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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, August 24, 2006

Highway super says town should own private roads

By Tyler Schuling

KNOX — Whipple, Helderberg and Malachi roads have been maintained by the Knox highway department for years, according to Highway Superintendent Gary Salisbury. Salisbury would like to see them become town roads.

Town board members said at their August meeting that there were portions of the roads which remain half-private and half town-owned. Supervisor Michael Hammond said Whipple Road, being half town-owned and half private is a product of subdivision dating back to the 1970’s.

Board members discussed the condition of the roads —whether they are up to town standards — and whether the roads fall under the Highway by Use Law, and have become town roads through years of public travel and continual maintenance by Knox employees.

Salisbury doesn’t know why the town hasn’t taken ownership of the roads.

"I’m all for the town taking the roads over," Salisbury recently told The Enterprise.

"They have been maintained by the Knox highway department for 20 years," he said. To snowplow Whipple Road, he said, "takes a matter of minutes," and it would "take longer to turn around in the middle of the road," where the road becomes private than plow the entire road.

"The reasons we maintain the roads is because school buses travel it and in case of a fire," Salisbury said.

Salisbury also told The Enterprise that the roads were built the same from one end to the other and that he would like to have them paved.

Department of State spokesperson, Eamon Moynihan, told The Enterprise, that in order for a private road to become a town-owned road, "There has to be some affirmative action".And there has to be some sort of administrative act."

While the board has made no declaration on adopting the roads or keeping them private, Supervisor Michael Hammond told The Enterprise earlier this month, "We will continue to maintain the roads."

To help those with handicaps, BKW plans to renovate high school

By Tyler Schuling

BERNE — A Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School student who uses a wheelchair can’t get from the gym to the cafeteria now because they are on different levels.

BKW Superintendent Steven Schrade informed school board members and the public Monday night about renovations administrators and architects are discussing for the BKW High School to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Schrade, administrators, and Karl Griffith, of Cataldo, Waters, and Griffith, an architectural firm, recently met, discussed options, and estimated costs. The committee, Schrade said, discussed two possibilities for the school — make additions and alterations to the existing gym to comply with the ADA or tear the old gym down and reconstruct a new facility accessible to those with handicaps.

"Based on state ratios," Schrade said, "it’s more economical to tear down the old gym and build a new one that is handicap-accessible."

The building-aid ratio for the district is 79 percent, Schrade said.

The first option the committee discussed — making additions and alterations to the school’s existing gym, which would consist of adding elevators to access locker rooms and the cafeteria — is projected to cost $8.2 million with the district’s share amounting to $5.7 million.

The second option — to demolish the existing gym and reconstruct a new one with accessible facilities —is defined by the state as remodeling and is projected to cost $10.8 million with the district’s share at $2.8 million.

"In the past 10 to 12 years, we have made progress so we’re not in danger of a sanction or a fine," Schrade told The Enterprise, of complying with the federal act.

"The determining factor," he said, "is that we have four students in wheelchairs — three in the elementary and one in the high school."

"Nothing has been determined yet," Schrade said.

Other business

In other business, the school board:

— Heard the recommendation of Vice President Edward Ackroyd for the board to communicate with supervisors of Berne, Knox, and Westerlo about projected growth of town population to make sure BKW is ready for an increase in school enrollment. A recent study conducted by Cornell University projected a decline in enrollment from 1,100, to 792 in the next decade;

— Heard from Business Administrator Gregory Diefenbach that BKW has been awarded a grant from Toyota for low sulfur emissions mufflers for its diesel buses. The grant, which awards the BKW district $149,150, is the fifth awarded in the state of New York. Diefenbach, however, stated that more research should be conducted, as the mufflers could present corrosion problems;

— Heard from Superintendent Schrade about one of the district’s bus drivers seeking permission to have her child ride with her in the school bus. "We have allowed this," Schrade said. Schrade then recommended board members think about it.

Schrade also recommended the board check with the state’s Department of Transportation. The insurance provider, he said, doesn’t prohibit children not enrolled by the school but does frown upon it. Ackroyd voiced concerns about capacity, seating arrangements, and the safety of the child;

— Heard from board member Maureen Sikule about an excavating company applying for a special-use permit to the town of Berne. Sikule was concerned about the size of the trucks and the width of roads buses travel and possibly endangering children;

— Heard from President Joan Adriance about possibly having representatives from surrounding colleges visit earlier in the school year. Adriance also suggested Parent Night occur earlier than in past years;

— Heard from Schrade that there have been requests from surrounding communities to enroll their students at BKW. Sikule stated that the high school is crowded. Board member Janet Finke said it is a compliment for people to want to come to the school district. The board decided it was not accepting more students;

— Discussed the possibility of adding another softball team. Last spring, 35 to 40 girls tried out, and the school only has 15 uniforms. The board discussed having another team but was uncertain about adding one due to lack of resources and competition from surrounding schools. The board decided to investigate possible options;

— Appointed secondary music teacher Brian Corey as the elementary school principal. Corey is taking a one-year leave of absence to fill Kim LaBelle’s position. LaBelle is now serving as assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and special education; and

— Set the tax rate. Parts of seven towns fall within the BKW School District, and rates vary from town to town based on assessments and the state-set equalization rate.

Berne residents will pay $26.40 per $1,000 of assessed value; Knox residents will pay $28.43; New Scotland, $18.48; Middleburgh, $26.07; Wright, $22.42; Rensselaerville, $28.00; and Westerlo residents will pay $1,811.96.

Westerlo has not undergone revaluation in decades so many properties are valued at a fraction of their worth.

Adriance, Ackroyd at BKW helm

By Tyler Schuling

BERNE —Joan Adriance, Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s newly appointed school board president, sees herself as a facilitator. She doesn’t see her role as one which gives her authority to make decisions.

"I’m no more special than anyone else," she told The Enterprise, stating that the five board members "all work together."

Adriance, whose daughter is entering the ninth grade at BKW, has been on the school board for just over three years; BKW board members rotate into leadership positions rather than being elected.

"My role is to keep meetings on track and focused and to sign diplomas, " she said.

Adriance says she understands the importance of hearing multiple opinions and remaining neutral throughout the decision-making process.

In 1975, she graduated from Warvick High School, and majored in business administration at Houghton College. In 1989, she received a master’s degree in secondary education from the University at Albany.

This coming school year, Adriance, beginning the fourth year of her five-year term, will have the opportunity to put her leadership skills to the test.

The BKW School Board, she said, has many goals. It wishes to create courses to improve students’ test-taking skills and SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Tests) and ELA (English and Language Arts) scores.

Adriance feels it is important to know what students are capable of, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and to understand their test scores.

"We can use the data from test scores and align the curriculum," Adriance said.

As well as improving test scores, the board would like to see an increase in the number of students seeking Advanced Regents diplomas, Adriance said. The Advanced Regents diploma, a more challenging diploma offered by the state, requires students to take additional tests and courses and score higher on Regents exams.

"We encourage students to stretch," Adriance said.

Adriance also thinks the board can better communicate its expectations with students and parents and do a better job of creatively providing budget items to the community.

In past years, BKW eighth-grade students were visited by representatives from colleges throughout the state of New York. Adriance would like to see this event occur earlier in the year.

As well as having many goals for the students and the community, the board, Adriance said, is planning to improve its facilities.

"We’re looking at making facilities handicap-accessible in the high school," Adriance said.

BKW School Board members had once rotated board members through a graduated five-year term, but now elected board members are on a three-year term. The change from a five-year term to a three-year, Adriance said, was to try to get more people to run for the board. Though the ballot measure to return board members’ terms to five years was voted down in this spring’s election, Adriance would still like to see the board return to the five-year term so that its members would have a better grasp of its workings.

"It takes a year, maybe two, to understand," she said.

Vice president

Ed Ackroyd, BKW’s newly-appointed vice president, attended BKW. He is a member of the class of 1968, and served in Cambodia and Vietnam. At the BKW graduation ceremony this June he was applauded as he was given a high school diploma under a state program for those who left school to serve in the military.

Ackroyd, who ran unopposed for the school board in 2004 after Lynn Countryman stepped down, sees changes at BKW since he was in school.

"The classes are smaller now," Ackroyd said. "When I was in school, we didn’t have teachers’ aids".The students today have more opportunities."

Ackroyd, whose children also attended BKW, is beginning the third year of his three-year term, and says some of the motivation to run for the BKW School Board was curiosity.

"I was curious about where the tax dollars were going," he said.

Like Adriance, Ackroyd is also in favor of gathering multiple opinions on school-related issues.

"It’s important," he said, "to be open for a wide variety of influence throughout the community."

Ackroyd, who owns his own business, Northeast Power Supply, thinks it is best to be objective throughout the decision-making process.

"I think it’s best to pull the emotions out and deal in facts," he said.

Like Adriance, Ackroyd favors a five-year term over a three-year term for board members, because he thinks it allows a person to get more experience.

"The first three years, you get knowledge of how it works. The last two years, you could use that knowledge and apply it," he said.

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