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Rensselaer Falls dairy farmers upset about dusty road

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CANTON — The operators of a Rensselaer Falls dairy farm harshly criticized the Town Council on Monday evening for failing to blacktop a nearby stone road they claim has left their crops and equipment with a layer of dust that’s also created health hazards for workers and the animals.

Wayne D. and Mary L. Fobare, 1305 County Route 15, said they’re upset that nothing has been done since they attended a town board meeting in May to complain about the condition of Wilstrop Road, a stone road between Johnson and Kelly roads. They were joined at Monday night’s meeting by family members Steven, Gail and William Fobare.

“We cannot breathe. It’s a health risk,” Mary Fobare said. “I raked hay yesterday and I was eating dust. It can’t be good for anyone’s health. The dust is just laying on everything.”

It’s estimated that traffic on the road has tripled since St. Lawrence County closed a section of County Route 15 in April to repair a large-diameter culvert that was damaged by heavy spring flooding.

Town Highway Superintendent Terry A. Billings said County Route 15 is expected to reopen in two weeks, which should help alleviate the amount of traffic diverting to Wilstrop Road, which in turn will reduce the dust problem.

Last week he informed the Fobares that the Town Council wanted to “abandon” Wilstrop Road, which would allow the Fobares to maintain the road as they wished. He said board members didn’t want to spend $10,000 to pave a road that was perceived by some as a private driveway.

That option drew an angry response from Wayne Fobare, who said the road should be paved even though traffic will decline when the closed section of County Route 15 reopens.

“We don’t want the road. We want it fixed. Who thinks it’s a private driveway?” Wayne Fobare asked council members. “Nobody wants a dirt road. Don’t throw that back on us.”

Town Councilman James T. Smith, also a dairy farmer, said the town can’t afford to pave all of its gravel and dirt roads. The town has 90 miles of paved road to maintain, including 40 miles that are now substandard, he said.

“Somebody tell me where the money is going to come from before we start,” Mr. Smith said.

Town Supervisor David T. Button suggested the town put up a sign temporarily closing Wilstrop Road, but that idea drew little support from board members. Councilman Paul F. Backus was absent from the meeting.

Instead, Mr. Billings was directed to spray a mix of calcium chloride and water onto the road to help reduce the dust. Town crews are expected to handle the work this morning.

Mr. Billings said the situation is difficult for both the Fobares and the Town Council.

“I don’t blame the Fobares. They’re in a horrible situation,” he said. “It also puts the board in a very tough situation.”

In other action, the Town Council agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding with the village and the developers of a proposed 24-unit apartment complex planned off State Street Road.

A presentation about the project was given by Chris A. Corriveau, Lisbon, and Kenneth A. Moore, Ogdensburg, who are partners in Argent A. Development LLC, Lisbon. They said they hope to break ground this summer and complete construction before Christmas.

Mr. Button told the developers the Town Council is eager to help make the apartment project successful. 

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