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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, August 31, 2006


New principal at BKW: Corey getting in tune with staff

By Tyler Schuling

BERNE — Brian Corey is fulfilling a long-held goal in becoming principal at the Berne elementary school.

"I wanted to become a principal since I began teaching," Corey said.

A music teacher, Corey is in his eighth year at Berne-Knox-Westerlo. He was appointed Aug. 21 to the position left open by Kim LaBelle. LaBelle is beginning a newly-created position within the district as BKW’s assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and special education.

Corey will oversee a school with a student enrollment of 405 students.

Corey, a Watervliet native, graduated from The College of Saint Rose with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in music education. He went on to the University at Albany and received a school district administrator certificate.

Over the past 10 years, Corey has taught in three school districts. His first year, he taught instrumental music in the Troy City School District; his second year he taught instrumental, vocal, and general music to all grades, from kindergarten to through high school, in the Virgin Islands at St. Croix; and over the last eight years Corey taught instrumental music to BKW elementary, middle-school, and high-school students.

Corey says the influence of administrators he worked with when he began teaching motivated him to pursue the position as an elementary-school principal.

The principal he worked with at the Troy City School District "managed buildings very well and respected teachers and students," Corey said. "He helped me as a teacher. I want to help teachers out as well."

His role within the district, he said, is to manage the buildings and classrooms; to advise the staff, to ensure all technological and safety updates are upheld, and to meet with supervisors, teachers, parents, and the high-school principal.

As the new elementary principal, Corey said his goal is "to maintain a positive atmosphere for students and teachers, to continue to meet high standards, and to continue to grow."


Highway workers question possible merger

By Tyler Schuling

EAST BERNE — As town and county officials continue to push a highway merger, Berne workers peppered them with questions at a meeting last Wednesday.

Joe Welsh and his co-workers compiled a list of 49 questions, focused on the effects the consolidation could have on Berne Highway Department employees and residents.

The questions covered Berne highway workers’ salaries, health insurance, plowing routes, job responsibilities, the amount of money taxpayers would save by merging the two departments, what the savings would be used for, as well as differences between Berne and Albany County’s operations, salaries, procedures, policies, and facilities.

Upon receiving a list of answers to their questions, highway employees still had many concerns about the proposed merger of the Berne Highway Department and The Albany County Department of Public Works.

Welsh began his questioning by rising to his feet and asking for a show of hands from highway workers in favor of the merger.

No hands were raised.

"I just wanted to get that out of the way," Welsh said. "There are a lot of rumors going around."

Comments from the firehouse

Throughout last Wednesday’s meeting at the East Berne firehouse, county officials, Berne highway workers, and members of the Berne Town Board, often found themselves at odds with one another. Officials repeatedly said that the merger is not yet far enough along to answer all the highway workers’ questions.

Throughout the meeting, Welsh read each question aloud from the compiled list, and also read each answer provided him by officials and the town board.

"Will the workers of the Town Highway Department stay in Berne or will they be relocated to different parts of Albany County"" Welsh read.

The answer he was provided was, "Under this merger proposal, all full-time employees would remain in the town of Berne."

Welsh then asked if the answer town employees were given is guaranteed. The county’s commissioner of public works, Michael Franchini, answered, "That was the answer."

Berne Town Board member Joseph Golden, speculating about the future of town employees, spoke hypothetically and said, "Let’s just say some magic happened, and this thing went through. Is there a guarantee that these guys will work in the town of Berne the rest of their lives""

Franchini answered Golden’s question by saying, "It’s not up to me. It’s up to the county. I can’t speak for the county." He added, "We don’t transfer people unless we have to."

Golden also said he thinks a draft agreement would have to be made before any conclusions can be drawn about the merger’s effects.

"We’re working on it," Franchini said.

"What we’re doing now won’t change," Berne Supervisor Kevin Crosier said.

Albany County Commissioner, Michael Franchini, said, "There’s an estimated $14,000 in fuel savings."

Berne Highway worker Ken Weaver did not understand where the savings would be coming from.

"You’re out the same amount of time with the same truck," Weaver said.

Franchini then said, "We pay less for fuel. We don’t pay as much for worker comp. insurance."

Crosier and Albany County Deputy County Executive Joseph F. Pennisi, throughout the evening, both referred more than once to the proposal’s two main goals — to save the taxpayers’ money and to provide better services.

Welsh also asked county officials how they came up with Berne highway workers’ and Albany County employees’ salaries in 2005.

According to the list of answers he received from county officials and the Berne town board, Albany County employees were paid an average annual salary of $38, 647.15, including overtime; Berne highway workers were paid $37,855.50.

"Last year I made about $40,000, and I’m one of the lower paid guys. There are only two guys who make less than me," Welsh said.

Crosier stated the figure didn’t include overtime pay town employees made for building the transfer station.

Crosier also cited economical reasons for supporting the merger by stating conditions in Europe and the state.

"Gas is three dollars a gallon now. In England, it’s eight dollars a gallon," Crosier said. He also said New York state has grant money that could be used in the merger.

"There is $25 million dollars available now, and the state wants people to try this merger," he said.

"Right now is the time," he said of the state funds. "There may not be anything left in five years."

Crosier later stated, "I have received e-mails from attorneys who represent two towns in the middle of the state that are looking at this proposal with great interest."

Crosier said that the savings could be used for town roads as well as beautification projects.


Westerlo ribbon-cutting celebrates town’s first municipal water system

By Tyler Schuling

WESTERLO — The town of Westerlo celebrated its first municipal water system with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday.

The project, which began in 1996, and was completed in December of 2005, has received two awards. It was named an American Public Works Association, Capital Branch, Project of the Year in the Environmental/Water Category for projects with budgets of $2 million to $10 million, and was also honored as the Water District with an Outstanding Engineering Achievement award by the Capital District Chapter of the New York State Society of Professional Engineers.

The project, which combined two outdated private systems, was funded by a $1.275 million grant and by an $850,000 interest-free loan from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.

Tuesday, at the Westerlo town park, Lt. Governor Mary O. Donohue and David Sterman, president of the state’s Environmental Facilities Corporation, applauded the efforts of community leaders and all involved in the project.

Donohue said she was a bit sentimental.

"I taught in Clarksville," Donohue said, naming a hamlet in nearby New Scotland. Donohue also stated that the government’s role in community projects, such as one "to ensure clean drinking water to a community in a beautiful area of the state," was essential.

"Our role is only as a catalyst," she said.

Donohue also praised and thanked state Senator Neil D. Breslin and Albany County Executive Michael G. Breslin, men she has known and worked with for a long time, for their partnership; she called the brothers "good, decent hard-working individuals."

"Nobody cares more about smaller communities than Lt. Governor Donohue," Sterman said.

Hannay Reels President Roger Hannay thanked all who volunteered throughout the project as well as his friends in the government, and said of government officials, "We wouldn’t have been able to do this without them."

The district serves about 80 properties and included upgrades to the existing groundwater sources, installation of distribution piping, and construction of a treatment facility and water storage tank.


One historian’s curious journey into the past|
brings the Hilltown community along for the ride

By Tyler Schuling

BERNE — After two years of searching through attics and cellars, making countless phone calls, and having conversations with many in the community, Will Osterhout smiles to remember the discoveries he made, the relationships he formed, and the stories he heard while gathering information for his book.

Life Along the Way, A Pictorial History of the Hamlets of Berne, the second of Osterhout’s books on local history, is a compilation of photographs and artifacts from Berne and its neighboring hamlets covering a century from the 1850’s to the 1950’s.

The book will be on sale this Saturday during Berne Heritage Day — a celebration of the town’s history that includes everything from food and music to fireworks. Osterhout will be on hand to sign his book.

"I got just as much out of making the book as anyone else who reads it," Osterhout said.

The project, which began with a photo album collection provided by Allen and Millie Burton, led him to learn more in two years than he had learned in the last 34, he said.

"And when I was younger, history was the farthest thing from my mind," he said.

In putting the book together, Osterhout himself took a journey, learning about his family’s past and his community’s heritage.

Help from the community

Creating the book was an adventure, Osterhout says. His quest for material and artifacts took him to many homes, places, and many people he wouldn’t have known existed.

Throughout the process of gathering material, Osterhout visited many people, most of them between the ages of 70 and 90. The oldest man he spoke with was 93, the oldest woman 92.

Osterhout says many family collections contained more than photographs. Residents also stumbled upon items they did not know still existed — restaurant menus, legal papers, bills, ledgers, hand-written notes, journals, and old recipes and remedies.

"It’s amazing what people found, what they kept," he said. "And it’s exciting to find a new source; it’s very rewarding."

Osterhout, who is retired, says there wasn’t a set schedule in acquiring artifacts from contributors. It would take months for certain people to uncover what had been stored away and forgotten.

Whenever people found artifacts from their family collections, he said, the interest was great, and they’d continue looking and find more and more.

"People got very excited to see that I was excited about the photographs they had. Many people were afraid of what would happen to the photographs once they were gone," he said.

Throughout his search, Osterhout said, he discovered each person had the same problem with the photographs they found — there were family members they couldn’t identify.

"It’s important to write down what you know when you know it," he said. "It’s sad," he added, "that these people are gone, and nobody remembers who they are. It’s as if they didn’t exist."

Though he doesn’t yet have a plan for a third book, Osterhout is continuing his search throughout the community for artifacts, and encourages Berne residents to bring him anything they have.

"I don’t want anything left behind," he said.

He encourages members of the community to jot down what they know, especially the names of their relatives, and to share their artifacts so that a historical account can be preserved.

The artifacts, he said, are aging, quite brittle, and soon will be unidentifiable.

To make Life Along the Way, Osterhout scanned ephemera and photographs onto his computer, even the pictures which were printed on glass and tin.

"People were so great, so gracious," Osterhout said of those who took the time and made the effort to gather their family’s artifacts for publication in his book.

"The pride all these folks had — that was so impressive," he said.

The Berne Historical Society, Osterhout said, also played an essential role by providing him access to its archives.

"They were gracious to let me look at what they had. Their cooperation was key to this book being what it is," he said.

The difficulty, he said, was determining what would be included in the book. "It’s 440 pages," he said. "It had to remain affordable."

The hefty paperback book has eight-by-ten pages and is over an inch thick. It sells for $35.

While most of the book is pictures and ephemera, the last two chapters feature reminisces of long-time residents and excerpts from early editions of The Altamont Enterprise.

Discovering the past

The countless photographs and artifacts led Osterhout to uncover many things, the most important being his own heritage.

He discovered the habits of Berne residents, the ways people used to remedy illnesses, and what they did for recreation. He also discovered the entrepreneurial spirit of his great-grandfather, Milton Hart, who built the first hotel on Thompson’s Lake, and he learned of the marriage of one of his ancestors to a Warner, the name of another local lake.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, Osterhout said, whole families posed with their automobiles and were photographed by roving professional photographers.

"Often, these were the first cars they owned," he said.

Throughout his journey, Osterhout also discovered a lifestyle and a time period which no longer exists.

"Things have changed," he said.

Many of the buildings, which had brought tourists from afar and which generated a great deal of revenue for the hamlets, are no longer standing.

The Restseekers Inn, a popular East Berne restaurant, is no more. Neither is the Lakeview Hotel, which was erected in 1876 and attracted guests to the area from London, Paris, and throughout the States.

"The hotels — these were large hotels, and they attracted people and generated enough business to sustain themselves," he said.

"Those days are gone," Osterhout said. "Kids go to Europe now for vacation. They don’t go to the lake."

Burma Shave

Osterhout, who was involved in every aspect of Life Along the Way, from finding artifacts to designing the book’s layout and cover, says he really wanted to take people back in time.

"That was why I used Burma Shave slogans on the cover of the book, and why I put them throughout. Back then, there were 7,000 Burma Shave slogans. My generation remembers them," Osterhout said.

Burma Shave, he said, was first in mass advertising. Burma Shave signs — with a series of rhyming slogans — lined freeways and travelers could get involved in the company’s advertising and be rewarded for their ideas.

"You could send in an idea for a Burma Shave slogan, and if yours was chosen, you got a case of Burma Shave," he said.

The well-remembered signs, he said, will be lining the streets near the entrances to town park this weekend on both sides.

Berne Heritage Day

This Saturday, Life Along the Way will be available for the first time to the public, and Osterhout will be signing copies. The event, which was rained out on July 22, will be at Berne Town Park.

"We’re going to be there with an old, red flatbed truck," Osterhout said. "And the Burma Shave signs are going to be on both sides as you come in."

Heritage Day will kick off at 2 p.m. with the re-enactment of a photo on the cover of Osterhout’s book. Descendents of the Bassler family pictured in the antique car will drive into the town park in a 1912 touring car dressed for the period.

Heritage Day will offer an antique car show, a Hilltown Marketplace with local produce and crafts, historical and educational displays and demonstrations, music and games, and a chicken barbecue by the Friends of the Berne Library.


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