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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, November 10, 2005

Crosier beats detractors

By Matt Cook

BERNE—The incumbent supervisor in Berne, Kevin Crosier, won a second term despite very vocal opposition and running on the Republican line in a town where Democrats outnumber Republicans, two to one.

In Tuesday’s election, Supervisor Kevin Crosier, a registered Democrat running on the Republican line, defeated his Democratic challenger, Councilman James Hamilton, 655 to 546, or 54 to 46 percent, according to unofficial results from the Albany County Board of Elections.

"I think being reelected means that people have the trust in me to lead the town as best as I can for another four years," Crosier said from his office in Town Hall Wednesday afternoon. "I will do that and I will work hard to do that."

Crosier said the campaign was hard work, but he was glad to be able to meet with those in households throughout Berne, many of whom invited him in to discuss the town or just to get out of the cold, he said.

"That’s the type of community the town of Berne is," Crosier said. "The theme that I kept hearing over and over again is that Berne is a great community and that people have a very deep love of the land and they want to preserve our rural character if we can."

Open-space preservation and the revitalization of Berne’s rural economy have been Crosier’s two main interests in office and in his campaign. As supervisor, he pushed for a plan that rezoned the hamlet of Berne from largely residential to traditional-neighborhood mixed-use. The plan was opposed vocally by some hamlet residents. The town board passed the plan, 3 to 2, in January, but Crosier’s opponent, Hamilton, voted against it, citing the inclusion of gas stations in the hamlet zoning.

Crosier said Wednesday that Berne’s economy is going to strengthen under his administration.

"We are going to have a strong and confident return of our town’s economy," he said.

Crosier responded to what some have called a smear campaign against him. Flyers were distributed around town that made allegations against not only Crosier, but his wife and daughter, Crosier said.

"The people who were writing those nasty letters were the people who were the divisive ones," Crosier said. "I simply say to those people, ‘If you want a nice community, stop writing those nasty letters.’...It’s not what we’re about in the town of Berne."

Speaking from his home Wednesday, Hamilton said he had been prepared for the election to turn out either way.

"I feel confident," Hamilton said. "I think I did well against an incumbent who is a life-long resident of the town."

Hamilton said he is ready to get back to work with Crosier on the town board.

"When Kevin and I have had disagreements, we’ve always worked them out together," Hamilton said. "This was nothing personal. There was a position open and I thought I’d try for it."

Hamilton’s first complete term on the town board ends in two years.

Town board and other offices

There were no surprises in other Berne elections. In the race for two town board seats, the Democrats won easily. Incumbent Councilman Joseph Golden Jr. received 732 votes and newcomer Wayne Emory received 590. The Republican candidates, Rudolph Stempel and Mary Overbaugh, received 485 and 404 votes, respectively.

In unopposed races, Patricia Favreau received 960 votes for town clerk, Raymond Storm received 855 votes for highway superintendent, Robert Motschmann IV received 878 votes for assessor, and Gerald O’Malley received 955 votes for tax collector. All the unopposed candidates are incumbent Democrats.

Dems win board, GOP takes highway super and clerk posts

By Matt Cook

KNOX—As Tuesday’s election approached, no one in Knox seemed able to predict who would win the race for superintendent of highways.

"No one knew," said incumbent Gary Salisbury, who emerged victorious by a huge margin over August Landauer, 723 to 352. The Republican Salisbury won nearly 70 percent of the vote in a town where Democrats are usually all but assured to win.

The Republicans claimed another town post Tuesday night when Kimberly Swain defeated incumbent town clerk Deborah Liddle by 50 votes.

Two years ago, Salisbury, running on the Independence Party line, defeated the long-time superintendent Landauer on a technicality. The Democrats in 2003 ran a write-in campaign because they turned in their paper work late and weren’t allowed to appear on the ballot. Landauer, however, was still on the Conservative Party line, so his 267 write-in votes were thrown out by the New York State Supreme Court, leaving him 220 votes to Salisbury’s 268.

In this year’s campaign, Salisbury claimed that the quality of the highway department’s work has improved under his supervision, and the department has modernized and become more accessible to residents. He attributed his victory to that.

"I think people really appreciate the work," he said.

Tuesday night at Town Hall, as election officials read the results, Salisbury, surrounded by family, held a sample ballot against the wall, writing in the numbers. When he realized he won, he was visibly relieved.

"I’m back in," he told The Enterprise, grinning.

Salisbury thanked those who helped him in his campaign.

"It was a real team effort," Salisbury said.

Landauer said he expected a tighter race. Speaking from his home Wednesday morning, he sounded deflated.

"The people have spoken, I guess," Landauer said.

He said he doesn’t know if he’ll try for office again in 2007.

"I don’t know where I’ll be in two years," said Landauer, who had served as highway superintendent for 18 years.

Town clerk

Swain said she was a little surprised at winning the election for town clerk.

"It caught me off guard," she said, "but I’m glad I won."

Her opponent, Liddle, a Democrat, has been in office since 2000. Before that, she was the deputy town clerk, from 1983 to 1994.

Swain, who describes herself as a "stay-at-home mom," campaigned on a platform of greater availability in the part-time post.

Swain said she may have won because she introduced herself to most of the town during her campaign. She visited over 800 homes, Swain said.

"I got out and I got to talk to many of the people," she said. It was hard work, she said, but, "it was well worth it. It paid off in the end."

She received 552 votes to Liddle’s 502. (All vote counts reported in this story are unofficial results from the Albany County Board of Elections on Wednesday.)

Swain assumes office Jan. 1.

"I’m really excited," she said. "I can’t wait."

Supervisor and town board

In other Knox elections, incumbent Supervisor Michael Hammond, a Democrat, defeated Republican challenger Mark Von Haugg, 618 to 443, or 58 to 42 percent.

Hammond has been supervisor since 1974.

"I’m very pleased I won and I look forward to doing the work of the town for the next two years," Hammond said.

Hammond said he never takes a victory for granted. This year, he said, he and the other Democrats campaigned at every home in Knox.

In the race for two seats on the town board, incumbent Democrat Nicholas Viscio earned the most votes, with 600, followed closely by Democrat Dennis Decker, with 593. In January, Decker will return to the town board after a two-year absence. He lost his seat in the Democratic write-in campaign of 2003.

"I’m glad," Decker said of his victory. "It was more work than it was before. It was a complete effort."

Decker will take the place of Democrat Charles Conklin, who did not seek reelection because of his health.

The Republican candidate, Helene O’Clair, got 491 votes. With O’Clair’s loss, the Democrats retain their 3-to-2 majority on the town board.

Town justice and receiver of taxes

Running unopposed on the ballot, Democrat Jean Gagnon received 548 votes for town justice. Cheryl Frantzen ran a write-in campaign against Gagnon. Though the Albany County Board of Elections has not yet released write-in results, it was clear from the numbers at the poll Tuesday night that Frantzen didn’t have nearly enough votes to beat Gagnon.

This is Gagnon’s first run for office. She will take the place of Democrat Judge John Rodd Jr., who decided not to seek reelection after over 25 years in office.

"I’m excited," said Gagnon. "It’s a new part of my life."

In the race for receiver of taxes, incumbent Democrat Delia Palombo soundly defeated challenger Karen Catalfamo, who ran on the Independence and Conservative party lines. Palombo has held the post since 1981. She received 528 votes to Catalfamo’s 260.

Zeh, Rash keep board seats

By Matt Cook

WESTERLO—It’s an off-year in Westerlo. In the only Hilltown without a race for supervisor this year, it was an uneventful election.

Two seats were open on the Westerlo Town Board, and they were claimed easily by incumbents. R. Gregory Zeh Jr., running on the Republican and Democratic party lines, received the most votes with 767. Democrat Edward Rash came in second with 534. (All vote counts in this article are unofficial results from the Albany County Board of Elections.)

Republican Charles Faul trailed both men by a wide margin, receiving only 264 votes. Democrats outnumber Republicans in Westerlo, three to one.

Zeh was appointed to the town board earlier this year to replace the late Clifton Richardson, the first Republican on the board in seven decades. Both parties have claimed Zeh as their own.

Reflecting on Tuesday’s results, Faul, who is also the chair of the Westerlo Republican Party, was glad Zeh was the top vote-getter, but, he said, "I think the question is, what’s he going to do; is he going to be a Republican or a Democrat"...I just hope he’ll continue to do what’s best for the town."

Zeh was unavailable for comment Wednesday afternoon.

In January, Rash will begin his second full four-year term on the town board. He was first appointed to the board to fill a vacancy. Rash works as director of advertising and public relations at Hannay Reels.

"It was a pretty good win. I feel pretty good about it," Rash said of his victory. "It’s always challenging when you’re opposed."

Rash said he thinks voters chose him because he listens to their concerns.

"I think I’m in tune with the people in town," he said. "When I say I’m going to do something for them, I do it for them."

On his own campaign, Faul said he wasn’t surprised at the results. Republicans have always had trouble getting elected in Westerlo, he said. Richardson won four years ago because he was well-known and well-liked by almost everyone in town, Faul said.

"I haven’t been in town as long as some of these guys," he said. "I think, generally speaking, I’m heartened I had some support."

In the only other Westerlo election, incumbent Democrat Alan Bauder ran unopposed for town justice. He received 585 votes.

GOP’s Nickelsberg wins his first race

By Matt Cook

RENSSELAERVILLE — In his first-ever race for public office, Jost Nickelsberg was elected supervisor of Rensselaerville Tuesday night. Nickelsberg will take over for his fellow Republican, Supervisor J. Robert Lansing, who decided to run for town board instead of supervisor.

According to unofficial results from the Albany County Board of Elections, Nickelsberg beat his Democratic opponent, David Bryan, 515 to 378, or 58 to 42 percent.

"I feel exhilarated because it was a long hard pull," Nickelsberg said. A Rensselaerville resident for only 11 years, Nickelsberg said he had to introduce himself to a lot of people during his campaign. "I really hadn’t gotten to know the community at all," he said.

Nickelsberg said he visited 80 percent of the homes in the town.

"It was a lot of fun," he said. "It’s not nearly as tiring an activity as it might be if you’re not having fun."

Nickelsberg, who has worked for 35 years as a securities and investment banker, said he couldn’t say for sure why the voters chose him, but suspected they were attracted to what he called plan 1 and plan 1A.

Plan 1, Nickelsberg said, is to reduce taxes and increase services. He said Berne Supervisor Kevin Crosier has taken many cost-saving steps in Berne and Nickelsberg will learn from him.

"I noticed with great joy that Crosier won next door," Nickelsberg said yesterday. "I hope to have many meetings with him."

Plan 1A is for complete transparency of government, Nickelsberg said.

"Everything that the road department, the assessing department, the zoning board, planning board, and town board do will be 100-percent open and the minutes will be available in the town newsletter and on the website," he said.

Though this is his first elected post, Nickelsberg said he isn’t nervous.

"There’s nothing to be nervous about," he said. "You just bring a ton-and-a-half of common sense and clear thinking every time you go to work."

Nickelsberg’s opponent, Bryan, who was supervisor from 1986 to 1992, said he’s disappointed and surprised at Tuesday’s results.

Bryan, a house principal at Albany High School, said Nickelsberg will probably do a good job.

"He’s got the same sort of ideas I have," Bryan said. "Let’s see if he can do them."

Other elections

Though the faces will change in January, the Republicans held on to their 3-to-2 majority on the Rensselaerville town board in Tuesday’s election.

Two seats were open. Lansing won the most votes, with 454, followed by Democrat Sherri Pine, with 441. Republican Timothy Becker received 423 votes and incumbent Democrat Edward Steven Ryder lost his reelection bid with 396 votes.

This will be Pine’s first public office.

"I’m glad I won," Pine said. "I really want to help the town."

Pine said voters were attracted to her because they believe she will represent the whole town. Political parties end with the election, Pine said.

Ryder was unavailable for comment Wednesday. He had been critical of lack of board response to questions raised by the public and of lack of budget review.

In the race for highway superintendent, incumbent Democrat G. Jon Chase edged Republican challenger Stephen Wood, 470 to 458 in the unofficial results.

Nickelsberg, who is also Republican party chair, said Wood could still win once the absentee ballots are counted.

"Steve Wood is very close," he said.

Chase has come under fire recently for his near-silence on the work of the highway department. If elected, Nickelsberg said, Wood will aggressively work to fix the department’s problems.

In the race for the two open seats on the three-member board of assessors, Republican Donna Kropp and incumbent Democrat Peter Hotaling Jr. won, with 503 and 467 votes, respectively.

In May, Republican Eric Sutton was appointed assessor by the Rensselaerville Town Board to replace Democrat Sean McCormick, who was unable to complete the required training courses for the job. Tuesday, both men lost reelection bids. Sutton received 389 votes, while McCormick received 385.

Making the grade

By Matt Cook

BERNE — The Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board has begun a discussion on weighted grades and the possibility of doing away with the recognition of the valedictorian and salutatorian. Though the board did not vote on the issues at its last meeting, Monday, some board members did not appear to be sold on the ideas and neither did members of the BKW administration.

"Your average is your average," said board member Edward Ackroyd on weighted grades. "If we were to vote now, I’d say, ‘No way.’"

The board’s discussion comes after a recommendation last spring by the high-school shared decision-making team. After three years of discussion, the team voted, 6 to 2, to recommend not weighting grades and also voted 6 to 2 to eliminate class rank.

Under a weighted-grade system, Superintendent Steven Schrade explained at Monday’s meeting, more difficult classes are factored more heavily into a student’s overall average than easier classes. For example, Schrade said, a non-Regents course may be given a factor of 1, a Regents course 1.2, and an advanced-placement course 1.4.

The problem, Schrade said, is that someone has to determine which classes deserve more weight. For example, he asked, should art and music classes be considered less important than math and science classes"

"As a high school principal for 15 years, I resisted trying to put weights on particular classes for those reasons," Schrade said. "Because, who’s to judge, really""

Schrade pointed out that college admissions departments always unweight a student’s grades when they receive a high-school transcript.

On the other hand, Schrade said, without weighted grades, some students may not take challenging courses in an attempt to keep their grades high enough to become valedictorian or salutatorian.

Board President Janet Finke asked Schrade if it were possible to keep a second tally of grades "off the books," solely for determining valedictorian and salutatorian.

"If we hired another secretary," Schrade responded.

Board member Maureen Sikule, who was on the shared decision-making team before running for school board, said that, in another school district, a plan is in place not to weight grades, but to give students additional points on their average for each eight AP courses they pass.

Advanced-placement courses allow high school students to do college-level work, and, depending on a final test score, many colleges grant credit for those courses.

BKW doesn’t offer nearly enough AP courses for that type of system, Schrade said, and the AP courses it does offer are mostly in the social sciences and English.

"The science and math folks might be at a disadvantage," he said.

Board member Karen Storm said that the discussion really boiled down to whether or not to have a valedictorian and salutatorian. At BKW, the first- and second-ranked students in the graduating class, based solely on their academic average, give speeches at graduation.

Voorheesville has developed a point system to confer the honor based on factors that include such things as leadership and volunteerism. Guilderland has done away with the titles all together, honoring all of its highest-honor graduates at commencement and choosing speakers based on submitted speeches.

Sikule said she supported having the honors, but changing the criteria to compensate for more difficult courses.

"We’re an academic institution, and, if you eliminate that, we’re no longer honoring academics," Sikule said.

The board also considered honoring a group of top students rather than the top two. However, Schrade said, "What are we trying to do" Everybody’s going to know anyway."

If the school district is to honor a group of top scholars, Schrade said, it should also consider honoring a group of top athletes on a sports team instead of a single MVP.

Storm requested copies of the shared decision-making team’s findings and Voorheesville’s policy so the board can continue the discussion next month

Other business

In other business at the Nov. 7 meeting, the BKW School Board:

—Watched a presentation by BKW student Courtney McDermott, who attended Tech Valley Summer Camp;

—Appointed Ackroyd and Sikule to the Facilities Planning Committee;

—Heard a complaint from Ackroyd, who saw a town election flyer which mentioned an opposing candidate’s special transportation request to the school board.

"I have a problem with that being publicized in a political nature," Ackroyd said. "I don’t want a person in the community to be afraid to come to the board to make a request."

Schrade said he was certain no school official allowed the information to become public;

—Reviewed the board’s goals for this school year, and added that an improved BKW website will be launched in January. Through the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), BKW has secured a specialist to work on the website part time;

—Approved a high-school drama class trip to New York City and agreed to contribute $750 to the trip; and

—Lowered the required average for the School Board Recognition Award from 95 to 90. Finke suggested the change to line up the board’s award with the high school’s high honors.

Westerlo approves $2.1M budget

By Matt Cook

WESTERLO — The Westerlo Town Board has approved a $2.1 million preliminary budget for 2006. That’s an increase of about $170,000 over this year’s budget.

Supervisor Richard Rapp said all of the major increases were unavoidable.

"You’re at everybody else’s mercy," Rapp said. "There’s nothing you can do to control it."

These costs—state retirement, medical insurance, and fuel—are rising in almost every town.

Still, in Westerlo, Rapp said, the tax rate increase will not be very high. Rapp estimated the tax rate would be about $11 or $12 more per $1,000 of assessed property value. In a town with very low assessments, Rapp said, that is not a lot of money.

The town was able to keep the increase low by cutting back extra spending, Rapp said.

In the preliminary budget, the town historian is allotted $10,000, an $8,500 increase over this year. Rapp said that’s because the town is planning on doing more historical activities in 2006.

"We put money in there so the historical society can do something with it," Rapp said.

The budget for the safety inspector also went up significantly, from $18,500 to $22,500. Rapp said growth accounts for that.

"There’s a lot of building going on," he said. "I’ll say that."

Unfortunately, Rapp said, the town doesn’t always benefit from new building. When property is purchased by a church, it’s exempt from property taxes.

Westerlo and nearby towns stretching towards the Catskills once had large tax-paying summer resorts. But, as vacation patterns changed, many of those resorts closed and were subsequently sold to church groups who use them for retreats.

"I’m not against churches. Don’t get me wrong," Rapp said. "By they’ve got to do something about it. I know I’m not the only one complaining."

Of the $2.1 million budget, $757,903 is for the highway department, $54,586 is for the library, $150,900 is for the Westerlo Fire District, $76,000 is for the Westerlo Rescue Squad, $83,596 is for the newly-formed Westerlo water district, and $4,400 is for the Westerlo and South Westerlo lighting districts.

A total of $778,386 is to be raised from taxes.

The following annual salaries were budgeted:

—$13,000 for the supervisor;

—$6,000 for town board member;

—$26,800 for the full-time town clerk/ tax collector; and

—$9,500 for town justice.

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