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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 27, 2006

To the rescue
Local firefighters help flooded southern counties

By Jarrett Carroll

ALBANY COUNTY — During last month’s damaging downstate floods, the Guilderland and Berne fire departments answered the state-wide call for emergency aid. Floods devastated Delaware and Broome counties in June, overwhelming emergency crews there and leaving hundreds with damaged or completely ruined homes.

"If the same thing happened here we would have no hesitation in putting out the call," said Berne Fire Commissioner Mary Alice Molgard. "That’s the nature of fire fighting. When you put out a call, everyone responds. That’s just how it works."

Rodger Stone, Guilderland’s code enforcer and a member of the Guilderland Center Fire Department, shared some of his experiences with The Enterprise.

Stone went on two different trips to both Conklin in Broome County and Delhi and Walton in Delaware County. Three members from the Guilderland Center Fire Department met up with East Berne firefighters in Delaware County and two members each from the Guilderland Center, Guilderland, Westmere, and Fort Hunter fire departments went south to Broome County to help with flood emergencies there.

"We pulled into Walton at eight or nine o’clock and Main Street was under four feet of water," said Stone.

The Guilderland volunteers spent four days in Broome County for emergency medical service calls and stabilization, said Stone, recalling the Conklin floods.

"That place was like a mini Katrina," said Stone. "Hundreds and hundreds of homes will never be habitable again." Stone added some homes had exploded because of gas leaks.

Stone said initial damage estimates for the area were in excess of $200 million, but that number is much higher now, adding that it could take months before sewer and water hookups are restored.

The Broome County flooding was a result of the Susquehanna River overflowing, said Stone, with water rising in some places above two- and three- story buildings.

"Boy, they needed the help and still need the help," said Stone. "I wish I had more time so I could go back down there and help out some more."

Deployed from Berne

Molgard, told The Enterprise that the East Berne Fire Department sent a pumper-truck to Delaware County along with six East Berne volunteers — Chief Scott Duncan; Assistant Chief Ben Furman; Captain Ron Sprung; and firefighters Justin Crosier, Lee Harnnett, and Jason Smith.

Area volunteers met in Albany before deploying to the emergency areas, said Molgard.

"These fellows"They could’ve responded to any type of call in the area. They’re very talented," Molgard said, explaining that several of the firefighters also double as emergency medical technicians in Berne.

The way local fire crews are notified, explained Molgard, is, after an emergency-stricken area sends out a call for aid to the state, the state contacts individual counties which then send out for area volunteers.

"It filters through state and county levels before it reaches the locals," said Molgard. "The area in emergency usually calls the state"Then there is a local call out"It only happens when there’s a major disaster."

This is done so as not to drain one particular area of manpower and equipment, said Molgard. On a strictly volunteer basis, only those departments capable of sending help do so, she said. The emergency network system is designed to pool local resources without endangering any one region by leaving it ill-equipped during an emergency.

Molgard distinguished between "mutual aid for regional coverage" and statewide emergency call-outs. Mutual aid is when one fire department mans another department’s coverage area while that department is covering a large fire or other emergency in order to ensure that there is no gap in coverage. Many fire departments depend on this service from each other.

In Berne’s case, Molgard said, it works closely with Schoharie and the other Hilltowns that it borders. She added that Berne is not only prepared to help others, but would also ask for the same assistance if it were necessary.

While in Delhi, the East Berne crew provided backup coverage for the Delhi department.

"They were in the Delhi firehouse while the Delhi crews were catching up, resting, or answering other calls," Molgard said. The volunteers also answered the phones, did basement pump-outs, recovered propane tanks, and handled emergency medical-service calls, added Molgard.

Fake pig stolen
Wee, wee, wee — all the way home

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — First, this little piggy went to the market. Then, this little piggy went to the — Pine Bush"

Bruce Pigsteen, the Price Chopper Town Center Plaza’s fiberglass pig, wandered out of its pigpen at 1704 Western Ave. last Thursday, and was returned by an unidentified woman early Saturday morning.

As part of Guilderland’s Chamber of Commerce "Pigtacular," 25 area businesses and agencies have bought $500 pig statues, individually painted and decorated them, and then named them accordingly.

The pigs can be found around town on front lawns, building overhangs, and even in Crossgates Mall.

Jane Schramm, executive director of the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce, told The Enterprise she received a call about some of Bruce’s clothes on Tuesday.

"Someone called a little while ago about finding a bandana and a jacket around the Pine Bush area," said Schramm. "He might have been running around in the Pine Bush."

It stills remains a mystery as to who helped free Pigsteen from his pen, whether it was just a prank or not, and who corralled the pig in.

Schramm said that a woman brought Pigsteen back to Price Chopper after seeing a television news story about its being missing.

Fortunately, said Schramm, there was minimal damage to the pig; no cracks or lost limbs. There were only a few scraps and scratches which are probably consistent with a ride in the back of a pickup truck, she said.

Or maybe, a naked run through the Pine Bush"

"They’re fiberglass"They could easily be damaged," said Schramm.

However, from now on, Bruce Pigsteen will be hog-tied.

"As far as I know, they’re putting it back out there, but securing it better," said Schramm. "So it doesn’t go wandering again."

The chamber’s Pigtacular celebration end’s with the "Hogtober Fest" on Oct. 12, with what else — a pig auction.

The aptly-named pigs will be auctioned off to the highest bidders at the festival, with all of the proceeds going to the business owner’s charity of choice, said Schramm. There will be a preview party beforehand so potential buyers can take a look at the stock and bid on the pig of their choice.

Schramm said there will be a nominal fee to take part in the auction, but said that it will be "affordable."

"A lot of artists put blood, sweat, and tears into these pigs," said Schramm. She added that no other pigs have "wandered away."

After botched plea
Judge hands Coffey 10 more years

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — After admitting to raping a 19-year-old woman and a 14-year-old girl, Robert J. Coffey of Guilderland botched his plea deal bargain and was sentenced to 35 years in jail.

Albany County Judge Steven W. Herrick handed down the sentence last Wednesday, adding 10 years to the original 25-year plea deal.

Coffey, 28, and his lawyer, Kent Sprotbery, had maintained that the charges were false until this May, when Coffey agreed to plead guilty to two counts of first-degree rape and take responsibility for his actions last summer in order to get a lighter sentence.

Richard Arthur, with the Albany County District Attorney’s office, said Coffey did not fulfill his end of the bargain.

"He did not cooperate during the plea sentencing," said Arthur

The district attorney’s office says that Coffey violated his plea agreement by denying responsibility for the rapes to probation officers during a pre-sentencing interview.

Herrick agreed and upped the sentence.

Sprotbery says Coffey did accept responsibility and that Herrick was "out to get" his client.

"He was interviewed by probation officers prior to the sentencing trial," Sprotbery told The Enterprise. "While not under oath, and with no lawyer present, he said some things contradictory to the plea deal."

Continuing, Sprotbery said that Coffey did not respond well to his probation and that he has "understandably" been under a lot of stress. However, Sprotbery said, "We’re not asking to withdraw our plea."

During Coffey’s court statement, he accepted responsibility, said Sprotbery, who quoted his client’s statement as saying, "It was a huge mistake"It’s all my fault." Sprotbery said that Coffey also told the court that he should have gotten help for his drug problem to prevent the incidents from ever happening, saving his victims’, as well as his own, families from all of the grief he caused.

Sprotbery claims that Judge Herrick was against his client from day one.

"He wanted to hang him from early on," said Sprotbery. "He was very hesitant to even take the deal at 25 years."

District Attorney David Soares has repeatedly called Coffey "a dangerous sexual predator," who needed to be taken off the streets.

Guilderland Police found cocaine in Coffey’s possession after they arrested him for raping his 14-year-old neighbor at his Guilderland trailer park home. He also had a prior arrest in another state for conspiracy to distribute drugs.

According to the district attorney’s office, Coffey lured his 14-year-old victim by telling her he needed someone to feed his iguana while he was gone. Once inside his 333 Church Rd. trailer, he told her he had a gun, then bound her wrists and raped her.

The 19-year-old victim was first, said the district attorney’s office earlier, but she did not come forward until she saw Coffey’s mugshot on a television news program after Guilderland Police arrested him on imprisonment and rape charges with the 14-year-old. After meeting at a bar, Coffey raped the young women while unconscious and left her along the side of Route 20 in Guilderland, the district attorney’s office said.

Coffey knew both victims before the rapes occurred, his lawyer said.

Sprotbery said, because Herrick threw out the plea bargain and added 10 years to the sentence, he also threw out Coffey’s waiver of appeal.

A notice of appeal has been filed with the Albany County Court, according to Sprotbery.

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