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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, August 23, 2007

Knoxers stonewalled over part of Whipple Road

By Tyler Schuling

KNOX — Nobody knows who owns an unpaved 360-foot section of Whipple Road — not the town’s lawyer, not the town’s highway superintendent, not the town’s assessor. Residents are petitioning the town to take ownership of the road "in whole."

"We’re not asking that it be paved or plowed," said petitioner Janet Viscio, who lives on Whipple Road. "You can keep it seasonal, like Carrick, which is a town road," Viscio said, adding that individuals shouldn’t be allowed to block the road.

Viscio said Carrick Road via Whipple is the only way out for 31 homes if the road floods at Whipple’s base.

At its eastern end, where the paving of the road stops and town snowplows turn around, petitioners say, they have enjoyed accessing state land for years. The 360 feet of unpaved roadway intersects Carrick Road, which has a small parking lot for access to state land.

The Whipple Road access was blocked by a chain in 2000. Charles Tanner Jr., who owns an acreage nearby said last week he "was involved with the chain" and he installed a rock wall. A portion of the wall has been removed.

"I didn’t do it to impede my neighbors’ use of the property," said Tanner last week.

"Without the wall there, everybody has access," said Tanner. Tanner cited a number of incidents near and on his property. People are "doing whatever they want to do," he said. Jeeps and four-wheelers have sped by at 2 a.m., and people have partied, dumped garbage, and shot a .22 caliber rifle, he said. Tanner called the road "a racetrack."

Residents of Knox and elsewhere use the road for jogging, bike-riding, cross-country skiing, and hiking, say petitioners.

Signs litter the end of Whipple road.

A stop sign as well as two other signs — "State Land Ahead" and "No Motorized Vehicles" — were erected near the rock wall. A "No Parking" sign and a sign that says "Please drive slow: Children and animals at play" are not far away.

The town’s taking over the remaining portion — a 360-foot stretch between the ends of Whipple and Carrick roads — would prevent private ownership of the road and enable residents continued access, petitioners say. The petition was signed by 59 adults and 10 children.

"We’ve never maintained the property in question," Knox’s highway superintendent, Gary Salisbury, told The Enterprise.

Tanner told the board he was given Salisbury’s "verbal permission" to erect the stonewall at Whipple’s end.

"I didn’t say, ‘Chuck, put a stone wall across that road’"The conversation was: It’s not a town road to my knowledge," said Salisbury at the meeting’s end.

Residents’ concerns

Located in a forested residential zone of Knox, Whipple Road was recently chip-sealed. The paved portion of the road is maintained by the town’s highway department.

Tanner and his neighbor Matt Chase said they have been concerned for their grandchildren’s and children’s safety because of speeding automobiles and recreational vehicles.

"Last year, kids got arrested for underage drinking," Tanner said.

Chase said he moved to his property with two young children, with plans for a third. He said a vehicle has traveled by his house at a minimum speed of 45 miles per hour. Since the rock wall was erected, four-wheeler, truck, and ATV traffic "has come almost to a halt," and he feels safer, said Chase. He said he’d like to know how his taxes would be affected should the town take over the road.

"I’m perfectly willing to talk to anyone who wants to talk to me about a solution," said Chase.

"I empathize with him, and I agree with him because the same cars that go by his house go by my house, and I have four kids," said Janet Viscio. "But I think our issue is separate from his, and our petition stands."

No one knows who owns Whipple Road, she said, or whether it can be paved or how much of the road can be paved.

"There’s just so many questions regarding that road," she said, adding that it is in the best interest of her neighborhood for the town to take over the whole road.

"Could the town pave it" Is that an option"" Viscio asked.

"In theory, that’s an option," replied John Dorfman, the attorney for the town. Dorfman said he needs to find out more information, and he will report next month on the current status of the ownership of the property.

"One cannot block a roadway," he said.

Dorfman also asked for Tanner’s and Chase’s phone numbers and said he would contact them in the next 30 days to discuss possible resolutions.

Supervisor Michael Hammond pointed to four-wheeler activity near his home on Route 156. He said two four-wheelers whisked by his house one day around 4 p.m., and could not stay in their lane and caused a motorist to go off the road.

"For you people who are living over on Whipple Road — to put up with that nonsense going back and forth — I will be there to support you, and I’m sure all the members of this board will be there to support you, to see that that stops," said Hammond. "Someone is going to get seriously hurt here."

Hammond implored residents to "curtail illegal four-wheel traffic" and recommended residents contact the Albany County Sheriff’s Department.

"They will immediately look into what’s going on," he said.

A resident recommended removing the rock wall and, should the town take over the road, replacing it with a gate, which would alleviate traffic concerns while still allowing public access.

"It’s amazing how wise gray hair can be," said Dorfman.

Other business

In other business, the town board:

— Authorized Salisbury to rent a roller for a price not to exceed $2,000 to complete work on Old Stage Road. Salisbury said he thought work could be finished in one week, and he would like to complete work on the road before winter. The town owns a roller, which is without brakes, Salisbury said. He called the town’s roller "a deathtrap";

— Heard from Hammond that the state legislature is renewing an article that would require a state permit for large-scale power plants and wind farms. Hammond read a letter from Association of Towns’ executive director Jeffrey Haber, which says, "The legislation currently under consideration by the Legislature will preempt local authority over the siting of wind-farms in favor of the ‘stream-lined’ state siting policy."

"The planning board has spent a year-and-a-half doing exactly what they want to take away from us," said Hammond. The required public hearings were held, Hammond said, and the planning board has done "the right thing for our community."

The board voted unanimously for Hammond to draft a resolution to government officials opposing the state siting authority. The town is using a resolution from the town of Somerset (Niagara County) as a template opposing the article.

The resolution says the Public Service Law "removes local control of our landscape and violates the principles of home rule that has been the guiding force of our state";

— Voted unanimously to reappoint Russell Pokorny, the town’s assessor, to a seven-year term. Pokorny’s term ends Sept. 30;

— Heard from Dorfman that he reviewed the General Municipal Law, and it would be better for the youth committee, rather than the town board, to sponsor a photography contested proposed by Cheryl Frantzen, who chairs the Conservation Advisory Council;

— Heard from Price that Enterprise Consulting Solutions, a Slingerlands-based company interested in erecting a cellular tower in Knox, has given the town "their version of a lease." The planning board met with Enterprise Consulting Solutions in June and discussed placing a cell tower on town property;

— Voted unanimously to have the planning board draft revisions to the town’s zoning ordinance regarding advertisement signs. Price called the issue "a little bit controversial" and said it "overturns a whole lot of things."

In July, Price said, the zoning board of appeals issued a special-use permit to an individual to erect a sign on Route 156. The sign is too big and the person who was issued the permit, he said, does not live at the property. The town’s zoning ordinance stipulates signs in residential and agricultural districts "shall not exceed 12 square feet in total face area" and "shall not exceed four feet in height."

Price said the zoning board took this to mean 12 square feet on each side. Price said a sign should not be greater than 6 square feet on each side. "The zoning board of appeals thinks differently," he said.

Officials discussed sign size and the appropriate language to be added in the zoning ordinance. Price recommended adding the phrase "the sum of the areas of all displayed areas."

"I’d like to see more discussion on size," said Councilman Joseph Best. "I think 12 (feet) is pretty small."

Price said it was the planning board’s intent when it wrote the law in 1974 to keep signs small. He said he will change wording so that it will be "not subject to interpretation";

— Heard from Salisbury that he purchased a bulletin board for the transfer station; and

— Heard from Salisbury that a load of garbage containing furniture, light fixtures, and old papers was dumped on Old Stage Road. The dumped garbage filled the town’s one-ton dump truck, he said. Salisbury said he called the sheriff’s department and filled out a report. "How it ended up on Old Stage Road, nobody knows," he said.

Volunteers get tax break

By Tyler Schuling

ALBANY COUNTY — As fewer volunteer to fight fires and run ambulances, the Albany County legislature approved a resolution last week giving active volunteers an exemption on their county property taxes.

State legislation signed by Governor Eliot Spitzer on Aug. 1 allows enrolled members of volunteer fire departments and ambulance services in Albany County to have 10-percent knocked off their homes’ assessed values, multiplied by the latest state equalization rate. The savings from the exemption cannot exceed $3,000.

The local law will take effect on Jan. 1, 2008.

Alexander "Sandy" Gordon, a Democrat who represents the 39th District — the towns of Berne, Knox, and Rensselaerville — sponsored the law.

Albany County is about the 27th county in the state to take advantage of the exemption, said Gordon. He sees the tax exemption as an effort "to recognize the challenges volunteers meet." We’ve gotten "wonderful support from them," he said. With declining numbers in volunteer emergency services, it has been "hard to fill the ranks," Gordon said, and the exemption provides an incentive.

To receive an exemption, active volunteer firefighters and ambulance corps members are required to have served for five years. To remain eligible, they are required to accumulate 50 points each year. Points are granted for a number of activities: completing training sessions and drills, working at night, or attending official meetings or participating in single responses or on standby. Departments will be responsible for tracking the points.

Volunteers with more than 20 years of active service qualify for lifetime exemptions.

Gordon said that, by signing legislation, Spitzer was urging the state to make the exemptions universal. Gordon is going to track how many counties offer the exemption without the stipulations that have so far precluded certain counties from receiving the exemption.

Volunteers have, back to the time of bucket brigades, provided a strong line of protection for people and property, Gordon said.

Kemp speaks at Berne library on Death of a Dutch Uncle

By Tyler Schuling

BERNE — M.E. Kemp was raised in Massachusetts; her first American-born descendent was born in Salem around 1635, she said. Kemp wondered why there aren’t any major Puritan mysteries and set about writing one.

The characters from her latest book, Hetty Henry and Increase "Creasy" Cotton, she said, are cousins of Cotton Mather, the Puritan minister best known for his role in the Salem Witch Trials.

Mather, she said, was quite a modern person — "the first modern person" — prone to having nervous breakdowns, which was her excuse for creating her characters — Hetty and Creasy.

Kemp is spending the summer in Berne as the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Fuller. While in residence, she will speak at the Berne library to reading groups and book-club members.

This week, Kemp will speak twice at the library — tonight (Thursday) at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m. — about her book, Death of a Dutch Uncle, which she describes as "a rollicking tale of old Dutch Albany County as seen through the eyes of two nosy Puritans."

Kemp summarizes the plot this way: "When the Patroon’s licentious nephew drops dead on Boston Common, wealthy widow Hetty Henry and young minister Increase "Creasy" Cotton uncover land fraud, kidnapping, and piracy on the High Hudson before they uncork a poisoner."

Kemp was inspired by local history and by artifacts from area museums to write the novel, second in the series from Hilliard and Harris, publishers.

Her first novel, Murder, Mather, and Mayhem, was a Book Pick of the Week on Northeast Public Radio. Her short story, "Murder in the Marsh," won first prize in the New England Writers’ Network mystery contest in 2006.

"I like mysteries, and I love history," Kemp said. She had written non-fiction textbooks for Cornell and articles for magazines and she really wanted to write fiction. In her writing, she combines both mystery and history.

Kemp is a member of the new Hudson Valley chapter of Sisters in Crime, a national organization to support women mystery writers. Kemp’s short story, "Murder New York Style," will be coming out in an anthology in November.

For more information, visit mekemp.com, or contact Kemp at 872-2341 or kemp52roth@spa.net.

The gospel from to Alice
Dayter divines words from above

By Saranac Hale Spencer

BERNE — During President Bill Clinton’s sex scandal, Alice Dayter wrote him a poem.

"The truth is the truth," said Dayter, this week, summing up the poem.

The act itself didn’t offend her so much, and she voted for Clinton twice, but, she said, "He didn’t handle it the right way."

That was her first poem; she wrote it while working the night shift as a home health aid. "I have to stay awake," she said. "And the words would come to me."

Next came gospel music.

Raised as a Baptist in North Carolina, Dayter moved to Brooklyn at 14 and lost her religion along the way. In 1990, though, she moved to Albany and was born again.

Tina, as Dayter is known to her 12 siblings, joined two of her seven brothers in New York’s capital city. As a child, she was small, Dayter said, Teeny, in fact. Over the years, her nickname morphed from Teeny to Tina, she said, and it belonged to herself alone, unlike her given name — she was named after her mother.

Both of her parents sang when she was growing up, Dayter said, but she remembers her father, especially, finger picking his guitar on the front porch and singing with friends.

"I remember saying, ‘One day I’m going to sing like him,’" she said, adding, "Here I am, 50 years later."

Things came together for Dayter one day back in March, when she took her songs to the Holiday Inn for a seminar on getting music produced. There, she met Eddy Harris, and, by July, she had put together an album of her own gospel, with a handful of her 37 grandchildren singing the chorus.

Dayter’s voice doesn’t come from the surface, but from somewhere deep inside. When she lets it out, it stays low, like a coat of molasses — thick and rich. On her album, she’s put a rap track next to R&B and she includes more traditional gospel singing in an effort to reach the younger generations.

She and her husband, Jim, have 11 children between them, and 15 years of wedded bliss. They live in a cozy little trailer, the windows hung with lace, kept as neat as a pin, in Berne. When they first met, Mr. Dayter said, "She wouldn’t give me her number, so I gave her three of mine."

Now, the pair holds a street ministry downtown on the corner of Eagle Street and Morton Avenue, where Mr. Dayter preaches and Mrs. Dayter sings. She carries a CD with her when she performs, Dayter said; it provides the background for her songs.

"The seed is being planted," Dayter said of the spirituality her music is bringing to young people. "We’re gonna pray that God takes me and my songs to the top."

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