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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 31, 2007

Claims humane act
Brannigan pleads guilty to cruelty

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — After serving 60 days in jail, William Brannigan accepted a plea bargin Friday in town court.

Brannigan, 61, was arrested in late March on a felony charge for stabbing his 18-year-old pet cat with a pocket knife.

But Brannigan told The Enterprise that he only wanted to prevent the cat’s suffering after it collapsed and he did not want to bury it alive.

He pleaded guilty to one count of attempted aggravated cruelty to animals, a misdemeanor, and will serve three years of probation. He must forfeit all pets in his household and is not allowed to own any animals while on probation.

His cat, named Elvis, was stabbed four times with a knife because "he believed the animal was dead," said Heather Orth, spokeswoman for the Albany County District Attorney’s Office.

Brannigan recalled, with a hoarse and tired voice, the events of last March.

"The cat collapsed and I picked her up," he said. "I waited more than 20 minutes before I did it," he said of the stabbed cat, "because I didn’t want to put it outside in the cold while it was still alive"And now, I’m suffering for it."

Brannigan is now subject to animal control "spot checks" at his home to ensure he is abiding by the agreement.

Brannigan was also sentenced to pay restitution of $131.52 to the veterinarian who performed the cat’s autopsy. The 60 days he spent in Albany County’s jail following the arrest will be used as time-served, said Orth.

Guilderland Police arrested Brannigan on March 25 at his 6116 Johnston Rd. home after they received a complaint, according to his arrest report. Police say he was arrested two days after "the incident" occurred.

Orth told The Enterprise this week that Brannigan placed the cat inside of a bag and buried it in the snow behind his house. The cat was later found, she continued, and taken in for an autopsy, which revealed that the cat was still alive when it was stabbed.

"I haven’t felt good about it since it happened. Me and my mother were going to have it put to sleep, but she had heart trouble and had to go to the hospital," Brannigan said. A few days later, the cat collapsed, he said.

"I did it as humane as possible and I stabbed it so it wouldn’t suffer," Brannigan told The Enterprise yesterday. "My niece turned me in"She was angry with me, she didn’t understand."

This particular case did not fall under Buster’s Law, Orth said.

Buster’s Law was named after an 18-month-old tabby cat named Buster that was doused with kerosene and burned to death by Schenectady teenagers in 1997. The bill was signed by Governor George Pataki and after being passed by the majority of the state’s legislature in order to "further prevent egregious animal abuse against defenseless animals," according to the legislation.

"This is what the local judge saw fit for the crime," Orth said of Brannigan’s sentence.

Brannigan pleaded guilty in front of Guilderland Judge John W. Bailey. Molly Magguilli prosecuted the case. Brannigan is scheduled for sentencing on July 19.

Orth said that the veterinarian determined through the autopsy that Brannigan’s cat was stabbed prior to its death.

"The veterinarian said that it drowned in its own blood," Brannigan said. "I wasn’t going to go against the vet and face three years in jail"I’m almost 62 years old."

Brannigan is described in the arrest report as a white, 5 foot, 7 inch man, who is divorced and weighs 190 pounds and his occupation is listed as "disabled." The arresting officer, Thomas Funk, is on vacation this week and could not be reached for comment.


One local Guilderland veterinarian, Dr. Edward Becker, said that he charges $37 for feline euthanasia.

"We always put an IV catheter in the animal"so they don’t even feel a needle prick," Becker told The Enterprise. "The animal does not feel anything."

Becker explained euthanasia is "basically an overdose of anesthetic," and that it is a "peaceful and humane procedure."

"It’s common to use the example of when people are put under anesthesia and you quickly drift off to sleep by the count of four"but this is really concentrated," said Becker. "While they are under anesthesia, they fall asleep and then their hearts stop," he said of the cats.

But, Becker added, "What I just described can only be provided by a veterinarian."

Becker said he was unsure of the legalities surrounding farmers or pet owners who decide to destroy their animals without the aid of veterinarian.

"I’d like to believe the days of bringing a dog behind the shed and using a rifle are over," Becker said. "But I don’t know if there is a law that would prevent that"It certainly wouldn’t be ethical."


Guilderland’s local animal control officers are responsible for enforcing Brannigan’s ban against having pets.

"Animal control would have the ability to do spot checks whenever they deem necessary," Orth told The Enterprise. "Brannigan has already served a significant amount of jail time for his crime and the DA’s office is pleased with the outcome of this case," she said of Albany County District Attorney David Soares’s office.

Soares’s office issued a press release on the case in which Soares is quoted as saying, "It is an outrage that an innocent animal was forced to endure a terrible attack with no ability to defend itself against an adult man who should have known better"I am very pleased that this man served significant time in jail for his crime and more importantly, his sentence ensures he will be closely monitored and will no longer have the ability to victimize another animal."

Richard Savage, the director of animal services for the town of Guilderland, told The Enterprise that he has not yet been notified by the courts, but that he will comply with any requests to enforce Brannigan’s sentence.

"Sometimes it takes a little while for the court papers to go through with everything," Savage said. "We’ll do spot checks if the courts request it."

Savage said he didn’t remember a particular situation like this before, but that, in the past, people were not allowed to have dogs at their homes and animal control officers would check up on them. Most of those people have since moved out of the area, Savage added.

Zoning requirements in Guilderland allow only three dogs per household unless the owner obtains a kennel permit.

Concerns raised about 20% who don’t pass
Reading scores rise at GCSD and statewide

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — While state education officials last Tuesday lauded the improved test results in middle-school English, some Guilderland school board members expressed concern over the fifth of students who aren’t passing the test.

Reading instruction has been a contentious issue at Guilderland over the last few years as a parents’ group has pushed for changes in curriculum. Reading instruction was one of the divisive issues in a hotly contested school board election this month at Guilderland.

Statewide, the percentage of eighth-graders passing the English test increased eight percentage points to 57 percent. Middle-school scores typically dip after elementary school and then come back up in high school.

Tests for middle- and elementary-school students are graded at four performance levels. Students at the top level, 4, exceeded standards; students at the next level, 3, met standards; students at Level 2 need extra help; and students at Level 1 are deemed to have "serious academic deficiencies."

Guilderland’s scores for English showed 79 percent of eighth-graders passing — that is, scoring at level 3 or 4 — the state-required test.

The scores statewide were "embargoed" until Tuesday said Nancy Andress, Guilderland’s assistant superintendent for instruction, when they were announced at a press conference. She presented the results to the Guilderland School Board last Tuesday night as part of the inch-thick school report card, which is available through a link at the district website (http://www.guilderlandschools.org/) or listed with data at the state’s website (http://www.nystart.gov/publicweb). Printed copies are also available at each of Guilderland’s schools and at the district office.

The data released last week was based on tests taken in 2007. The year before, 67 percent of eighth-graders at Farnsworth Middle School passed the test.

Figuring students in all grades, third through eighth, who took the test at Guilderland, the percentage of those passing the English tests went from 79 percent to 81 percent.

"The district had a two percentage-point improvement from 2006," noted Mary Helen Collen, the district’s data coordinator, even with two changes.

This year, only students who lived in the country less than one year were excluded from taking the test. In 2006, more students who speak English as a second language were allowed to take another test instead. Guilderland has 95 students, or 2 percent, who are English-language learners.

Secondly, 2007 marked a change in testing for special-education students. The state’s classification rate shows 12.36 percent of all students living in the Guilderland district, including those in private schools and those being home-schooled as well as those in the public schools, have disabilities, nearly the same as the statewide public school district total.

Previously, 1 percent could take an off-level test. Collen told The Enterprise, for example, that last year she had seventh-grade special-education students who were allowed to take the fifth-grade test.

The test scores of the special-education students are averaged together with the general-education students’ for the district’s tally.

For example, in sixth grade for the Guilderland district, where 81 percent of all students passed the English test, 91 percent of general education students passed the test, but only 24 percent of students with disabilities passed the test.

"This is one of our challenges," said Andress. She had listed eight challenges for the district in her report. One of them is to continue to provide academic intervention services to assist students who do not meet the state standard. "We continue to work on early intervention in reading," said Andress.

Another is to support students with disabilities to enable them to attain adequate yearly progress in English and math.

Andress presented charts for the board, comparing Guilderland’s test results with those of other Suburban Council schools. In all cases, Guilderland’s performance was equal to or better than the other Suburban Council districts and well above the state averages.

Collen said that the state’s formula for comparable schools, on which the report card data is based, does not place all seven of the district’s schools in the same group. The designation is based on such factors as income, special-education students, and English-language learners.

"The Suburban Council is who we work with and are compared with in the newspaper," said Andress. The major factor in the state’s list, she said "seems to be property value."

"Crack this"

Board member Hy Dubowsky requested that the data be analyzed to "tease out the variables."

Referring to the 20 percent of students who score at levels 1 or 2 for the reading test, Dubowsky said, "That 20 percent...seems to follow all of us in the suburban school districts."

He said he’d like the district to "take a look at a couple of years of data" and think about what is causing the failures. He suggested, for example, seeing if it correlated with students who live in single-parent households or those receiving free or reduced-price lunches.

Students from families with low incomes are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches. Last year, Guilderland had 196 students, or 4 percent, eligible for free lunches and 119, or 2 percent, eligible for reduced-price lunches.

One of the challenges listed by Andress is to "study needs of student subgroups, especially low social-economic and diverse students."

Dubowsky said the district needs "something to crack this." Referring to the number of students failing the English test, he said, "It scares me."

Andress had started her information with the results of the Regents exams, which high-school students must pass in order to graduate. Last year, 94 percent of Guilderland graduates, or 407 students, earned Regents diplomas; 63 percent earned an advanced designation. The total number of graduates for both January and June was 432.

Sixty-nine percent went on to four-year colleges and 24 percent went to two-year colleges. The rest went into the military, got jobs, pursued other education or hadn’t made plans.

Last year, 94 percent of the Guilderland seniors passed their English Regents exam, scoring 65 or higher, and 64 percent were deemed "advanced," meaning they had scores of 85 to 100 percent on the test.

Dubowsky said a grade of 65 percent for students heading "into the college environment is not where we want to be."

"This is one test," said Andress, who often characterizes standardized exams as a "snapshot" of a student’s performance.

She began the presentation of this year’s report card, saying, "It isn’t the entire picture of a student’s progress." She went on to itemize other values she often emphasizes such as love of learning, performance skills, and habits of mind and character that lead to successful living in a democracy and are not represented in the report card.

Board member Peter Golden asked what explained the 12 percent jump in the English test in eighth grade.

"For one thing, it’s a different group of children than the year before," said Andress. She also said that "a fair amount of focus" was put on test-taking strategies.

Referring to the traditional middle-school dip in scores, compared to elementary and high-school scores, board member Colleen O’Connell asked, "If New York State, the Suburban Council, and Guilderland all take a dip, why doesn’t someone think it’s the test""

"Always the important thing to look at is the exit grade, the high-school grade," said Andress.

"I was disappointed in the state for putting so much effort into developing data and so little effort into telling us what the data means," said school board President Richard Weisz.

"Has the state come up with any guidance to school districts and taxpayers"" he asked of evaluating the test results. "This is our report card. What is our grade""

"A-plus," responded Andress with a smile. She then went on, "You have to be careful. Florida is grading schools and it gets into socio-economics."

Weisz said that the report card does not make it clear if the district has good material to start with and is doing great or it has good material to start with and is not doing well.

"What does this tell the taxpayers"" he asked. "Where do we need to spend money""

Superintendent Gregory Aidala said, "We look at the data for individual student performance to see what an individual child needs to succeed....making sure every student has an opportunity to improve...That’s something the test data are showing us."

GCSD hires Nooney as buildings and grounds super

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The new superintendent of buildings and grounds for the Guilderland School District grew up working on a farm.

"Growing up on a farm, you were always tinkering with something, getting it to work," said Clifford Nooney. "I wanted to start on a trade when I worked, use my hands. That’s what I know how to do."

Nooney has worked his way up from hands-on electrical work to being an area maintenance leader at Owens-Corning.

He’ll start his new job for the school district in June and earn $75,000 annually.

The school board appointed him after an executive session last Tuesday.

There were 57 applicants for the job, more than double the number who applied to fill the superintendent of schools position, which will open in the fall when the current superintendent retires.

"He has strong supervisory skills," said Neil Sanders, assistant superintendent for business, who was on the committee that selected Nooney for the post. "He currently supervises 21 employees. He’s used to a union environment."

Sanders went on to tell The Enterprise that Nooney is "open." Sanders elaborated, "He accepts input from employees. He has a good disposition and has construction knowledge."

Nooney replaces Ward Humphrey who was put on administrative leave in December after being hired as superintendent of buildings and grounds in 1991. Neither Humphrey nor the school district would say what the charges were. The Enterprise obtained a copy of the settlement agreement through a Freedom of Information Law request.

The agreement says that the superintendent of schools had advised Humphrey that he "is considering preferring disciplinary charges" against him and that Humphrey denied any charges and said they could be "vigorously defended" so Humphrey and the school district "mutually agreed to resolve the matter without the need for a hearing or any other litigation."

The school board unanimously accepted Humphrey’s resignation on Feb. 6. Humphrey’s salary for the 2006-07 school year was $73,111.

"I will listen"

Nooney, who grew up in Feura Bush, lives there still — with his wife, Julie, the assessor for the town of New Scotland. They have two children — Matthew, 12, and Rachel, 10. The family’s house is next to the Feura Bush town park.

After graduating from high school at Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk, Nooney went to Hudson Valley Community College, where he earned an associate’s degree in electrical construction and maintenance.

After that, he said, "I worked on the industrial end."

He’s been at Owens-Corning for the last 12 years. The Delmar business, which makes insulation, employs 350 people.

He had 20 workers reporting directly to him at Owens-Corning, said Nooney. He described his job as "mainly running electrical operations and a portion mechanical."

In his new job at Guilderland, Nooney will be overseeing a staff of 60 to 70, he said, with three key direct supervisors. Nooney is looking forward to the challenge.

"I have a good personality for it," he said. "I listen to people. I listen to what they have to say. I value people’s opinions. The people who do the work can make or break any organization."

Asked about his goals for the new job, Nooney said, "My first priority is to get to know the people."

Nooney has served on the RCS School Board for four years — he was elected for a three-year term and then appointed for an additional year. He’ll be retiring from the board on June 30.

Nooney ran for the school board of his alma mater, he said, because "I have two children in the school district." He went on, "That was my vested interest for running. I had no agenda."

Nooney chaired the RCS building and grounds committee for three years. Serving on the school board, he said, gave him "a unique perspective on operations."

Nooney said he got to see the different negotiations from the management side of the table.

He went on, "I can speak school-board language and budgets. I know the issues schools face and how the State Education Department works."

About his long-term plans, Nooney said, "I hope to be at Guilderland awhile. I did 12 years at Owens-Corning. I don’t jump around."

Asked if it would be difficult to follow Humphrey and his unexplained departure, Nooney said, "I don’t think so...I will form my own opinions. I will listen to people and what they have to say and what their concerns are."

He concluded, "I plan to meet people. There’s a lot of ground to cover. I’m not going into the job with any pre-formed notions."

Despite neighbors’ complaints
Conceptual approval given for 6 lots on Church Road

By Jo E. Prout

GUILDERLAND — After hearing neighbors’ complaints, the planning board last week approved an initial proposal to subdivide more than seven acres on Church Road.

The board’s chairman said that, if the proposal moves forward, the construction would offer an opportunity to fix the problems currently at the site.

Engineer Skip Francis, of CT Male, told the board that owner Drew Cathell proposed six housing lots on 7.6 acres. One lot has an existing home. Francis said that the project would require one curb cut to Church Road, with a new cul- de-sac accessing Church Road from the subdivision.

Francis suggested placing a storm basin between lots five and six on the plan and installing a dedicated maintenance agreement.

"That’s not going to happen," said town planner Jan Weston. The board said that it was concerned about town access and the inclination of residents to plant within the easement.

Francis said that the basin would have only grass and no pond.

Francis will "utilize the existing topography as much as possible," he said. "At this time, we don’t foresee any changes to the existing tree line."

Church Road resident David Lawler lives across the street from Cathell’s property, which Lawler said has been under construction for two years. That construction, Lawler said, caused erosion and flooding problems at his own home.

"Think of the negative impact on my family," Lawler said. He asked the board to move the proposed driveway 10 feet "so headlights are not directly in my living room."

Neighbor Richard Satalino also complained about the construction on Cathell’s property. Saying that dirt blows from the property in summer and that ice runs off the property in winter, Satalino added, "I can’t even sit out on my patio and eat. There’s got to be an end to it."

Satalino said that the problems already caused by construction should be fixed before new construction begins.

"They can come down and put up plastic fences," planning board Chairman Stephen Feeney said. He said that the ground can also be seeded. "There can be no water coming off the site," or no more than is already there, Feeney said. "The site would have to be stabilized before they build."

Feeney said that, if material is coming off the site, Cathell could be in violation of town or state regulations, and that he may be subject to "significant fines." The board suggested that neighbors contact Ed Zyniecki in the town’s building department.

Other nearby residents asked the board alternately to have Cathell preserve the tree line, and remove dead trees that could fall on their homes.

"This is very humbling," Cathell said before he addressed the board and his neighbors. "Our desire in the design is to not do any clearing at the rear of your home," Cathell said to one neighbor.

"We did a terrible job last spring," he said. He cleared out a sand bowl just before a large spring storm. Now, he said, no driveways are affected by water from his property. Lot Six is the only lot proposed to have substantial clearing, he said.

Reminding the audience that the proposal was only seeking conceptual approval, board member Michael Cleary suggested that Cathell bring back to the board a plan showing the neighboring houses and driveways across the street to see how the plan will affect the area.

A public hearing will be held after more engineering is done on the project.

Other business

In other business, the planning board:

— Approved the site plan to allow a kennel at 200 Foster Lane. Rebecca Reed said that her seven-acre property is heavily wooded, and that she breeds Great Danes. She does not board other animals, she said.

A neighbor sent a zoning officer to her home about her son’s car and parts collection, Reed said, and the officer noticed her dogs. He told her that a special-use permit is needed for more than three dogs, she said.

Reed has nine Great Danes. She had not sought official sanction before now because she is in a district zoned for agriculture, she said. She uses a fenced run and her dogs go in her home.

"I don’t let them run at random," she said. "They can’t jump over a six-foot fence. I don‘t want to keep any more, but I would like to have a litter";

— Approved Monte Bernard’s request to house a bicycle repair shop on Carman Road. The shop is in a former service garage.

"It’s been there forever," Cleary said;

— Approved Richard Ewing’s proposal to cut 61 acres on Old State Road into two lots, with a three-acre parcel housing the existing home.

Feeney said that the board needs to see the locations of the well and the percolation tests on the final map Ewing will submit.

Weston said that the proposed driveway is so long that it must be designed and built to withstand an emergency vehicle.

Brothers re-open Subway and say it’s sublime

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — Make way for the new Subway.

The new owners of the Subway in Cosmos Plaza at 1800 Western Ave. say it is a completely different restaurant.

After a total renovation, Howard Solmon and Michael Giuliano have re-opened the Western Avenue shop with a promise to their customers that it will be better than ever.

The focus of the shop for he and his brother, Solomon said, will be customer service and satisfaction.

Solomon co-owns the Subway shop with his brother Michael Giuliano who has been in the business for more than 12 years. This is Solomon’s first run at a franchise. Having only been in the business for three months, he says he doesn’t plan on stopping there.

"We’re definitely looking to expand in the future, that’s the goal," he said.

Solomon said his brother was tired of successfully managing stores and turning over the profits for other people, so he approached him about co-owning a store.

"I brought the idea to him," Solomon said, "and now here we are."

Solomon lives in North Greenbush and Giuliano lives in Guilderland Center.

Their store is clean and new and ready to start sending out freshly-made subs to its hungry customers, said Solomon.

"I love the location; it’s really a great spot for business," added Solomon about the store’s Westmere address. "It’s really clean"Even if people tap on the glass outside, Michael’s out there cleaning the window right after they leave."

The store will be offering breakfast items by fall, said Solomon, and catering and delivery are also available. Current menu items — mostly sandwiches and wraps but also soups and desserts — range in price from $1.99 to $3.49 for a six-inch sub.

There are also kids menus with sandwiches for $1.49 and dessert options such as sliced apples.

The shop is open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

"You can’t do that at McDonald’s or Burger King," Solomon said about his store’s choice of ingredients and options of service.

A grand opening is slated for Wednesday, June 6, where prizes, platters, and "all the works" will be ready. Solomon said buy-one-get-one specials will be available all day long, and, between 5 and 7 p.m., the PYX 106 classic rock radio station will be at the store, broadcasting live.

Solomon is encouraging everyone who has not been to his Subway in a while to come over and check out the new layout, adding that people won’t be disappointed.

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