PUBLIC SEES TWO SIDES TO CHIP PLANT

MICHELE MORGAN BOLTON Staff writer
Section: CAPITAL REGION,  Page: B7

Date: Friday, March 5, 1999

North Greenbush A computer chip manufacturing plant proposed for the RPI Tech Park could be manna from heaven or a bitter pill to swallow, residents on both sides of the fence said Thursday night.


About 50 people attended a forum at Hudson Valley Community College that addressed a draft environmental impact statement for the facility officials say would generate millions of dollars in tax revenues and thousands of full-time jobs. North Greenbush and state officials fielded input from folks like Wynantskill resident Richard Benz, who said he's concerned about health impacts.


``I'm going to be living downwind of this place,'' Benz said. ``I sure as heck don't want to see my neighbors, relatives and friends die of cancer. I don't want to see another Love Canal.''


Eric Daillie of Troy said the chip fab plant -- as the facilities are coined -- will be Rensselaer County's undoing.


``Yes, people are hurting,'' Daillie said. ``Of course we need the jobs, but not at any price.''


With progress would come thousands of people wanting to build homes, clog roadways and, should the fabs fail, clog the unemployment rolls, Daillie said.


Route 4 would be another Wolf Road, he projected. And Route 43? Probably four lanes, he said.


Mark Dunlea of Poestenkill questioned the legality of conducting a review without a specific applicant. Officials said pre-permitting the site gave them an upper hand when a company does come forward.


Wynantskill resident John Schnebly, on the other hand, said the seven-inch-thick draft document was ``fantastic.'' And Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce president Tim Hulbert reported 1,000 chamber members support the proposed facility.


Tech Park Director Mike Wacholder said scientific achievement at RPI and University at Albany is what's really drawing the nation's attention.


``That kind of science sometimes goes by me,'' Wacholder said. ``But what doesn't is how science affects our lives.''


Chip fab plants are known for producing jobs as well as support and spin-off companies. They generally operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and bring in thousands of cars in daily traffic.


One fab plant would require 3 million gallons of water a day and 12 million therms of electricity a year, officials said.


Public comment ends March 16. The report is available at public buildings and on the town's Web site at http://www.northgreenbush.net.