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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, November 9, 2006

Weiser choice for BKW biz leader

By Tyler Schuling

BERNE — David Weiser, Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s newly-appointed business administrator, has landed on solid ground.

"My goal has been to work at a small school," Weiser told The Enterprise this week.

At BKW, Weiser will be able to leverage his skills and experience, he said.

Currently working as interim director of Civil Service for Albany County, Weiser was previously the business administrator for two other school districts — Hoosic Valley in Schaghticoke (Rensselaer County) and Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk in Ravena.

After working at the schools, Weiser and his family, to be near his wife’s family, relocated to Florida, where they lived for a little less than a year. Weiser and his family returned to upstate New York, where he has lived since studying as an undergraduate at UAlbany. Since returning, he said, he looked for a smaller school where he could have more involvement with a community.

"Working with a smaller school appeals to me because I’ll be able to interact with the students, the staff, and the community," he said.

Weiser was hired Oct. 30 by the board of education. He replaces Gregory Diefenbach, who left BKW in September.

"His experience as a business administrator at two other schools gave him the opportunity to gain experience on a wide variety of issues," said Superintendent Steven Schrade.

Asked what he found attractive about BKW, Weiser said that the school has good momentum, having had success with its budgets lately, and that he also thought the district’s recent history of strong fiscal management attractive.

He called the district’s proximity to his Guilderland home, where he lives with his wife and daughter, an "extra bonus." Weiser added that he has heard positive things about the staff, the students, and the community.

"We asked him where he wanted to be in five years, and he indicated to us that he wanted to be here five years from now, and even 10 years from now," Schrade told The Enterprise this week. "I and members of the business office will bring him up to date and familiarize him with operations and issues," Schrade said.

"[Weiser and I] will confer each day regarding the school finances — the operations and maintenance, which is the buildings and grounds; the transportation department; and the school lunch program," Schrade said.

Weiser explained how he will prepare the school’s budget. In creating it, he said, "You have to underestimate your revenues, and overestimate your expenditures, and you consider all that you might need."

When estimating state aid, he said, he will take a conservative approach.

"The key," Weiser said, "is looking at the whole picture — looking at all the facts and events, and then asking, ‘What does this mean for us"’"

Weiser will earn $90,000 and begin Dec. 1.

‘Shiny and new’
After fire, Mobil re-opens

By Tyler Schuling

EAST BERNE — Ten months after Countryside Mobil caught fire on a cold, windy day, the local gas station and convenience store is opening its doors.

Following the January fire, the station was leveled, and a new building was erected.

David Vincent, the store’s owner, said the Mobil station, tentatively scheduled to open Monday, won’t be dramatically different.

"It’ll be about the same crew," Vincent said. "We hope it’s busier."

A convenience store owner for 32 years, Vincent owns stores at five locations — three in Schoharie County, two in Schenectady County. He leases the East Berne station from Red-Kap, a Mobil wholesaler located in Schenectady County.

Following the fire, claims adjusters for Albany County, Red-Kap, and Vincent’s insurance company were in agreement that the cause of the fire was a 6-year-old exhaust fan, located in the store’s unisex bathroom, Vincent said.

The fire didn’t change Vincent’s outlook as a business owner or result in adding precautions.

"I’ve always been careful," he said. "In 32 years, this is the first fire."

Re-building allowed for expansion.

"We’ve expanded in size, and everything is shiny and new," Vincent said of the new store. Vincent added that, wherever there was an opportunity to make an expansion, he went ahead and did it.

The building, he said, is a few hundred square feet larger.

The products, he said, are essentially the same as before the fire. "We’re not adding new product lines," he said.

Countryside Mobil, he said, has a full deli, and serves pizza and other hot menu items, as well as roasters from the Massachusetts-based New England Coffee Company.

Vincent plans on opening the store Monday, Nov. 13, pending the receipt of a certificate of occupancy. "We won’t be fully operational," he said of the opening of the store, "but we’ll have gas."

Vincent also said that he is awaiting the arrival of some merchandizing displays and food products.

"We still have some fixtures coming in and some shelving," he said.

The beer license and food-processing license, required for all convenience store owners, that he operated on prior to the fire are still valid, he said.

A tough industry

"The town has been anxious for the store to open," he said. "People kept asking me, ‘When are you going to open the store"’"

Since the fire, he said, people have learned to understand the importance of convenience.

The other two convenience stores closest to the hamlet of East Berne, he said, are five to six miles away.

Vincent pointed to a nearby attraction, Warner’s Lake, and said that the lake brings many to the area in the summer months.

The gas industry, Vincent said, has been difficult, with soaring gas prices resulting in a highly competitive market.

"I had to cut my margins, and sometimes we would actually lose money on credit card sales," he said. "It’s a tough time for the industry."

The store, Vincent said, will be open seven days a week from 5 or 5:30 a.m. to 9 or 10 p.m.

Hilltown Players give their regards to Broadway

By Tyler Schuling

BERNE — Voters are at the polls, and two directors huddle in the high school auditorium here, preparing for their upcoming shows. Both are racing against time. One is strapped for cash. The other is concerned about staging. Both have seen better days.

Dick Foster, a fictional director, once very successful and a prominent name in show business, is broke. He wanders around the stage aimlessly and helpless, wondering about his glory days. Where have they gone" Clueless about how to get $100,000 to finance his play and where he is going to find the star of his show, Foster tells his actors to keep the faith.

James Meyer, the real thing, is battling pain and discomfort from the surgery he underwent this week. He instructs his Hilltown actors — where they need to stand on the stage, how to enter and exit the stage, how they will conduct themselves following the performances. He rehearses the musical’s final number several times to get his actors ready for this weekend’s performances.

Meyer, the director of The Hilltowns Players’ fall musical-comedy, Give My Regards to Broadway, stands in front of center stage and calls for the practice to begin.

"Finale!" he yells.

The actors come to the stage quickly. Some players are upbeat and anxious, sharing quick, hushed remarks with one another. Others, focused and serious, hang on his every word. Some high-school girls giggle.

In front, the five male players stand ready to perform the musical’s closing number. Holding white canes, each of the actors listens to Meyer.

One is a high-school freshman with a crew cut, wearing glasses and a trench coat. To his left, a man of about thirty dons a debonair three-piece gray suit decorated with a blood red tie. At center stage, a middle-aged man, dressed simply in black pants and a white, button-down dress shirt. To his left, a middle-aged man with a mustache, wearing a bow tie. On the far end, a high-school senior, wearing a fedora, holsters his gun.

A chorus of nearly a dozen women — high schoolers and veteran Players — stands behind the men, peaking around and between them to get a better look at their director.

The number starts, and the actors kick up their heels and sing to the accompaniment of a snare and a piano.

Give my regards to Broadway,
remember me to Herald Square,

Tell all the gang at 42nd Street,
that I will soon be there;

Whisper of how I’m yearning to
mingle with the old time throng;

Give my regards to old Broadway
and say that I’ll be there ere long.

The number ends.

"OK, OK. Thunderous applause, lights will come up, we will bow, you will curtsy," Meyer says.

He instructs a young actress how to place her feet when performing a curtsy.

"Right behind left," he tells her.

Ready to begin from the top, Meyer tells the actors to head backstage.

The lights go down, and then they come back up.

The show begins.

Comedy of errors

Set in a ramshackle, broken-down off-Broadway theater, Give My Regards to Broadway, tells the tale of the once-famous, successful director, Dick Foster, played with poise by Frank Meredith.

As the date of his play draws closer, and his pocketbook grows lighter, Foster’s theater is visited by a host of outsiders — a gangster hit man seeking vengeance, a bookie whose limousine has been riddled with bullets, a Virginian niece of a chorus girl, an aspiring actress, a pretentious Broadway star, and a Harvard man who sets the stage for a surprise ending.

With little or no money to his name and no foreseeable overnight wealth and stardom, Foster has a play, but he doesn’t have a lead actress. Meredith, an accomplished musician and novelist, playing the distressed director, throws up his hands in defeat as ever-mounting chaos surrounds him. The audience can’t help but sympathize.

Though he lacks the star of his show, Foster has faith that Mona Monroe, played by Penny Shaw, a star he helped create, will be understanding and agree to play the part, thus returning the theater to respectability and financial stability once more.

His situation is dire.

The heat in his theater building has been turned off because of unpaid bills. The actors who remain with the company earn little money, and are literally freezing and starving.

"I can’t afford to eat out," a chorus girl says matter-of-factly.

The chorus girls wear gloves, stocking hats, ear muffs, and winter coats to combat the theater’s cold temperatures.

"When we’re rich and famous, you’ll laugh about this," an optimistic chorus girl says.

Even Foster’s long-time sidekick, pianist Eddie Cowles, played by John Drahzal, doesn’t think they’ll ever see their way out of their predicament. Cowles, also feeling the drop in temperature, has been reduced to wearing gloves as he plays.

Enter Mary Collins, an aspiring actress, played by Ann P. Henry. She comes to Broadway from New Rochelle, "only 45 minutes from Broadway." Henry, in her first production with the Hilltown troupe, plays her character with a sweet innocence, casting a disappointed gaze downward upon hearing things that don’t comply with all she’s dreamed of.

Mary tells Foster her theater accomplishments and credits.

"You’re not very impressed," a disappointed Mary says after observing the stoic Foster.

Foster tells her Broadway is nothing but a place for broken dreams.

"You’re destined to be disappointed," Foster says. "Don’t take it personally, but, if you’re going to make it, it’s gotta be on Broadway."

Mary, undeterred by Foster’s remarks and determined to make an impression, sings for him.

"Only 45 minutes from Broadway, think of the changes it brings; for the short time it takes, what a difference it makes in the ways of the people and things," she sings.

Foster, strapped for cash and unwilling to take a chance on a newcomer, tells her, "You’ve got a great voice, but I just finished casting."

Their meeting ends and, Legs Ruby, played by Chad Newell with a thick Long Island accent, enters and looks around the theater skeptically.

Legs, a befuddled bookie running from the mob, is accompanied by Trixie, played with toughness by Holly Wilkie, his outspoken friend who works as a chorus girl at the theater.

Legs’s limousine is riddled with bullet holes.

"They don’t make bullet-proof cars the way they used to," he says.

Legs, though caught up in the criminal underworld, considers himself an "honest" bookie. He believes whole-heartedly in the opportunities of the U.S.A.

"My parents were immigrants. They came here without a penny," he says. In his persuasive salute to his adherence to innocence and purity, Legs sings, "I’m a Yankee Doodle Boy."

Trixie suggests Legs hide out at her place. Legs thinks on it briefly, but, feeling at home at the theater, tells her, "I’ll hang out here a coupla days. Nobody’ll look for me here."

Shortly after Legs has made the theater his home, mob hit man, Mugsy, played by Drew Swint, shows up, looking for him. Mugsy, dressed in gangster clothing, is joined by his clingy moll, Babs, played by Natalie Drahzal.

Mugsy says he’s looking for Legs, and says, "If you see him, tell him I want to give him a new overcoat — a cement overcoat."

Foster’s theater is later visited by Mona Monroe, an extravagantly-dressed, vain Broadway star. Foster tells her that he needs $100,000 for his play and that he needs her talents on his stage.

Mona refuses. Shaw plays the Broadway star with an air of pomposity and pretentiousness — petting Foster’s lapels, and looking about the stage as though she finds all she sees much too simple and repugnant.

"I’ve been offered another part in another play"I have a responsibility to my adoring fans," Mona says.

Just when things can’t possibly get more chaotic, the overwhelmed Foster is thrown yet another surprise when the Harvard man, played by Scott Rue, toting a briefcase, shows up at the theater and delivers the last thing Foster had been expecting — a check written by an anonymous person for $100,000.


Give My Regards to Broadway is being performed this weekend at the Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School auditorium.
Show times are on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for senior citizens and students, and $5 for children 12 and under.

Hilltown Boy Scouts
Six members of local troop earn their wings

By Tyler Schuling

HILLTOWNS — I can spend hours surfing the Internet. I can wait until tomorrow to do my homework. Maybe I won’t even do it. I can sleep in this weekend. I don’t need to exercise. I’m already in good enough shape.

An easy philosophy to live by — one that doesn’t apply to Troop 79.

Ever mindful of maintaining a state of alertness and remaining prepared, the troop members are committed to acts of self-improvement, and they abide by the Scout Law, the Scout Slogan, The Scout Motto, and the Scout Oath.

This past year, the troop has been putting its skills and principles to work.

Six of the troop’s 32 Scouts achieved the rank of Eagle Scout — the sixth and highest rank of the Boy Scouts of America.

Only about 3 percent of all Boy Scouts reach the rank of Eagle. Some Eagle Scouts of note are: filmmakers Steven Spielberg and Michael Moore; astronauts Neil Armstrong and James Lovell; 38th President of the United States, Gerald Ford; and Wal-Mart founder, Sam Walton.

The six Hilltown Eagle Scouts who recently reached the rank — Andrew Cortese, Justin Lewis, Jason Norray, Evan Place, Kevin Sherman, and Ian Smith — spent years learning and perfecting many skills. Some got an early start by joining the Cub Scouts.

Beginning the program as Tenderfoot Scouts, the first rank of the BSA’s six-rank program, the Scouts received merit badges once they’d mastered outdoor and civic skills — swimming, safety, first aid, camping, climbing, fire safety, communication, family life, and many others.

To reach the Eagle Scout rank, the six Scouts were required to demonstrate their leadership skills by completing a Leadership Service Project — a project helpful to a religious institution, school, or the community.

Each of the Scouts planned his project, received approval from town or school officials, and oversaw every aspect of the project from its inception to its completion.

Family members, fellow Scouts, and troop leaders helped each of the Scouts.

Cortese built a covered outdoor grill at the Berne town park. At 15, Cortese is the youngest of the Eagles. He plans to join the Army as a member of the Military Police. After serving, Cortese wants to become a New York State Trooper.

Lewis also chose the park as the site of his project and recreated the massive wooden World War II Honor Roll Memorial. He spent about a week building the sign with his father and a couple of friends, he said. He received financing for screws and paint from Berne. The wood, he said, was donated by Stempel Sawmill.

"I want to start my own business," Lewis said of his future plans. "Something architectural — designing houses or landscaping."

Norray constructed the Town of Knox Park sign. Place built media shelves at the Berne Library. Smith built a footbridge at the Berne-Knox-Westerlo track complex.

Sherman restored the Quay Road Cemetery in Knox.

"The cemetery is old," he said. "Some of the headstones dated back to the late 1700’s and the early 1800’s."

The cemetary, he added, hadn’t had any upkeep in years. Its walls had collapsed, some headstones had fallen over, and the grass and brush were overgrown.

Though involved in sports and attending school, time management, Sherman said, was never an issue. Though he missed meetings periodically, Sherman said, he always stayed in touch with the troop.

A bit uncertain about his future since surviving a car accident in March, Sherman plans on enlisting in the Navy or becoming a full-time firefighter.

Community reacts

"These guys just did some amazing work," Berne Supervisor Kevin Crosier said. He added, "The skill and professionalism was just amazing. I wish more people could learn from these guys." Crosier added that each of the four Eagle Scouts in Berne presented his idea for a service project to the Berne Town Board.

"It’s hard to stand up in front of a large group of people, but these guys were very professional," he said.

"It’s a good culmination to the scouting process as they enter into the real world," Knox Supervisor Michael Hammond said of the service projects.

"Kevin was involved in cleaning up the brush, and fixing the headstones at the cemetery, and he did a very good job making it look presentable," Hammond said of Place. He went on about Narray’s park sign. "With Jason’s project, we paid for the materials, and, when he gave his presentation, we thought it was a very good idea."

Crosier and Hammond, along with members of the town boards, signed certificates of recognition for the Scouts after they completed their projects and achieved the Eagle Scout rank.

"They need to be identified," Crosier said.

District Director Dennis Dugan of the Twin Rivers Council in Albany, said of the troop, "They have pretty much had an Eagle Scout every year." Dugan added, "It’s very rare to have six in one year. That’s one dedicated group of parents and boys."

Reverend Robert Hoffman, a former scoutmaster of the troop, said that Troop 79 had as many Eagle Scouts in a short period about five years ago.

"That was really cool," Hoffman said of the 2001-2002 troop, which included his twin sons, who are both Eagle Scouts. "Those guys started out as seven-year-olds and went through 11 years together," he said.

Will power

"With the 32 members in their troop, and six Eagle Scouts, they’re at about 20 percent," Dugan said, comparing it to the national average of 3 percent. He added that one of the troop’s strengths is recruitment.

"Keeping the interest of the boys, and keeping them on the path to Eagle Scout is difficult," he said. Dugan explained, "At that age, you’ve got cars, and girls, and sports." Staying with the program, he said, is a testament to the Scout’s own willpower and to the parents. "After the age of 16, most take on other interests," Dugan said.

"They stick with it because of community," scoutmaster George Reynolds said. Reynolds added that the parent involvement in Troop 79 differs from his past experience. Reynolds, the troop’s scoutmaster for the past two years, grew up in the city, and said that, when he was in scouting, the Boy Scouts of America "was kind of like a baby-sitter." Parents, he said, would just drop boys off. Reynolds said that the parental and family involvement and the turnout at Troop 79’s camping events have been outstanding.

Since February, however, the troop has experienced a drastic drop in enrollment. The troop, which had 32 Scouts in February, he said, now has only 12. Reynolds attributed the reduction to graduated Scouts and a lack of interest. Scouts are no longer in the program after they turn 18. "As they get older, they don’t feel we can hold their interest anymore," Reynolds said.

"Eagle Scouts," he said, "have goals. They work together — as a group, as a team — and help out the younger Scouts. Scouting’s main goal," Reynolds said, "is to teach responsibility and leadership."

"There are a whole lot of benefits to being an Eagle Scout," said Kathy Sherman, who has been a Girl Scout leader for seven years. Her son, Kevin, is not the first in the family to reach the rank of Eagle.

"His father, Dan, and his uncle, David, are both Eagle Scouts. His grandfather, Dana, was a scoutmaster," she said. Kevin Sherman’s aunt, she added, earned a Gold Award — the highest rank in the Girl Scouts of America, comparable to Eagle Scout.

"Kevin is looking at going into the Navy as a Navy Seal, and, since he is an Eagle Scout, his pay would jump right away from an E-1, the lowest pay grade, to an E-3," she said. "It looks pretty on a résumé," she said of the rank of Eagle Scout. "Those two words mean a lot."

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