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Hilltowns Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 21, 2005

Feiner wants road plowed

By Matt Cook

RENSSELAERVILLE—An elderly Rensselaerville man feels he is cut off from essential services because the town won’t plow a road in the winter.

Richard Feiner told the Rensselaerville Town Board last Thursday that he uses Edwards Hill Road to get to the post office and a local restaurant, but, when it snows, he is forced to take a seven-mile detour. He’s been asking the town to plow the road for years, he said.

"I’m just getting tired of running around trying to get a road plowed," Feiner said.

Highway Superintendent G. Jon Chase pointed out that Edwards Hill Road has no permanent residents and it is too steep for winter driving.

"When it’s icy, there’s no way my highway crew is going to go down that hill, or up it, because it’s not necessary," Chase said.

The town board said it would remember Feiner’s comments in October when it designates seasonal roads. However, the members did not sound as if they would make a change.

"I think, even if that road were plowed in the winter time, no one would go down it," said Councilman Gary Chase.

"I don’t think it’s uncommon in this community to take an alternate route in the winter," said Councilwoman Myra Dorman

Other business

In other business at the July 14 meeting, the Rensselaerville Town Board:

—Passed a resolution stating the town would complete a revaluation of all properties in the next year. The resolution was requested by assessor Jeff Pine, who said it was necessary to secure state aid.

"[The state] said, ‘We won’t do anything without a resolution.’ So, we’ll have to do it to get them onboard," Pine said.

The town already started the move toward revaluation last month, when it approved the assessing department’s request to advertise for the position of data collector. The town hired a data collector and she has already started her work, Pine said; and

—Discussed doing a feasibility study on radio and cellular towers in the town. Planning board member Timothy Lippert requested it in response to an application to build a new radio tower that’s before the planning board.

Lippert said Albany County has funds available for such a study. Supervisor J. Robert Lansing said he would ask about it when he meets with a county representative later this month.

Town attorney Joseph Catalano said it is within the planning board’s power to apply for a grant on its own.


Nickelsberg heads GOP slate

By Matt Cook

RENSSELAERVILLE — The Rensselaerville Republican Committee has chosen candidates and developed a four-point platform for this November’s town election. The town supervisor, Republican J. Robert Lansing, will run for a seat on the town board, while party Chairman Jost Nickelsberg, of Medusa, will try to become supervisor in his first run for public office.

"At age 62, I figure I could probably help out, and it’s my town," Nickelsberg said.

Nickelsberg is an energy investment banker. He has worked in the financial field for over 40 years, he said. He intends to use his financial skills to manage the town budget as supervisor, he said.

Rensselaerville is the only Hilltown whose government is not dominated by Democrats. Currently, the town board has three Republicans and two Democrats.

Among registered voters in Rensselaerville, Democrats outnumber Republicans 3 to 1.

Lansing is stepping down against the wishes of his party, Nickelsberg said.

"We tried very hard to get Bob in because he’s done such a stellar job," he said.

Lansing, a retired school business official, has been supervisor for just one four-year term.

Lansing wants more time to spend with his family, Nickelsberg said.

Two town board seats will be contested in the election.

Republican Councilman Kenneth Decker has chosen not to run after 2 four-year terms in office.

"He does a tremendous amount of charitable work in the community," Nickelsberg said. "He just thought he needed a break. We’ll miss him."

In addition to Lansing, Timothy Becker, of Medusa, will run for a seat on the board. Democrat Councilman Steven Ryder’s term ends this year.

For highway superintendent, the Republicans are sponsoring Stephen Wood, of Preston Hollow. Wood has run for superintendent in the past, but lost to Democrat G. Jon Chase, who has held the position for over a decade.

"He has run before, but this will be the first time he’ll win," Nickelsberg said.

In May, Republican Eric Sutton was appointed by the Rensselaerville Town Board to replace Democrat Sean McCormick, who was unable to complete the required training courses for the job. The vote was split 3 to 2 along party lines.

In November, the Republicans will sponsor Sutton’s run for a full term. The Republicans have chosen Donna Kropp to run for the other open position on the three-member board of assessors, Nickelsberg said.

Although there are a few more open town-government positions for next year, including town clerk, the Republicans will not contest them, Nickelsberg said.

Platform

The Rensselaerville Republican Committee has four goals for 2006, Nickelsberg said.

The first goal is to continue Lansing’s legacy.

"He was a master of the budget and paid lots of attention to that," Nickelsberg said. Lansing strove to keep tax increases to a minimum, Nickelsberg said.

"Since he’s obviously going to continue to be with us on the board, we will be able to draw on his expertise to keep that policy," he said.

The second goal is related: to restrain tax hikes with common sense and "good solid hard work" in an effort to offset school and county taxes, Nickelsberg said.

Third, the Republicans want to preserve the rural character of Rensselaerville, which Nickelsberg said, residents want "overwhelmingly."

"We’ll work very hard to maintain that," he said, through, "enforcing current zoning and being intelligently opportunistic in relation to events that may unfold."

Finally, Nickelsberg said, the Republicans want to seek state funding—if it exists—for revitalization projects in the hamlets of Rensselaerville, Medusa, and Preston Hollow.


New prez says: BKW to create facilities planBy Matt Cook

BERNE—The Berne-Knox-Westerlo School District is a lot different than the one in which the new school board president grew up.

"I went to a very large school," said Janet Finke.

School board leaders rotate into office at BKW. Finke was unanimously appointed president earlier this month. Joan Adriance was appointed vice president.

Finke grew up in Massapequa, on Long Island. She came upstate to go to college at the State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill, where she met her husband. Finke has lived in the area ever since.

"I really liked upstate New York," she said.

Finke describes herself as a "full-time stay-at-home parent."

She has two children, one in college, and a son who is entering ninth grade at Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School.

Finke’s first involvement in the school district was in the PTA. She was secretary and co-president. Her experience in the PTA led her to run for school board. She was struck by how the school board makes decisions to deal with ever-decreasing state aid.

"I just wanted to be part of that," she said.

This is Finke’s fourth year on the board in her first five-year term. She is replacing Karen Storm.

As a board member, Finke said, she tries to be fair to all sides of an issue.

"I try to hear things out," she said. "I don’t think we make quick decisions."

She commended the current school board for its forward-thinking decisions.

"We’re not afraid of change because, with state aid and things like that, sometimes you have to make change," Finke said. "Things cannot stay the same. We have to make the best decisions that we can and still know in good conscience that we did the right thing."

This year, the board is faced with creating a facilities plan for the next five years; it will investigate what the district will require in the next few years for space and staffing.

"That would be the biggest chunk that’s going to get done this year," Finke said.30.


Huseks donate easement

By Matt Cook

RENSSELAERVILLE — A large donation will preserve a wild portion of Rensselaerville and link two of the Hilltowns’ wildlife areas.

Rensselaerville farmers Paul and Vernon Husek donated an easement on their 129 acres to the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development. Though the Huseks can continue to own and farm the land, the easement restricts future development and other uses that could harm the natural resources of the property.

Chris Olney, director of conservation for the Catskill Center, told The Enterprise that the Huseks contacted the center to propose the donation. After looking at the property, the Catskill Center decided the easement was something it would be willing to administer.

The Husek property contains the Huseks’ farm, a 28-acre fen, and a northern hardwood forest. The property has over 3,800 feet of common border with the Partridge Run State Wildlife Management Area and over 3,300 feet of common border with the Edmund Niles Huyck Preserve.

"That’s definitely one of the factors we considered that makes it a higher priority for conservation," Olney said. "We’re always looking to build larger wild areas by connecting smaller ones."

The Catskill Center protects over 16,000 acres of land through easements and by helping to secure public lands. Its interests go beyond the Catskill Mountains to the greater Catskill region, which it considers to be composed of Otsego, Schoharie, Delaware, Greene, Sullivan, Ulster, and southern Albany counties.

"It’s kind of the northern limit of where our organization conducts our activities," Olney said of the Husek property. "We would not go much beyond Rensselaerville—maybe Berne or Westerlo."

The mountain views from the Hilltowns are one of the reasons the southern Hilltowns could be considered part of the Catskill region, Olney said.

As the holder of the easement, the Catskill Center is responsible for monitoring the Husek property to make sure no development occurs.

Because of their donation, the Huseks could get state and federal income tax reductions for the value of the development rights. Easements can also lower or eliminate estate taxes, helping landowners keep land in their family, the Catskill Center said.

The Huseks could not be reached for comment.


Bryan mounts a comeback for Dems

By Matt Cook

RENSSELAERVILLE — The chairman of the Rensselaerville Democratic Committee will take on the chairman of the Republican Committee in November’s election for town supervisor. It’s a battle between a political veteran and a first-time office seeker.

David Bryan has received the Democratic party’s nomination for supervisor. He was supervisor from 1986 to 1992. Bryan’s Republican opponent will be Jost Nickelsberg. (See related story.)

The current supervisor, Republican J. Robert Lansing, has decided not to run for re-election, and is seeking a town board seat instead.

Bryan said he was motivated to run because of the inactivity of the current town board, which has a Republican majority.

"There’s so much that needs to be done," Bryan said. "They haven’t done anything really."

Bryan said the town needs to work on a comprehensive land-use plan. And, although the board has started a town-wide revaluation to correct assessments that have dropped below 70 percent of real value, Bryan said it is too late; it should have been done already.

Also, Bryan said, repairs are badly needed on some town buildings and roads.

Bryan, a Rensselaerville native, is a house principal at Albany High School. He’s the president of the Rensselaerville library board and historical society.

Joining Bryan on the Democratic ticket will be incumbent Steven Ryder and Sherri Pine, of Preston Hollow, both running for seats on the town board.

Incumbent Democrats G. Jon Chase and Kathleen Hallenbeck will run for re-election as highway superintendent and town clerk, respectively. Hallenbeck is unopposed. She has been clerk since 1974.

For the two open positions on the three-member board of assessors, the Democrats are sponsoring incumbent Peter Hotaling and Sean McCormick, who had to step down as an assessor in May because he was unable to complete the required training courses in three years. Republican Eric Sutton was appointed to take his place and will be running for a full term in November.

If elected, Bryan said, McCormick will complete his training.

Platform

The Democrats will be running on a platform of open communication in town government, Bryan said.

Currently, members of the planning and zoning boards don’t know what’s going on in the town board, and vice versa, Bryan said. It was not this way when he was supervisor, he said.

The lack of communication causes short and ineffective meetings, Bryan said.

"I went to the last meeting and it was over in 35 minutes," Bryan said. "How can you meet once a month and have such a short agenda""

For example, Bryan said, the town employees’ contract has expired, and, as far as he can tell, "No one knew what was going on."

"Nothing is talked over," Bryan said.


233 at Berne caucus:: Hamilton heads Dem slate

By Matt Cook

BERNE—A Berne councilman will try to become town supervisor in November.

The Berne Democratic Committee has decided to sponsor Councilman James Hamilton for supervisor. Hamilton is in the middle of his first full term on the Berne Town Board.

"I think he’ll be a great choice for supervisor," said Gerald O’Malley, chairman of Berne Democratic Committee.

Hamilton is a teacher of technology at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy.

The current supervisor, Kevin Crosier, is a registered Democrat, but ran as a Republican four years ago. The rest of the current town board members are Democrats.

At the Democratic caucus last week, O’Malley said, some among the 233 who attended nominated Crosier for the position, but he declined. However, O’Malley said, "Kevin isn’t my choice for supervisor."

As town board members, Hamilton and Democrat Carol Crounse voted against rezoning the hamlet of Berne from largely residential to mixed-use earlier this year. It was one of the most divisive issues in the town in years.

Two town board seats are open for this year’s election. The Democrats have selected incumbent Joseph Golden to run along with Wayne Emory, a former Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board member. Councilman Mark Huth will not seek reelection, O’Malley said.

Huth said during his last race for office that he would not run for another term this year.

The Democrats have chosen incumbents for the remaining available positions: Patricia Favreau for town clerk, Raymond Storm for highway superintendent, Robert Motschmann for assessor, Kenneth Bunzey for town justice, and O’Malley for tax collector.

The Democrats have yet to discuss which issues they will focus on during the campaign, O’Malley said. That is the topic of their next meeting, he said.


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