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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, April 20, 2006

Moratorium on windmills, noise ordinance for dirt bikes

By Matt Cook

KNOX — The town board raised the ire of some Knox citizens last week when it considered holding public hearings on two proposed laws: one a moratorium on windmills, and the other an ordinance aimed at curbing noise from dirt bikes.

The regular board meeting last Tuesday took on the atmosphere of a public hearing, as residents lobbied for the town to drop the proposals.

Windmill moratorium

The moratorium on windmills was called for by the planning board. Planning board Chairman Robert Price said the Hilltowns are a prime spot to generate energy from wind, and commercial interests may soon be seeking to erect giant turbines. Currently, Price said, the town has nothing in its zoning ordinance that addresses windmills.

The moratorium, proposed for one year, will give the town a chance to enact windmill regulations before developers try to build, Price said. Price spoke positively about the financial benefits the wind business could bring to the town, but cautioned against proceeding without dealing with the zoning issues.

Commercial windmills stand about 400 feet tall.

Already, one Hilltown group has begun work on a wind project. Funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the Hilltown Wind Forum is developing a model for a small, community-owned wind farm in the Hilltowns. The forum wants to erect a 160-foot meteorological tower in Knox for at least a year to measure windspeed.

The moratorium applies to meteorological towers, along with any "wind energy deriving" towers. County Legislator Alexander "Sandy" Gordon, one of the project’s leaders, told the town board the moratorium will set back the community wind project and asked that the temporary structure be excluded from the moratorium.

Price told The Enterprise this Tuesday that, if the town passes the moratorium, it could still grant the community wind project a site plan review on the tower based on strict requirements. The planning board could then approve the project, even during the moratorium, "If they comply with everything we want," Price said.

The information recorded by the tower could help the town in the planning process, Price said.

Russell and Amy Pokorny, owners of the property for the proposed meteorological tower, also plan to erect a small private windmill, unrelated to the community wind project. In a statement to the town board, the Pokornys said small, private windmills should not be considered in the same league as the large commercial ones.

"The windmill that we plan at our home is a modern quiet slow-moving model that weighs 45 pounds, and cannot be heard over the sounds of the wind at 300 feet away," the Pokornys said in their statement. They have already paid for some of the equipment, they said.

Price said the zoning ordinance doesn’t say anything about any windmills, large or small, so the moratorium should apply to both.

In addition to windmills and turbines, the moratorium also forbids "wireless telecommunications facilities or associated transmission facilities."

Though there was very little discussion of wireless towers at the board meeting, Price told The Enterprise the town would like a cellular tower, but wants to pass some regulations first. Cellular coverage is sparse to non-existent in the Hilltowns.

The public hearing on the moratorium is scheduled for Wednesday, April 26, at 7:30 p.m. at the town hall.

Noise ordinance

"We shouldn’t even be considering this," said one avid dirt biker.

In September, a resident, Timothy Thompson, showed the town board a video of the effects of dirt-bike racing near his property on Thompson’s Lake Road. On the recording, the sounds of the machines were audible inside Thompsons’s house.

Knox Supervisor Michael Hammond says that the town has received a few similar complaints over the past several years. Last September, the town board charged the planning board with investigating a change in the zoning ordinance to include regulations on dirt bikes. According to Hammond, several other towns in New York have such laws.

Last week, town attorney John Dorfman presented a draft. It says it’s unlawful to operate a motorcycle, without a muffler or with an inadequate muffler, on private or public property "in such a manner as to create loud, unnecessary or unusual noise, so as to disturb or interfere with the peace and tranquility of any other person or persons."

It’s also unlawful for a property owner to allow such behavior, the draft says.

Violators, the draft says, are subject to a $250 fine, up to 15 days in jail, and, in the case of a second violation, confiscation of the bike.

Some of those at last week’s meeting questioned the law’s vagueness. It sets no decibel limit and doesn’t define an "inadequate muffler," they said. Most bikes sold meet the sound requirements of the American Motorcyclist Association, the riders said.

Dorfman countered that the town doesn’t have the personnel or equipment to measure decibels. It’s a highly technical process to get an accurate reading, Dorfman said. The town’s zoning enforcement officer would be responsible for ticketing violators, and the case would be heard in town court.

Despite objections from residents, the board voted unanimously to hold a public hearing on the law. Some members said they saw problems with law, but felt the town has received enough complaints on the issue to warrant a public hearing. The town can still change the bill after the hearing is held.

"You have everything to gain by having this public hearing and nothing to lose," Councilman Nicholas Viscio told the angry residents. Viscio noted that he often pilots a noise-making powered parachute over the town, so he understands the dirt bikers’ concerns.

The public hearing is scheduled for May 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the town hall

Highway super under fire for breaking law

By Matt Cook

RENSSELAERVILLE — The highway superintendent, often criticized in Rensselaerville, is under fire again. The town’s attorney said G. Jon Chase broke state law by loading salt and sand from the town’s supply into a private citizen’s truck.

Although the town passed resolutions in the 1990’s allowing residents to take a bucket or two of sand and salt from the town during winter emergencies, said attorney William Ryan at a town board meeting last Thursday, state law forbids towns to give away property for use that does not benefit the town. Those resolutions were illegal, Ryan said. He recommended the town pass a resolution against the practice, which the board did.

Ryan said Chase’s actions were "official misconduct."

Ryan’s research was sparked by photos given to the town by resident Vernon Husek, a frequent critic of the highway department. Driving by the town’s highway garage one day, Husek said, he spotted Chase using a town loader to fill a privately-owned pickup with sand and salt. He took pictures of the incident, and handed them over to the town.

Though the town was operating under the earlier resolutions, said Supervisor Jost Nickelsberg, "A truckload of salt and a truckload of sand is a lot bigger issue than a bucket of salt and a bucket of sand."

At the meeting, the board didn’t discuss disciplining Chase, a Democrat. Nickelsberg, a Republican, told The Enterprise this week that discipline will be discussed at the next town board meeting.

"We really need to come to grips with this. It’s a tough problem," Nickelsberg said. "We understand that this is a state law and our town attorney considers it a criminal act to take private property and put it into private trucks. The town board has to consider what it has to do about this."

Ryan is new at the Rensselaerville post, having been appointed Jan. 1 by Nickelsberg and the other two Republicans on the board in place of long-time town attorney Joseph Catalano.

Nickelsberg said he didn’t know what action the board will take to discipline Chase or what he will recommend.

"It’s something I’ve been thinking about for some time," he said. "I just don’t have an answer for it."

At last week’s meeting, Nickelsberg also criticized Chase, who was absent, for violating the town’s new procurement policy. Under the new policy, instituted by Nickelsberg after he took office in January, when purchasing materials and equipment, town officers must submit at least three bids.

Chase was asked to find bids for the town’s motor oil contract, Nickelsberg said, and he only submitted two Within a few days, Nickelsberg said, the town found a motor-oil supplier for a significantly lower price.

"For the sake of four phone calls, we paid 25 percent less than we had to," he said.

Chase did not return phone calls from The Enterprise. He has been accused before, by residents, of using town equipment for private purposes, though the town has never taken action against him.

At the meeting, the board also resolved to find a private organization that is willing to purchase salt and sand from the town and donate it to residents in the winter.

Other business

In other business at the April 13 meeting, the Rensselaerville Town Board:

—Postponed a vote on a moratorium on certain residential subdivisions and developments because Councilman Robert Lansing was absent due to illness;

—Heard a report from Deputy Supervisor Alden Pierce on a meeting he attended hosted by Albany County on intermunicipal collaboration;

—Discussed proposals for upgrading the town hall’s computer network. Nickelsberg said the best price he found was from Radical Systemz, in Greenville, which offered four new computers, networked, with Internet access and e-mail, plus weekly support visits, for $15,000.

Ryan recommended the town issue a request for proposals before choosing a computer networking vendor;

—Accepted the resignation of Bill Benson from the water/sewer district committee, and appointed Tim Miller and Dale Dorner, expanding the committee to six members; and

—Appointed Diane Biederman as the town veterinarian.

At BKW, four race for lone slot

By Matt Cook

BERNE — In a district where unopposed races are common, four candidates this spring are seeking one open seat on the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board. They range from a school board veteran looking to return after a year off to a high school senior seeking his first public office.

Board member Karen Storm is not running for re-election. The candidates are John Harlow, Judd Krasher, Robert Rue, and Leo Vane.

At the May 16 election, voters will also decide on an $18.5 million budget and a proposition to extend the term length of board members from three years to five. If approved, the new term length will apply to members voted in at next year’s election.

Posts on the five-member board are unpaid.

John Harlow

After Harlow’s first term on the school board ended in 2005, he decided not to run for re-election in the interest of diversity.

"I wanted to ensure that someone from Westerlo got on the board," Harlow said.

That’s exactly what happened. Running unopposed, Maureen Sikule took over Harlow’s seat.

Now, Harlow, 63, wants back on. He enjoys making a contribution to the community, he said.

A 32-year resident of East Berne, all of Harlow’s five children have graduated from the district. His wife, Karol, served two terms on the school board.

Harlow is retired from the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory. He now runs his own business, reselling technical equipment over the the Internet.

If elected, Harlow hopes to accomplish his one unfinished goal from his first term.

"My unaccomplished objective is to introduce language training at the earliest possible time," he said.

That language, he said, is Chinese. With the emergence of China as a major economic power, Harlow said, American children must learn Chinese in order to compete.

"Just go to Wal-Mart, or go to any store, and see where what you buy is made," Harlow said.

Judd Krasher

Seven years ago, Krasher and his family left the Burnt Hills School District for BKW because their house had burned down. As horrible as that experience was, Krasher said, in a way it was the best thing that could have happened to him because it brought him to BKW, where he was able to grow academically and as a person like never before.

Krasher, who is 17 now, will be 18 by the time of the election; he is graduating this June. He wants to stay in the district as a school board member.

"Berne has give me so much, so I want to give back, to not only the students, but to the school in general," Krasher said.

The teachers at BKW offer a far better education than the larger districts he’s been in, Burnt Hills and Shenendehowa, Krasher said.

It’s rare anywhere for a school board candidate to be as young as Krasher.

"My hope is that people don’t think this is a joke," he said. He wants his candidacy to inspire other young people to get involved in, or at least pay attention to, the district government.

As a student in the very selective New Visions Law and Government program, Krasher said, he’s gained political experience interning for the state attorney general and the assembly.

"That’s something that I’ve really enjoyed," he said. "That’s something that Berne has given me."

He’s also been attending school board meetings and studying the minutes. As a school board member, he wants to help formulate a plan to replace the valedictorian and salutatorian honors with broader recognitions. He’s already on the committee charged with the task.

Krasher is headed to The College of Saint Rose in Albany in the fall. He’s been accepted into a dual bachelor’s-master’s degree program in history and political science.

Robert Rue

Robert Rue wants to keep the school board on track with the "great job" it’s been doing.

"I think I have some fresh new ideas that can help better the education of our children and keep the district fiscally responsible," Rue said. "I just want to keep moving the school in the right direction."

Rue, 43, of Knox, is running for public office for the first time.

A BKW graduate himself and a lifetime Hilltowner, Rue is an active member of the elementary school PTA and the BKW Little League and Softball League. He has a son and daughter in the district.

"I’m very children oriented," Rue said.

The best thing about BKW, Rue said, is its size.

"It’s a nice small district, and all the kids know each other and all the teachers know all the kids," he said.

Rue works for the town of Guilderland, as manager of Keenholts Park.

Leo Vane

"I’ve lived here for about 11 years, and in those 11 years, I’ve seen my taxes increase exponentially, and I’m not really happy with that," said Vane.

On the school board, Vane said, he can do his part to help control the tax rates.

Vane commended the current school board for keeping the tax levy increase in the proposed budget down to 2.4 percent.

"I think one of the things I’d like to do is continue work in the area of keeping the increase at 2 to 3 percent annually," Vane said. "I think if we can do that, the people won’t have too much to complain about."

As a pilot for American Airlines, and a former union president, Vane said, he has had experience with budgets and cost-saving measures. Concepts that have worked for the airline, like conserving fuel by using only one engine on the ground, Vane said, have counterparts at the school, like consolidating bus stops.

"I think the thing I found most appalling was I was going through town and I saw a school bus stop directly across from the school," Vane said.

When he was growing up in the Colonie School District, Vane said, it was common for students who lived near the school to walk and for others to walk to a single bus stop designated for the whole neighborhood.

After graduating from Colonie, Vane, 50, learned to fly in the United States Army before switching to a civilian fleet.

When he’s not flying, Vane works as a substitute teacher at BKW, and he and his wife, a flight attendant, visit classes during aviation week.

"I’m involved with the faculty and staff on a regular basis," Vane said.

He’s been able to become close to a number of the students, as well, Vane said.

Nurse honored
Meyers overcomes her own fears to help others in need

By Michelle O’Riley

WESTERLO — Connie Myers, a psychiatric nurse, has kept a patient from jumping off a ledge with a 10-foot drop.

"He could have jumped and hurt himself really bad or killed himself," said Myers, who works at the Capital District Psychiatric Center.

However, she stepped in and began to talk to the patient calmly and eventually he took her hand and got down.

On May 5, the American Red Cross of Northeastern New York will recognize Myers with the Excelsior College Nursing Award at the Salute to Hometown Heroes ceremony at the Crown Plaza in downtown Albany.

Myers, who lives in Westerlo, was nominated for the award by former co-worker Steve Trim.

"I do care about my patients," said Myers. "They have burned so many bridges with their families and their communities."

Myers explains that a large percentage of her clients do not even receive visitors. Once patients are on their medication and stable, many of them begin to realize how much they have lost due to their illnesses but by then, she said, "They don’t have anyone."

"I always wanted to be a nurse"

In 1980, Myers graduated from the Junior College of Albany with a nursing degree. Early on, she worked for a local nursing home and sadly remembered the inadequate care the elderly received there. Myers explained that, on some weekends, there were only three nurses working the 50-bed ward.

"There was so much to be done and we could not do it all," she said. She left the nursing home with the unsettling feeling that the elderly deserved more.

Myers then began to work privately in the homes of her clients. She remembers caring for an elderly couple, a man with terminal cancer and a woman with multiple sclerosis. She kept them company by playing cards and talking, and cared for them by preparing meals and helping them with their personal hygiene.

"As long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a nurse," Myers said. She has always wanted to help people and make a difference.

Fears and frustrations

Myers admits that she hated psychiatry in nursing school. It was very scary for her to work with veterans who had missing limbs, repression and regression, she said. Myers often worried about saying the wrong things to the patients.

She now has worked at the Capital District Psychiatric Center for 16 years and is being saluted for saying all the right things.

Myers admits to being frustrated with the current state of mental-health-care facilities in New York including the existing legislation, limited number of beds, understaffed and underpaid employees, and mandatory hours. But, when asked about her future plans, Myers said she is staying put and looking forward to the possibility of a promotion to nurse administrator.

In this new role, she would be in charge of overseeing all of the patients’ medical care and the supervision of the nurses on her shift and unit.

The clients keep Myers working, she said: "That is why I stay on — because of the them."

Hometown Heroes honored by Red Cross

By Michelle O’Riley

The Salute to Hometown Heroes recognizes the Capital Region’s "unsung heroes" like Connie Myers while raising proceeds for the local disaster fund, said Nancy Conley, Director of Development and Communications for the American Red Cross of Northeastern New York.

Nominations for the awards were submitted from across the Capital Region from Jan. 1 to Feb. 15, said Conley. A selection committee, made up of local business owners and past award recipients, chose this year’s winners for each of the nine categories.

Each winner will receive a commemorative piece form the American Red Cross and an award from the United States Post Office. Conley encourages residents of the Capital Region to attend and help support their local heroes.

Tom Pillsworth, a Red Cross volunteer who has worked locally and nationally, will be the guest speaker at the award’s breakfast. He will be sharing his experiences as a volunteer, which includes work in Afghanistan and at Ground Zero in New York City.

For more information on the 2006 Hometown Heroes Awards, go to the American Red Cross of Northeastern New York website at www.redcrossneny.org or contact Zina Adams at 458-8111, or e-mail her at adams@redcrossneny.org.

This year’s Hometown Heroes Awards and their recipients are:

— CDPHP Firefighter Award to Jerry Paris of Albany;

— CSEA Special Presentation Award to Colin Farley of Pattersonville;

— Capital Communications Federal Credit Union Humanitarian Award for a Lifetime of Good Deeds to Wilson "Harpie" Shea of Hudson;

— One Act of Heroism Award to Cindy Filkins of Schenectady;

— Excelsior College Nursing Award to Connie Myers of Westerlo;

— Hannay Reels Rescue Squad Worker Award toTim and Sandy Hardendorf of Fultonham;

— IAMS Pet Food Pet Rescue Award to Mark Bruhmuller of Claverack;

— NYSUT Youth Award to Meaghan Figge of Clifton Park; and

— Tri-City Valley Cats Law Enforcement Award to Dominick Macherone of Scotia.

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