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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, September 15, 2005

Higher fees expected for paramedic services

By Matt Cook

RENSSELAERVILLE — As it heads into its tenth year of service, the Albany County Sheriff’s Department Emergency Medical Services Unit is reflecting on its origins and anticipating higher fees to pay for evolving technology and a more reliable staff.

Medical services coordinator Brian Wood gave a presentation on the unit at the Rensselaerville Town Board meeting last Thursday. Rensselaerville is one of the six towns the unit serves. The others are Berne, Bethlehem, Coeymans, New Scotland, and Westerlo. This covers 350 square miles and about 62,500 people.

The unit started work in February, 1996 with the intention of providing paramedic services to towns in the county that lacked their own, Wood said. Before that, Wood explained to The Enterprise, if residents in those towns needed paramedic services, they had to rely on commercial ambulance companies. For a time, Wood said, the Albany Fire Department was able to send paramedics, but stopped doing that because it stretched the department too thin.

"That’s why we started," Wood said.

With the service, the entire county is covered by paramedics, Wood said. The remaining Hilltown, Knox, gets service from Guilderland’s paramedics.

Currently, the unit has two full-time paramedics and 39 part-time paramedics. In 2004, they answered 4,459 calls. This is up by over 600, 13.5 percent, from 1997, the first full year of operation.

"Every year we get a couple hundred more calls," Wood said.

Each town pays for its service. The unit is divided into zones: the Hilltowns, New Scotland and Bethlehem, and Coeymans. Each town in a zone then pays a portion of the price.

"They split the cost by population," Wood said.

Rensselaerville paid about $57,000 last year, Wood told The Enterprise. The cost goes up about 8 percent each year, he said.

Besides the rising costs of insurance and fuel, Wood said, part of the increase is to pay for more modern equipment and training.

"We’re never behind the eight-ball," Wood said.

For example, he said, when the unit began work, it used $12,000 hands-on defibrillators. Now, more reliable hands-free defibrillators cost twice as much.

Also, Wood said, in the past year, the unit added six treatment protocols, bringing the total to 53, each of which requires training. For example, a last-ditch treatment for clearing a patient’s airway, which involves injecting paralyzing agents, requires earning certification twice a year.

Another financial problem facing the unit is recruiting and retaining employees. Wood hopes to add more full-time paramedics to replace some of the part-timers. He explained that most of the part-time paramedics work full-time for the Albany Fire Department and other organizations and are not always available.

"The problem is that you get less reliability in people," Wood said.

To attract full-time employees, Wood said, the salary needs to be raised. Right now, he said, full-time paramedics in the unit make $15.42 per hour, about $34,000 per year, compared to $61,000 per year for a similar position with the Albany Fire Department, Wood said. So, he said, one of the unit’s goals for the future is pay equity.

A Rensselaerville resident himself, Wood is passionate about maintaining his unit’s status as one of the most up-to-date services in the area.

"It’s an adventure," he said. "It’s a challenge."

After Wood’s presentation, the Rensselaerville Town Board commended the Albany County Sheriff’s Department Emergency Medical Services Unit.

Other business

In other business at the Sept. 8 meeting, the Rensselaerville Town Board:

—Agreed to consider adding money for improvements to town buildings to the 2006 budget. Tom Mikulka asked for the money on behalf of the Beautification Committee, of which, he said, he is the only member.

Mikulka was especially concerned about structural damage on the town’s salt barn. He estimated the repairs would cost $3,500. In return, he said, he would paint the town hall for only the cost of materials; and

—Discussed hiring a replacement for Laura Farrell, who resigned for personal reasons as data collector for the assessing department. The department suggested Larry Graudons, who was one of the original applicants for the job. Town attorney Joseph Catalano asked if the department would consider hiring a company to do data collection.

The town is in the middle of a reassessment project.

The assessing department said it would do a background check on Graudons and look into hiring a company and then request a special meeting of the town board to make the final decision.

Schools help students cope with boy’s death

By Matt Cook

BERNE — Two Hilltown schools are struggling to deal with the death of a nine-year-old student.

David Matthew Tryon died Sunday in an accident at his family’s home in Berne (see obituary). Tryon had just started his first year at Berne Elementary School after transferring from the Helderberg Christian School.

Diane Hannay, Helderberg Christian School administrator, said that, after Tryon’s death, she called each parent of a student between third and sixth grades so they would be able to tell their children about the death themselves.

On Monday, she said, the school held a crisis intervention led by herself, a local pastor, and a second-grade teacher who holds a degree in counseling. The team told the students exactly what happened to Tryon, "so there would be no gossip and no rumors," Hannay said.

After some prayer, there was time for questions. Students asked things like if they could have prevented the accident and if God was punishing their friend, Hannay said.

"We had a lot of tears, but we worked it through," Hannay said.

Hannay said the students were reminded that last spring, Tryon publicly committed his life to Christ in the school’s chapel.

"For our faith, we have the reassurance at that point that he had eternal security by going to Heaven," Hannay said.

Helderberg Christian is a small private school of about 50 students. The students are very close to each other, Hannay said. School is canceled this Friday to allow students and their families to attend Tryon’s funeral.

Hannay said she feels the loss as much as her students. She visited the family in the hospital right after the accident, she said.

"I miss him terribly," Hannay said. Like all of her students, she said, "I feel like he is one of my own."

Kimberly LaBelle, assistant superintendent for elementary and special education at BKW, told The Enterprise that the school, in response to Tryon’s death, mobilized its counselors.

"We have offered any type of counseling [students] require from the school psychologist, the school social worker, and myself," LaBelle said. Several parents have called requesting counseling services for their children, she said.

Though Tryon was new to BKW, he had many friends there, LaBelle said. She said the students are dealing with his death well.

"Our kids have really done great," LaBelle said. "They’re talking about David in a real positive way and we’ve encouraged them to do that."

Sex offender moves to Rensselaerville

By Matt Cook

RENSSELAERVILLE — The Albany County Sheriff’s Department has notified residents of Rensselaerville that a Level 3 sex offender—the highest risk—is living in town.

According to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, Ernest J. Remson, 47, of 520 Travis Hill Road, Preston Hollow, was convicted in 1992 of the first-degree sexual assault of a seven-year-old girl. Remson was arrested by the North Castle Town Police Department and received a sentence of five years’ probation under the supervision of the Westchester County Department of Probation, the Division of Criminal Justice Services says.

According to a 1996 New York law, information about high-risk sex offenders must be made public. All sex offenders must register with the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services. Community notification for Level 3 offenders can happen in four ways. A directory of Level 3 offenders is available at local law-enforcement agencies. A registry, which can be accessed by phone or Internet, is maintained by the DCJS. And, local law enforcement agencies are notified when a sex offender moves into their jurisdiction.

The law-enforcement agency may, in turn, disseminate relevant information to any entity with vulnerable populations.

Senior Investigator Michael Monteleone, who oversees the sex-offender registry for the Albany County Sheriff’s Department, told The Enterprise the department would not comment beyond the information on the notice.

The notice says Remson was not a stranger to the victim and made "actual sexual contact" with her. It describes Remson as 5 feet, 9 inches tall, 185 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes, and scars on his right arm and an elbow.

Rensselaerville town clerk Kathleen Hallenbeck told those in attendance at a town board meeting last week that the town received notification about Remson about a month ago. She said the town posted notices at the town hall and the town park.

Remson could not be reached for comment.

Clerk, councilwoman, mother — Heath was "outgoing, helpful, and lovable"

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

KNOX — Linda M. Heath showed the same qualities as a wife and mother that she did as town clerk and councilwoman.

"She was very friendly, outgoing, helpful, and lovable," said her husband, George Heath. "If she had something to tell you to your face, it was told. She was a wonderful woman."

Mrs. Heath died peacefully at her Knox home on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2005. She was 58.

She was born in Niskayuna and was a lifelong resident of Knox. She graduated from Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School in 1965.

Mr. Heath said he knew his wife-to-be for a long time before they began dating. "Being from Knox, I knew her through the firehouse and that," he said.

Mrs. Heath worked for the state’s Department of Civil Service for 27 years, most recently as an executive secretary.

"Her family was her life but her work was right up there," said her husband. While working full-time for the state, Mrs. Heath also served the town of Knox for 21 years — first as deputy town clerk, then as clerk, and finally as a town councilwoman.

"You would not believe how organized she was — right down to keeping a receipt from the grocery store," said Mr. Heath. "She just found the time to be a family person, to be a career woman, and to get involved in politics."

Just like an earlier town clerk, Snapper White, Mrs. Heath "sold hunting licenses right out of the house," said Mr. Heath. "She was always willing to help people."

Michael Hammond, the longtime Knox supervisor, said of Mrs. Heath, "What really stands out is how the townspeople enjoyed her smile and the friendly way she helped people."

He agreed that Mrs. Heath shared traits in common with Clerk White, who was an old-timer when Mr. Hammond arrived on the scene. "Linda did parallel Snapper’s fondness for the people. Both of them saw the good side of people," he said.

A Democrat, Mrs. Heath served on a town board that, for centuries, had been dominated by men. "It had to start someplace," said her husband of a woman being in a town leadership role. "She was a good one for it. She was always reading papers and reports, checking on things that others might have neglected. She was always on top of things."

When Mrs. Heath served on the town council, Mr. Hammond said, "She gave a lot of consideration and thought before making a motion and making things happen. There was a lot of depth to her."

Supervisor Hammond added, "Linda cut her own swath. She made her own way. She was her own person."

Despite her hard work for the town and the state, Mr. Heath said, his wife always made time for family.

"Every year, she’d take time off from work to take the grandchildren to the Altamont Fair," he said.

The Heaths enjoyed vacations together, visiting friends in Mississippi, and Mrs. Heath would help her husband out with his hotrods.

If she wanted to run an errand in town, she’d enjoy hopping into the ’72 Chevelle and going in style, he said.

"She enjoyed working with me on the older cars and car shows," said Mr. Heath. "She was just always willing to help."


Mrs. Heath is survived by her husband, George Heath of Knox; her son, Brett Klimek of Schenectady, her daughters Michele Loucks and her husband, Richard, of Knox and Kimberly Klimek and her companion, Shannon Parsons, of Mariaville Lake, N.Y.; her mother, Beatrice Duell of Knox; her brother, Ronald Duell, of Knox and her grandchildren, Kayla and Sean Loucks; also several aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

Her father, Paul Duell, and her son, Sean Klimek, died before her.

A funeral service will be held at Fredendall Funeral Home in Altamont, Saturday at 11 a.m. Calling hours will be Friday evening from 4 to 8 p.m. Burial will be in Schenectady Memorial Park.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Riverview Cancer Care, 896 Riverview Rd., Rexford, NY 12148.

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