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Board reviews gate problem at rail crossing

Malfunctioning gates at the Sunset Bay railway crossing blocked the road for more than four hours Saturday and led Hanover officials Monday to discuss emergency procedures there.

Officials heard about the procedures followed by Sunset Bay volunteer firefighters and the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office. Town Supervisor Todd Johnson said the Sunset Bay Fire Department should have the right to open the access road between Sunset and Hanford Bays.

John Fescio, Fire Department president, said past practice had been to ask the town supervisor or highway superintendent if the gate at the access road could be unlocked. Johnson said the Sunset Bay volunteers have had the key for years and "never abused the privilege."

"When it comes to public safety, open the gates," Johnson said.

The malfunctioning gate went down at 2:36 p.m. Saturday. There was no reason listed for the malfunction. The issue brought out volunteer firefighters and sheriff's deputies who warned motorists not to go around the gates.

Fescio said motorists need to use caution at the crossing because visibility in both directions is poor and a train could be approaching in 10 to 15 seconds. He said the bend in the tracks and the overgrowth of brush limit visibility to a short distance.

"Those trains are traveling at 60 miles per hour; they can be at the crossing in just a few seconds," he said.

In other matters, the Town Board will hold a public hearing at the next regular meeting on regulating parking in Sunset Bay near the breakwater at Alleghany Road. Johnson said the plan will be for just 12 spaces in the area and designated fire lanes.

He said the board also will consider changing the fines for parking violators in the bay area. The board authorized additional sheriff's deputy patrols at a cost of $35.35 an hour, with a total cost for the summer season not to exceed $7,000.

The next board meeting will be May 29 due to the Memorial Day holiday on May 28.

A special board meeting was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. May 23 to hear information from a company that plans a large wind energy project on private property on Ball Hill in Forestville.