By PJ Ferguson
The Whitehall Village Board is pursuing taking the New York State Canal Corporation to court over ownership of the damaged canal wall.
“To go down that path and sort out who actually owns it is kind of a long-term thing,” cautioned Mayor Phil Smith.
Since the damage to the canal wall was discovered last September, the village and the Canal Corporation have gone back and forth on determining who is responsible for its repair.
A study by the Canal Corporation last November concluded that the decline of the wall was due to a lack of maintenance by the village and that erosion around the village-installed catch basin pipe contributed to the breach in the wall.
Smith disagreed with their assessment at the time but accepted that the wall was “our problem.”
True ownership has been difficult to prove as some records go back more than 200 years.
Smith’s primary concern about taking the issue to court is that it could delay repairing the wall for another six months to a year.
“But do we want to repair a wall that we don’t own?” asked trustee Pat Norton.
The board agreed that due to the severity of the cost of repairing the wall, Smith should contact the village attorney to look into taking legal action on the matter.
However, trustee Teresa Austin warned against not taking actions to open the road while the ownership battle ensues.
“We can’t just not do anything,” said Austin.
“We got to do something before fall,” Norton agreed.
Smith suggested authorizing Glens Falls engineering firm Chazen to prepare the necessary paperwork and mapping to allow the village to excavate to relieve pressure and to possibly open the road to one-lane, one-way traffic.
“We can do the excavation ourselves as long as we don’t move on their (Canal Corporation) property without a permit,” said Smith, relating a conversation he had with representatives from the agency.
Because the Canal Corporation owns a small piece where the excavating would occur, the village must first secure the necessary permits before moving ahead with the project.
With trustee Tim Watson absent, the board unanimously voted to pay Chazen up to $3,500 to get everything in order so the village can attempt to open the road.