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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, December 14, 2006

$13.9 project heard by BKW board

By Tyler Schuling

BERNE — Four Berne-Knox-Westerlo students — three in the elementary school and one in the secondary school — are in wheelchairs as the school board works to make its facilities in the middle-high school handicap-accessible.

Architect Karl Griffith, of Cataldo, Waters, and Griffith, presented the $13.9 million plan, which was driven by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

The project adds a new gym to the high school, taking up much of the existing parking lot between the secondary and elementary schools, and a new lot would have to be added.

The existing gym would be made into two levels — a cafeteria, kitchen, and weight room on the first floor; and a library, library classroom, and art room on the second floor.

The project also adds more space to the auditorium’s stage, sprinklers in the new gym and on the stage, and another boiler.

Griffith, who has worked with the district in the past, said that construction "gets tougher every time," and, when asked when the plan needs to be in place, responded that the state’s Department of Education "would tell you about 10 years ago." Griffith added that the BKW district would be penalized only in the case of a lawsuit. By making the renovations and complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act, he said, the district would then be in the position to avoid one.

The board heard from Superintendent Steven Schrade about the remodeling project in August. Schrade said he discussed two options with Griffin — making additions and alterations to the school’s existing gym and adding elevators to access locker rooms and the cafeteria or demolishing the existing gym and reconstructing a new one with accessible facilities. Demolition is more economical, Schrade said. The state defines reconstruction as remodeling, and the district’s share is less, he said.

Griffith, while presenting the construction plans, said there could be some changes.

The plan, Schrade said, is "the culmination of eight or nine months of meetings and discussions," and is the "most appropriate" and "logical." Schrade added that there are no final cost projections for the plan.

Griffith began his presentation by saying that the ADA drove and started the project, and the cafeteria and boys’ locker room in the middle and high school is not accessible to students with handicaps.

The core of the project, Griffith said, is the gym addition.

The existing gym, Griffith said, is two feet narrower than a standard size gym. The new gym, he said, would be two feet wider, to make it regulation size.

The plan also calls for a larger lobby in the secondary school to allow "space for circulation," he said.

Member concerns

Board member John Harlow was concerned about asbestos.

"We do expect to run into some," Griffith said, adding that it is not uncommon. "In the old building, we’re going to hit some. The question is: How much"" he said.

Board member Maureen Sikule asked whether the sixth grade would stay in the middle-high school or be moved back to the elementary school. Schrade said it was recommended to him that the sixth grade stay in the secondary school.

Sikule, who lives in Westerlo, also asked about what the district planned to do with the Westerlo Elementary School. The school was closed in February of 2005, due to dropping enrollment districtwide. BKW then leased the school to the Helderberg Christian School.

"Whatever we do with Westerlo, we still need to do something with this," Schrade said.

Sikule also asked for more concrete numbers, so that she has a better idea of the tax impact to residents. "If we’re looking at about a 2-percent increase in taxes next year, and this would result in only 1-percent on top of that, that’s the bottom line," she said.

That bottom line varies in the seven towns that fall within the BKW School District, based on assessments and the state-set equalization rate.

Berne residents currently 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.

Schrade said that he and Business Administrator David Weiser will be meeting, and the board will have a special meeting the beginning of January "if we believe this is still in a form we can approve."

Other business

In other business, the school board:

— Approved its high-school course guide with proposed changes for the 2007-08 school year;

— Accepted its policy for emergency school closings;

— Recognized the junior high modified girls’ soccer team. The team won one game last year, and had a record of eight wins, no losses, and two ties this fall; and

— Approved tax roll changes.

Powers, farmers’ advocate, dies at 75

By Tyler Schuling

GALLUPVILLE — Sheila Cecelia Elizabeth Crowley Spies Powers, an ardent champion of personal and property rights, had incredible judgment about human behavior, and was a terrifically large presence in people’s lives, Chris Spies, her son, said.

Mrs. Powers died, surrounded by her family, on Dec. 8, 2006 after a brief illness. She was 75.

"Anyone who needed a champion, she was there," Mr. Spies said.

Born on Nov. 7, 1931, in Brooklyn, to William and Gertrude (Kennedy) Crowley, Mrs. Powers lived a life distinguished by selfless service to others.

For over 20 years, she was president of the Albany County Farm Bureau.

"She built and maintained a program of important benefits for Farm Bureau members, and was always ready to advocate for their needs. She greeted visitors to the Farm Bureau booth at the Altamont Fair and spoke tirelessly on behalf of agriculture and rural interests," her son wrote in a tribute.

For many years, Mrs. Powers was a director and upstate travel coordinator for the Fresh Air Fund, and hosted numerous inner-city youths in her home; she was also a Girl Scout leader.

Mrs. Powers was very active in community and civic affairs. She was a long-term member of the Schoharie County Republican Committee, and served for years as an election inspector in the Town of Wright.

"Sheila was fiercely devoted to her family. She was a proud parent to her own six children, a generous surrogate parent to other children in need, and she was a guiding light to her grandchildren," Mr. Spies said. "Hers was a life marked by passion — for her family, her causes, and for anyone who needed her support. Rarely has a life been more fully lived, nor more sorely missed."

Mrs. Powers’s daughter, Deborah Norris, said that, because her mother was involved in so much legislation, and "there were so many instances" where she helped farmers, she was at a loss when asked to recall her mother’s most monumental achievements. Mrs. Norris said that standing up for others was something Mrs. Powers "just did," and that advocating for others was "routine." Mrs. Powers’s heroic feats came to be expected.

"OK, you saved another farm today," Mrs. Norris said matter-of-factly.

"I can remember when the two-way bridge collapsed, and she was standing in front of the bulldozers," Mrs. Norris said.

Spies said his mother loved music, played the piano, and loved to sing.

Mrs. Powers also loved reading. "She never stopped reading," Mrs. Norris said. "She read more in a month than some people read in a lifetime," she said.

Mrs. Norris recalled a trip to Washington, D.C. with her mother, where Mrs. Powers met with legislators about invasive and endangered species, and "rewrote the law."

"I was amazed at the amount of respect she garnered," Mrs. Norris said.

"Her hobby was keeping the government at bay," Mrs. Norris said. Mrs. Norris added that Mrs. Powers’s children and grandchildren mattered most to her, with holding the government at bay right behind.

"She was a terrific resource for anyone who needed someone to stand up for their rights," Mr. Spies said of his mother.

When their 64-year-old Guilderland farm was threatened in 2002, after suburban newcomers complained about the smell and mess, the Vojnar family relied on help from Mrs. Powers.

"She was a great help to me," said William S. Vojnar. Mr. Vojnar said Mrs. Powers went to state lawyers about his situation, and wrote letters to Guilderland’s town attorney and supervisor.

"She was a very intelligent woman," Mr. Vojnar said.

Vojnar’s daughter, Dorie Vojnar, described Mrs. Powers as "a fighter for all farmers in Guilderland," and added that she was very instrumental in the Vojnars’ case. Because of Mrs. Powers and The Altamont Enterprise, they won, she said.

Mrs. Powers, Dorie Vojnar said, wrote letters to congressmen and organized meetings.

"She wasn’t a pushover," Mrs. Vojnar said. "She got her point across with dignity."


Mrs. Powers is survived by her children, Maryann Van Scoy, Kathleen Hill, and her husband, John; Deborah Norris, and her husband, Michael; Christian Spies, and his wife, Janet; Sharon Spies; and Jennifer Taylor, and her husband, Jeffrey.

Mrs. Powers is also survived by 14 grandchildren: Erik Van Scoy, Samantha Beck, and her husband, Michael; Brian Van Scoy; Meghan Hill; Lindsay, Matthew, and Julie Norris; Sarah, Tom, Chris, and Hannah Spies; and Jillian, Samuel, and Erin Taylor. She is also survived by a great-grandchild, Braeden Beck.

Mrs. Powers’s parents, William and Gertrude (Kennedy) Crowley, and her brothers — Brian, Kevin, and Alan Crowley — died before her.

A joyous memorial celebration of Mrs. Powers’s life will be held at the Gallupville Gospel Church, on Route 443 in Gallupville today (Thursday) at 4 p.m. Funeral arrangements are by NewComer Cannon Funeral Home.

Memorial contributions may be made to Becky’s House, 296 Hackett Blvd., Albany, NY 12208. Expressions of sympathy may be made at www.new — comerfamily.com.

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