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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, November 1, 2007

Taxes to decrease
Berne proposes $2M budget

By Tyler Schuling

BERNE — Berne’s preliminary budget for 2008 totals $1.95 million, with about $737,000 to be raised from taxes.

Supervisor Kevin Crosier said taxes will decrease by 1 percent due to the town’s assessed value.

The town’s tentative budget, drafted by Crosier, was approved at the October town board meeting, after some council members objected to the supervisor’s not giving raises to the town’s part-time officials. Crosier said he hadn’t heard any objections at the town board’s budget workshop earlier in the week.

Crosier, a Democrat, was elected on the Republican line; he is not up for re-election in November. The other town board members are all Democrats. Councilman James Hamilton is seeking re-election.

The board adopted the town’s tentative budget, making it the preliminary plan, after William Conboy, the town’s attorney, said changes can still be made to the preliminary budget before Nov. 20, the date budgets must be submitted to the state.

Hamilton, who requested another workshop to discuss highway expenses, told The Enterprise, "I don’t feel that’s the appropriate time to make changes."

In 2007, taxes increased 20 percent, or 80 cents, per $1,000, with Berne residents paying $4.71 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

If the preliminary spending plan is approved, residents in 2008 will pay $4.64 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Total appropriations for 2007 amount to $1.87 million; in 2008, appropriations will total $1.95 million, a 4-percent increase.
A public hearing on the budget will be held on Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

The 2007 budget was not approved by Crosier, who favored consolidating the town’s highway department with the county’s department of public works, and, last year, included a merger plan in his draft of the budget.

In a workshop last fall, officials shaved a 28-percent tax-levy increase down to 20-percent, cutting funds requested by the highway superintendent.

For the past three years, Crosier told The Enterprise, he’s proposed tax decreases from 1 to 3 percent each year, and, had the plan which included the consolidation been approved, the town would have seen more tax cuts.

Berne will pay $56,200 for its paramedic program in 2008. Crosier, who helped establish the program, called the cost "an absolute bargain." The county-wide program, supported by individual municipalities, pays for a staffed fly car with paramedics to supplement services provided by local ambulance squads.

"That’s the true cost of that service"You couldn’t do a paramedic program in the town of Berne for that," Crosier said.

The Berne library, budgeted $27,500 in 2007, will receive an additional $800. Officials and library trustees have discussed two locations — the Masonic Hall in the Berne hamlet and the town park on its outskirts — to relocate the small, free library, which is cramped for space in the town hall.

"Because we were proactive in the past, health insurance premiums have stayed relatively low," Crosier told The Enterprise. The town’s liability insurance has remained flat, he said. "The things we did early have paid off," Crosier said.

The only increases in the 2008 budget, Crosier said, are for machinery in the highway department, and the salaries of part-time clerks, union personnel, and two full-time town officials.


Part-time elected and appointed officials will not receive raises in 2008, Crosier announced at the town board’s October meeting.

The town’s clerk, Patricia Favreau and the superintendent of highways, Raymond Storm, whom the supervisor called "full-time town officials," will receive about 4-percent more than they earned this year.

Favreau will earn $35,800 and Storm will earn $47,750.

At the meeting, Hamilton and Councilman Joseph Golden asked for further discussion on the budget and said they would take a cut in their pay. Council members are slated for salaries of $3,225 in 2008. Both asked for another budget workshop to be held with more discussion before the tentative plan was adopted. Councilman Wayne Emory said he hadn’t known the board was slated to adopt the town’s tentative budget.

Hamilton and Crosier disagree over which town officials will see raises in 2008.

Both Favreau and Storm earn their living performing their town jobs, Crosier said. State legislators haven’t received a raise in 10 years, he said, and part-time elected and appointed town officials received raises last year. In 2008, the zoning board of appeals and planning board clerks and the supervisor’s bookkeeper will see slight increases, according to the preliminary budget.

Hamilton told The Enterprise he thinks all of the town’s officials do a good job, and the method by which raises were determined was arbitrary.

When determining which officials receive raises, Hamilton said, "I’d like to see more consistency."

Some who work part-time for the town have a couple of part-time jobs or are retired, he said, adding that he doesn’t agree with the reasoning that, if someone is a part-time employee, then he or she does not need money as much as someone who works full-time.

"They can probably use the money," he said.

In 2008, assessors and planning and zoning board of appeals members will not see increases in their salaries.

If the preliminary budget is approved, Berne officials will earn the following salaries in 2008:

— Supervisor, $12,900;

— Council members, $3,225;

— Town clerk, $35,800;

— Town justices, $7,450; and

— Highway superintendent, $47,750.

Westerlo plans $2.4M budget

By Tyler Schuling

WESTERLO — The town’s preliminary 2008 budget totals $2.4 million, with $982,000 to be raised from taxes. The proposal is about $110,000 more than this year’s budget and represents a 4.6- percent increase over 2007.

The bulk of revenues come from the county sales tax.

"I feel it’s a good budget," said Supervisor Richard Rapp.

The largest increases for the 2008 budget are due to the town’s buying two new trucks, said Rapp.

The town also now has a planning board, which it did not have since the early 1990s. Town board members, after abolishing the planning board, served as planning board members, too, until the new planning board was created in March.

Rapp said $24,500 has been budgeted for the board’s five members. Some of the funds will be used for the planning board’s work on a new comprehensive land-use plan, Rapp said.

"I understand there is grant money available," he said.

A public hearing will be held on the budget on Nov. 7 at 7:45 at Town Hall.

Westerlo last conducted a revaluation in 1955, over a half-century ago, so properties are not anywhere near their full-market value. Currently, Westerlo residents pay $334.34 per $1,000 of assessed value. If the budget is approved, they will be paying $361.25 next year.

The town’s highway workers will see a 4.5-percent increase in their salaries in 2008. Rapp, who drafted the budget, said he did not raise the town board members’ nor the town justices’ salaries.

Raises are slated for the town’s clerk, Gertrude Smith, who is also Westerlo’s receiver of taxes; for Rapp; for and John Nevins, the town’s highway superintendent.

Nevins’s salary, Rapp said, was raised from $47,000 to $50,000.

"And he’s worth every cent of it," Rapp said.

Nevins comes to the town’s highway garage from 3 to 11 a.m. when there are storms and, in cases of bad storms, returns later in the day, Rapp said. Nevins is also a good driver, he said.

The highway department is slated for $870,925 in 2008.

The town recently completed its first municipal water system, which serves about 85 properties in and around the Westerlo hamlet.

Residents saw their water bills triple in August, up from $125 for six months of use, to $375. Westerlo residents who are hooked up to the system also currently pay just over three cents for each thousand gallons.

In February, residents will pay 4.6 cents per thousand gallons. Rapp said the added costs at the beginning of 2008 will be the last increase.

In 2008, the cost of health insurance and retirement benefits will also increase, he said, and more money will go to the library and emergency services.

Westerlo will not see as great and increase as its health insurance for insurance on its vehicles, Rapp said.

Road materials continue to increase due to high petroleum costs, Rapp said.

"I feel so sorry for some of these people on fixed incomes," he said. "I don’t know what they’re going to do."

Depending on town funds, Rapp said, he would like to do some work at the town’s transfer station.

"We need a new compactor," he said, estimating the cost to replace the existing one, which is at least 15 years old, at $28,000.

"It all depends on money," Rapp said.

The town has received a $50,000 grant, Rapp said, for a restoration project for the future home of the town’s museum on Route 401.

If the preliminary budget is approved, town officials will earn the following salaries in 2008:

— Supervisor, $15,000;

— Council members, $7,250;

— Town Clerk/Receiver of Taxes, $29,780;

— Superintendent of highways, $50,000; and

— Town Justices, $9,500.

Ronconi’s a one-woman force on the stage and beyond

By Tyler Schuling

NEW YORK CITY — After writing her first play, Amanda Ronconi was likened to Lucille Ball, the charismatic redheaded actress of America’s yesteryears, in a New York Times review.

"I don’t mind one bit," Ronconi said of the comparison. "Totally, utterly flattering."

"As a matter of fact, she’s kind of my inspiration for this play," Ronconi said.

Shirley at the Tropicana, Ronconi’s one-woman comedy, is playing now through Nov. 18 off Broadway.

From the beginning, Ronconi, a Berne native and graduate of Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School, had more control in a performance than she’s ever had as an actor. She wrote the script, produced the play, and plays each character on the stage.

"As an actor, you are constantly trying to get other people to hire you," Ronconi said. "And, I’ve learned, as a producer of this, and also as the writer of it, there’s a lot more coming from you."

Writing the play, she said, was tremendously empowering.

"The main thing that’s come out of it is the sense of no longer constantly hoping other people like you," she said, "which is the feeling I feel as an actor for sure, and I know a lot of people do."

In Shirley at the Tropicana, the title character, Shirley Johnson, has a crush on her boss.

"She definitely has a romantic side to her — absolutely," Ronconi said. "But her sort of public persona, or office persona, is very organized"very particular and controlling."

The play references I Love Lucy, the popular 1950s television show about the Ricardos, which starred Desi Arnaz and his wife, Lucille Ball. Arnaz played Ricky Ricardo, an orchestra leader at a nightclub named the Tropicana. In Ronconi’s play, the title character’s love interest is Mr. Arnaz.

Along with finding her inspiration from television, Ronconi found sparks of creativity from her real-life experiences as a temp for 10 years.

Shirley is an amalgamation of many people, Ronconi said.

"When I first started temping, I had just finished acting school, and I wanted to make sure I had time to pursue my acting career," she said.

She then decided she would work for no more than three days at any job because she thought she would then get too much responsibility.

"The economy must have been better," Ronconi said. "I had constant work, and I was jumping from company to company," she said, "which was pretty nerve-racking, actually. It wasn’t the best idea."

From the Hill to the City

Ronconi doubled up on classes while attending BKW in order to finish high school a year early.

"That was the really cool thing about going to such a"small school," she said.

While she attended BKW, there weren’t enough people for a cast to put on a school play, but there was a good drama class.

The first thing that made Ronconi realize she was interested in acting was when she participated in a Shakespeare competition sponsored by the English-Speaking Union.

One of her English teachers recommended she try out.

For the competition, Ronconi had to learn either a soliloquy or a monologue and perform it. She was one of the top three performers in Albany, she said, and the prize was a trip to the Shakespeare festival in Stratford, Ontario.

"I guess that was the first time I really thought, ‘Oh, this is kind of cool,’" Ronconi said.

After high school, she interned at The Egg in Albany, with a state-run theater company.

She then worked at a swimming pool chemical company before attending New York University.

Creating Tropicana

Throughout writing Shirley at the Tropicana, Ronconi said, she developed the script as an actor.

She had kept in contact with Joan Evans, her former teacher at NYU and Shirley’s director. Evans called Ronconi one day and told her about a workshop she was holding to help actors develop solo performance.

"I was definitely at a point of just like nothing going on and feeling like a loser and not an actor," Ronconi said.

She was not sure she wanted to write but she wanted to spend time with Evans, whom she called "an inspiring teacher."

For the workshop, the group of eight actors met once a week for eight weeks, discussed their ideas, performed, and read. Each actor commented on the others’ work.

The interactive environment helped with Ronconi’s writing.

"I wasn’t generally faced with a blank page because, then, I would develop a lot of the dialogue on my feet, sort of [improvising] and stuff in the workshop," she said.

In Shirley at the Tropicana, short films run at certain points during the performance, which, Ronconi said, "flesh out the picture a lot more."

"The very first one you see [is] the black and white film of Shirley at the office. Onstage, I’m miming everything. There are no real props or anything," Ronconi said.

There is a set and furniture, but the props are all mimed because it’s the only way to switch back and forth between characters really quickly, she said.

"Yes, it’s a one-woman show, but it’s like a play"So, it’s really just like a multi-cast play except that I play everybody," Ronconi said.

"I talk to myself back and forth, but as different characters, and then, also, in one instance, I talk to myself on film, playing one character on stage talking to another character on film," she said.

From writing the script to portraying each of the play’s characters, Ronconi has been involved in all aspects of Shirley at the Tropicana except the directing. She doesn’t think she will pursue directing in the future.

"I would say that’s the one place I probably won’t go," Ronconi said.

Directors have to be able to see the overall picture, she said, and she doesn’t think as a director does.

"Certainly, I have an overall picture for a script or something, but I think it’s a different way of thinking," she said. "I’m not really sure that it’s one of my skills necessarily."

By doing Shirley at the Tropicana, she’s gotten more interested in writing, she said, but she doesn’t know what that means for the future.

In her second week of performances, Ronconi’s sense of humor was intact when considering her aspirations and another avenue in entertainment.

"I would love at some point to write a screenplay, but my attempts thus far have been not so great," Ronconi said. "But who knows" Who knows""


Amanda Ronconi will be performing
Shirley at the Tropicana through Nov. 18 at the Access Theater at 380 Broadway in New York City. For more information, to order tickets, to read reviews, and to view the trailer, visit www.shirleyatthetropicana.com.

Number of patients at W’lo’s Perkins center

By Tyler Schuling

WESTERLO — As health-care facilities are slated to close, merge, and downsize throughout the state, a questionnaire was recently sent to area residents to gauge the community’s use of a local clinic.

The number of adult and pediatric patients at the Anna W. Perkins Helderberg Health Center, a St. Peter’s Hospital primary-care clinic on Main Street in Westerlo, has dropped drastically in recent years and the facility is losing money, according to Elmer Streeter, spokesman for St. Peter’s Hospital.

In 2005, the Anna Perkins Center had 4,401 active patients, said Streeter. One year later, the number declined to 3,456. This year, based on the 3,000 visits so far, Streeter estimated the facility now has just 800 to 1,000 active patients.

No decision has been made about the Westerlo center, Streeter said, adding that, if the hospital keeps offices open, it wants to ensure that they are being used.

The facility employs a practical nurse, a receptionist, and a physician, Dr. Edwin Windle.

St. Peter’s Hospital has been in charge of the facility since 1994, according to Streeter.

Windle has worked at the center since 1996.

His patients include mostly residents from the surrounding area — Westerlo, Berne, and Greenville. A handful of others who have moved away, such as to Albany, Watervliet, Troy, and Cairo, return to the Hilltown clinic for services, according to Windle.

"No one’s ever said the clinic’s closing," said Windle. He is not sure where his patients would go if the facility closed because he is uncertain which area doctors are still accepting patients.

Asked why the number of patients at the facility has declined in recent years, Windle said, "I don’t really know."

He thinks one of the goals of the survey is to find out why the numbers of patients were declining.

Dr. Anna Perkins, for whom the facility is named, died in 1993. Throughout her career, Perkins visited local homes, charging patients small amounts of money for her services.

The hospital’s recent questionnaire was sent to residents in Berne, East Berne, and Westerlo; some locals did not receive the survey, according to Streeter.

St. Peter’s bought lists from the list vendor it usually uses; some residents’ names were not included on the list, said Streeter, adding that it was not the hospital’s intent to exclude anyone, and St. Peter’s wants as many responses as possible.

St. Peter’s Hospital also has offices in Slingerlands, Rensselaer, and on South Pearl Street in Albany. It also has facilities in Albany and the surrounding area — nursing homes, addiction centers, hospice-care clinics, and a student health center at Siena College in Loudonville.

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