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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, September 20, 2007

Gordon takes the Hill in Dems’ primary

By Tyler Schuling

HILLTOWNS — Alexander "Sandy" Gordon, the incumbent Albany County legislator representing the Hilltowns, beat challenger Kevin Crosier in a landslide Tuesday, according to unofficial Democratic primary results from the county’s board of elections.

"I think it’s a definite comment by the community, by the constituents in the district," said Gordon, a Knox farmer who has represented the 39th District — the Hilltowns of Berne, Knox, and Rensselaerville — since 1996. "I think that the voters articulated that they respect my authenticity," he said. Gordon said he was "not only surprised, but elated" by the results.

Yesterday, with all eight voting districts reporting, Gordon had 575 votes; Crosier had 255 votes. Crosier works as an Albany firefighter. An enrolled Democrat, he has twice won terms as Berne supervisor on the GOP line.

Crosier, endorsed by the Working Families and Conservative parties, also received 25 votes Tuesday on the Conservative line.

Asked yesterday if he will continue to run on the small-party lines, Crosier said, "I still need to discuss that with my family."

Absentee ballots have not yet been counted.

About one-third of enrolled Democrats in the district voted. Unofficial results show Gordon swept all three Hilltowns:

— In Rensselaerville, Gordon received 152 votes, and Crosier received 76 votes;

— In Knox, Gordon received 128 votes, and Crosier received 57 votes; and

— In Berne, Gordon received 295 votes, and Crosier received 122 votes.

Gordon will now face Republican Travis Stevens in the Nov. 6 election. Democrats in the Hilltowns outnumber Republicans by more than 2 to 1.

"I think I received the strongest support from the people most concerned with issues within their community. They’ve said they’ve accepted my leadership," Gordon said.

Last week, Gordon’s wife, Mary Ellen, died after battling lung cancer.

"I had a just tremendously helpful and positively spirited group of people that volunteered in every aspect of the campaign," said Gordon.

In response to Mary Ellen Gordon’s death, Crosier announced at the Berne Town Board meeting last week that he would cease campaigning until after the services.

"My wife’s a cancer survivor, and my wife and I decided to stop campaigning and respect Mr. Gordon and his family," Crosier said.

In 2001, Crosier defeated long-time Democratic Berne supervisor Alan Zuk.

"Not only did it worry me," Gordon said of Crosier’s earlier defeat of an incumbent, "it worried people that maybe bought into that campaign and have second thoughts at this time."

"When you’re running in any election, it’s up to the voters to decide the election. That’s democracy. And nothing’s ever taken for granted," said Crosier. "So I just worked hard, ran a positive campaign. I ran on the issues I know are important to people in the Hilltowns."

The issues

While campaigning, Crosier emphasized senior housing, a summer youth employment program, open-space preservation, and bringing Community Caregivers to the Hilltowns, he said.

"Those are all issues that I think are very important to people, and I worked on them as town supervisor, and I can"continue to"work on them," Crosier said.

Gordon and Crosier have differed on their views of towns consolidating and sharing services with the county. Crosier backed a plan to merge Berne’s highway department with the county, which was adamantly opposed by town highway workers and was not supported by the members of the Berne Town Board.

"I think that was an issue for many people," Gordon said. "And I think they obviously want an open process where they’re not blindsided by the activities of those they’ve entrusted to represent them," he said.

Gordon took an unpopular stand at a Rensselaerville Town Board meeting earlier this year when the town board and the crowd at Town Hall called for the closing of the Cass Residential facility for wayward youths. The state has since announced Cass will close.

Asked if consolidation and campaigning to obtain money from the county for open-space preservation affected the voters’ decision, Crosier replied, "I don’t know. I can’t read the minds of the voters. I can only tell you we ran a good campaign, a positive one."

"I can still get money for open-space preservation as town supervisor. I can still work on those initiatives," Crosier said.

Taxes were less of an issue in the race. In 2006, the county’s tax levy decreased.

"We have tried to live within our means, and"we’re heading into another budget cycle and the objective is still the same," Gordon said.

Keeping taxes low has always been one of my priorities, Crosier said. "I hope it’s a priority of the taxpayers."

The county’s right-to-farm law, which Gordon co-sponsored, recently passed unanimously in the Albany County Legislature; the law protects farmers from complaints by neighboring developments.

Asked if the law had an effect on the voters’ response, Gordon said, "I think it signified the kind of leadership I provide. I tell people what I’m looking for. I work hard to make it grow to the potential to being passed unanimously, and think people like that. And I think it’s a completely more desirable option in how to lead," Gordon said.

Gordon has been a proponent of wind and solar energy, writing a local law to exempt county sales tax on the purchase and installation of residential solar systems, and resolutions to support net metering for wind-generated electricity.

Crosier has encouraged promoting the Hilltowns for recreation and business and bringing small business back. In October, Crosier said, he is giving a presentation in Rhinebeck about the town’s Big Backyard Program, which was created for owners of large lots to lease their land for recreational use.

"If you want to have a rural economy, you have to promote it," Crosier said. "You have to promote what you have so people come to buy the products and people come to enjoy what we all take for granted," he said. The four Hilltowns need to promote themselves as one unit, he said, not separately.

GOP sweeps Conservative primary

By Tyler Schuling

RENSSELAERVILLE — Republicans running for town office swept a small Conservative Party primary on Tuesday.

Ten Conservatives voted.

With all three districts reporting, the unofficial results of Tuesday’s election from the Albany County Board of Elections show Myra Dorman and Allyn Wright, both Republicans endorsed by the Conservative Party, received nine votes.

Absentee ballots have not been counted.

Dorman is seeking re-election for town council. Wright, the chairman of the town’s planning board, is seeking his first term on the town board.

Marie Dermody and Gary Chase, both Democrats who are endorsed by the Working Families and Independence parties, did not receive any Conservative votes. Chase is seeking a third term. Dermody is making her first run.

Steven Wood, an enrolled Conservative running for assessor, received eight votes; one vote was invalidated, and another is being contested.

Wood is running against Democratic incumbent Jeff Pine.

Ballots from Guilderland, New Scotland, and Rensselaerville were counted Wednesday afternoon at the board of elections office at 32 Russell Road in Albany.

After ballots had been counted and ruled on by commissioners in each district, candidates, audience members, and attorneys perused them. The elections commissioners, Matthew Clyne, a Democrat, and John Graziano, a Republican, oversaw the ballot counts. Some ballots were invalidated and a few objections were raised over the commissioners’ rulings.

After counting Rensselaerville’s ballots, Graziano said commissioners will count absentee ballots Tuesday or Wednesday. Information about elections and results can be found at the county’s website. All primary results should be finished next Friday, Graziano said.

Changes planned for town newsletter

By Tyler Schuling

RENSSELAERVILLE — Changes are being made for the town’s newsletter.

Last week, Marie Dermody and Steven Wood, both running for town office, and Jim Glorioso, members of a committee created to develop guidelines for advertising in the town’s newsletter, gave the town board its recommendations.

The newsletter has caused contention in the community. Residents have questioned its content, its timeliness, its use as a political forum, and its cost to taxpayers. During budgeting last fall, the newsletter was budgeted $17,500 this year, $5,500 over last year.

This month, the newsletter went out to residents on Wednesday, Sept. 5. It included a note saying David Soares, the Albany County District Attorney, would visit Town Hall that evening at 6:30 p.m.

The newsletter committee recommends advertising rates drop to their previous rate — half the current rate. A full page advertisement, which costs $150, would be reduced to $75. Not-for-profit organizations will be given a reduced rate, of $60 for a full page.

All submissions must be received at Town Hall by the second Friday of the month. Submissions should be edited for grammar, punctuation, spelling, and mechanics, but no content will be edited, the committee says.

Because advertisements are placed throughout the newsletter, it is difficult for readers to know which are paid and which are free, says the committee. Free notices are allowed for such groups as seniors and Extra Helpings, a food-buying cooperative. The committee recommends placing paid ads in one section.

Free full-page ads will be allowed for emergency services, churches, and the library.

To encourage more youth to participate, the committee recommends a full page dedicated to their puzzles, stories, poems, and artwork, with submissions chosen randomly.

The new rates and the committee’s recommendations will be mailed to businesses and published in the town’s upcoming newsletter.


Committee member Marie Dermody, a Democrat, is running for town council, and Steven Wood, a Conservative, is running for an assessor position in this fall’s election.

Last week, Supervisor Jost Nickelsberg read the newsletter committee’s recommendations.

Throughout the meeting, representatives from the beautification, the senior-junior bus, and land-use committees reported on their progress.

Near the meeting’s end, Dermody asked Nickelsberg, a Republican, why the newsletter committee wasn’t "extended that same courtesy."

Dermody, a member of the board of assessment review, has been critical of the board’s Republican majority voting as a block and eliminating the board of assessment review’s payment for its members.

Dermody said she would have been the member that would have read the committee’s recommendations.

"Is it an attempt to keep me out of the public eye"" Dermody asked.

"No reason," said Nickelsberg.

"It was my paranoid observation," Dermody replied.

Other business

In other business, the town board:

— Decided to count surveys on Sept. 28. Over 2,600 surveys were sent out this month to residents, who will choose either 5- or 20-acre zoning in the agricultural district.

Republican Councilman Robert Lansing and either Councilman Chase or Councilwoman Sherri Pine, both Democrats, will count them. Victor LaPlante, one of the town’s judges, will oversee the count. The deadline for the surveys to be returned is Sept. 25, and mailed responses must be postmarked by Sept. 25.

"This isn’t a Democrat-Republican issue," said Thomas Mikulka, the chairman of the land-use committee. "I don’t want to make this something political."

In early 2006, the town began working on a master plan for land use. Mikulka said new zoning laws and subdivision regulations will be available to the public by Oct. 1.

"Eighteen months is enough. We’ve had enough," said David Lewis, a dairy farmer. Lewis encouraged the board to adopt "whatever comes in" from the survey.

The town board is slated to vote on new zoning laws in November;

— Voted unanimously to send out a request for proposals for 50 yards of topsoil. Mikulka, who has been reporting for the beautification committee, suggested last month that a fence be erected at Town Hall to shield the town’s Dumpster.

Last week, Mikulka, who lives nearby, recommended trees be used instead. Mikulka said Susan Lewis will donate 20 spruce trees. "I’m going to take every one she’s got," Mikulka said. He estimated 50 yards of topsoil will cost $900. Wood recommended using soil near Town Hall for the project;

— Heard from Bob Bolte that Alexander "Sandy" Gordon, the incumbent candidate for the 39th District, has signs in town that violate the town’s laws. In 1998, Bolte said, he was given a citation for a political sign over eight square feet and was given five hours to take it down.

He questioned the enforcement of Gordon’s signs in town and, before talking to Mark Overbaugh, Rensselaerville’s building inspector and zoning enforcement officer, called it "selected persecution."

Overbaugh said, of the three signs in question, one is in Westerlo, another is either in Westerlo or Rensselaerville, and one is in the town. Overbaugh said he had contacted Gordon to take down the sign.

"How do you know he put up the sign"" asked Jeff Pine.

"It has his name on it, dips--t," Bolte replied.

"Mark was new and inexperienced," Pine said of Overbaugh when Bolte was cited for the sign in 1998.

— Heard from Nickelsberg that he has considered creating two trails — one for horses and one for bicycles — to connect the Partridge Run Wildlife Management Area, a state park in Berne, with trails in the Huyck nature preserve and the Cass Residential facility — both in Rensselaerville. Trails would also connect the town’s five hamlets, he said. Dorothea Cotter has agreed to look at possibilities, Nickelsberg said.

— Heard from Bolte that "over $30,000" has been raised for the junior/senior bus. The recently-purchased bus has taken trips to Washington Park in Albany, professional baseball games in New York City, Delmar, Cobleskill, and the Rensselaerville Institute. The bus, which cost about $57,000, is being funded through private donations. "We’ve got a little ways to go but we’re not worried about it," said Bolte.

Bolte recommended listing the names of those who have donated in the town’s next newsletter;

— Heard from Richard Feiner, a Preston Hollow resident, who, in recent years, has repeatedly asked the town to pave Edwards Hill Road.

"When’s the road going to be paved"" Feiner asked. "You have a petition signed by 42 people to pave that road," he said.

Councilwoman Sherri Pine said she had recently driven on the road. "For nobody living on it, it’s a large expense," she said.

"Is there a statute of limitations on a petition"" asked resident Marie Mahoney.

William Ryan, the attorney to the town, said that, while a petition should be updated, there is no statute of limitations.

Nickelsberg said the board will talk about it during its budgeting workshops;

— Voted unanimously to participate in Albany County’s health consortium feasibility study. The county recently pooled its employees together and is looking to include municipalities, and is applying for a grant through the Department of State.

The Town Board did not appoint a member to the county’s municipal services board as officials did not know when meetings will take place;

— Unanimously passed a resolution acknowledging September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month;

— Heard from Kathy Hallenbeck, the town’s clerk, that Sept. 20 is the deadline for all town departments to submit their budget requests for 2008. Hallenbeck will submit the tentative budget to the Town Board by Oct. 5. Officials scheduled a special meeting for Oct. 4;

— Voted unanimously to support a resolution in the county legislature to update the National Incident Management System;

— Heard a request from Dermody, a member of the board of assessment review, to re-instate the board’s budget. Last year, the review board’s $1,600 budget was eliminated;

— Heard from Nickelsberg that the town has received $404,000 in Federal Emergency Management Agency relief to repair damages from April flooding, and he thinks the town will receive an additional $50,000; and

— Will discuss at its special meeting on Oct. 4 awarding bids for work to be completed on Tanglewood Road. Farmer Robert Seeger complained two years ago about his fields and pastures eroding. This summer, Lamont Engineers, hired by the town, concluded culverts were causing excessive runoff. The engineers estimated it would cost $27,863 to remove two culverts and replace a third.

R’ville highway super
Show me more money to work with

By Tyler Schuling

RENSSELAERVILLE — The highway superintendent here is working under a procurement policy that is far more restrictive than in the other Hilltowns, while Supervisor Jost Nickelsberg is riled because, he says, the policy is frequently violated.

The town’s procurement policy requires Highway Superintendent G. Jon Chase to get bids for purchases over $200.

His counterpart in nearby Berne can spend more than 10 times that without board approval. His counterpart in Knox says a $200 limit "would definitely slow us down."

Chase did not return calls to The Enterprise this month, but his son, Councilman Gary Chase, spoke on his behalf at September’s town board meeting.

Rensselaerville’s policy was adopted in February in a vote split along party lines, with the Republican majority in favor of the policy.

Nickelsberg, a Republican who took office in January of 2006, has been at odds with G. Jon Chase, a Democrat and long-time highway superintendent, over a variety of issues, including the purchase of highway materials, the town’s procurement policy, the way roads are maintained, and the dismissal of Chase’s wife, Joyce Chase, who had worked in the past as a clerk for the department.

The highway superintendent has not attended a regular town board meeting since January. He used to sit next to his son, Councilman Chase, at town meetings.

"The supervisor has taken him from this position," said Councilman Chase last week.

"The law"doesn’t provide that he give monthly reports," said William Ryan, the attorney to the town.

At recent meetings, residents have brought grievances to the board and asked about Superintendent Chase. Steven Wood, who lost a close race against the highway superintendent in the last election, has said the superintendent should "be held accountable."

The town’s procurement policy stipulates that purchases by town officials exceeding $200 must be put out to bid. Purchases must include a requisition, quotes from at least three vendors, and an expiration date for the quotes. Vendors must also include the quantity, description of items, purchase amount, and delivery information. Bids are awarded to the lowest bidder unless the purchaser justifies awarding the bid in a written statement.

"It’s illegal to sell town property without town board approval," Supervisor Jost Nickelsberg told The Enterprise, citing a July 18 bill to the town from Greene County Power Equipment for $199.95. The purchase is for a Stihl chainsaw, costing $299.95. The town was credited $100 for a saw it traded in, reducing the bill to a cost under $200. Nickelsberg called the sale "a clear attempt of circumvention" and "outright illegal."

Requisitions must be approved by Nickelsberg or the town’s deputy supervisor, Alden Pierce.

Last week, Nickelsberg pointed to a packet of receipts displayed at town hall, calling the information "very graphic, unequivocal."

Nickelsberg and Councilman Chase argued over the purchases and the town’s policy.

"You don’t have to yell at each other. Can you be civil, please"" asked Ryan.

According to a June 19 invoice, G. Jon Chase submitted quotes for a new 20-ton air jack from Napa in Greenville, Carquest in Cobleskill, and Napa in Middleburgh. Pierce approved the purchase from the Greenville Napa for $599; Chase bought the jack from a vendor other than the three from which he had requested bids. He purchased the jack from Green Truck Supply in Albany for $550 on July 26.

"He saved money on that," said Councilman Chase. "He saved $49. That’s a great thing."

On the same day, Chase bought a jack stand from Green Truck Supply for $193.95. The bills were separate.

Nickelsberg said the purchase, which totals $743.95 when combining the bills, was "from the wrong company for the wrong product."

"A jack and a jack stand are two different things," said Councilman Chase. "Do you know what a jack stand is"" he asked Nickelsberg.

On June 29, three items were separated into three bills from Vantage Equipment in Latham, one totaling $204.10, another costing $109.48, and one priced at $155.50.

"Why would you separate them"" Nickelsberg asked.

The town sent letters to vendors, informing them of the town’s policy and requested vendors return a confirmation letter, said Nickelsberg.

Resident Richard Feiner recommended the town use purchase orders.

According to Deidre Andrus, the town’s deputy town clerk, notification letters were sent to 41 vendors, and the town has received about 30 responses. The town’s policy was not sent to all of the town’s vendors because some do not have to comply with the town’s policy, she said. For example, for years, the town has used a company that picks up tires from the recycling center and it would be difficult to find a new vendor, she said.

An audit of payroll and personal services was conducted by the state comptroller’s office this year, which found highway workers were using the time clock sporadically. Nickelsberg, who requested the audit, had requested a full audit, but the comptroller’s office limited its audit to payroll and personal services.

Nickelsberg said the town will pay the bills "under protest." He will contact the owners of companies and explain the town’s policy. Nickelsberg said he would look at all the bills coming into Town Hall.

"They should be looked at by all of us," said Councilman Chase.

Other towns’ policies

Gary Salisbury, Knox’s highway superintendent, is required to get town board approval for purchases and rentals exceeding $1,500.

He usually knows ahead if he needs to purchase or rent something, he said, and, when buying anything "out of the ordinary" for the department, he isn’t required to obtain quotes from three vendors but gets at least three quotes from different vendors on his own, he said.

In August, Salisbury requested the Knox Town Board approve the rental of a roller for work to be completed "just in case we needed it." The town board voted unanimously for the rental. However, in the end, the department did not need to rent the equipment, he said.

Asked how his department would be affected if he were required to obtain three separate bids from three vendors when making purchases of over $200, Salisbury said, "That would definitely slow us down."

Asked how often the department makes purchases of $200, he replied, "Daily, just about."

Salisbury’s budget for the year includes line items for departmental expenses, such as equipment repairs. At the beginning of the year, each town board member signs an agreement with the highway department about how funds will be spent throughout the year, Salisbury said.

At its re-organizational meeting on Jan. 1, the Berne Town Board authorized Raymond Storm, the town’s superintendent of highways, to spend $2,500 on town purchases without the town board’s prior approval.

Two years ago, at its re-organizational meeting, the town board increased the amount of $1,000 to $2,500, noting that Storm occasionally spends more than $1,000 without approval because not making repairs, which routinely come in above $1,000, can slow down the department.

John Nevins, Westerlo’s highway superintendent, does not need the town board’s prior approval on small items and parts. When buying large quantities of stone, he must first have the town’s approval, he said.

Richard Rapp, the town’s supervisor, said that when Nevins makes a purchase for $500, he "just goes ahead and gets it." When buying a truck costing under $10,000, Nevins needs three bids.

Years ago, the town adopted a procurement policy, which follows state guidelines, Rapp said.

Still unclear
Who owns Whipple Road"

By Tyler Schuling

KNOX — Whipple Road is still in limbo.

Petitioners are asking Knox to take ownership of an unpaved portion of the road, which, they say, gives them access to state land and provides a route for 31 homes in cases of flooding.

In 2002, Albany County took title to a portion of the road because taxes on the property had not been paid, said John Dorfman, the attorney to Knox, at last week’s town board meeting.

The county thought it was taking ownership of a triangular piece as shown on the tax map, he said, but then discovered it made a mistake and went to a judge saying that the property should be returned to the corporation; the owner-corporation dissolved, Dorfman said.

"What that means at this point in time is that the ownership of the land"is back in the hands of a dissolved corporation," he said.

Where the paved portion of Whipple Road ends, a resident who lives nearby, Charles Tanner Jr., erected a rock wall. Tanner said earlier he didn’t erect the wall to impede his neighbors’ access, but that the area has attracted people who party, speed, throw garbage, and shoot guns.

"The town, I believe, is restricted at this point as to what we can do as to the wall because I can’t tell you that it is on town property," Dorfman said.

"I don’t have a problem taking down a wall at all," said Tanner. He questioned whether removing the wall would result in returning to the previous situation.

"People have no respect for anybody else’s property," Tanner said.

An area along Carrick Road is where people are supposed to access the state land, he said.

"That’s the reason they built the parking area and kiosk"for people to park there and access the trails," Tanner said.

Petitioner Janet Viscio said that Whipple Road became a town road by law after it was maintained by the town for 10 years. Viscio recommended minimally maintaining the remaining 360 feet. She suggested cutting leaves once a year.

"We just want that exact same criteria for the other 360 feet," said Viscio. "In 10 years, the town would own that also without having to go through all the legal wrangling that seems to be tying it up."

Dorfman said he doesn’t see the issue continuing for 10 years. He predicted it would be resolved in one or two meetings.

Highway-by-use, he said, does not mean the town owns the road, but that the road cannot be used for "any other purpose other than how it’s being maintained."

"If you choose not to continue that access, we could lose it," said petitioner, Grace Cunningham. "You have the choice to help us, and that’s why we did a petition."

Councilman Nicholas Viscio said the board is confident Whipple Road up to the rock wall falls under highway-by-use, but that the board is not confident about the unpaved portion.

The town recently chip-sealed the road.

Viscio asked Dorfman if Whipple Road developers built in rights-of-way "by prescription" in the property owners’ deeds.

Dorfman said the owners should consult their attorneys.

Supervisor Michael Hammond said Dorfman has to make a recommendation for the board’s decision, which could be as early as the board’s October meeting.

Other business

In other business, the town board:

— Voted unanimously to appoint Gayle Burgess to the zoning board of appeals. ZBA member Larry Wilson is soon resigning, said Hammond. Councilwoman Patricia Gage said Burgess is "very capable" and "would do a good job." Gage said she would like the town board to advertise before making appointments.

Councilman Joseph Best said he thinks many people would participate but they don’t know when there are vacancies;

— Set its budget workshop dates for Sept. 25 and Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m.;

— Heard from Hammond that Rural Development, which offers programs to support increasing economic opportunity and improve the quality of life of rural residents, based in Johnstown, will be at Town Hall Sept. 27 at 10 a.m.; and

— Will request the speed limit be reduced to 45 miles per hour along Route 156 between Route 157 and the Knox hamlet. The speed limit is now 55 miles per hour; it is 45 miles per hour in the hamlet.

George Van Etten, who lives along the stretch at 2000 Berne-Altamont Road, told The Enterprise he has called the state’s Department of Transportation, and, years ago, a sign was erected along the straightaway, but it didn’t make a difference.

The Van Ettens are farmers. Their land straddles the road, and George Van Etten’s daughter, Susan, lives nearby.

"Yearly, something always happens," said George Van Etten, adding that his daughter’s mailbox is hit each year, and one of her horses was also hit. Now, there are more cars than before, and they’re driving faster, he said.

At times, cars speed by at 70 or 80 miles per hour, said Dawn Gibson at Town Hall last week. Gibson, a tenant of the Van Ettens, has two small children. She said she was almost hit by a car when she was six months pregnant.

Four ducks in a row and a horse have been hit, she said. Gibson told The Enterprise she has offered her driveway as a lookout to both the Albany County Sheriff’s Department and State Police. In mid- to late August, her mother, Debbie Douglass, who lives in Berne, was also almost hit, Gibson said. (Debbie Douglass wrote a letter to The Enterprise editor on the subject, published Sept. 6.)

Councilman Joseph Best and Councilwoman Patricia Gage said there are bad curves along the state highway.

After discussing where a reduced speed limit should begin — Witter Road or Route 157 — the board decided to request speed be reduced starting at Route 157.

Hammond said the board "summarily upon request" forwards residents’ requests to the state and county to reduce speed limits.

Help for the families of the disabled

GREENVILLE — New York State provides services to the families of disabled people, children and adults; Susan Helmer wants to help those families get the help that’s available.

"The system runs on a don’t ask, don’t tell policy," she said, meaning that people often don’t know how to access the services. The group she chairs, Parents of Special Children, is hosting a seminar at the Greenville Public Library on Sept. 27 to help people understand and navigate the system.

The group has held similar sessions, on topics like housing and special-needs trusts, over the three years since it was founded, said Helmer. For this seminar, Jack Fenton, of the Taconic Developmental Disabilities Services Office, will be presenting information, starting at 7 p.m.

"The world sees different as bad," said Helmer, who is the mother of a 10-year-old boy with autism. "People are afraid of what they don’t know," and she’d like to change that, she said.

Anyone who would like to attend should call to Helmer at 797-3570 or jshelm864@surferz.net.

— Saranac Hale Spencer

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