A claim by an Amherst councilman that officials didn't know until recently that soil for a new park was supposed to be tested has been rejected by members of a citizens' group concerned about health hazards that the park might pose.
The five-member group recently produced a letter it sent to the Town Board last Oct. 4, including a copy of a letter from the state Health Department requiring chemical analysis of the soil used as a "cap" in the new Margaret Louise Park off Hopkins Road.
The state Health Department letter, concerning development of the park on a former municipal dump site, was dated Sept. 8, 1988. One of the five residents, Regina Fedele of Silver Thorn Drive, also charged that she was ridiculed by Councilman William L. Kindel when she asked about soil tests at a Town Board meeting last Oct. 16.
Kindel recently announced that about $4,500 would be spent to chemically analyze "fill" hauled to the park site from new subdivisions off Casey Road. The town already has spent about $200,000 on various environmental tests of the site over the last several years.
"A 2-foot-deep soil cap to be constructed over the western area of the (dump) . . . should be chemically analyzed to assure it is clean," said the September 1988 state Health Department letter to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Kindel claimed the letter was brought to the attention of town and DEC officials this Jan. 11 by Dr. Laurence Beahan, a resident active in the park and conservation efforts in the town's Great Baehre Swamp area.
However, the citizen group's letter to the Town Board last Oct. 4 included quotes from the Health Department letter from more than a year earlier, as well as a copy of the letter itself.
"In spite of requests, the committee has not been able to obtain any information as to when or how any capping was done," said the letter to the Town Board from Ms. Fedele, Dr. Robert Guthrie, Janice Herman, Andrew Lenkei and Robert McIsaac.
"I don't know who they gave that (letter) to," Kindel said Sunday. "I never saw the letter. They never sent it to anyone in the Town of Amherst. Period. I'm getting a little bit fed up with these people . . . making things up."
Kindel said the reason the town responded when Beahan cited the letter was that "he showed us the letter. They never showed us the letter. Once we found out about it, we acted responsibly."
In a letter to Kindel Thursday, Ms. Fedele recalled that when she questioned Kindel about soil tests last Oct. 16, "you and some of your fellow councilmen responded with an insensitive guffaw.
"I have had nothing but disrespect for you since your unprofessional display," Ms. Fedele told Kindel. "If you would review the (Town Board) minutes, you will see that you are mistaken and that you did indeed have prior knowledge of a concern for the cleanliness of the soil used to cap the so-called park site."