No vote on Massena open burning law, mayor’s actions criticized
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 6:08 am

By ANDY GARDNER

MASSENA -- The proposed code amendment to allow limited open burning in Massena didn’t get a vote and the Village Board of Trustees denied a motion to table the resolution on Tuesday night. The proposition would allow residents to have something like an open barbeque pit or chiminea in their back yard and burn dry untreated wood. They must have fire suppression on-hand.

Two trustees once in favor of the law reversed their stances after a village resident who says she is asthmatic spoke against the law. Ruth Elmer said her neighbors often burn in their backyard during the summer months and the fumes drive her inside for fresh air.

“These fires are not going to be just little fires. We’re going to be under a cloud,” she said. “I know you have put into law where people can’t smoke in parks and public buildings – you might as well go back to letting them smoke.”

“That never crossed my radar,” Trustee Timothy Ahfeld said, adding that he just wanted the code in place “to make sure we don’t burn the village down.”

Mayor James Hidy remained in favor of the action.

“We also have thousands of other people in residence, they have rights too,” he said, adding that people are still doing open burning in the village in spite of the law. “We … have residents that are healthy, that have kids … that like to do what they do in their backyards.”

Massena Fire Chief Ted Krywanczyk said he is concerned with the burn code, but for more administrative reasons. He thinks the town should be in on it too.

“It seems this should be a joint thing,” he said. “It’s going to create a lot of headaches with the code office being split.”

After Elmer spoke, Ahfeld and Trustee Francis Carvel made a motion to table the resolution until the next meeting, but Trustee Albert Deshaies and Hidy voted against it. The mayor then proposed tabling the motion until the new business portion of the agenda later in the evening, which passed. Hidy had stated that Trustee Patricia Wilson was running late, but should arrive. He was hopeful that her tie-breaking vote would resolve the gridlock.

Another village resident, Shawn Gray, was critical of Hidy during a public comment period. He accused him of hijacking the governmental process in order to get his way.

“Instead of proposing a resolution, you manipulate the agenda in hopes another trustee will arrive to change the outcome in your favor,” Gray told the mayor. “It’s a travesty … it’s an insult to this woman and your board members.”