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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 19, 2005


Summermatter brings harmony: Music-teacher-turned-principal to lead Farnsworth

— By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Mary Summermatter says she loves being around middle school students.

"Many people are so afraid of them because they change so rapidly," she told The Enterprise this week. "But they’re so darn much fun to be around...You can laugh with them and be firm with them. There’s hope in their eyes."

Summermatter is the new principal of Farnsworth Middle School. She begins work on July 1 with an annual salary of $100,000, replacing the interim principal, Theodore Avgerinos.

Currently a middle-school principal near Buffalo, she speaks with obvious joy when she talks of her relationships with students. "They’ll bring me little gifts, like things they’ve made in Home and Careers," she said. The long-time music teacher went on, "I have been known to sing to kids in the lunch room; they’ll applaud," she said with a laugh.

Summermatter comes to Farnsworth after a string of short-term principals. Stuart Pratt resigned in March after two-and-a-half years for personal reasons; Pratt had replaced Donald Germain, a popular principal who did not receive tenure after nearly three years on the job.

Summermatter will oversee a school of about 1,400 students, divided into three houses, or schools within a school, each headed by its own house principal. The 30-year-old Farnsworth Middle School is in the midst of a $20 million expansion and renovation project, which added 18 classrooms configured as a fourth house; the budget for next year does not include funds for an administrative team for those classrooms, which will be used for overflow from the other houses.

Summermatter is now the principal of Depew Middle School, near Buffalo, which is a bit more than half the size of Farnsworth with 760 students. She described that district as "blue collar" in "a landlocked suburb" of Buffalo, with an aging population and no room for growth.

"We’re very proud that Business First named us number 16 out of 144 middle schools," she said in a phone interview from her school office in Depew. "We’re proud that, in 2001, New York State named us a most-improved middle school in math...We’re a few percentage points behind Farnsworth."

She went on, "We’ve worked very hard at raising the bar for our students and we’re getting excellent results."

Summermatter has been principal at Depew Middle School for three years and, before that, was assistant principal for four years.

She was motivated to apply for the Guilderland job after seeing it posted on-line, she said. She then turned to the district’s website, created by Amy Zurlo, communications specialist.

"I looked at the website; it’s very impressive," she said. "I learned so much from the website."

Summermatter wanted to move to the area to be closer to family. "All my family has moved east," she said. "I’m the last person in western New York."

Summermatter heard from colleagues that Guilderland was "wonderful," she said. "It was everything I had heard it would be."

Before interviewing for the job, she used her spring break to visit Guilderland and liked what she saw; it reminds her of Clarence, where she lives now — suburban bounded by rural land.

She’s been to Farnsworth Middle School twice and said she sensed the excitement from the renovations. "Everyone’s been so welcoming and warm," she said.

Selection
About 60 people applied for the job of Farnsworth principal, said Susan Tangorre, the district’s personnel director. The process had begun with Farnsworth staff and parents sharing their vision of what is needed in a principal. "We created a job description from that," said Tangorre.

A large committee, made up of administrators, teachers, and teaching assistants, interviewed six candidates, narrowing the field to two finalists, said Tangorre.

"We asked those two to come back and tour the building...We wanted them to have a sense of us," she said.

"We had two very good candidates," she went on, stating that the committee formed "a positive consensus" for Summermatter.

Her school in Depew is doing curriculum mapping, as is Farnsworth, and her district uses shared decision-making, as does Guilderland, said Tangorre.

A smaller group then met with Summermatter in Syracuse for an-hour-and-a-half of discussion.

"Each time I met Mary, I was more sure," said Tangorre. "Her people skills are very strong. She has a pleasantness about problems. They’re not problems to her. Her approach is, ‘Let’s see how we can solve them.’

"Her strengths are her knowledge and her passion" for middle-level education. Tangorre concluded, "She’s a generous person who really works hard and it’s all about kids...Her e-mails may not get answered until 5 a.m. or five at night because she’s been busy with kids and staff and parents."

Lifelong passion
Looking back at her career development, Summermatter frequently uses the words "fun" and "learning" and "love" in the same breath.

Summermatter and her brother grew up in Binghamton, which she described as an industrial city. Her parents worked for Ansco, a film-producing company and a rival of Kodak; her mother worked in the company’s credit union and her father as a supervisor.

"I loved school and I knew I wanted to be a teacher since the fifth grade," said Summermatter. Her fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Reynolds, provided a model for her. "I idolized her and she inspired me."

At West Junior High School, her dream was solidified as she continued to have "some wonderful teachers," said Summermatter.

"I was in love with math and music," she said, explaining there was no disparity in excelling at such seemingly diverse subjects. "They go hand in hand, using the same capacity in the brain."

She ultimately decided on music since she found it was "so much fun."

She went to the Crane School of Music at the State University of New York College at Potsdam. "I was very proud to be accepted," she said. "It’s a phenomenal music program; I learned a lot."

She was particularly pleased with her piano teacher, Miss King. "She made me the very best I could be; she wouldn’t settle for less," said Summermatter.

With a degree in music education, Summermatter landed her first job, teaching in Caledonia, outside of Rochester. She spend two years there, instructing students in kindergarten through sixth grade. "It changed every day," said Summermatter. "It was a great deal of fun and I learned a lot."

Next she taught for three years at a private American school in Guadalajara, Mexico. "I learned to speak survival Spanish," said Summermatter as she taught students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Her next stop was Alabama where, in two years, she earned a master’s degree in music education from Samford University before returning to the Buffalo area and teaching again.

Hooked on middle school
Summermatter taught music this time to secondary students and, under the influence of an administrator she admired, became involved in middle-level education.

"She had me go to middle-school conferences," recalled Summermatter. "I became very intrigued by middle school students."

What intrigued her most, she said, was "the way they learned."

"The research all pointed to the fact that, if you hooked them in middle school and got them going in the right direction, you probably set their course for life," she said. "If you lost them in middle school, they could be lost for life....They could drop out and never finish school."

She said of the middle-school grades — sixth, seventh, and eighth: "There’s so much growth going on, not just academically but socially and emotionally...Those years are your best chance of helping them become happy, productive people."

Summermatter decided to get her administrative certification and did so at the SUNY College at Buffalo, completing the program with an internship at the Alexander Central School District, where she taught.

"When I got done," she said, "the seventh- and eighth-grade teachers sent a letter to the board of education, requesting they keep me on." They did.

Summermatter became a teacher on special assignment, spending half of her day teaching and half fulfilling administrative duties. She was in that role for five years as she made up her mind about whether to become a full-time administrator.

"I decided that was what I really wanted," she said and she came to Depew Middle School as assistant principal in 1998.

Summermatter made the decision, she said, for her students. "I wanted to help them in a bigger way," she said. "Some were dealing with burning issues."

She has been pleased with her choice to become an administrator. "I love it; I love helping students," she said.

Asked about her goals for Farnsworth, Summermatter said, "I need to spend time speaking with staff before I develop concrete goals. Right now, my goal is to make a seamless transition and have everyone feel comfortable with me.

"I want to get to know people — the staff, the students, the parents," she said, "and continue to build on the strong educational program and provide a safe environment for students."


Coach charged with drunken driving

— By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Sean McConaghy, a Farnsworth Middle School health and physical education teacher and the Guilderland High School head coach for varsity lacrosse, was arrested on May 7 for driving while intoxicated.

Guilderland Police arrested him at 8:28 p.m. at Star Plaza, 2050 Western Ave., according to the arrest report.

McConaghy, 27, of 91G Kennsington Court, was charged with driving while intoxicated, first offense, and driving with a blood-alcohol content of .08 percent or greater, both misdemeanors, and for making an improper turn, an infraction.

McConaghy was driving south on Route 155, the report says, when he made an unlawful left turn onto Route 20 in a car "without a front left tire." He told police that he had crashed into a guardrail on Washington Avenue Extension, the report says.

The police noticed the odor of alcohol, glassy eyes, impaired speech, and impaired motor coordination, the report says, and McConaghy then failed a field sobriety test. He consented to a breathalyzer test, the report says, and the reading resulted in the charge of driving with a blood-alcohol content of over .08 percent, the report says.

McConaghy did not return a call for comment from The Enterprise.

Susan Tangorre, the personnel director for the Guilderland School District, said the district has no policy on how to handle teachers or coaches arrested for driving while intoxicated.

"We’re always expecting our employees to abide by the law," she said.

Asked if any disciplinary measures would be taken, she said, "Not at this stage."

While Tangorre said she could not comment on the specifics of McConaghy’s case, she said, in general, "We wait to see the adjudication. Someone is not necessarily guilty just because they are charged."

McConaghy is scheduled to appear in Guilderland Town Court on May 26. Typically, those arrested for a first DWI offense have the charge reduced to driving while ability impaired, for which they pay a fine and attend a victims’ impact panel.

Asked if McConaghy had had earlier problems or if his behavior at school or coaching had been affected by alcohol use, Tangorre said again that she couldn’t comment on a specific personnel matter but she did say, "If there were an employee that had problems during their working time, certainly we would take action...We would ask them to avail themselves of our employee assistance program."


Guilderland survives reval, school budget passes

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — In a year when the town reassessed properties, reflecting soaring values, the only budgets that residents get to vote on — for school and library — passed by comfortable margins.

Tuesday night, at 10:20, after a tense hour of waiting for results from the five voting districts to be tallied, the three dozen who had gathered in the Guilderland Elementary School gym applauded the results.

In a six-way race for three school board seats, the only incumbent seeking reelection, John Dornbush, was returned to office and newcomers Catherine Barber and Peter Golden were elected.

"We’re always very pleased when the budget passes," Superintendent Gregory Aidala told The Enterprise minutes after the results were announced. "We had some difficult issues with a higher budget and budget increase. And we had the reassessment...We’re always very appreciative of the support and thank the community for their involvement. We’re going to move forward now."

The $76 million school budget for next year is 6 percent higher than this year and represents a 10-percent increase in the local tax levy. The estimated tax rate for Guilderland residents is $18.55 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The budget passed, 2,091 to 1,788, with 54 percent voting for it and 46 percent against. It was carried in all five districts with 55 percent support in Altamont and Lynnwood, 54 percent support in Guilderland and Westmere, and 53 percent support in Pine Bush.

In recent years, Aidala said, Guilderland school budgets have passed with 65 percent voting yes and just 35 percent voting no. "We did expect it would be closer this year," he said of the vote. "We were hopeful it would pass. We never take it for granted that the budget is going to pass."

Aidala said, particularly with the town-wide property reassessment, "getting information to the public" was important. "We did a special newsletter on it," he said. "We were very up front about the impact of reassessment."

A proposition to buy buses and equipment for not more than $651,860 passed as well in all five districts. The vote was 2,303 to 1,545 with 60 percent voting for the proposition and 40 percent voting against it. About half of the cost for the purchase of the nine new buses — $305,000 — is to be returned to the district as state aid in the future. Additionally, the district will buy a new service truck with a plow.

School board race
For the first time in recent years, two school board members did not seek reelection. The board has nine at-large, unpaid members; three seats are up for election each year and go to the top three vote-getters.

Incumbent Dornbush faced five newcomers. All six candidates backed the budget.

William Brinkman and David Picker, both leaders and long-time board members, are stepping down.

As candidates and board members, along with their families, waited with administrators for election results Tuesday night, President Brinkman was confident the budget would pass.

"My hope for the budget," Brinkman told The Enterprise, "was people were going to vote for education and good schools, not against assessment. It’s going to pass," he said.

Brinkman also accurately predicted the winners in the school-board race.

Catherine Barber came in first with 2,115 votes, 22 percent.

A lawyer and musician with two children in Guilderland schools, Barber sees serving on the board as her next step in her involvement with the district.

Asked for her thoughts after the results were announced Tuesday, Barber said, "I’m happy to be on the school board."

"You’re overwhelmed," said her husband, Peter, also a lawyer, who helped with her campaign.

"I would just like to thank the voters for having so much confidence in me and I will try to live up to that and do a good job," said Barber.

During her campaign, she said she favored having an administrative team for the new fourth house at Farnsworth Middle School; she opposed teaching to the test; she opposed alternative sources of funding like pouring rights and in-school advertising; and she supported the current reading program and the anti-bullying program.

Barber came in first in Lynnwood, Pine Bush, and Westmere, and ran second in Altamont and Guilderland.

John Dornbush came in second with 1,823 votes or 19 percent.

He will now serve a third three-year term. "A major reason" for running again he had said during his campaign "is to maintain continuity."

Dornbush works as the assistant director of financial aid at the University at Albany and has a son at Guilderland High School.

"I’m glad it’s over," he said after the results were announced Tuesday. "It’s time to get back to work."

During his campaign, Dornbush supported having a rich curriculum over teaching to the test; he opposed in-school advertising and pouring rights and was skeptical about a foundation for alternative funding; and he supported the current reading curriculum.

Dornbush came in first in Altamont, second in Lynnwood and Westmere, and fourth in Guilderland and Pine Bush.

Peter Golden came in third with 1,669 votes, 18 percent.

As he waited to hear election results, with his son Benjamin, a Farnsworth Middle School student, Golden talked about how hard he had campaigned.

"Americans admire gameness," he said, recounting how residents had told him, "You’re working so hard, I’ll vote for you," even though, he said, they didn’t necessarily know what he stood for.

Golden, a self-employed writer, said during his campaign that he had been shocked at the anger he’s heard in the community over the high school taxes.

"Thirty percent of the people in Guilderland have children in the school district; 70 percent don’t. I have found, as I walk the neighborhoods, the amount of school taxes is polarizing people."

Golden campaigned on harnessing the energy of volunteers in the schools. He spoke of the importance of having students perform well on tests; and he urged zero tolerance for harassment and strong discipline.

Golden was one of three candidates endorsed by Guilderland Parents Advocate, a group of parents who favor explicit instruction standards for reading. He is the only GPA-endorsed candidate who was elected this year.

Golden came in first in Guilderland, third in Altamont, fourth in Lynnwood and Westmere, and fifth in Pine Bush.

Denise Eisele came in fourth with 1,573 votes, 17 percent.

A nurse and the mother of six children, she stressed that the quality of Guilderland teachers make the district’s education outstanding.

Endorsed by the GPA, she said it would be reasonable for the district "to do a sincere evaluation of its reading program." As a parent advocate for the Committee on Special Education, she said that reading is the biggest concern of parents of students with learning disabilities or special needs.

Eisele said she would support some alternative sources of funding, such as looking into a foundation, and she said the district should go beyond its current anti-bullying campaign to combat harassment.

Eisele came in second in Pine Bush, third in Westmere and Guilderland, fourth in Altamont, and fifth in Lynnwood.

Hy Dubowsky came in fifth with 1,319 votes, 14 percent.

The father of three children, Dubowsky has many academic degrees and works for the state’s Department of Labor as the director of economic development services.

He ran to combat organized budget opposition. During his campaign, he put forth many ideas on alternative funding. Dubowsky adamantly opposed teaching to the test.

He said he has zero tolerance for prejudice and advocated offering more activities for kids to join, so they can find what they have in common rather than focus on their differences.

Dubowsky came in third in Lynnwood and Pine Bush, fifth in Altamont and Guilderland, and sixth in Westmere.

Daniel Jacobowitz came in sixth with 942 votes, 10 percent.

The single parent of a Guilderland High School student, Jacobowitz works as an audit manger with the state’s Department of Health.

He said his job would prepare him for serving on the board. "I know how to evaluate programs with an eye for effectiveness, efficiency, and best practices," he said.

He said teachers should structure their own tests to be similar to required standardized tests. On alternative funding, he objected to pouring rights but was open to corporate sponsorship.

Endorsed by the GPA, he said that, if the district were truly meeting the needs of each child, some parents wouldn’t be unhappy.

He also said that more should be and is being done with diversity training.

Jacobowitz came in fifth in Westmere, and sixth in Altamont, Guilderland, Lynnwood, and Pine Bush.

Library results
\The $2.4 million library budget passed with 2,223 or 59 percent voting for it, and 1,525 or 41 percent voting against it.

Next year’s library budget is up about 4 percent, or about $100,000, from this year. The tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value for Guilderland residents is estimated at 81 cents.

The 11-member library board had three seats open but only two candidates — Brian Hartson and Michael Borges — submitted petitions to appear on the ballot.

The third spot went to write-in candidate Gloria Moran-Reimann.

Hartson, an incumbent, was the top vote-getter with 2,168 votes.

Hartson, who works for the state’s Department of Labor, said, during his three years on the board, he was most proud of "participation and input into the long-range planning process."

He sees a continued need for planning and said, "I look forward to that process and having input on that, making sure we preserve the library as the valuable community asset it is."

Borges came in second with 2,152 votes.

Borges is the executive director of the New York Library Association and he is also president of Guilderland’s library foundation.

"I believe in the importance of libraries and their ability to positively impact people’s lives," he said during his campaign. "I want to be sure our library has the resources and staff necessary to fulfill its mission."

Moran-Reimann received 237 write-in votes.

Long-time library trustee Barbara Fraterrigo said she talked her friend, Moran-Reimann, into launching a write-in campaign after only two candidates filed petitions.

Moran-Reimann is a recently-retired reading teacher.

"I have always loved reading," she told The Enterprise after the election results were announced. "I started taking my children before the new library was built...I’m amazed at the resources our library offers."

Another write-in candidate, Diana Rosenbaum-Weisz, received 48 votes. She has degrees in law and social work and works at Parsons Child and Family Center. Robert Ganz, president of the library board, asked her to run, said her husband, Richard Weisz, who described her as "a big reader."

Bruce Sherwin, who is stepping down after serving one five-year term on the library board, received 10 write-in votes.

Eighteen other people received one or two write-in votes.

Last year, only one eligible candidate submitted a petition to appear on the ballot for library trustee, but then three write-in candidates also ran. Incumbent Barbara Fraterrigo, who appeared on the ballot, was reelected as were write-in candidates Barbara Haught and Lawrence Malone, who has since resigned.


Bike path just a pipe dream" Fuller Station doesn’t want it

— Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — Several residents attended Tuesday’s town board meeting, angry that a bike path is recommended to run behind their homes.

After two of the homeowners vented their frustrations, Pathways committee chairman Lindsay Childs said it’s unlikely the controversial bike path will be built and it’s not even proposed.

In April of 2003, the Guilderland Pathways Committee presented a report to the town board outlining areas of Guilderland it felt most needed sidewalks, bike paths, and trails. The plan, which took three years to complete, divided the committee’s findings into three separate reports, for sidewalks, walkable destinations, and bike paths.

Last year, the town received a matching grant of $7,500 from the Hudson River Greenways Council. The town then used the grant money to pay Wilbur Smith Associates to review the pathways plan and make recommendations.

In February, The Enterprise reported on a public meeting where Jim Donovan, of Wilbur Smith Associates, critiqued the pathways plan. Donovan was scheduled to present his analysis to the town board Tuesday, but did not show up.

At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, some of the dozen residents in the gallery told the board they were angry about a bike path proposed to run through their backyards, on Fuller Station Road.

Donald Csaposs, the town’s development director who wrote the pathways grant, explained to the group that Wilbur Smith is only studying the pathways plan. No action is to be taken now, he said.

"I just heard about it tonight from my neighbors," said Christina Smith. "It’s ridiculous."

Supervisor Kenneth Runion suggested she go to the next Guilderland Pathways meeting, on May 23.

Christina Smith continued that she’s upset she heard nothing about the plans for a path in her yard. She doesn’t want people walking or riding bicycles near her property, she said.

"It goes right between our backyards. Who’s going to police this"" Smith asked. "We already have motorcycles that go back there."

"They’re going to be looking into people’s windows," Marilyn Blesser said of people who would use the path. "...We have had no notice of this...People who are going to be affected have not been contacted until this week when we went door-to-door."

Childs then explained that, in the pathways plan, committee members suggested a path along the Fuller Station Road rail line. No one walked the area to see if there were houses nearby, he said; on a map, it just looked like a good place for a path.

"We knew there were going to be problems because we know things go through backyards," Childs said. "If the town ever gets to the point of doing this — it could be 30 years the way things are going — we’ll have to get around it."

Currently there is no money for constructing more bike paths and sidewalks in Guilderland, he said. If there were and if a path were considered, the public would be involved. The recommended path that Smith and Blesser are worried about, he said, could be re-routed.

"Okay," said Smith. "Look me up in 30 years."

"I don’t think the town board is ever going to approve a trail that runs through people’s yards," Runion said.

"The pathways people volunteering their time are not trying to hurt anybody," Councilman Bruce Sherwin said. The committee is examining the whole town and it’s hard, at this stage, to be specific in its plans, he said.

Phil Erner, of Forest Haven Drive, then told the board that he rode his bicycle to the meeting.

"There should be paths and lanes constructed in town," he said, "and sidewalks and public transit and lighting improvements."

Reservoir plans
Jim Besha, president of Albany Engineering Corporation, told the board about plans to raise the Watervliet Reservoir, Guilderland’s main source of drinking water.

Watervliet is asking for permission to put a gate on the Normanskill dam to raise the water level a few feet. By doing this, Besha said, the amount of water in the reservoir will more than double, from 1.7 billion to 3.5 billion gallons.

After the project is complete, the city will have more water to sell to other municipalities, like Bethlehem, New Scotland, and Duanesburg, Besha said.

The Enterprise reported on the reservoir project in detail last month. Then, environmental activists Thadeus Ausfeld and Charles Rielly said that the reservoir should be dredged and cleaned up, before more water is added to the supply.

Ausfeld and Rielly co-chair the restoration advisory board, founded years ago to advise on the cleanup of the old Army depot in Guilderland Center, which had used the Black Creek to remove waste; the creek feeds the reservoir.

Ausfeld, who runs Guilderland’s water-treatment plant, also worried that raising the reservoir will add more pollutants to the water supply. He says this will cost Guilderland because it has to purify the water before shipping it to residences.

Besha told The Enterprise then that the reservoir is not polluted and is "one of the cleanest water bodies." Many more studies will be conducted before the project begins, he said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Besha told the town board that, in August or September, public hearings and information sessions will be held to discuss the project.

Other business
In other business, the board:
— Authorized increasing the petty cash account for the town-owned Western Turnpike Golf Course to $1,250. The town currently has an account of $1,000, but, with fees increasing steadily, the course needs more cash, Runion said;

— Authorized the town’s department of water and wastewater management to bid for rehabilitation work at the Farnsworth Drive pump station. The work is estimated to cost $361,524, which will be paid for out of sewer reserve funds, Runion said;

— Scheduled a public hearing for the rural Guilderland land-use plan for June 21, at 7:30 p.m.

Runion reported that, since the last public hearing for the plan, he has had two meetings with Landowners Offering Guilderland Intelligent Choices (LOGIC). The group has spoken out against parts of the plan.

As a result of his meetings with LOGIC, Runion said some technical changes have been made to the plan. The revised plan is available on the town’s website, as well as at the town clerk’s office and at the Guilderland Public Library;

— Awarded bids for the rehabilitation of the Guilderland Animal Shelter;

— Authorized the supervisor to sign a compliance report for an annual, federally-mandated stormwater management program;

— Authorized a warrant adjustment for an incorrect water-meter reading at 1 Crossgates Mall Road; and

— Heard from Councilwoman Patricia Slavick about self-defense classes, provided by the Guilderland Police. Slavick took the classes — which were divided into three, four-hour sessions — with Town Clerk Rosemary Centi and both said it was excellent.

More classes will be held on May 25, June 1, and June 8, from 6 to 10 p.m. They are free to town residents. Those interested can call the Guilderland Police Department.


Building inspector arrested for DWI

— Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — Donald Cropsey Jr., the town’s chief building inspector and zoning administrator, was arrested by Guilderland Police on May 7 for driving while intoxicated.

Kenneth Runion, the town’s supervisor, has spoken to Cropsey about his arrest, but is not reprimanding him. Runion told The Enterprise that Cropsey used bad judgment and is remorseful.

Cropsey did not return phone calls to The Enterprise for comment.

Guilderland Police arrested Cropsey on May 7, just after midnight, at Highwood Circle and Western Avenue.

Cropsey was observed on Route 20, on the right shoulder of the road, the arrest report says. He pulled into traffic and then weaved over the solid white fog lane, the report says. He then pulled onto the right shoulder again, in the out-going, one-way lane of Highwood Circle and was stopped by police.

Cropsey failed a field sobriety test and was charged with two misdemeanors — driving while intoxicated, first offense, and driving with a blood-alcohol content of .08 percent or greater.

He is scheduled to appear in Guilderland Town Court tonight (Thursday).

When asked if Cropsey’s arrest will hurt his job, Runion said that it would not.

"This was done as part of his private life," Runion said. "It wasn’t like he was driving a town vehicle or working for the town at the time."

Two years ago, Donald Albright, the town’s chief fire inspector, was arrested for giving alcohol to three teenagers at his home. He was charged with endangering the welfare of a child and first-degree unlawfully dealing with a child.

Albright was also charged with the same two misdemeanors in April of 1993 when he allegedly bought beer for two boys, ages 15 and 16. At that time, Albright was the health and safety coordinator for Guilderland schools and he resigned soon after the arrest.

After Albright’s 2003 arrest, Runion decided that Albright should undergo an evaluation through the town’s employee-assistance program. After this, Albright returned to work; he later served 30 days in jail.

Asked why action was taken after Albright’s arrest, but not Cropsey’s, Runion said, "That’s different because his [Albright’s] arrest had concerns raised about giving alcohol to minors. We wanted to make sure he didn’t have a problem."

In Cropsey’s case, Runion said, he was driving home after having dinner somewhere.

"It was dissimilar from Albright because he wasn’t serving other people alcohol," Runion said. "It was a victimless type of offense."

Runion was surprised when he heard Cropsey was arrested, he said.

"As I told Mr. Cropsey, it was an exercise of poor judgment," he said. "He was very remorseful when he talked to me about it."

If Cropsey is convicted, it could affect his job, Runion said, because part of his duties include driving to homes and businesses to conduct building inspections.

"If he does have a conviction for DWI or driving while impaired, it could jeopardize his ability to drive a town vehicle," Runion said. "We’ll have to discuss those things."

Perhaps, he said, Cropsey will have to use his own vehicle for work-related activity.

"A lot of insurance companies have zero tolerance for alcohol-related drug convictions," and raise rates accordingly, Runion said.

The town does periodic license checks of town employees who drive town vehicles, Runion said, at the request of its insurance carrier. After Cropsey was arrested, Runion said, he ran a license check on him.

"He’s perfectly clean," Runion said.


GOP names parital slate; most Dems plan to run again

— Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — With town elections still more than five months away, the party in power is taking its time getting to the starting line, as the challengers — without a full team — seem eager to begin the race.

While Guilderland’s Democratic committee doesn’t plan to announce its candidates until June, most of the incumbents say they plan to run.

The Republican committee announced its candidates this week, but is still far short of a full slate. The GOP has two candidates for the town board and a long-time judge seeking re-election, but no candidates lined up yet for supervisor, town clerk, or receiver of taxes.

The incumbent Democratic supervisor, Kenneth Runion, says he plans on running for a fourth two-year term. Party chair David Bosworth says he’s confident Runion will be endorsed.

Town supervisor
Runion’s goals for the future include getting the town’s comprehensive plan implemented. Four years ago, the town board adopted a master land-use plan. The plan examines a handful of areas.

The town is currently holding public hearings to discuss adopting laws related to Behan Planning Associates’ guidelines for farmland and open-space conservation. The rural Guilderland plan has been criticized by some.

Runion, 51, grew up in Rochester and moved to Guilderland in 1974.

He has a degree in political science from the State University of New York College at Potsdam and a degree from Albany Law School.

Runion had a private law practice in Delmar for years and has had several elected and appointed positions. He served as Guilderland’s town attorney from 1984 to 1992 and as zoning board attorney from 1993 to ’97. He also served as mayor of Altamont from 1993 until becoming town supervisor in 2000.

Runion and his wife, Helene, have two sons, Kevin and David.

The Republicans still do not have a candidate for town supervisor, said committee chairman Tony Cortes. The nominee they had, who Cortes declined to name, withdrew, he said.

"We have until June 7 to get a full slate," Cortes said. The Republican committee will have another meeting before then, as soon as it finds someone who’s interested in running for supervisor, he said.

Asked if he was nervous not having a supervisor candidate now, Cortes said, "I’d like to have a reliable candidate, but I think, down the road before June 7, we will have a name...It will not be vacant. I can guarantee that."

The Republican town board candidates aren’t worried about not having a supervisor candidate now, either.

"It doesn’t make me nervous," said Ed Glenning. "I’ve got good relationship skills....Looking at it from a career perspective, it’s tough to find qualified candidates."

"At this point, they’re still considering some names," said Michael Donegan. "There are people under consideration and I’m not overly concerned. We’re going to put up a good slate."

Town board Democrats
Democratic incumbent Patricia Slavick is likely to get her party’s nomination.

"For me, being on the board has been a great learning experience," Slavick told The Enterprise. "I want to continue that."

Like Runion, Slavick’s main goal for the future is to implement the town’s comprehensive plan, she said.

In 1999, before Slavick was on the board, she worked in groups that were drafting the plan. She joined the board in 2000 and, not long after, the plan was adopted.

She also wants to continue to make improvements to the Watervliet Reservoir, the town’s main source of drinking water.

Slavick said she’s proud of helping a range of people in town, from getting soccer fields in DiCaprio Park for Guilderland children to getting senior housing on Carman Road for older residents.

Slavick, 53, works for the state’s Office of Mental Health. She is an accountant there who does information technology work. For most of her career, she worked at General Electric’s corporate tax and global research center.

Slavick has a degree in business administration from The College of Saint Rose and a degree in accounting from the University at Albany’s school of business.

She grew up in Schenectady and moved to Guilderland 20 years ago. Slavick and her husband, Stephen, have two children, Kristen, 23, and Stephen Jr., 19.

Bosworth told The Enterprise that incumbent councilman Bruce Sherwin is not likely to be re-nominated by the town’s Democratic committee. (See related story.)

Democrat Paul Pastore may run with Slavick for the other town board seat, Bosworth said. Pastore could not be reached this week for comment.

Pastore is an attorney with the firm of McNamee, Lochner, Titus, & Williams. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame, with a degree in government and international relations, and from Albany Law School.

Pastore has been the town’s planning board attorney for several years.

"He’s been active in town affairs," Bosworth said. "He’s a voice in the planning movement."

Pastore ran for town justice in 1993 and lost to long-time Judge Steven J. Simon. Bosworth said Pastore’s experience in running for an elected position is an advantage.

Town board Republicans
Last Wednesday, the town’s Republican committee chose Donegan and Glenning to run for town board.

That evening, Donegan and Glenning, along with two others, told the committee why they want to run for town board.

"After that, the committee asked questions on issues such as economic growth, development, crime, and stuff like that," said Cortes. "Mike Donegan and Ed Glenning did a great presentation."

Of 40 committee members, 19 attended the meeting and voted, Cortes said.

"I had people say that, for the first time, they went to a meeting like this and nothing was pre-fixed," Cortes said. "It’s not like the committee knew what it wanted to do. Every candidate that went was expecting to win."

Norman Mullen, a small-business owner in Guilderland, lost the nomination by one vote, Cortes said. Wesley Staroba was close behind; news stories about Staroba appeared in The Enterprise last year when he vocally opposed a zoning law that said his pickup truck is large enough to be considered a commercial vehicle and cannot be parked in his driveway at night.

Cortes praised all four who interviewed for the nomination and said he’s looking forward to the campaign.

Glenning said he decided to run for town board after seeing the committee’s ad in The Enterprise.

Glenning, 41, works as the senior vice president for a technological area in the Bank of America.

"There’s not an appetite in town for any real significant commercial growth," Glenning said. "There’s not a balance between residential growth and commercial."

The town is at a period where there is little growth, he said, but growth is needed to generate revenue to maintain open space.

The town’s proposed rural Guilderland plan needs more work, Glenning said.

He went on to say that Guilderland is a good place to live. "It has an excellent police force and a justice system," he said. "But, with the increase in the seriousness of crimes committed within the town’s borders, we should show leadership from a town perspective."

Glenning and his wife have lived in Guilderland for 10 years. They have a seven-year-old daughter. The couple came to Guilderland because of its good school system.

Asked why he decided to run, Donegan, an attorney, said, "I think the town is coming to a crossroads period. We’ve got to get a lot of issues in the forefront. Myself and Ed Glenning can provide that leadership."

He went on of the proposed rural Guilderland plan. "We need to look at being smart about the way we control the town. We need to be even-handed and fair," Donegan said.

Donegan criticized the current plan as being vague. "It’s hard in some aspects to figure out exactly how to permit open space, but there needs to be some more room for business to be included in a growth plan. That’ll spread the tax base."

Donegan and his wife, Rita, have lived in Altamont for eight years.

He grew up on Long Island and earned a degree in American history at the University at Albany. He went to law school on Long Island, but found he liked this area so much that he was drawn back.

Donegan, 45, has also been involved in several community organizations, such as the Altamont Community Tradition, the Community Caregivers, St. Lucy’s Church, and he served on the village’s police review committee.

Town justice
Republican Steven J. Simon has decided to run again for town judge, a post he’s held for a quarter of a century, and he has received his party’s support. Although the Democrats have not yet named a candidate, Bosworth told The Enterprise that he is sure assistant town attorney Denise Randall will be nominated to challenge Simon.

Guilderland has two town justices who each serve four-year terms. Democrat John Bailey was elected two years ago to replace Judge Kenneth Riddett, who retired after two decades. Bailey is the first Democrat in the town’s 200-year history to serve as judge.

Simon is running for another four-year term and says its his experience that qualifies him.

"I enjoy the job and I feel I have something to offer since I’ve been here for 25 years," he said. "My experience helps in making my decisions."

Guilderland has changed since Simon was first elected, he said. The growing population and construction of Crossgates Mall has caused the court to have many more cases.

Also, he said, more serious crimes are committed in Guilderland.

"I want to continue what I think can be an open court, that’s accessible to the people," Simon said. "I want it to be more efficient."

Simon, 63, has had a private law practice in Albany for 33 years. He graduated from Union College and Albany Law School. He also served as an officer in the United States Navy for three-and-a-half years.

He and his wife, Judy, a fifth-grade teacher at Westmere Elementary School, have lived in Guilderland since 1967.

Simon concluded, "I enjoy the job and I look forward to being in the court and continuing with enthusiasm to running a court that’s open and accessible."

Simon’s opponent, Randall, spoke about making the court more open and flexible.

"I want to be more of a presence in the court," she said. "A justice should be accessible. I live and work on Western Avenue. My office is six minutes from the court and my house is five minutes away. I can be there quickly for arraignments, morning, noon, and night."

For almost six years, Randall has been the prosecutor in Guilderland Town Court.

"I’ve watched the courts and how they work," she said. "I have ideas on how it could be more efficient and flexible in scheduling."

Randall also has strong feelings on treating non-violent offenders and sentencing them with restitution, rather than fines.

"It’s important for young people to not just pay a fine and feel they’ve purchased their way out of difficulty," she said. "Basically, they’re good people but they don’t understand the impact of things."

Randall has been practicing law for 28 years. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College and Albany Law School. She has worked for the city of Albany and for state’s attorney general’s office.

She currently has a private practice on Western Avenue with her husband, Robert, and is an adjunct professor of business law at The College of Saint Rose.

Randall and her husband have a daughter, Griffan, 19, and a son, Jordan, 15.

Town clerk
Town Clerk Rosemary Centi, a Democrat, hopes to get her party’s nomination on June 6. She ran unopposed for the two-year post in 2003 and, this year, no Republican has yet stepped forward to challenge her.

Centi has more she’d like to accomplish for the town, she told The Enterprise.

"I want to get more of our minutes on disc form so they’re more accessible for me to retrieve," she said.

Centi is also closely following the Help American Vote Act, which requires municipalities to use new voting machines.

"I’m pulling every article on that," she said.

Centi was appointed as town clerk in August of 2000 and was then elected in 2001.

"I want to continue providing an open, accessible, and responsible office," Centi said. "I feel I’ve done a good job. I feel I’ve been pretty open with everybody who has had requests."

Centi grew up in Schenectady. She earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Siena College. Centi was a Spanish teacher who later worked as a substitute teacher for several schools.

Centi has lived in Guilderland with her husband, Daniel, for almost 20 years. They have three children: Daniel Jr., 25; Justin, 22; and Jacqueline, 19.

Receiver of Taxes
Democrat Jean Cataldo, the town’s receiver of taxes, is also hoping to secure her party’s nomination. She, too, is so far unopposed.

"The job has been a challenge and I love a challenge," Cataldo told The Enterprise. "I also enjoy dealing with the residents in the town of Guilderland."

Her job is sometimes difficult, Cataldo said, because she has to follow state laws, some that she doesn’t agree with. Residents often assume she can make decisions, but, she said, she can only follow the law.

"I try my best to give 200 percent in customer service," Cataldo said. "That’s what I really want to provide....My goal is to educate people more about the taxpaying process."

She also tries to make tax collection easier for the residents, she said. The town recently opened a new branch at First Niagara Bank on Western Avenue, so Westmere residents in the eastern end of town wouldn’t have to travel far to pay their taxes. There is also a secure box at Town Hall where residents can leave their payments after hours and still make the deadline, she said.

Cataldo has been the town’s receiver of taxes since 2000. Before that, she worked as an administrative assistant for Marriot and as a customer-service representative for Crossgates Mall.

Cataldo, 49, grew up in Albany and attended business school. She has two sons, Michael, 22, and Stephen, 20.


Sherwin says: Dems dropped me for speaking my mind

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — Bruce Sherwin, a Democrat, who has been a councilman on the Guilderland Town Board for four years, says he has been rebuffed by the town’s Democratic committee because he votes his mind.

Most of the time, the board’s members — all Democrats — vote unanimously. Sherwin has at times cast the only dissenting vote.

"I’m a Democrat without a party," Sherwin told The Enterprise Monday.

Although Sherwin wants to run for another four-year term, the committee is not nominating him, he said. He supported a Republican for county legislator, he said, and was branded disloyal by David Bosworth, the Democratic chairman and a town board member.

Bosworth, however, responded through The Enterprise that he does not decide who the committee endorses. He is only one of 64 committeemen and one of 8,500 Democratic voters, he said.

It seems likely, however, that the Democratic party will choose planning board attorney Paul Pastore to run in place of Sherwin, Bosworth said this week.

Sherwin said that, without support from the Democratic committee, his political career is over for now. He plans on spending more time with his family and continuing to volunteer for the McKownville fire department and other neighborhood committees.

Currently, the town supervisor, all five councilmembers, the receiver of taxes, and the clerk are all Democrats. This is the fifth year that the town has been dominated by Democrats. For nearly 200 years, it was Republicans who controlled town government.

About a third of Guilderland voters are enrolled as Democrats, about a third as Republicans, and about a third are enrolled in small parties or not in any party.

Sherwin’s claims come after the Republican committee announced its two candidates for two town board seats. Republicans Michael Donegan and Ed Glenning will likely challenge Democratic incumbent Patricia Slavick and Pastore this fall.

For town justice, long-time Republican incumbent Steven J. Simon may be challenged by assistant town attorney Denise Randall, a Democrat.

The Democrats are still reviewing candidate interviews and will announce official nominees in June, Bosworth said.

The Republicans have yet to name candidates for town supervisor, clerk, and receiver of taxes. Democratic incumbents Supervisor Kenneth Runion, Clerk Rosemary Centi, and Tax Collector Jean Cataldo are planning to run.

The Republican committee said in February that it had no real contenders for the election. So, it put an ad in The Enterprise. The ad asked anyone interested in running for supervisor, town board member, town judge, receiver of taxes, or town clerk to send a résumé to the committee.

This year, Tony Cortes, the party’s chair, said the Republican committee will endorse residents from any political party.

"We want people who are open-minded, who are willing to negotiate with our political compromises," he said.

He said later that the Enterprise ad was a sort of training process that brought local Republicans to the committee to find out about elected positions.

Sherwin’s strife
"I don’t believe I’m being renominated," Sherwin told The Enterprise when asked Monday if he was going to run again for town board.

Sherwin had wanted to run again, he said, and was interviewed by six members of the Democratic party.

"Based on the interview and the feedback I was getting, they didn’t think I’d get endorsed by the Independence party," he said.

Bosworth told The Enterprise Monday night about the importance of candidates’ being supported by smaller parties.

"With several thousand in minor parties, we look for candidates that can meet approval not only from Democrats," he said. Sherwin wasn’t interviewed by other political committees, as other incumbents were this year, Bosworth said.

"But," he said, "we’ve made it clear to Bruce all along that he needs to run on other lines."

Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats say they haven’t decided who will run in November’s election.

"I’d have to be like a fortune teller to tell you who the committee will vote for; it’s majority vote," Bosworth said. "But, I think a broad base of support is important, to consider a candidate’s electibility."

Sherwin said he is surprised that the Democrats who interviewed him aren’t supporting him.

"Based on my values and views, which are similar to theirs, I thought I could make a compelling case," he said. "I thought I had a decent chance."

Of the Democratic committee, Sherwin said, "They didn’t feel I’d given the party enough local help in terms of going door-to-door and in terms of putting up signs."

While Sherwin, who is an account exective for a publishing company, did some door-to-door campaigning, he said he felt he had limited time. He thought his time was best spent contributing to other local organizations, such as the library board, the Guilderland Performing Arts Center, the Schoolcraft House, the Guilderland Hamlet Neighborhood Association, the McKownville Fire Department, and the McKownville Improvement Association.

"I don’t know who the Democrats are who are saying that," Bosworth said, when told Sherwin thought he was criticized for not campaigning enough. "That’s a little vague. I haven’t heard that specific thing, but I didn’t participate in the candidate interview process."

Sherwin made some financial contributions to Albany County Democrats that the Guilderland Democrats didn’t like, he said.

Last fall, for example, then-assistant district attorney David Soares challenged his boss, Paul Clyne, for district attorney and beat Clyne in a stunning upset in the Democratic primary. Sherwin contributed to Soares’s campaign, he said, but Guilderland Democrats were undecided about supporting Soares.

He also supported Allen Maikels for county comptroller. "They were on the fence about that one, too," Sherwin said of local Democrats.

Bosworth responded that he didn’t know anything about committee members being upset with Sherwin’s financial contributions or his support for certain county candidates.

Supporting others

In the special Albany County Legislature election last April, Sherwin backed Republican David Reid. He says this is another reason why the Guilderland Democrats are not supporting him.

Long-time Democratic Legislator Mary Lou Connolly narrowly beat Reid. She continues to represent District 32, which includes McKownville and Guilderland Center.

Sherwin didn’t support Connolly, he said, because he wanted to see change in the legislature. He backed another Democrat, Herb Henning, to challenge Connolly in the primary, he said.

As Sherwin was helping Henning with his petitions for the primary, he said, he was called into Supervisor Runion’s office. In the office, Sherwin said, Bosworth told him on speaker phone that he was to support Connolly. Guilderland Democrats did not want a primary for Connolly, Sherwin said.

"I said that’s unacceptable," Sherwin said. "I said that, in a democracy, there should be differences of opinion. I was told that I’d have no future in the Democratic party because of this."

"I don’t remember that exact quote," Bosworth told The Enterprise in response. "I advised him to support the party’s choice. As the chair of the party, I normally support the committee people."

When asked about the primary this week, Connolly told The Enterprise that both Sherwin and Runion backed Henning. She said she was stunned, shocked, and hurt by this.

"I sat here and cried," she said. "Elected officials don’t do that to each other."

Runion said Tuesday, in response, that he didn’t publicly support Henning.

But, Henning never challenged Connolly in the primary.

Sherwin continued that, four years ago, Connolly campaigned against him, Runion, and Peter Barber, who ran on the Democratic ticket for town justice.

"She and Runion had a difference of opinion on an insurance contract that she wanted to get," Sherwin said of Connolly, who runs an insurance company. "She never forgave him for that."

"That’s ludicrous," Connolly responded to The Enterprise. "I supported Bruce Sherwin and Ken Runion. You never saw me anywhere not supporting them. I have always supported the nominated candidates, whether I disagree with them or not."

Of the disagreement, Connolly said she bid to be the town’s insurance provider and the town board went with a different company. She was upset by this, she said, but she has always supported the board members.

Runion responded that he didn’t know about Connolly’s supporting him four years ago or not.

"I heard a variety of rumors," he said. "I don’t know who she backed."

Of the insurance contract, Runion said the town went with a carrier that provided the best proposal for the lowest price.

Connolly went on, "I don’t agree with everything every elected official does, but I don’t do anything behind people’s backs. I have always supported Bruce Sherwin."

She said, "I know he was very close friends with David Reid and that’s fine. If Republicans didn’t vote for me when I first ran in 1992, I wouldn’t have gotten elected."

"The fact that she campaigned against us and there were no other Democrats I could support, I saw the next best candidate was Reid," Sherwin told The Enterprise.

Sherwin was scolded by the Democratic party for having a sign on his lawn in support of Reid, he said.

"At least two other Democratic elected officials gave money to Reid and went to one of his fund-raisers with me," Sherwin said. "Why am I being hung out if I did no worse""

"I know people were offended by his opposition to Mary Lou," Bosworth said of Sherwin. "I have heard criticism of his behavior in terms of Mary Lou."

Independent thinking
Sherwin went on to say that his independence on certain town board issues has made him unpopular.

"If I was going to guess, I don’t think Bosworth was too happy with the fact that I’ve been too independent," Sherwin said. "Through the four years, there’ve been issues where I was not voting with the other people."

Two of those votes were on well-publicized, controversial issues and focused on flawed town board process. One was approving the re-zoning of property so Jeff Thomas could build a senior-housing complex in the midst of a moratorium for rural western Guilderland. The other was on a Patriot Act resolution that took no stand, as a local committee had asked the board to do, but only said the town board will forward the committee’s opinions on the Patriot Act to state and federal officials.

Recently, Sherwin said, Bosworth made a motion at a town-board meeting that was not seconded. After the meeting, Sherwin said, Bosworth sent an e-mail to the other board members.

"It said he couldn’t believe he was seated with four other Democrats and couldn’t get a second," Sherwin said. "We embarrassed him."

"I may have commented once that I didn’t get a second," Bosworth said. "It’s good parliamentary procedure...Without a second, you can’t have a lot of discussion. I thought I should get a courtesy second."

Two years ago, Republicans running against Bosworth for town board accused him of controlling the other board members. They nicknamed him "Boss Bosworth" and said it’s a conflict of interest for a party chair to serve on the town board.

Bosworth said then that the allegations were absurd.

Asked if he thinks other board members are controlled by Bosworth, Sherwin said Monday that he didn’t. "I was probably just more blunt. I went against the grain more times than the others," he said.

Sherwin has had other differences of opinion with the board, on issues like a proposed plan for rural Guilderland, he said.

"I’ve got to take full responsibility," he said. "I decided whether I was going to define the job or whether it was going to define me. I decided to do what I thought was right, to represent the entire town, not just do what Dave Bosworth wanted."

"I don’t think I’ve ever criticized anybody at a town board meeting," Bosworth responded. "I don’t interrupt."

"I realized at the time that it was a dicey move to make and that there would be consequences," Sherwin said of speaking his mind. "I was pretty positive there would be consequences. I knew that. It’s politics; politics can be a contact sport. I had a choice to make and I made it."

Asked if he were surprised at Sherwin’s comments, Bosworth said he wasn’t. "Bruce is a very independent voice on the board. He’s been a fairly independent person and he’s had some difficulty getting support for what he’d like to see accomplished.....Bruce was fervent in his beliefs and that can alienate people," Bosworth said. "He was a little outspoken on matters."

"For me, it’s a matter of, I wanted to stay independent," Sherwin said. "That’s the way an organization works. You have to fall into a certain mold. Is the party bigger than you or are you bigger than the party" For Dave, it’s the party is bigger than you. But I wasn’t all that interested in party politics.

"My only agenda is: What’s in the best interest of the town"" Sherwin said. "From my point of view, I was loyal. I did things differently; I didn’t play by the rules."

When asked if he thought Sherwin were disloyal, Bosworth said, "That’s not a decision I’d make as an individual. My opinion is not important."

But, Bosworth said, "He’s not a loyal party person. He’s distanced himself from party activities, like Democrat dinners, and he didn’t march in the bicentennial parade."

"I’d have been happier if Bosworth just called me and told me I didn’t reflect the values of the Democratic party," Sherwin said. "But, if it’s based on job performance, nobody’s ever said I did a bad job."

Sherwin regrets not being able to stay on the town board and pursue other issues, like the condition of the Watervliet Reservoir, Guilderland’s primary source of drinking water, and economic-development issues.

"I’m not upset because I did the best I could," he said. "I enjoyed the job and the people. It’s a public service. You serve at the behest of the people."

Asked if he would support Pastore in November’s election, Sherwin said he wouldn’t. "I thought I was the best candidate," he said.

Asked who he would vote for, he said, "I’d have to think a Democrat is better than I am to vote for them. If it’s not me, I’d like to see who the Republican candidate is. I’ll vote for the best guy for the job."

He concluded, "I take ownership for what happened. It’s okay. I’m not upset....It’s a marriage like anything else. I was the new kid on the block. I was young and fairly naive. But, it’s not like I haven’t compromised. It’s not like I haven’t supported people."

The Enterprise asked Runion if he knew of problems between Sherwin and Bosworth.

"I hear rumors and things, but I’m not really aware of anything," Runion said. "I’m not privy to any real problems."

He went on, "I do think Bruce is an independent thinker, but I think he’s always out working for the betterment of the town. Discussion amongst board members is a healthy thing. We don’t want to make decisions in a vacuum.

"I’m more involved in the administrative duties than in the day-to-day political activities," Runion said. "I’m a little out of the loop."

When asked for his thoughts on Pastore, Runion said he’d "make a fine board member." Pastore is a competent attorney, Runion said, and knowledgeable on planning and zoning issues, which is important.


Elks applaud Malrene Plant as Mother of the Year

— Maggie Gordon

GUILDERLAND -- Marlene Plant, who raised 10 children single-handedly after her husband left her, defines success for a mother as "putting your family first and doing the best you can with what you have."

At age 68, she received the Mother of the Year award from the Guilderland Elks Saturday evening at a dinner held in her honor. Plant was nominated by her oldest daughter, Charlene M. Plant, 48, of Albany, and was one of a few nominations received by the Elks.

Marlene Plant encouraged her children to do the best they could. "She taught her children to free your heart from hatred, free your mind from worries, live simply, give more and to expect less," Plant’s daughter wrote.

Plant’s 10 children were born over a span of 22 years. While all of her own children were still at home, Plant’s days included lacrosse games, Pop Warner football, and Girl Scouts.

She said the most challenging part of raising her seven boys and three girls was "just keeping up with them."

Plant also said that it was financially difficult to raise a household of children. She said her husband "got himself a younger girlfriend" and left in the mid-1980’s while she still had two young children at home. At this time, Plant did not even have a driver’s license, and she had been out of the work force for about 30 years.

Plant got her driver’s license at the age of 42 and found a job at Blue Cross/Blue Shield, where she worked in the mailroom for ten-and-a-half years. She said juggling her duties as a mother with working was the most challenging part of switching her roles from a primarily domestic lifestyle to becoming the main provider for her family.

"I think every working mother goes through that," Plant said. Her mother had also been a single parent, and a mother of six children.

Plant’s daughter, Charlene, wrote in a letter nominating her mother for the award that this experience enabled her to be independent and "motivated her and allowed her to do things for herself like never before."

Her youngest child is now in his mid-20’s, and planning his wedding this September.

Since her own kids have grown, Marlene Plant now devotes much of her time to her 19 grandchildren, who range in age from 25 to two years old.

Plant’s daughter wrote that Plant attends her grandchildren’s school and extra-curricular activities as well as the occasional field trip. She also baby-sits her grandchildren, especially when they are sick.

Even when Plant was sick with transition cell carcinoma in 2000, she "refused to let it keep her down," her daughter said. While Plant lost a kidney to the disease, she has continued to live her life as a dedicated mother and grandmother, and also as an employee at Wal-Mart, where she has worked since 1998.

While Plant’s life has been filled with many obstacles, her daughter wrote that she "continues to make every day count and teach her positive values to her family."

Plant said being named mother of the year was a great feeling. "I was stunned... It’s always nice to know what your kids feel about you and that all your hard work paid off."


Maple Avenue new home for Sidewalk Café and Country Store

— Maggie Gordon

ALTAMONT — MaryEllen Cline, 49, searched for the perfect location for her café and country store for three years before finding her spot on Maple Avenue in Altamont.

After a few months of preparations, the Sidewalk Café and Country Store opened yesterday, less than a block from Main Street.

Cline, a single mother who grew up in the Capital District, fell in love instantly with the look, location, and set-up of the property. She referred to Altamont as a "beautiful town and a nice community," and a place that would offer her business great potential to thrive.

While there have been two short-lived businesses at that location within the past few years — an ice cream shop and an eatery — Cline is not intimidated. "I think that everybody has unique ideas and I hope that efforts will enhance the community and help bring more people in here," Cline said.

She also hopes to attract people from surrounding areas. "People should be coming up here on Saturdays and Sundays," Cline said.

This is Cline’s first business venture, although she has been in the food service and retail industry for a number of years.

Cline earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Miami in 1979, and a culinary degree as well as a degree in hotel and restaurant management from Schenectady County Community College in 1997.

Cline is the full proprietor of the business, though she has some family helping her out.

The café’s hours are from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.. Lunch will be served between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and the menu will be mainly comprised of soup, salads, and sandwiches, which will be made on fresh-baked bread.

Lunch prices vary, depending on the order. A cup of her freshly made soup costs $1.95, while her sliced beef tenderloin sandwich costs $8.95. Cline said generally the cost is between five and seven dollars.

Dinner will begin at 5 p.m., giving Cline time to clean up after lunch and prepare her entrée. "I’m going to have a selection of one dinner entrée each evening," Cline said.

The small selection of entrées is due to the limited amount of kitchen space available.

Cline plans on putting a board on the sidewalk to list her evening specials for her customers. In the summer the board will list the two soups she will serve per day, which will be upgraded to four per day when the colder weather arrives in fall, she said.

Cline is also keeping the hot-dog bar intact, as well as the soda bar and ice cream window.

She is also adding a country store to the building, which will carry fresh produce each day. "This way people won’t have to run down into town for potatoes," she said.

The store carries jams and jellies, small gift items, flower arrangements, and "other things that catch my eye," Cline said.

Cline said the business differs from other businesses in the community not only because of the country store, but because of other personal touches as well.

"I’d like to hear from the community about what they’d like to see on the menu and the hours they’d like to see it open," she said. She is making notes for recommendations available for her customers.

The café features a full-service soda fountain in the back. This soda fountain, combined with the 16 flavors of Hershey’s hard ice cream she has in stock, provides customers with milkshakes, sundaes, and banana splits on top of the other desserts she plans on creating herself, such as her homemade bread pudding and strawberry shortcake.

While dinner ends at 7 p.m., when the café and store close, Cline plans on keeping the ice-cream window open until 8 p.m.. She said there is a possibility that the window’s hours may be extended after school ends if there seems to be a high demand for ice cream after 8 o’clock.

Cline also plans on taking advantage of the side patio, where her patrons can sit down and eat lunch or ice cream. "It’s an old-fashioned café kind of a deal," she said.


Arraigned on six counts — Burnell pleads not guilty

— Nicole Fay Barr

ALBANY — Looking down, Hashim Burnell seemed small and frightened Friday morning as he stood before a judge in the grand Albany County courtroom.

With dry eyes fixed on Burnell, Todd Pianowski’s mother and father watched as the 19-year-old pleaded not guilty to killing their son. Pianowski’s only brother, Kyle, sat silently with his parents, showing no emotion.

Burnell’s lawyer, Paul DeLorenzo, later repeated outside the courtroom what he told The Enterprise last week — that Burnell is the wrong man. He is innocent, DeLorenzo said, and has an alibi.

Albany County’s Assistant District Attorney David Rossi argues that there is evidence to prove that Burnell robbed and intentionally killed Pianowski.

Pianowski was found dead on May 5 on the floor of his Guilderland apartment, shot in the head and upper torso with a .40 caliber handgun. Guilderland Police Chief James Murley said that, at 2:30 p.m. that day, Pianowski’s girlfriend returned to the home they shared — in the 1700 Designer Apartments, at 1702 Western Ave. — and confronted the killer.

"He held a gun to her head," just before he ran out of the apartment, Murley said of Burnell.

Guilderland Police and State Troopers then launched a massive search and, after about eight hours, arrested Burnell and charged him with murder. Burnell, formerly a Guilderland resident, was an acquaintance of Pianowski.

Pianowski was a 22-year-old student at Hudson Valley Community College.

Murley told The Enterprise last week that he believes Burnell intended to shoot Pianowski and his motive "was a drug-for-money deal."

However, DeLorenzo said that the district attorney’s office is misinterpreting witness statements. He said he has evidence to convict someone else.

"We do know who did it," DeLorenzo told The Enterprise last week. "We have some good evidence that strongly indicates it was someone else." He would not reveal who that person is.

The arraignment
The ornate brass doors on the Albany County Courthouse elevator slid open Friday morning and two guards escorted Burnell out. He was wearing a baggy orange jumpsuit and orange shoes with no laces; his hands and feet were shackled.

Burnell looked at reporters and moved steadily toward the courtroom. He did not squint at the bright lights shone by television cameramen.

Pianowski’s family was already in the courtroom. They sat in wooden chairs on the right side of the room.

Burnell was the second suspect to be go before Judge Stephen W. Herrick Friday morning. After his name was called, he walked down the center aisle to the bench. He looked down and did not face Pianowski’s family. They stared, emotionless, at Burnell.

After a grand-jury hearing last Tuesday, Burnell was indicted on six counts. Assistant District Attorney Rossi read the charges to the judge Friday.

Burnell was then arraigned for one count of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder, and three counts of first-degree robbery, all felonies.

Rossi explained Burnell’s charges to The Enterprise this week.

First-degree murder is intentionally killing someone in the course of committing a felony, he said. Burnell is charged with this, Rossi said, because the district attorney’s office believes he killed Pianowski while robbing him.

Second-degree murder is intentionally killing someone. One of Burnell’s second-degree counts is for this, Rossi said, and another is for felony murder, which is killing someone, intentionally or not, while robbing that person.

The district attorney’s office believes that Burnell is guilty of first-degree murder, Rossi said, but got him indicted on the other charges to give a reluctant trial jury a lesser option to convict him.

Of Burnell’s three counts of robbery, Rossi said, his first-degree charge is for forcibly stealing and causing physical injury to another person at the same time.

"He stole property from Mr. Pianowski and killed him," Rossi said. The property, he said, was marijuana and cash.

The second first-degree robbery count is for stealing and being armed with a deadly weapon, Rossi said. The third count is the same, he said, but for stealing cash and other items from Pianowski’s girlfriend.

"This doesn’t surprise us," DeLorenzo told The Enterprise this week. "This is the way most situations are handled. They try to throw as many charges out as they can and try to make one stick."

DeLorenzo believes the district attorney’s office misinterpreted witness statements to come up with the charges, both for murder and for robbery, he said.

Burnell did not commit any crime, DeLorenzo said. "I understand people make mistakes. I understand that poor girl is going through a tough time," he said of Pianowski’s girlfriend. "But, it wasn’t him; she made a mistake."

On Friday, after Rossi read the charges, Burnell and DeLorenzo whispered for a moment. Burnell then pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Judge Herrick told Burnell that all of his rights are reserved, including the right to file a bail application.

DeLorenzo said this week that he is crafting a written application for Burnell’s bail. But, he said, there is currently a parole hold on him which means that, even if he is granted bail, he must remain in jail until the state’s Division of Parole allows him out.

Burnell spent time in prison for attempted burglary and, when released last summer, was soon arrested again in Guilderland for driving without a license, criminal impersonation, and possession of marijuana.

On Friday, the judge asked Burnell a few questions, such as his age and address. With the sounds of construction work outside echoing through an open courtroom window and Burnell’s hushed voice, Herrick and the court clerk asked Burnell a few times to repeat himself.

He looked small and thin compared to several other inmates who followed him out of the elevator and into the courtroom. He wore a yellow jail-identification bracelet that looked like a band patients wear in a hospital.

As Burnell left the courtroom, he raised his eyebrows in the direction of Pianowski’s parents. After he walked by, Patt Pianowski tilted her head back. She kept one hand on her son, Kyle’s, shoulder, as she had during the entire proceeding.

The family didn’t stay for Burnell to be escorted back to the elevator. As he walked down the cooridor, he was followed by a swarm of television news cameras. One cameraman asked Burnell if he killed Pianowski.

"No," Burnell said, before disappearing to the other side of the brass doors.

"I guess that’s his story and he’s sticking to it," Rossi told the press.


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