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Hilltown Archives The Altamont Enterprise, October 6, 2011
By Zach Simeone
BERNE Karen Schimmer, 64, was part of the committee that recently revised the town’s comprehensive plan, and it was her time on the committee that inspired her to run for town board.
“It gave me deep insight into the community,” Schimmer told The Enterprise. “I’ve always loved the area, and respected and loved the people here. When I started working on the committee, I really gained greater insight into who and what they are, and what they value about Berne. And, as it turned out, it was exactly what I valued about Berne.”
This perspective, she said, makes her a good candidate for the town board.
Schimmer, a Democrat, is a former teacher of children in kindergarten through fourth grade, and is now the lower-school librarian at the Albany Academy, where she has been employed for 23 years. Originally from Little Falls, Schimmer has lived in Berne for 29 years.
“I’m a hard worker, I’m a critical thinker, and it’s time I gave something back to the town,” she said.
Schimmer is also the founder and director of the Albany Children’s Book Festival.
“I think what that highlights is my management and organizational skills, and a way of bringing together a lot of people for the common good,” she said. “It’s done to foster and encourage literacy in children, and it’s in its fourth year.”
Typically held in the spring, the festival brings in close to 60 authors of literature written for all ages, from children to adults. Hosted by the Albany Academy, it has been held at the girls’ campus, and will take place on April 28 next year.
Before determining if budget cuts should be made, or whether the budget should be put up for vote to override the cap, Schimmer said she would have to learn more about the budgeting process, and take a closer look at how the town has been spending its money.
“I would discuss, with the people who are involved, where people might be able to make cuts; where they were already so low as to negatively affect what they’re doing; and I suppose it always could go out to the public, but, that’s where I would start,” she said. “I would need to have a very deep understanding of exactly what was being spent where before I did anything.”
She plans on attending the upcoming budget meetings, she said.
Schimmer added that, through her work on the comprehensive planning committee, she gained some perspective on why the town should avoid hydrofracking, at least in the short term.
“Water is our most highly valued resource, and we have to be exceedingly careful that we do nothing to compromise our water resources,” she said. “If you look at Berne’s comprehensive plan, in the open space and natural resources section, we recommend to the town that it prohibit natural gas hydrofracking.”
She added, “A lot of the research coming out is coming from the industry itself. What we don’t want to see is any of the water resources compromised in any way, and we don’t want to see exploitation of Berne’s water resources.”
Schimmer went on to say that she thinks the town should form a committee to research the subject, as Rensselaerville has done.
“They did a phenomenal job with their wind committee,” she said of Rensselaerville, “but I also stand behind the comprehensive plan’s recommendation.”
She also defers to the comprehensive plan for its analysis of using residential wind power in town. The plan’s tenets have not been enacted into law.
“Basically, what was said was, with proper siting and placement, that residential wind turbines would be allowable, if they met some criteria,” said Schimmer. “With the multiple large-scale turbines, it was recommended that be prohibited in the plan. There were a number of reasons for that, and it came back to the info we got from the public surveys, the workshops, etc., and they really were not in concert with the town’s rural character.”
But there is some flexibility in the comprehensive plan, she went on.
“We did leave room in the plan for if there were an objective, non-industry based evaluation, and a new technology that develops,” she said.
And the town should develop its own regulations for large-scale wind power “pretty quickly,” she said.
As far as how the town should pick its supervisor, Schimmer said, “The devil, of course, is always in the details.”
“I would like to see exactly how they intend to choose the committee members,” she said. “It would be great if they had a representative from every section of the town, so they can discuss it. I should think that what they would do is set up some criteria for how they intend to go about it, and I haven’t seen that.”
Schimmer also stands in support of the town’s sewer project.
“You need only walk down the street, and you pass houses where you can smell septic,” she said. “That’s our environment. That’s what we’re living in. And that needs to be taken care of. It’s a simple question of sanitation.”
She added that she would be fully willing to help with project management, if necessary.
“I would love to do that,” she said. “I’d like to see exactly what’s happening and follow it. Again, the people in the community have very strong opinions about this, and they need to be heard, talked to, listened to. So, yes, absolutely.”