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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 30, 2007

Niko: One of Guilderland’s finest dies at age 9

By Jarrett Carroll

GUIILDERLAND — The town’s police department is mourning the loss of one of its own — Niko the German shepherd.

Shortly after being diagnosed with cancer, Niko died Monday morning at the Animal Hospital in Guilderland. He was 9.

Born on Oct. 10, 1997, Niko became a police canine in January of 1999 and was partnered with Guilderland Police Sergeant Donald Jones.

In July of that year, Niko received certification from the Southern Tier Police K9 Academy in tracking, searching buildings, apprehending criminals, searching for evidence, and detecting narcotics.

Niko was also certified in human remains recovery and was on standby to help in the recovery efforts following the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, according to Lieutenant Curtis Cox of the Guilderland Police.

"We’re all saddened by this loss," Cox told The Enterprise on Tuesday.

"Not only was Niko a police canine, he was a member of the department," Cox said. "We extend condolences to the handler, Sergeant Jones, and his family. He was a part of their family, too."

Niko was the Guilderland Police’s only active dog when he died and is the department’s second police dog. Previously, Guilderland Police had a rottweiler who died several years ago.

Police have not yet released any plans for a memorial or dedication service, but say the department is interested in continuing the police canine program in Guilderland.

However, it could take some time.

"We will be exploring that option," Cox said. "But you have to do a lot of background and pick the right dog. There’s also a lot of training involved"It’s not just picking a dog out of a kennel."

Partner and best friend

Jones proudly handled Niko — the two rode together and lived together. At the end of a long day, when the partners were done with their patrol, they went back to their Guilderland home together.

"He was my partner," said Jones, but added that Niko was more than just a co-worker.

"His death was sudden and unexpected"It’s like any loss of a member of the family, it’s hard," he said. "We were on call 24 hours a day"He even had his own car."

Cox described Niko as an officer.

"He was on-duty just like any other officer," Cox said. "When a dog is assigned to a handler, they are assigned to a fully-equipped patrol car with a kennel"They patrolled together, they were partners."

Jones volunteered to be Niko’s handler nearly nine years ago because, he said, of his "love for dogs" and his prior experience with the breed. He and his wife, Brenda, had a German shepherd before Niko entered their lives.

"We would go on trips with him"when he was off-duty," Jones said of Niko.

On the job

Niko was also the community’s dog.

Six years ago, a local Cub Scout troop raised enough money to buy Niko a bullet-proof vest, which was used when deemed necessary, according to Lieutenant Cox.

"He was a big hit with the kids. He looked at the kids and knew that it was his time to show off and play, and kind of be like a regular dog," Jones said. "He was always so excited when he was in a school. He would bark and let everyone know he was there."

When on the job, Niko let criminals know he was there, too.

Niko was described as being an integral part of many Guilderland Police operations aside from his community public-relations duties. His main job, according to Guilderland Police, was investigative police work.

Niko cracked several high-profile cases, many of which were covered by The Enterprise, and also helped to apprehend burglars and bank robbers throughout his tenure at the police department.

Jones recalled when Niko tracked down the "Booze Burglar" in 2001 and police found him hiding behind a wood pile. The man they found was arrested for robbing several liquor stores, other businesses, and homes in the area.

Niko also recovered stolen property with fingerprints and other crucial pieces of evidence at crime scenes later used to prosecute offenders, said Jones.

Niko "assisted in making hundreds of drug arrests, catching numerous criminals, some of whom ‘gave up’ upon seeing Niko staring them in the eye," a release from police said.

The department distributed T-shirts with a picture of Niko that said, "You can run, but you can’t hide."

In the same statement, acting Police Chief Carol Lawlor, said, "One of Niko’s strongest attributes was his gentleness yet ability to get the job done."

In the end, it was cancer that ended Niko’s career in law enforcement.

Hemangiosarcoma enters an animal’s blood-vessel cells and then affects the heart, lungs, and spleen. It is common to the German shepherd breed, according to police.

Niko was taken to a vet after experiencing an increased respiratory rate, and various tests detected that the cancer was in an advanced state and had spread to his heart.

Surgery was no longer an option at that point and Niko died.

Jones said he won’t forget Niko, as a partner or a friend.

"It was an excellent experience. I would definitely not have given it up," he said with a heavy voice. "His life was inexplicably cut short. I was hoping to work with him at least for another year or two."

Maine man arrested for issuing threats at rest area

By Jarrett Carroll

ALBANY COUNTY — A portion of the New York State Thruway near the Guilderland Travel Plaza was shut down last Wednesday morning as State Police investigated a bomb threat.

A Maine man made two threats against the Guilderland plaza after yelling at restaurant staff there between 9 and 10 a.m. prompting State Police to close the plaza and begin investigating, according to police. The plaza is located between exits 24 and 25 on the Thruway.

During the investigation, it was discovered that he also threatened the Canaan Toll Booth on the Thruway Berkshire Spur, according to a State Police release.

Derek Schultz, 30, of 33 Tucker Rd., Limington, Maine, was arrested on three counts of first-degree falsely reporting an incident, and unlawfully dealing with fireworks after fireworks were found in his vehicle.

He is being charged in both the Guilderland Town Court and the Canaan Town Court (Columbia County), according to the release. He was arraigned in Guilderland Town Court on two counts of falsely reporting an incident and remanded to Albany County’s jail with no bail. He will face additional charges in Canaan Town Court.

The New York State Thruway Authority declined comment to The Enterprise, but State Police confirmed last Wednesday that they had shut down the Thruway for a "short period of time" in order to investigate the incident.

According to the police investigation, Schultz became "verbally abusive with McDonald’s staff and left the restaurant in an agitated state."

No one was hurt during the incident and the closed areas were re-opened after booths and buildings were checked by police and declared safe.

Asessor’s office caught in election crossfire

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The town assessor’s office has been caught in the crossfire of political battling.

Warren Redlich, running on the Republican ticket for town board, is making assessment an issue. He has targeted an incumbent, Michael Ricard, the longest-serving member on the all-Democratic town board with 10 largely uncontroversial years, and has claimed Ricard’s home is under-assessed.

Redlich wrote in a letter to The Enterprise editor last week, "Ricard’s sweetheart assessment is just a symptom of a broader problem with the assessment process. The town bungled the 2005 reassessment...."

This week, both Ricard and the town’s assessor, Carol Wysomski, have written letters to The Enterprise editor, defending the work of the assessor’s office.

Wysomski asked that a certificate which Guilderland received from the state after its 2005 revaluation be printed in The Enterprise.

The award certificate for "Excellence in Equity" from the state’s Office of Real Property Services (ORPS) recognizes the town of Guilderland "for its efforts to provide property owners with fair and equitable assessments, thereby qualifying for state aid for the 2005 assessment roll."

About a third of the cities and towns in the state conducted reassessments in 2005 and most of them received the same certificate, according to Joseph Hesch, spokesman for ORPS.

"They have to complete reassessment. We see how close they have come to market value. They must implement an assessment roll at 100 percent" of full-market value, said Hesch. This qualifies a municipality for up to $5 a parcel from the state, he said.

"I know of very few that have not gotten it," he said. "Some portion of the roll has to be really askew" not to qualify, said Hesch.

Getting the certificate, he said "doesn’t mean some house isn’t assessed less than or in excess of market value...We don’t look at every property."

Redlich wrote in last week’s letter, "Ricard’s 2,500-square-foot home, with two accessory buildings (one of them larger than the house), a new in-ground swimming pool, and a whopping 11.7 acres is still assessed below $200,000. Several of his neighbors are assessed at over $300,000 with lesser properties."

Wysomski told The Enterprise earlier that Ricard’s assessment is fair. (The Aug. 2 story can be found on-line, under Archives, at www.altamontenterprise.com.)

She listed Ricard’s Furbeck Road home as being 2,468 square feet and assessed at $196,300. Ricard has no sewer or municipal water hookups to his two-story Colonial house, she said, and it was built in 1900 and is in the Schalmont School District.

Wysomski said Ricard’s house couldn’t be compared to newer houses. "We use the Office of Real Property Services of New York State for our assessments," she said. "Every town uses this program; it’s not just a system we use."

She concluded, "If people want, they can come down here to the office and look for themselves. There are no games. Not under my realm; that’s not how I do things; that’s not what’s going on here."

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