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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, June 22, 2006

Cameron wrestles with new life after logging mishap

By Michelle O’Riley

WESTERLO - On April 2, in an instant, Harold Cameron’s life changed forever.

The 15-year-old award-winning wrestler was helping a friend split logs and cut down trees for next winter when a maple tree rolled off of its stump and pinned him to the ground.

As friends rushed to get the tree off of Cameron, the weight of the tree had already crushed the disk in his upper back — thoracic region of the spine between vertebrae T-11 and T-12 — and bent his back into the shape of a comma.

Not only was Cameron’s spinal cord severely injured but he also suffered from fractured and broken ribs and a collapsed lung. For over two months, Cameron has had to wear a brace because his abdominal and back muscles could not support his torso.

"I want people to realize what a split second can do to you, and that the unthinkable can happen to anybody, no matter how old they are," he said.

Before the accident, Cameron was one of the top athletes on the Berne-Knox-Westerlo varsity wrestling team, said his mother, Dorian Cameron.

"We have lots of awards and videos," she said.

The accident has left Cameron with more than bad memories; he may have to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life. The family has hope that he will walk again but Cameron will have a hard road ahead, filled with countless therapy sessions and doctors’ visits.

The accident has also been hard on his family; they now find themselves in need of financial and emotional support.

"I have not worked since April 2," said Dorian Cameron. She is currently using sick time to stay home and give her son needed care and attention.

Braces, prosthesis, a walker, and wheelchair are only some of the medical equipment that he uses daily, she said.

Dorian Cameron hopes that other parents learn from their experience; she urges them to check their insurance policies to make sure they have medical coverage in case of an emergency like this.

"Insurance only pays for half of the wheelchair and half of the braces," she said. "They say it’s not necessary equipment."

Road to recovery

Since April, Cameron has spent 11 days in the Albany Medical Center, including eight days in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. He was then released to Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital in Schenectady where he spent a month receiving care.

The family recently returned from a visit to The Shriners’ Hospital in Philadelphia – a facility that provides specialized medical and rehabilitation services to children with spinal-cord injuries. At Shriners, Cameron underwent tests to determine the damage to his spine.

"They were great," said Dorian Cameron. "Every day the doctor would spend 15 to 20 minutes with each family."

Pictures from their recent visit to Shriners show a smiling and active Cameron, hanging out with new friends and swimming in a pool.

They use a lift to put the kids in and out of the pool and, when Cameron was getting out, he wanted to use the stairs instead and pull himself into his wheelchair by himself, his mother said.

Cameron cannot move his legs and does not have any physical feeling below his lower abdomen except for tingles similar to when your foot falls asleep. In spite of this, his determination to adapt to this new life is evident while he athletically balances backwards on his wheelchair and is supporting his torso without a brace.

Cameron receives some tutoring during the week but spends most of his days on-line and waiting for the school day to end so he can talk to his friends.

"I get bored; I get frustrated," he said. "I don’t like being in the wheelchair."

Cameron explains that most of his friends don’t understand how it is to be in a wheelchair. He wishes more of them would feel comfortable talking to him about it and would not be afraid to ask him questions.

Family support

Cameron’s family has been supportive of him since the accident.

He is the grandson of Mavis and Willard Schanz of East Berne and the late Harold H. Cameron and Mary Cameron of Westerlo.

Harold Cameron also has a twin brother, Joshua Cameron, who has helped in many ways with his recovery in the hospital and at home.

His family composed this message to the community:

"Harold has the courage, belief, and the willpower to overcome this tragedy that has consumed his life, but without the continuous and unconditional love and support from family and friends he may not make it because we are his backbone, his shoulder to cry on, the light in the dark. Through good and bad, ups and downs, he draws the strength he needs from his heart, and us.

"So we urge you all to help in some way, shape, or form whether it’s going to the benefit, a donation, a letter of concern and sincerity, stopping in to see him, or picking up the phone and calling — anything that shows you are there for him when he needs you the most. He’s just a young man and no man can overcome this alone.

"Harold we love you! Don't ever forget. Love Mom, Dad, and Josh."

Fund-raiser to help Harold Cameron

By Michelle O’Riley

WESTERLO — Friends and neighbors of Harold Cameron are rallying support for the 15-year-old after his legs were paralyzed in a logging accident this spring.

Michelle VanAlstyne and Jackie Hill along with others are holding a benefit picnic to raise money to help pay for some of the medical costs for his rehabilitation.

The benefit picnic will be held next Friday, June 30, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Westerlo Town Park on Route 401 and all are invited to come and have a great time.

Tickets are $10 per person and, if purchased before Monday, will include a barbecue dinner from Giffy’s Barbecue of Ballston Lake. There will also be music, games, drawings, and a silent auction including a quilted American flag made by Carol Wilbert and many other items.

Donations can also be made to the "Cameron Family Fund" at Bank of America.

Call Michelle VanAlstyne at 768-2233 to purchase tickets for the fundraiser or for more information on how you can help.

In Berne’s hamlets
Grant proposed for sidewalks

By Saranac Hale Spencer

BERNE — Sidewalks may soon grace the streets of Berne and East Berne.

The paths would be part of onging revitalization for the historic Helderberg hamlets, which both have a mixture of homes and small businesses.

In his first campaign for supervisor, Kevin Crosier said that East Berne looked like downtown Beirut. He had happier memories of the place, where his parents owned a store while he was growing up.

The hamlet of Berne was re-zoned in 2005 after a year of planning and heated debate; the town board, in a 3-to-2 vote, re-zoned the hamlet from largely residential to traditional neighborhood mixed use.

Also last year, the town received a grant from the Capital District Transportation Committee to pay half the cost of a $12,000 consultant study on the revitalization of East Berne.

At the June 14 town board meeting, the board voted unanimously to apply for a grant, prepared by April Caprio, from the Transportation Enhancement Program, which is funded by the state’s Department of Transportation. The proposal is for sidewalks in the hamlets of Berne and East Berne and signs for bike trails.

"To make it more interesting," said Caprio, "I added bike trails" It needs to be more creative than just sidewalks."

The grant stipulates that the town must pay 20 percent in kind for a project that would complement what the grant covers. Phil Stevens has said that the town might be able to get money for street lighting, according to the board. Caprio said that this could count as the town’s 20 percent.

The last Transportation Enhancement Program grant given by the state’s DOT was in 2002, Carol Breen, a spokesperson for the DOT, told The Enterprise this week. Breen said that 80 of the proposed projects were awarded grant money in 2002, totaling $44.5 million. Berne’s grant proposal must be submitted by June 30.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Discussed hiring Gerry Chartier to act as a liaison between the town and the engineers who are working on a wastewater engineering project. A sewer system is being installed for the hamlet of Berne. The board expects that the bulk of his work will be at the beginning of the project; after that they expect that he will be helpful in resolving any complaints or concern that might come up over the course of the project;

— Heard from Supervisor Crosier that the town will now be collecting $45 per ton of scrap metal that is picked up by Otsego Car Crashers. "The town saved $5,000 a year by giving scrap to Otsego," Crosier told The Enterprise last Friday. "Since the market got better, they pay us.

"They’ve been an excellent vendor for the town," Crosier said;

— Voted unanimously to authorize Crosier to pay Valley Equipment $13,616.58 for completion of the veneer on the town’s new transfer station;

— Voted unanimously to give the supervisor permission to open bids for a 40-yard closed packer container for use in the transfer station. Both of the containers currently at the station need to be replaced; they were both bought in 1988. The board plans to replace one container this year and the other container next year;

— Voted unanimously to adopt a policy for accepting electronic devices for disposal. The board decided on a $5 charge for each item to be disposed of.

The town will then recycle them at varying costs per piece through a state contractor, Waste Management. Disposing of computer monitors costs $7.90 each; computers, $9.95; televisions, $12.50; some things, like printers, are free to recycle. The board decided that the uniform charge of $5 would even out over time to cover the costs of recycling the electronic devices;

— Heard from Councilman Joseph Golden about progress on the proposed new library, to be located on town park property. "It’s going to move slowly," said Golden.

Crosier told The Enterprise last week that he sent an application to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation on June 13, requesting that it conduct a wetland delineation. The DEC will flag any areas that might be wetlands and planning can go from there.

The board stressed that the public’s input is important during this beginning phase. "Anyone who wants to get involved," said Golden, "get involved now";

— Voted unanimously to appoint Cheryl Baitholts as the town’s dog-control officer. She has been the dog-control officer for Rensselaerville for 10 years; she will now have the duty for both towns.

Jeff Villeneuve left the post when he took a full-time job in addition to working on his farm. "He felt like he couldn’t give 100 percent," Crosier told The Enterprise, adding that Villeneuve had done a good job.

"I’ve adopted out more dogs in the last five years than I’ve taken to the pound," said Baitholts at the town board meeting on June 14. She will be paid the same salary, of $5,200 per year, that Villaneuve had received. She will also be reimbursed $5 for each day that she houses a dog; if the owner picks it up, he will reimburse her that money. Baitholts will begin the job on July 1;

— Heard a letter from Cindy Mosbey, who has been in charge of the town’s swim program. She will not be teaching swimming lessons this year due to renovations at the Thacher Park pool. The board discussed contacting Tawasentha, Guilderland’s town park, for use of its pool next summer if the Thacher pool is still under construction.

The Voorheesville Central School District offered to open its swim program to Berne for the same price it charges Voorheesville town residents;

— Voted unanimously to support a collaborative effort between the four Hilltown supervisors and three organizations – Families Together of Albany County, the Hilltowns Community Resource Center, and Catholic Charities – to build a Hilltown community center. The project is still in the formative stages, the board did not pledge monetary support.

When construction does start, though, Crosier told The Enterprise last week, it will be cheaper for the taxpayers if there are four towns splitting the cost. Looking for grants to fund the project was mentioned at the town board meeting.

Crosier also stressed the idea of "one-stop shopping" for residents who use the services of organizations that will be housed in the center;

— Heard from Crosier that Berne will be hosting a meeting with the four Hilltown supervisors, and any board members who would like to participate, with the Tech Valley Initiative. He would like to put together a community forum so that the public can participate, he said at the town board meeting.

Tech Valley charges a fee for municipalities to join, which then receive benefits from development. The fee is based on population, according to Crosier who guessed that Berne would pay less than $2,000.

Crosier told The Enterprise that Tech Valley can promote rural agriculture and help preserve open spaces, which he said he would like to see in the Hilltowns rather than more housing, which is what the Initiative offers to other towns.

"People need a place to go to recreate," said Crosier. With the sprawl that Tech Valley would bring to surrounding areas, he says that those people will want a place to see the outdoors. He cited the Berne farmers’ market as an example of the success the area has had with encouraging agriculture.

"What we really want out of it," said Crosier of the Tech Valley Initiative, "is our rural character."

The Hill alive with the sound of windmills"

By Saranac Hale Spencer

BERNE — Wind blows hard up on the Hill and the idea of harnessing it is catching on.

John Pratt is the first person to propose building a windmill in the town of Berne, although projects and discussions are underway in other Helderberg Hilltowns.

The Schenectady native moved to his 42-acre plot on Woodstock Road in February and started planning for the wind turbine immediately.

Pratt is committed to wind energy. He was an engineer for U.S. Wind Power, which was owned by Enron, and has since been sold to General Electric. The company was operating a commercial wind farm in Altamont Pass, California. Pratt estimated that the farm powered "a couple hundred thousand homes." He now works for BBL Construction Services in Albany.

"The key to wind power," said Pratt, "is having a location with wind and enough land." He’s got both — Pratt’s proposed site gets Class 3 winds, which are sufficient for producing energy, and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority requires five acres for a windmill, he said.

Since there is currently no zoning law concerning windmills in Berne, the only rules that he has to comply with come from NYSERDA, which will cover half the cost of the project.

Power companies are required to buy surplus energy at market value from residential producers, said Pratt.

The process

Pratt has had a building permit for the project since March 9 but has yet to start construction because he is awaiting approval from NYSERDA, he said. "I’ve been talking to NYSERDA since February," said Pratt. "Maybe even January." He said he’s become frustrated with the bureaucracy at the organization.

"They ought to be embarrassed of how they act with people," he said. "They don’t have a reasonable way for a residential person to go through their process."

Ray Hull, NYSERDA spokesman, told The Enterprise that most people go to the website, www.powernaturally.org, and contact one of the certified installers that is listed.

"Generally speaking," said Hull, "certified contractors are our eyes, ears, arms, and legs out in the community." He said that the installers go to the site and decide if a windmill is feasible for the area, they give a price quote that reflects NYSERDA’s incentives, and they handle the paper work that goes to the authority.

"We have been more than responsive to his inquiries," said Hull.

If Pratt were to finance the $80,000 project on his own, forgoing the 50/50 split with the state, he could start building immediately, without seeking approval. In order to share the cost with NYSERDA, though, he has had to go through several steps, he said.

"NYSERDA kicks it into a SEQR, which is a full environmental review," Pratt told The Enterprise on Monday. He then described the whole process, saying that, after submitting the State Environmental Quality Review, the proposal has to be submitted to and approved by the town’s planning board. Pratt said that the planning board has been very helpful.

"Berne has been great," he said.

At the June 14 town board meeting, the board voted unanimously to appoint the planning board as the lead agency in the environmental review for Pratt’s property, which is the next step after planning board approval in the NYSERDA process.

"The environmental board came out on Saturday," Pratt told The Enterprise on Monday. "They were a pleasure to deal with."

After the town’s conservation board makes its decision about whether the project will have an environmental impact, Pratt can enter the last stages of the NYSERDA process. The Authority has 30 to 45 days to review the final proposal and then the wind turbine can be installed on the site, Pratt said.

"Come together"

"Every neighbor that I border has signed on a letter, saying they’re in favor," said Pratt. He said that he thinks people in the Hilltowns wouldn’t be opposed to wind power if they understood it better. Misunderstanding of energy is symptomatic of the country as a whole, he said.

"Now you have a society that wants to turn the light switch on, but doesn’t want to ask where the juice came from," said Pratt. He sees wind power as a good alternative energy source, which will get the country off of its foreign oil dependence and help to lessen the impact on the environment.

"I would take the visual appearance of anything over not being able to breath or see green," said Pratt when asked about the appearance of wind turbines, which was a concern that the town board mentioned at the June 14 meeting when Alexander Gordon addressed the idea of a collectively-owned wind farm in the Hilltowns.

"I’m just worried about the local level," said Supervisor Kevin Crosier. "The vista."

Gordon, who lives in Knox, is an Albany County legislator who has for several years worked on promoting wind power. He is currently working to develop a business plan for a community owned wind farm with a grant from NYSERDA. The first part of the project involves a meteorological tower that will collect data for a year or more. "I hope towns will look at this collectively," said Gordon, "rather than individually."

"The country needs to come together," echoed Pratt on Monday, looking at the energy issue on a larger scale.

"Communities on the Hill need to understand that there is nothing wrong with wind power," said Pratt. He said that commercial wind energy is a viable option for the Hilltowns.

Pratt emphasized the need for the United States to cut its dependence on foreign oil and said that the country should choose the option that is also best for the environment. He thinks that wind power is the right choice.

"Berne may do the same thing as Knox," Pratt said when asked about the neighboring town’s recent moratorium on windmills. The year-long moratorium in Knox, passed by the town board earlier this month, is intended to give the town time to re-write some of its zoning laws.

"It’s not so much that they don’t want them," said Pratt, "they don’t have enough time to write the law."

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