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VN 5/29 - Support Leaders

Lately UPC Wind and its YES! group have been spending about $100 a week, week after week, advertising their local office and exhorting us to “SHOW YOUR SUPPORT for your TOWN & PLANNING BOARDS.” As noble and worthy as these sentiments may be, misplaced trust and group loyalty could end up paying very poor rewards. Citizens of good will who favor community order and stability need to ask:

What does it mean to support your leaders?
- First it means honoring those who have been invested with trust and supporting them personally with encouragement and prayer.
- Next it means sharing your honest insights, information, and personal feelings about Town business with them, with hope and confidence that they are actually interested in hearing from you.
- It means expecting them to exercise their mandate on behalf of all of the Town’s residents and holding them to that mandate.
- And it means continuing to support them when they come under undue political pressure from well financed outside interests by offering them ethical and sensible alternatives to caving in.

But what do the UPC Wind ads mean when they ask for support? Clearly they want you to become a YES! Man like them, one who continues to pressure our local leaders to turn a deaf ear to the legitimate concerns of fellow Townsmen and tow UPC’s line to the bitter end. Thankfully, it looks like our Planning Board is beginning to grasp some of the full meaning of what is going on in Cohocton, and for that they have our full support. Good projects don’t need to be railroaded through.

At Cohocton Free we believe in a democratic process that encourages the active input of every member of the community. Support means participation to us, not continuing to demand a YES when so many in the community are saying NO. Browse our main website; read our recent Proposal for breaking the deadlock; check out some of our latest “Updates”; and then contact us for a yard sign!

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Global Warming Gravy Train

David Evans, a mathematician and a computer and electrical engineer writes:

I devoted six years to carbon accounting, building models for the Australian government to estimate carbon emissions from land use change and forestry. When I started that job in 1999 the evidence that carbon emissions caused global warming seemed pretty conclusive, but since then new evidence has weakened that case. I am now skeptical.

This evidence was not conclusive, but why wait until we are absolutely certain when we apparently need to act now? So the idea that carbon emissions were causing global warming passed from the scientific community into the political realm. Research increased, bureaucracies were formed, international committees met, and eventually the Kyoto protocol was signed in 1997 to curb carbon emissions.

The political realm in turn fed money back into the scientific community. By the late 1990s, lots of jobs depended on the idea that carbon emissions caused global warming. Many of them were bureaucratic, but there were a lot of science jobs created too.

I was on that gravy train, making a high wage in a science job that would not have existed if we didn't believe carbon emissions caused global warming. And so were lots of people around me; there were international conferences full of such people. We had political support, the ear of government, big budgets. We felt fairly important and useful (I did anyway). It was great. We were working to save the planet!

Click here to read the full article.



A Celebrity's Green Ideas

I have spent the better part of this tour trying to come up with easy ways for us all to become a part of the solution to global warming. Although my ideas are in the earliest stages of development, they are, in my mind, worth investigating. One of my favorites is in the area of conserving trees which we heavily rely on for oxygen. I propose a limitation be put on how many sqares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting. Now, I don't want to rob any law-abiding American of his or her God-given rights, but I think we are an industrious enough people that we can make it work with only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where 2 to 3 could be required. When presenting this idea to my younger brother, who's judgement I trust implicitly, he proposed taking it one step further. I believe his quote was, "how bout just washing the one square out."

I also like the idea of not using paper napkins, which happen to be made from virgin wood and represent the heighth of wastefullness. I have designed a clothing line that has what's called a "dining sleeve". The sleeve is detachable and can be replaced with another "dining sleeve," after usage. The design will offer the "diner" the convenience of wiping his mouth on his sleeve rather than throwing out yet another barely used paper product.. I think this idea could also translate quite well to those suffering with an annoying head cold.

This next idea I have been saving but I will share it with you if you promise not to steal it. It is my latest, very exciting idea for creating incentive for us all to minimize our own personal carbon footprints. It's a reality show. (I feel pretty certain NO ONE has thought of this yet!). Here is the premise: the contest consists of 10 people who are competing for the top spot as the person who lives the "greenest" life. This will be reflected in the contestant's home, his business, and his own personal living style. The winner of this challenging, prestigious, contest would receive what??.... a recording contract!!!!!

Can't believe it? Click here for Cheryl's weblog.

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Problems with Biofuels

Biofuels may threaten rainforests

According to an April 26, 2007 article in London's Financial Times, a European plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may create other problems:

"In a bid to solve one problem, we risk creating another, and making things worse. Rainforest destruction is a major contributory factor in global warming and it would be ludicrous to promote this loss to slake our thirst for fuel," said Chris Davies.

If it isn't one thing, it's another. Click here to read a PDF copy of the report.

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Stiff Headwinds

Shortages of turbines and polysilicon are holding back the clean-tech boom

According to an article in an issue of "The Economist" last month:

These should be heady times for Vestas, a Danish firm that makes more than a quarter of the world's wind turbines. The wind business is booming, and the company said last week that it had swung into profit in 2006, thanks to an 8% rise in revenue. But there is “significant unexploited production capacity”, Vestas says, due to shortages of high-quality turbine components. Other companies grumble about a lack of gearboxes and bearings.

Wind firms' worries echo those in the solar-power business, which is also booming but where a shortage of polysilicon has hampered growth. Silicon is made from sand, which is abundant, but there are not enough refineries to turn it into solar-grade polysilicon. As a result, prices for silicon contracts have more than doubled, to $70 or $80 per kilogram, in the past three years, says Jesse Pichel, an analyst at Piper Jaffray.

In both industries demand has rocketed and supply cannot keep up. The wind business is growing by more than 30% a year worldwide, with America leading the way. (This week Energias de Portugal became the latest European utility to invest in American wind farms, with the $2.2 billion purchase of Horizon Wind Energy.) And when a solar incentive scheme took hold in Germany in 2004-05, demand in Europe roughly doubled, says Ron Kenedi of Sharp, the biggest solar-cell maker.

Supply shortages will not ease quickly in either case. Wind turbines are giant machines that require lots of parts. Several firms are building new factories: Vestas has just announced its first American plant, which will make blades in Colorado. But new factories will take several years to get up to speed. In the meantime, buyers are putting down deposits to reserve their turbines. GE Energy, the largest turbine installer in America, is already booked up until the end of next year.

Similarly, the big polysilicon producers, including Hemlock and MEMC, are expanding their capacity, says Rhone Resch of the Solar Energy Industries Association. But some of their additional output will go to chipmakers, which are still the biggest buyers of polysilicon (though the solar industry is about to take the lead). So polysilicon shortages and the associated high prices will not ease until at least 2009, Mr Pichel predicts. Sharp opened a silicon refinery—its first—in Japan in January. Technological advances may help. As solar panels become thinner and more efficient, less silicon is needed to make each one. And new “thin film” solar cells, being promoted by Sharp and a host of start-ups, require little or no polysilicon and are thus not vulnerable to supply shortages.

The wind industry, meanwhile, is hoping that America's government will come to its aid. A federal tax credit for wind has been allowed to expire three times in recent years. Indeed, the recent spike in wind activity may be due, in part, to efforts by companies to take advantage of the current tax credit, which expires at the end of 2008, notes Vic Abate, head of renewables at GE Energy. Credits that expire every year or two cause sudden booms and busts, making it hard for turbine-makers to make longer-term plans and thus holding back the industry, say proponents of wind power. If the Democratic Congress would kindly extend the credit for ten years—and also pass a federal “renewable portfolio standard” mandating that, say, 15% of America's energy should come from solar, wind and other alternative sources—the lobbyists would be delighted.

Editor's Note: Of course "the lobbyists would be delighted," as would any industry that relies on governmental subsidies to overcome natural market restraints and political pressure to overcome opposition from local communities. Fortunately, several bills calling for reasoned restraint are pending in the State Legislature and Congress that may take the wind out of the wind industry's puffed up sails long enough to allow a more careful look at its inflated claims.



VN 5/22 - Who Will Suffer?

For the past year we've heard a lot of controversy about the proposed Cohocton and Dutch Hill wind projects. How large and intrusive will the units be? How much noise will they make? Will they have an impact on wildlife? What will they do to property values? For each concern, UPC Wind has reassuring answers. They'll look good. They're very quiet. They won't effect the wildlife. If anything, your property values will go up. And so forth. Of course, the developer has nothing to lose.

But who will suffer if the developer is wrong?
- According to recent testimony from neighbors surrounding UPC's Mars Hill wind farm, everyone near the turbines will suffer, especially leaseholders and their immediate neighbors.
- Noise is apparently a big problem on Mars Hill where residents were reassured over and over by UPC that it wouldn't be. - Evidence is pouring in from Tug Hill that bird and bat kills are dramatically higher than predicted by the developer. - And studies are clearly indicating that the value of neighboring recreational and retirement properties will go down.

In other words, everyone but the developer will suffer. Meanwhile, we appear to be locked into an "us" vs. "them" struggle in Cohocton, "the good guys" vs. "the bad guys," in which our team is 100% right and our opponents are 100% wrong. Even if the YES! group manages to prevail against its opponents, every truth that wind critics have spoken will still be true - visual blight will still be blight, noise will be noise, dead wildlife won't be resurrected, and lost property values won't go back up. Winning won't make falsehoods and lies go away.

Couldn't we at least wait until UPC's noise controversy at Mars Hill is settled before forging ahead? Misplaced trust and group loyalty could end up paying poor rewards. Be sure to read our recent Proposal for breaking the deadlock. Thanks!



What Being "Green" Means

Because You are "Green" Doesn't Mean You Have to Love Wind Farms

Industrial wind farms, like the Cape Wind project, are on the rise and along with them public protest and opposition. Is it anti-environnmental to even question much less object? Not at all. In fact, questioning wind power does not mean anti-environment and in fact the opposite is most often the case. Those that question are those that care or they wouldn't be involved in the debate at all.

In fact, being Green means you should question not only the viability of wind power but its potential negative impacts on the Earth, its communities and the living beings and ecosystems on which it depends.

Making responsible and informed choices are the keys to living Green.

Click here to read a PDF version of the entire article.

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June 3 - Keuka Water Day

Hands-on Activities for all Ages!

Sunday, June 3, 2007 - 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm
Champlin Beach Park, Hammondsport, NY
On the shores of Keuka Lake

Learn water testing and aquatic identification with award-winning Bradford science teacher, Rich Hurley. Exhibitors include “Living Stream” from Bath Fish Hatchery, DEC, Haudenausaunee Environmental Task Force, Keuka Lake Association, LWV, Steuben Soil and Water, Steuben Historical Society, Steuben Sheriff’s Office, Chemung River Trail Association, Peaceweavers, Foothills Publishing, Hammondsport Library, Keuka Maid, Kilrush Irish Band, Cohocton Jazz Band, Dan Hill, and Native Flute. Lee Welles will display her new Gaia Girls book, “Way of Water”; Kirk House will speak on lake steamboats and Glenn Curtiss; Mike Czarnecki will read poems on water. Refreshments by Hammondsport School Spanish Club and Keuka Maid.

Sponsored by: Steuben County Environmental Management Council and the Steuben Sierra Club Committee. Admission and Parking Free. For more information, email or call 607-569-2114.



VN 5/15 - Cohocton in Court

Last week our Town was called into Supreme Court before Justice Marianne Furfure to give an account of its behavior in passing Local Law #2. Why did our leaders bypass review under the SEQRA, and how did they reconcile legally paving the way for an industrial wind project with Cohocton’s Comprehensive Zoning Plan? What did Judge Furure want to know? According to the Bath Leader, she questioned whether there should be expert proof of potential harm, what standards are reasonable and practical, and whether the town “short-circuited” the process. “It's hard for me to say this isn't any big deal,” she said. “You're setting the protocol, the standards, you're setting the stage.”

The response of our Town attorneys was illustrative:
- Local Law #2 wasn’t passed with the UPC Wind project in mind, they testified with straight faces. It was done to protect the Town.
- They indicated that their Albany attorney, Mr. John Henry, had been chosen to represent the whole town, not UPC’s interests.
- They alleged that Local Law #2 couldn’t have any environmental impact because it didn’t actually set up any turbines by itself.
- They tried to claim that the Cohocton residents who brought the lawsuit really didn’t have any legal “standing” to complain.
- Were they contrite or conciliatory? Not a bit.

The author of the Sermon on the Mount advises us to, “Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.” We’ve heard these words before, and many others like them, and say we believe. But when push comes to shove, how do we behave?

Is this a winner-take-all fight? At Cohocton Free we believe there’s still a path of compromise leaseholders and our Town leaders can pursue that will respect the wishes and preserve not only the rights of both sides but the integrity of our community. Curious? Click here to read our 5/8/07 proposal online or here to download a PDF version.

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Testimony from Maine

Testimony before the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee of the Maine Legislature

by Wendy Todd, April 30, 2007

Senators, Representatives, and Committee Members,

Thank you for allowing me to speak. My name is Wendy Todd. I am from Aroostook County. I am a resident of Mars Hill and live approximately 2600 feet from the Mars Hill Wind Project. I am here today to offer testimony that residents around the project are suffering. There are 18 families that I know of that are negatively impacted on a regular basis from the noise, strobe effect and shadow flicker from the turbines. Most of these 18 families live less than 3000 feet from the turbines. There is no one that I know of from 425 East Ridge Road to 212 Mountain Road that does not agree that there are issues with noise. Issues that are changing the way residents view life around the mountain. We have formed a group called the Mountain Landowners Association in an attempt to share information and come up to speed on the issues of living this close to turbines of this size and generation. We have had to struggle through massive amounts of documentation from the Internet and from other towns that are dealing with the same issues.

We have tried and I believe have succeeded in finding the answers to many of our questions but it has all been from our own efforts. We have received very little help from our town or the company that sited the windmills. Nick Archer with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection has been a helpful resource, but I believe even he would say that the State has a ways to go to educate itself on the pros and cons of wind turbines and how to best site a project. It would be a recommendation from our group for the State to look to California and other states in the nation that have been dealing with these issues for years, as well as other countries who have gleaned a great deal of information from years of studies, to help form guidelines to protect not only the land but the residents that live nearby proposed projects. We should learn from those who have gone before us. We shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel.

Let me make it very clear that no one in our group is opposed to wind turbines. We are for alternative, renewable forms of energy. Some from our group supported this project from the beginning. Some hated the project from the beginning and still do. Some were on the fence, but because of the points of renewable energy, landowner rights and proposed benefits for our town, county and state were swayed to sacrifice precious views of Mars Hill Mountain and our quiet with the disruption of the construction phase of the project. Nobody really knew or realized what was about to happen and how it would change our lives...

Click here to read the rest of Wendy Todd's testimony.



Prattsburgh News

Important Town Board Meeting

Please be advised that there is a Prattsburgh Town Board meeting at 7 pm on May 15th in Ingleside. The Board is currently negotiating with UPC and SCIDA for contracting industrial wind turbines payments to the Town. There will be a privilege of the floor opportunity at the end of the meeting. Speakers are limited to 3 minutes with a total of 15 minutes available.

If you are a taxpayer and want your opinion to be heard, please do not wait to take action. While I do not believe that the Town Board is prepared to vote on a contract at Tuesday’s meeting, they have had special meetings with the wind companies. It is my belief that the sales pitch of the wind company must be balanced against facts many of you possess. Please attend this meeting and use the 3-minute option. I am not sure if you need to tell the Town Clerk in advance of the meeting that you wish to speak. She can be reached at 607-522-3761.

Nancy Wahlstrom

Wind Project Updates

I've been trying to compose a concise summary of what's going on with the wind projects, but it's really hard. So please bear with me and please read to the end. And please take the time to write to Tom Congdon and Jaclyn Brilling and Governor Spitzer. I can't tell you how important this is. And let Harold McConnell know how upset you are about these projects.

First of all: UPC is going all out to make it sound like they are completely ready to go ahead. They even went so far as to "accidentally" release a "private" e-mail. While anything is possible, we know for a fact that they are claiming to have leases that they don't have. Al Wordingham is OUTRAGED because on the most recently released maps they show overhead transmission lines crossing his property after he absolutely told them that he would NEVER sign with them. And he is not the only one. We also know of leaseholders who have changed their minds in the past weeks.

Please, please, please, if you know someone who has been told by UPC that they might as well sign because "everyone else is" please encourage these people to not be bullied into signing anything. Now the update... [Click here to read all 9 points of Ruthe's update]

Ruthe Matilsky



Right of way easements

Understanding the size of the transmission lines

UPC says their poles will be 65 feet high in Prattsburgh, with 20 foot arms on either side of the center pole, which means that a 40-foot right of way is required to run overhead lines.

Typically, NYSEG owns a 30-foot right of way along the road in front of people's homes (and sometimes across property). This means that in order to put up the transmission lines, NYSEG and/or UPC will have to get additional easements from property owners. This is a lot of easements, and if people don't sign the papers, then UPC is stuck.

Now here's what people should know: if you sign an easement for a 40-foot right of way, the guy wires may be attached and go on your land outside of the 40-foot right of way. But that is not all.

This next part is hard to explain, but here's a simplified explanation. Look at your abstract and you'll probably find an easement for NYSEG. It says in the easement that NYSEG has the right to get rid of trees that are in the way of their lines. Sure enough, if one looks at the plans for transmission lines in the EIS one sees that NYSEG and/or UPC reserves the right to cut tall trees located within 50 feet of either side of the pole so that tall trees don't interfere with the transmission lines.

This amounts in reality to a 100 foot right of way for NYSEG and UPC.

For example: a landowner has a house set back 60 feet from the road with tall trees on the front of his land providing privacy. UPC puts up poles for transmission. The poles are typically 29 feet from the center of the road, which puts them 10 or 15 feet onto the land. The arms extend another 20 feet onto the land. Then UPC cuts down tall trees that are located 50 feet on either side of the pole. Gone are beautiful trees. Gone is privacy. Gone is life as you know it.

People need to know this. Please let as many as possible know and encourage them NOT to sign additional easements.

Nancy Wahlstrom

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VN 5/8 - A modest proposal

People live in Cohocton for a lot of reasons. Some were born here and have land that was passed down to them over generations. Others are relative newcomers who’ve lived here less than 25 years, a few moving into the area very recently. Many are farmers; others work elsewhere and have chosen to live or retire here; and an increasing number have purchased and developed vacation property on and around our scenic hills. Tourism is growing in the region, while agricultural economics are becoming more difficult.

These choices represent two distinct visions of what Cohocton is:
- For those who farm it’s primarily a place of industry where you can support a family with hard work and careful use of the land.
- For most of the remainder, the 3-R (residential, retirement, and recreational) owners, it’s a place of rest where you can enjoy peace and quiet in a rural atmosphere away from the city.
- Residential owners appreciate being in a small town where you can make friends and raise a family in safety.
- Many of those who have chosen to retire here were drawn by the breathless natural beauty and tranquility of the land.
- And most recreational owners searched the region for years before they found the place of their dreams in Cohocton.

Residents on both sides of the “industry” vs. “rest” division have been able to live alongside one another happily for years. There have been some rubs, of course, with farm equipment noise, hunters, ATVs, and snowmobiles, but overall the town has been at peace. Enter UPC Wind with its proposal to add a massive industrial wind turbine project into the mix, and we have a formula for social disaster that promises to benefit farmers at the expense of the 3-R owners that surround them.

Is this a winner-take-all fight? At Cohocton Free we believe there’s still a path of compromise leaseholders and our Town leaders can pursue that will respect the wishes and preserve the rights of both sides. Curious? Click here to read our proposal.

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CWW Article 78 in Court

Judge Marianne Furfure will hear the Cohocton Wind Watch Article 78 against the Town of Cohocton, NY on Windmill Local Law #2 on Tuesday, May 8, 2007 at 10:00 AM in Supreme Court, 3 East Pulteney Square, Bath, New York.

This action contests the compliance with SEQRA on the passage of the second town law that modifies the zoning statute that allows the UPC industrial wind turbine project.

It was stipulated in court that the Town of Cohocton, in the first Article 78 action against Windmill Law Local #1, did not follow SEQRA.

CWW contends that the Town Board has passed a windmill law to specifically accommodate the developer, UPC Wind (aka Canandaigua Power Partners I & II, LLCs), which has proposed two projects when both are contingent and part of one large development. UPC Prattsburgh is also a project of this same two township development.

Counsel for CWW is Richard Lippes and David Miller.

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No reduction in pollution?

Wind Farms May Not Lower Air Pollution, Study Suggests

Building thousands of wind turbines would probably not reduce the pollutants that cause smog and acid rain, but it would slow the growth in emissions of heat-trapping gases, according to a study released Thursday by the National Academy of Sciences.

The study found, however, that officials who will decide whether to build the turbines have few tools to measure the devices' impact on air quality, on animals like birds and bats, and on wilderness preservation.

In fact, making good decisions about wind energy may be difficult, said David J. Policansky, the study director, because negative effects occur locally while benefits are probably regional or national.

by Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times, May 4, 2007

Click here to read the full report.



Let There Be Light

Incandescent or fluorescent?
What would Edison do?

This month's Smithsonian Magazine has an essay addressing the question:

Live long enough, and technologies that once seemed immortal fade into oblivion, often taking a piece of your heart with them: the 45 rpm record, the transistor radio, photographic film, a typewriter left at the curb to be anointed by passing dogs... Still, there's always something poignant when a pear-bodied vestige of our past gives way to a younger rival once dismissed as clunky and cold, and now revealed in a slimmer, smarter, sexier new form. I am talking about the impending demise of the incandescent light bulb, at the hands of the compact fluorescent lamp.
Click here to read Richard Conniff's article and learn more about how you can stop wasting electricity and save money at the same time.

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A Sad Departure

Already the fallout is appearing to the east of us in Prattsburgh, as long-time residents take stock of their situation and prepare for a future threatened by wind turbine industrialization. Here's an excerpt from an email, addressed to UPC Wind, that we received today:

Thanks for the idea of wind energy - no thanks for shoving it down our throats in an area that should be preserved from such flawed science and huge negative impact. Sure, there are buyers for our properties that will come forward that are not offended by your plans, but we think that those of us who have had the blessing of living here without your turbines will have the best memories of all - beautiful hillsides, flocks of migrating birds and dark nights with the only twinkles coming from stars.

We are moving as soon as we successfully sell our home of 25 years, and our tourist lodging will be gone. All due to the windfarms? No, there are other factors, including lousy politics, high energy costs, and taxes. We would tough it out but there are better opportunities for us elsewhere - maybe Ontario County or even out to a well-managed state - out of NY. There is a long list, and NYS is at the bottom. Why? If you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem. We really hope people vote out their poorly performing incumbents next election. They blew it last year. As residents since 1973, we will finally, definitely and sadly, put Steuben County, and Prattsburgh - "In the Rear View Mirror".

Click here to read the entire letter.

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National Day of Prayer

Today is the annual National Day of Prayer. Focus on the Family posted the following note on its Citizen Link on April 30th:

Just four days before the national event, he joins 49 other governors.

After being flooded with phone calls from family advocates around the nation, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer today joined the other 49 governors in issuing a proclamation supporting Thursday’s observance of the National Day of Prayer (NDP).

Susan Castilla, the New York coordinator for NDP, said she was put off time and time again by the governor’s staff. “It seemed the National Day of Prayer was on the back burner,” she said. “We don’t get phone calls returned. You never hear back. This has kind of been a constant thing.”

A staple of former Gov. George Pataki's tenure — an annual prayer breakfast — is not on the schedule under Spitzer.

As you observe the National Day of Prayer today, please pray specifically for our governor and his staff. Many of us are keenly aware that all true wisdom comes from Almighty God and that those who have difficulty acknowledging this may be separating themselves from the very source of wisdom. This is a serious enough problem for individual citizens but can produce disastrous results in public policy if it is followed by prominent leaders.



VN 5/1 - The People Speak

Last Thursday night the people of Cohocton spoke again. The Town Planning Board held another Public Hearing in the Elementary School, and citizens came from all over town to give their input. Probably 3/4 of those who rose to speak shared articulate concerns about specific site placements, setback distances, noise levels, unrecognized legal and insurance issues, and unresolved procedural problems. But what did wind power supporters have to say? For the whole story, click here to read our article in this week's Valley News.

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