[Return to Home Page] [Subscriptions] [Newsstands] [Contact Us] [Archives]

New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 19, 2006

Kerosene poured on wood-stove fire guts house

By Holly Grosch

CLARKSVILLE — On Monday morning, an 18-year-old woman poured kerosene into a wood stove to try to start a heating fire, igniting the house, the sheriff’s department said.

Galina Orlioglu suffered first- and second-degree burns over 10 to 15 percent of her body, Onesquethaw Fire Chief Fred Spaulding told The Enterprise Monday afternoon.

Orlioglu and her boyfriend had just moved into the house at 2448 Delaware Turnpike a few weeks ago, Spaulding said.

Albany County Sheriff’s Department Captain Matt Campbell, located out of the Voorheesville substation, said that the incident "was accidental."

Both Spaulding and members of the sheriff’s department were able to speak to Orlioglu briefly in the ambulance while medics worked on her before she was transported to Albany Medical Center.

She was then later airlifted to Westchester Medical Center’s burn unit. Her condition on Wednesday afternoon was stable, said a hospital spokesperson.

Most of the burns were to her upper body, Campbell said. A State Police helicopter was flown to Delaware Turnpike on Monday to airlift her to a medical center, but the craft was unable to leave the scene because of a mechanical problem, Campbell said. He said it is routine for a helicopter to be called by emergency medical services especially when burn injures involve the face.

The Onesquethaw volunteer company serves as both a fire and medical-emergency response team. Spaulding said that the emergency phone call came in from a neighbor of Orlioglu at 8:30 a.m. and a fire crew arrived at the scene five to six minutes later, because some firefighters were already at the firehouse early that morning to work on a truck.

"The house was fully involved when we arrived," Spaulding said; the whole place was up in flames.

Monday was a bitter-cold and windy day.

Orlioglu was already out of the house when firefighters arrived, Spaulding said. She was home alone at the time because her boyfriend was at work, he said.

The couple’s dog died in the fire, Spaulding said. "The house is pretty much gutted."

The one-story residence with a basement is located up against the turnpike and is between a Stewart’s Shop and Stove Pipe Road. It has both white wood siding and brick, with a driveway that curves underneath the house and into a garage.

On Monday afternoon, all the front and side windows and door were boarded up. The upper half of the building was charred.

The wood stove was on the first floor in the living room, Spaulding said.

Firefighting crews rotated in and out of the house as they fought the blaze, he said.

The firefighters used air bottles, which each last about 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the vigorousness of the users physical activity, Spaulding said. Each firefighter used two air bottles at a time and then was rotated out of the house, for another crew to go inside and continue the effort to put out the fire.

Once a firefighter was out of the house, he or she was sent to a rehab station set up on site where blood pressure, breathing, and fluids were monitored.

The fire companies had the blaze "knocked down" in about a half hour, Spaulding said, but remained on the scene for two-and-a-half hours in total.

Assisting volunteer companies included New Salem and East Berne, Spaulding said. Also the Selkirk Fire Department was called in to use its air truck.

Campbell said that people should be reminded not to use accelerants with wood fires.

Police Investigaton re-opens
School’s TA and coach benched

By Holly Grosch

VOORHEESVILLE — A complaint received Wednesday by the State Police about a 24-year-old male teaching assistant and freshman coach has re-opened an October criminal investigation.

New information from the Voorheesville School District has led to further investigation of what "may be an inappropriate relationship" between John Krajewski, and a 14-year-old female, said Investigator Matthew Zell.

"Another party has come forward," Zell said. "We want to do a proper investigation."

He declined to comment on whether the allegations were of a sexual nature.

Krajewski started the school year as the ninth-grade boys’ basketball coach at Clayton A. Bouton High School and also worked as a full-time teaching assistant at Voorheesville Elementary School.

He has not been to work since the beginning of January.

In response to an Enterprise phone call on Wednesday, Superintendent Linda Langevin had the district clerk, Dorothea Pfleiderer, call back and read Langevin’s one sentence statement: "John Krajewski is currently on administrative leave with pay, and we are cooperating with the State Police in their investigation."

Krajewski did not return calls from The Enterprise.

At the beginning of the month, ninth-grade boys arrived at their basketball practice to find that their coach had been replaced. The next day, the district’s administration met with parents and told them the school was looking into an internal personnel matter and that the school could not divulge any more information, parents say.

The district had been even less candid with The Enterprise over the last few weeks up until the police re-opened the criminal case yesterday. The school administration was not forthcoming with information that is classified as public under the state’s Freedom of Information Law.

What has come into question is the kind of relationship John Krajewski has had with the ninth-grade girl, who attends Clayton A. Bouton High. The Enterprise is withholding the minor’s name. Her mother offered no comment to the newspaper.

A week after the team had a new coach, parents told The Enterprise how their sons were adjusting to the unexpected change.

"Coach K. had a good relationship with the team," Michael Snyder said. Snyder said he appreciated how Krajewski worked the kids hard, and pushed his son hard on the basketball court when necessary. But, at the same time, Snyder said, Krajewski knew what different players would respond well to. He was able to adjust to each child’s coaching needs, Snyder said.

So far, the new coach "seems like a nice guy," Snyder said. The players "are handling it very well," he said.

"The kids know there are two sides to every story," Snyder said. And, in this situation, it is hard for them because they know both parties involved, he said, referring to Krajewski and the ninth-grade girl.

The players are not passing judgment, he said, but instead remain positive.

Krajewski is a man in his mid-twenties who "may have had poor judgment," Snyder said.

"They liked him a lot," Stephen Gatt said of the players on his son’s freshman team. One day, Gatt picked up his son from practice and there was a new coach and the next night there was a parents’ meeting, Gatt said.

"If he did something bad then, yeah," he needs to be removed, Gatt said. He compared the secrecy to that of previous varsity basketball and soccer coach, Robert Crandall, who had been a full-time physical education teacher at Voorheesville and was placed on leave in the spring of 2004. Over a year has passed, and the public still doesn’t know the details surrounding Crandall’s departure.

Another parent, who also has a son in ninth-grade who has played basketball, said he has seen the 14-year-old girl riding in Krajewski’s car and he said he didn’t like how Krajewski e-mailed many of the teenagers as if they were friends.

A Krajewski fan

This is Krajewski’s first year coaching basketball for the school district. However, he had coached many of the same boys this summer through the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).

Last winter, he coached eighth-grade girls’ basketball for the Catholic Youth Organization out of St. Matthew’s Church in Voorheesville. And, he has in past summers worked with boys within CYO.

The ninth-grade girl in question had been an eighth-grade player under Krajewski through the CYO’s league.

Krajewski had built a friendship with the girl’s family.

The current CYO executive director, Mike Castren, new to the post this season, did not want to offer comment for this story.

Bob Burns had run the basketball program for 20 years, and was the executive director when Krajewski was one of the club’s coaches. Burns said that he, along with some other parents, recommended Krajewski for the school’s freshmen coaching position.

"He did an excellent job at CYO," Burns said. "He was very well-received by everyone, both parents and players."

Burns went on, "Johnny’s a very compassionate person...He’s compassionate but maybe a little naive," Burns added.

"I think his compassion may have been his downfall," he said.

Regardless of what student it was, Krajewski would be there for them, Burns said. He was a fine teacher from his first year, Burns said. Krajewski is a good instructor whether he is teaching boys or girls, he said.

"At the end of the day, I would want him to coach my son or daughter," Burns said. "I’m a Johnny Krajewski fan."

"Johnny has my support prior to this current difficulty; he has my support today; and he’ll have my support in the future," he said.

Teaching assistant

Besides being the recent freshmen coach for the school district, Krajewski has been a full-time teaching assistant at the elementary school since 2004.

Fifth-grader Amanda Gatt had Krajewski in her classroom when she was in fourth grade. "As a teacher, he was fun — he played games with us," she said.

He was "more like a friend"" Stephen Gatt asked his daughter. She nodded. "Which I think some people didn’t like," Mr. Gatt said turning back towardThe Enterprise.

There are two fifth-grade classes at the elementary school and the Gatts said that, this year, Krajewski was an assistant for the class that Amanda is not in.

A substitute teaching assistant for the elementary was hired by the school board at January’s meeting.

School district’s response

The athletic director for the district, Joseph Sapienza, said he was not able to comment about the freshmen basketball coach, but he did speak in general terms about expectations for coaches and their relationships to students.

"We address expectations with coaches" when they are first hired, Sapienza said. After an appointment is approved by the school board, Sapienza said he meets with each new coach, one-on-one, in his office and the "expectation for behavior is addressed."

Sapienza said he sees coaches as "mentors and role models."

A coach is similar to a teacher, Sapienza said. He has seen teachers build close relationships to students as well, Sapienza said.

The students perceive of certain teachers and coaches as student advocates, Sapienza said.

Sapienza said he does not think that coaches, in general, are more friendly to students than teachers, or that coaches have more of an opportunity to get to know their students more personally.

The role an individual teacher or coach takes on is more about his or her personal style, he said.

All school-district employees—including the high-school principal—referred questions regarding Krajewski to the superintendent, Linda Langevin, stating that it was a personnel matter on which they could not comment.

Langevin told The Enterprise last week that it was an internal personnel matter and that she was not going to share any information. She would not even confirm that Krajewski was placed on leave, which is a matter of public record.

Langevin expressed the opinion that, if an internal investigation is being conducted, the public doesn’t need to know about it. Generally, she said, she would only confirm that an employee is on leave after 60 days when the school board has made a decision on the matter.

Langevin did, however, speak in general terms about the procedure for placing a teacher on leave, and what she expects of Voorheesville’s staff.

"A professional demeanor is expected at all times," she said. Teachers are not allowed to become friends with students, she said.

Coaches and teachers are not allowed to have students in their cars, Langevin said. Coaches receive the same training and are held to the same standard as teachers, she said.

When an accusation is made against a staff or faculty member, the district "looks into it thoroughly and carefully," Langevin said.

She said, as the superintendent, she has the power to place anyone on leave if she believes there is a safety issue for children, but that does not mean that person is fired, she said. Once she places someone on leave, she then has 30 days to gather evidence.

As required by law, all teachers placed on leave receive their pay, she said.

At the conclusion of her own investigation, Langevin said, she would then share the information learned with the school board, which would then have another 30 days to decide what it wants to do.

The Enterprise has filed two Freedom of Information requests, and is currently awaiting access to school documents. The school district still has a few more days to respond.

Bills proposed
Tax breaks for veterans, penalties for loose dogs

By Holly Grosch

NEW SCOTLAND — War veterans will get bigger tax breaks and dog-owners with loose animals will face bigger penalties — and potentially jail time — if two local bills are passed by the town board next month.

Public hearings for both bills will be held directly before February’s regularly-scheduled town board meeting.

In 2005, the New York State Legislature amended the real-property tax law authorizing the adoption of local laws to increase the maximum tax exemption for war veterans.

New Scotland’s proposed law reads, "The town board finds and determines that the sacrifices and services provided by veterans should be acknowledged by providing certain tax exemptions." The board wants to increase the real property tax exemptions to the state maximum, which would mirror what Albany County has done.

If adopted, veterans would receive a 15-percent reduction not to exceed $36,000. Combat veterans then get another 10 percent of their real property assessed value exempted, not to exceed another $24,000.

Veterans who have received a compensation rating from the United States Veterans’ Administration or from the United States Department of Defense because of a service-connected disability, will be exempt from New Scotland property tax to the extent of the assessed value of their property multiplied by 50 percent of the veterans disability rating.

The percentages to be applied are the same as in past years. However, the maximum amount to which they can be applied is proposed to change.

In 2005, the highest assessed value the reduction percent could be applied to was $153,000. Next year, if the bill passes, the highest value would be $240,000.

The other town law the board is considering is to increase the penalties New Scotland judges can give to those who have violated the town’s dog ordinances. Town attorney Michael Mackey said that the town justices Margaret Adkins and Thomas Dolin asked him to draft the law to clear up the ambiguities of the existing law.

The most significant change is that more penalties have been added, Mackey said. The penalties that can be imposed are now less ambiguous, Mackey stated. He used Clifton Park’s law as a model, since it had recently been revamped.

The bill proposes for a first offense that a dog owner may recieve a fine of $100 or be imprisoned not to exceed 15 days.

Council member Deborah Baron asked if both judges were in support of the new law.

Yes, Mackey responded. "They felt the need for the dog law to have more teeth." His unintended pun resulted in laughter in town hall.

Mackey also clarified that, within the existing town ordinance, dogs are not allowed to run loose on public property or on someone else’s property — dogs have to be leashed. However, someone’s dog is allowed to run on its owner’s private property.

Clark said that, by the time a resident receives a citation from the dog warden, it means the animal-control officers have already visited the dog owner three or four times, and the person has continually let his dog get loose.

While, at first, jail time sounds harsh, public safety Commissioner Doug Miller said that the sentence follows the state’s standard. It is standard, he said, for incremental penalties to include the potential of both fines and jail time. He said the proposed local law is the state’s lowest offense one can get.

Mackey said that, even with speeding tickets, most people don’t realize individuals can get a fine or jail time. Zoning administrator Paul Cantlin said that violations of the town’s zoning ordinance include potential jail time as well.

Miller said that enforcement and noteworthy consequences will protect the public’s safety and residents’ livestock from loose dogs.

New Scotland appoints 8 town officials master-plan committee

By Holly Grosch

NEW SCOTLAND — The town board has appointed a comprehensive plan committee, but has not yet given the group of eight a specific charge, a timeline, or a budget.

At the Jan. 11 town board meeting the council members and supervisor were decisive on their appointments but were unsure on the other organizational matters.

They unanimously appointed to the committee only existing town officials who currently play a role in the town’s zoning and planning.

These appointments include: Two town board members, Douglas La Grange and Richard Reilly; two planning board members, Chairmen Robert Stapf and Chuck Voss; three zoning board of appeals members, William Hennessy, Robert Parmenter, and Adam Greenberg; and the town’s full-time zoning administrator, Paul Cantlin.

LaGrange was named the chair of the comprehensive-master-plan committee. Appointing the official committee got the process off the ground, LaGrange said, and solidifies the town’s decision that review of the comprehensive plan is "best to be done in-house."

This is the only committee in New Scotland where town board members are voting members of an appointed committee, and not just a liaison.

At last Wednesday’s meeting, resident Sharon Boehlke expressed her concern that most of the committee members were from the Voorheesville area while the master plan is supposed to be a document for the whole town. Who’s going to represent Clarksville, she asked"

Supervisor Ed Clark said that the appointed people are just leaders of the project, and that all resident’s input will still be needed.

Councilman Reilly lives in the village of Voorheesville and LaGrange is a Feura Bush farmer.

Robert Stapf is a long-time planning board member and current planning board chairman. He had been instrumental in the formation of the 1994 comprehensive plan and lives in Voorheesville.

The newest planning board member, Chuck Voss, lives on New Scotland South Road. He’s been a resident for about six years. In 2005, he moved up from an alternate post to become a regular planning board member. Voss is a certified planner. He has a master’s degree in urban and environmental planning and runs his own planning consulting firm. Voss was also a previous member of the Resident’s Planning Advisory Committee.

Three of the comprehensive committee members had been voting members on RPAC: LaGrange, Voss, and Robert Parmenter. That committee surveyed residents and produced a report, largely focusing on recommendations for the town’s Route 85 and 85A corridor.

Parmenter currently has a seat on the zoning board and is the town’s historian. He lives near the Voorheesville Elementary School.

The largest representation on the comprehensive plan committee comes from the zoning board.

LaGrange announced at the Wednesday meeting that he had received a request the night before from Adam Greenberg to join the committee.

Greenberg lives on Krumkill Road.

LaGrange said he had asked zoning board Chairman Ronnie Von Ronne to be on the committee, but he declined because of the time commitment and time conflict with his work.

Clark said that Von Ronne had recommended Greenberg and Hennessey. Hennessey lives on Heldervue Avenue.

Reilly, who seconded all the appointments, asked town attorney Michael Mackey if there was a problem that there is a quorum of the five-member zoning board on the comprehensive plan committee. Mackey said he wasn’t sure, but that he did not think it was a problem since there will be no official ZBA business being conducted.

The comprehensive plan committee, like all town board-appointed committees, is required by law to hold open meetings anyway, and follow all the regulations of the state’s Open Meetings Law.

Stapf, from the audience, reminded the town board that part of maintaining open meetings to the public means placing legal notices in the newspapers and designating someone to take minutes. Stapf said it would be advisable for the board to give the committee some start-up money.

Reilly commissioned LaGrange to outline the cost involved and get back to the town board.

Clark suggested the town board ask the planning board and zoning-board secretary if she would be interested in taking minutes for the new committee.

Everyone agreed the first step is for copies of the 1994 master plan to be made. Clark said that his office was clean out of them, but town Clerk Diane Deschenes said that she has the whole document scanned.

Mackey said that he will make available the legal definition of comprehensive plan, and the laws that address the legal procedure for amending the comprehensive plan.

Councilwoman Margaret Neri said that she keeps hearing LaGrange state that most municipalities update their master plan every five years, but, she sees many Capital Region towns that are just starting to update plans that are at times 30 years old. Neri asked LaGrange for some information on the importance of the five-year updates and trends across the state in regard to the gap between updates; she said she was interested in this information because of the expense of updating.

Reilly stated that 85 percent of New Scotland’s 12-year-old comprehensive plan is data, which he doesn’t think needs to be changed, and will keep down the cost.

The first comprehensive plan committee meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

Extending a hand

In other business, the town board decided not to request payment from the neighboring town of Bethlehem to have easements on town owned land. Bethlehem is trying to secure 72 easements along Route 85 in New Scotland to install a new water main and is offering property owners nine cents per square foot for permanent easements and five cents for temporary assessments. The total amount New Scotland would receive is $322.00.

Bethlehem’s Supervisor, Theresa Egan, sent a letter to Clark saying since the assessments are "for a municipalities betterment, this is a request that you advise whether the town of New Scotland anticipates payment for such easements."

Bethlehem is asking if we intend to be paid, Clark told the board and then added, "Let’s not get paid."

Reilly nodded and said, "We have bigger deals we are trying to work out."

Bethlehem and New Scotland are in the midst of a number of negotiations: the town border dispute, and working out a transmission agreement to transmit public water from Albany.

Town engineer R. Mark Dempf said that Bethlehem’s Route 85 water main project is running "very slow." He said Bethlehem is having some problems getting easements.

Clark said that he has not received any phone calls from New Scotland residents since Bethlehem’s initial letters went out.

[Return to Home Page]