County OKs landslide settlement accord

File photoThe Columbia County Board of Supervisors, seen in this 2018 file photo, approved an agreement with the Order of the Sons & Daughters of Italy to settle a lawsuit over a landslide behind the Order’s building in 2017.

HUDSON — The Columbia County Board of Supervisors approved a settlement between Columbia County and the Order of the Sons and Daughters of Italy of Columbia County concerning a landslide behind its 27 Bridge St. building.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously authorized acceptance of the $90,000 settlement.

On Nov. 16, 2017, a portion of the property owned by the Order of Sons and Daughters of Italy of Columbia County became unstable and collapsed into the Claverack Creek. Claverack Creek is a 17.5-mile tributary to Stockport Creek.

A 300-yard-by-100-yard section of the bank collapsed and local firefighters were called to the scene. No homes were in danger, but the river started backing up. Crews redirected the creek through an old channel with approval from the Department of Environmental Conservation, under the supervision of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Columbia County Department of Public Works.

As a result, Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murrel and then-Greenport Town Supervisor Ed Nabozny declared a local state of emergency for the area from Nov. 16 to Dec. 3, 2017.

“We declared it because it gives us the right to protect life, property and public infrastructure,” said Bill Black, the director of Columbia County Emergency Management. “If we need to access that brook from the other side, and we can’t get a hold of the landowner to get permission, it gives us that right to do all those things.”

Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett said the creek was totally blocked. The towns of Greenport, Stockport and Stottville were included in the flood zone.

A subsequent investigation found that the order permitted contractors to deposit fill and debris on a portion of its real property along the bank of the creek. The organization failed to implement effective fill stabilization and erosion control, according to investigators. Columbia County sustained damages as a result of the landslide and initiated litigation against the order to recoup expenses.

Negotiations between the county and the Sons & Daughters followed, during which a settlement of $90,000 was reached.

On Jan. 23 the Columbia County Finance Committee passed Resolution No. 27, the authorization to accept a settlement from the Orders of Sons and Daughters of Italy of Columbia County. The motion carried unanimously.

The landslide was most likely caused by a continuation of the wet weather the county has experienced, William Black, Columbia County emergency management director, said after the 2017 incident, adding that the landslide is similar to a previous slide.

“A landslide doesn’t need a weather trigger if it is on a slope or on a kind of riverbank,” said Kevin Lipton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, after the event. “It can go if it is unstable enough.”

A previous 300-by-30-foot landslide occurred on the Sons and Daughters’ property in February 2006, which the county left up to the organization to repair.

Phil Abitabile, a founding member of the organization, said the group thought the repairs were sufficient after the first landslide.

“We figured that after what happened, that was going to keep everything up,” Abitabile said following the emergency. “We thought everything was fixed so that the water wouldn’t be underwashing the clay. But it looks like the same thing that happened.”

The Order of the Sons and Daughters of Italy of Columbia County had no comment on this update.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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