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Residents upset that power lines will cut through their properties as Agro-Farma expands

By HILARY LANE

COLUMBUS, N.Y. (WKTV) - Chobani Yogurt, manufactured by Agro-Farma in Chenango County, is currently the nation's top selling Greek yogurt company, bringing in $250 million a year. However, some residents living in the nearby area feel they are the ones suffering as big business is thriving.

Robert Stein built his house in the Town of Columbus with his own two hands. He chose the land his home sits on because of the beautiful scenic view of the hills, but he now fears Agro-Farma's plan to expand is threatening to take away everything he enjoys most.

"They want to take my land, come across my land, use my land, and I don't want them to use my land," says Stein.

New York State Electrical and Gas company (NYSEG) is proposing to build a new set of transmission lines through the Town of Columbus and Town of Sherburne for what the company says will not only keep up with the growing demands of Agro-Farma, but will also ensure better service for residents.

However, Stein and other local residents are heated, because they say they have never needed additional power before Agro-Farma came to town. The lines that will help support the company's expansion will cut through their properties.

"I built my house so my view is of the hill. I don't want to see 12 years after I start building my dream, I don't want to see poles out there," says Stein. "They want to put poles out there. I am not going to let them and do everything I can to stop them."

Jennifer Tavares, a representative from the Chenanango County Industrial Development Agency, who is working with NYSEG, tells us that the gas company has devoted hours of research to plan out the route that will impact the least amount of people. She says there is also an added benefit to the project.

"More property taxes will be paid by NYSEG because of the presence of the additional power lines," Tavares says. "The estimates are between $275,000 and $414,000 in additional property tax revenue."

However, Stein says no amount of money can ever compare to the blood, sweat, and tears he has poured into his perfect home in the scenic hills and the life he has created here.

"I am too old to start over again and when you say how do I feel..." says Stein. "I feel like my life has just ended if they take my property."

Stein is preparing to file an injunction to make sure he does not lose control of his home or property.

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