town Board’s next meeting is on September 2oth at 7:30 pm at Town Hall on Route 66.
It’s not online (yet), but a comprehensive article by Tracy Frisch about the TCI of NY fire appears in the new print edition of The Hill Country Observer. In addition to gathering many key details of the August 1st inferno (including several mentions of this site), Frisch includes an second piece addressing TCI’s track record in Newburgh, Athens and Ghent.
The Observer is distributed free and can be found in many coffee and lunch places, and other around the region. To find a copy, a list of their distribution points is posted here.