Thursday, December 5, 2019

Schuyler and Chemung Counties prevail in emergency tower site appeal.

Albany, New York--Schuyler and Chemung Counties have again prevailed in their five-years-long court battle against an adjoining landowner regarding the counties’ use of the Terry Hill Emergency Tower site (and right of way), owned by Schuyler County,  near Beardsley Hollow Road in Chemung County.

Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman
The County of Schuyler was represented on appeal by Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman.  Chemung County was represented by Syracuse attorney Gabrielle Figueroa.   Elmira attorney Scott Moore represented appellant William Hetrick, the adjoining landowner. 

According to court records, both counties had used the site for radio and voice communication for over fifty years. In 2012, the two counties began to update and replace the emergency communications tower at the site.  Hetrick objected to the upgrade, arguing that it violated a restrictive covenant related to his land.  In October 2014, the counties sought a declaratory judgment from Chemung County Supreme Court.  The counties maintained that the use of the property was proper and necessary for public safety.  Hetrick filed a counterclaim thereafter.  In March 2018, Supreme Court Justice Judith O’Shea ruled in the counties’ favor.  O’Shea held that the new tower and equipment were consistent with the deed language, as was continued cooperation between Schuyler and Chemung counties.

O’Shea’s judgment was unanimously affirmed in Thursday’s ruling.

“We are pleased with the appellate court’s decision,”  Getman said.  “A ruling against the counties could have eliminated a critical public service from Schuyler County.”

The site is the single transmission site for the entire Schuyler Public Safety Communication system, Getman explained.  The county uses this system to dispatch nine volunteer fire departments, three ambulance services, multiple police agencies and local highway departments, he noted.

Various Schuyler County agencies assisted in gathering information and providing evidence to support the counties’ case during the litigation, including:  Emergency Management Director William Kennedy, the County Administrator, the Clerk to the Legislature, the County Clerk, the County Treasurer, the Highway Department and Buildings and Grounds.

Hetrick has approximately thirty days to seek leave to appeal to the New York State Court of Appeals.