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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 24, 2007


Tales of a fourth-grade trip: Hillary rally partisan teaching, parents say

By Rachel Dutil

VOORHEESVILLE – Last Monday, 92 students from four Voorheesville fourth-grade classrooms got up-close and personal with presidential politics.

The students, who were accompanied by fourth-grade teachers, elementary-school Principal Kenneth Lein, and about 15 chaperones, attended the rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on the Capitol steps in Albany, where Governor Eliot Spitzer announced he would endorse her. Clinton also received endorsement from Senator Chuck Schumer, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, and other Democratic state and federal legislators from around the Capital Region.

Some parents have expressed concerns that children were part of a partisan political event.

"Making education relevant and getting students engaged is something we strive for everyday," Lein told The Enterprise this week. The rally was relevant to the curriculum the children have been studying, Lein said, "They’ve been discussing what it takes to become President in this day and age.

"We thought it was an opportunity for them to really see and understand what goes on," he said of the campaign process.

The day was beautiful and sunny, and there were "plenty of people" energy" and lots of cheering," Lein said of the rally. "Certainly, it was an energizing afternoon," he said, adding that he doesn’t think, "we changed any ideological thinking" among the students.

Three or four students did not attend, Lein said, but stayed behind and worked on some class projects with a computer teacher.

Just like any other class trip, students were allowed to attend if a permission slip was signed by a parent and brought back to the school, he said. Lein said that the "fourth-grade team" of teachers – Michael Burns, Pamela Hamlin, Timothy Mattison, and Scott Murray – drafted the permission slip, and then brought it to him for approval.

None of the four teachers returned calls for comment.

"It did not specifically mention it was an endorsement for President," Lein said of the permission slip. "I believe it could have been more explicit and transparent than it was," he said, adding that, if he could do it again, he would be sure it was clearer.

Principal Lein has spoken to two parents, he said, who had concerns about the trip. "The main concern was just that it was a political event representing one side," Lein said.

"We were very careful and sensitive to not make this about the Democrats," he said, adding that the teachers each spent a good amount of time back in the classroom discussing that, in the United States, "we have opposing viewpoints and are allowed to express them."

The children had a "good reaction" to the event, Lein said. The students, he said, "Got an idea of what it takes and what goes into running for office."

They were able to understand that, in the 21st Century, being elected President is more than being at least 35 years old and born in the United States, he said, "It takes a great deal of money and endorsements.

"The fourth-grade team came to me and discussed the opportunity," he said of how the idea to attend the rally transpired. "We thought it was a good opportunity to make learning relevant" For the kids to be there and live it."

The decision to allow the trip to the political rally, Lein said, was a difficult one. "It’s not an easy decision, but in the end, we thought it was a good educational experience," he said. "It would have been very easy to say, No, we’re not going" We saw good, solid reasons to do it."

Republican presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani visited the Capital Region this week, Lein said, and, had his visit been earlier in the day,"We could’ve seen the other side.

"The teachers did a great job of keeping it in perspective," he said. "We did our best, I thought, to be careful about how it was presented," Lein said.

"It was sort of an exciting day, but for most of the kids, it’s probably behind them already," Lein said. "Now we’re talking about women’s rights and the right to vote in social studies."


Dolin launches campaign, LaGrange considers challenge

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – A lawyer who says New Scotland needs to implement "a policy of smart, controlled, responsible growth" is running for supervisor on the Democratic ticket. An eighth-generation Feura Bush dairy farmer may step up to the Republican plate and challenge him to lead the still-rural town now feeling intense development pressure.

With permission from his reluctant wife, Thomas Dolin announced this week that he will run for town supervisor in the fall election. Republican Councilman Douglas LaGrange is considering a run as Dolin’s opponent.

Dolin resigned from his duties as a town justice in late March after 14 years on the bench, to "explore the possibility of running for other elective office," he said at the time.

Dolin’s decision to run, he said, was because he had been told of Supervisor Ed Clark’s retirement, and, was encouraged to run by "party members and town citizens," he told The Enterprise.

He is running "to invigorate what he considers a too-passive approach to the decisions the town is facing regarding its imminent growth pressures," Dolin said in Monday’s announcement.

Clark has held the post for three two-year terms. Prior to being elected supervisor, he was the mayor of Voorheesville for 17 years. Clark said this week that he has informed the Republican Party that he will not seek re-election. He said he is "leaning" on LaGrange to run.

"It’s an important decision, and it has to be done for the right reasons," said LaGrange, adding that he doesn’t take it lightly.

"Tom Dolin is a really nice person" but doesn’t have the experience with the issues in the town right now," LaGrange told The Enterprise this week. "Because of that inexperience, I feel I should run" That’s the only reason I’m considering it," he said.

Dolin

New Scotland Democratic Party Chairman L. Michael Mackey said this week, "No one has approached the committee other than Tom." In addition to his Democratic endorsement, Dolin has sought support from the Conservative Party and the Independence Party, neither of which have yet decided.

"From a personal perspective, Tom Dolin has been a fantastic judge" I think he’s a great candidate," said Paul Caputo, the Independence Party chairman for Albany County. Caputo said that the party has endorsed Dolin in the past, but the interview process is not yet complete.

"We’re really excited to see him run for this position," Caputo said, adding that Dolin is the "type of guy who has his community interests at heart."

Dolin is 68 and has lived in Voorheesville for nearly 40 years with his wife, Nancy; they have three children and four grandchildren.

In the nearly two months between Dolin’s resignation and the announcement of his run for supervisor, he told The Enterprise on several occasions that he was discussing possibilities with his wife. On Wednesday, he said that his family was "finally" supportive.

"I sat down with my wife and told her I thought I could be effective and that I wanted to do it," Dolin said this week. "We’re a team," he said of himself and his wife, adding that he didn’t want to make the decision without her support. "My wife is reluctantly giving me permission," he said.

Before becoming a judge, Dolin practiced law for 29 years. "I did a lot of commercial lending and trusts and estates work," Dolin said earlier of his years as an attorney.

He was the managing partner of a 14-lawyer law firm with more than $3 million in gross revenues, he said, as proof of his abilities to manage the town’s finances. He was the attorney for the town of Westerlo for seven years, and the attorney for the planning boards in both New Scotland and Voorheesville.

In his 20 years as a planning board attorney, Dolin said that he became familiar "with the issues that rural towns and villages face with development pressures and the competing demands of established residents and developers."

The town needs to implement a "policy of smart, controlled, responsible growth," he said. "We obviously have to try and attract some commercial enterprises" in an attempt to combat the school-tax burden, which many residents feel is "becoming unbearable," Dolin said.

"He’s in favor of development that will not change the fundamental character of the town," Mackey said of Dolin. "The town particularly needs development to ease the school-tax burden."

Dolin said that water is another concern of his. "I just recognize that there are a lot of people who are suffering without adequate water," he said of town residents. The town needs to work at determining "how to distribute it at an affordable price," Dolin said.

"I think the town’s need for water really should be addressed in a number of ways," Mackey said. Voorheesville has expressed a willingness to provide water outside the village, he said, adding that the city of Albany is willing to sell water, and New Scotland needs to continue to explore its options with the neighboring town of Bethlehem.

In response to the "likely observation" that his career as a lawyer and judge doesn’t make him qualified to manage a town government with a $3 million annual budget, Dolin said that he "does have substantial business and managerial experience." While managing the multi-state law firm office in Albany, he said, he was "responsible for the day-to-day operations of the business, including the hiring of professional and support staff, overseeing the billing and collection of fees, monitoring of expenditures, and the preparation of an annual budget."

Mackey said that he is "thrilled" that Dolin is running for supervisor. "I think Tom will make an outstanding supervisor," he said. "Tom has a tremendous amount of experience in municipal matters" He’s really a tireless worker," Mackey said. "If he sets his sights on something, I’ve never known him to not achieve it."

Dolin said that he respects Clark and believes that he has "worked hard" as town supervisor. "He’s retiring and I’d like to step in," Dolin said. "I think I would try to be more aggressive in addressing the growth issue and the water issue," he said of how he would differ from Clark, if elected. "I’m looking forward, not backward," he concluded.

LaGrange

LaGrange said this week that he has "made no decision" as to whether he will run for town supervisor.

Some town residents have told him, "We’ve had a lot of lawyers run our town, and it’s time for another businessman to run it," he said.

LaGrange has been a town board member for two years, and spent four years on the planning board before being elected to the town board, he said. "I firmly believe people should spend some time on the town board" before running for supervisor, he said. If he decided to run and were elected, LaGrange said he would have to forfeit his town board seat. If that were the case, he said, he would "certainly look toward" appointing Dolin as his replacement.

LaGrange, a Republican, and Clark – who ran on the Republican ticket for all three supervisor elections – are outnumbered by three Democrats on the five-member New Scotland town board. LaGrange said that he takes a "let’s work at it together" attitude on the town board.

"I think having two viable parties in the town is really great," Mackey told The Enterprise. "Both parties have a history of running good candidates," he said.

The town’s Republican Party is currently without a chair. Lance Luther, the former chair, did not want to comment on the upcoming election, and said that the party is in the process of selecting a new chair.

"I’ve spent a lot of time in Ed Clark’s office" having intelligent discussions about what’s going on in the town," LaGrange said. He is the liaison for the town board to the zoning and planning boards, and chaired a preliminary committee that the town board established to make suggestions regarding the town’s comprehensive land-use plan. He was also a member of the town’s Residents’ Planning Advisory Committee.

"I’ve certainly attended more meetings than other board members," LaGrange said.

Though LaGrange is a dairy farmer,"if something comes up, I’m available on a moment’s notice," he told The Enterprise, adding that he was on his cell phone while working in the field. "We don’t live in the dark ages anymore."

The full-time supervisor’s post pays $49,400 annually.

LaGrange said that farming has helped him develop a strong work ethic. "I take things seriously; I don’t do things halfway," he said.

Compared to the time commitment that farming requires, the supervisor’s job "is a somewhat part-time position," LaGrange said. He isn’t concerned about time constraints if he were to run and be elected. "I don’t think Mr. Dolin or anyone else would put in more effort," he said.

LaGrange has spent a lot of time speaking with friends business people, residents of the town, and, of course, his wife. "I want her to be totally behind it," he said of the role of his wife in his decision.

"I want people to know me, know my capabilities," LaGrange said.

"I think he’d be great supervisor," Clark said of LaGrange. "He’s very well qualified, and would serve the town well," he added.

"This is a very important decision," LaGrange reiterated. "It’s all about the town; it’s not about me.

"I’m not someone’s puppet, and I’m not doing what the Republican Party wants me to do," LaGrange said.

"I’m the anomaly out there when it comes to politicians" And I’m proud of that," he concluded.


Russell Hempel to lead Voorheesville parade

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — Russell Hempel will be riding in style this Saturday.

Selected to be this year’s grand marshal of the Memorial Day parade, Hempel, 80, will ride in a Seabring convertible during the parade, said Scott Pease, a 15-year member of the American Legion Post.

For the last 30 years or more, the Voorheesville post has been holding a Memorial Day parade, said Pease. This year’s parade will be Saturday, May 26, and will step off at 10 a.m.

Each year, the post selects a different person to honor as the grand marshal, Pease said. "We look for people who’ve been in the area a long time," he said, not necessarily veterans, but people who have served the community — like Hempel.

Following the parade, the village will hold its annual party for volunteers. This year, though, it will be held in the village park instead of behind the firehouse due to the renovations there.

Because of the change of venue for the party, the village has opted not to have fireworks, although Mayor Robert Conway said Elaine Nichols, the former owner of the supermarket in the village, wanted to donate the fireworks display as she has done for several years. The village board cited liability issues at its meeting on Tuesday night as the reason for holding off on the fireworks and stressed that it would like to carry on the tradition next year when the party is moved back to the firehouse.

Other business

In other business, the village board:

— Heard from Will Smith, commissioner of public works, that contractors will be retreating and repainting the tennis and basketball courts during the week of June 11;

— Heard from Smith that water flowed well through the village’s interconnect with the town of Guilderland when it was tested last week;

— Heard that the village accepted bids to complete the work on a water pipe that flows under a portion of the railroad tracks. During a workshop meeting on May 9, the village hired HMA Contracting Corp. to work on the sidewalk in that area for a cost of $49,574 and it hired Pollard Excavating to work on the water line for a cost of $85,500. Both were the lowest bids made, said Linda Pasquale, the village clerk;

— Heard from Smith that people who have suffered flood damage from April’s nor’easter may call 1-800-621-3362 to see if they are eligible for reimbursement;

— Discussed holding a music festival at the Voorheesville high school on July 14 from 4 to 9 p.m. It will be a joint effort between the town of New Scotland and the village; and

— Heard that the village received a letter from Paul Devane, clerk of Albany County’s legislature, stating that the legislature is putting together a board to explore the possibilities for sharing services between the county’s municipalities. The letter requested that each of the county’s three cities, 10 towns, and six villages appoint a representative to serve on the board.


V’ville librarians want to preserve history you can hold in your hands

By Jo E. Prout

VOORHEESVILLE — Archivists working with the Voorheesville Public Library have been visiting nearby towns on a recovery mission: They want to rescue and store area paper records.

"The Voorheesville Public Library is interested in creating a documentary research center that would be regional in nature," said library Director Gail Sacco. "This is the dream. We’re at the very beginning of the dream."

The beginning — having archivists Gretchen Koerpel and Jim Corsaro approach nearby towns to gauge their interest in the project, and to view and inventory those town records — became possible once Sacco applied for, and received, a grant from the Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund, which is part of the New York State Archives, Sacco said.

The $4,586 grant funds Corsaro’s work, and travel and expenses. The Voorheesville library provides additional funding to cover Koerpel’s work. Koerpel has worked as an archivist and consultant to the library for other projects, also.

"New York State wants to see cooperative efforts" which save money, Koerpel said. In the past, she said, small vaults were created to keep records in controlled environments, but the records were inaccessible. The trend now, she said, is "to have more centralized arrangements" with environmental controls and improved reference and cataloging of materials.

Access for everyone

Sacco said that paper records like photographs, diaries, maps, and letters would be stored in the proposed facility, but not current records, employment, or employee health records. No items like farm implements or quilts would stored at the facility, either, she said. The center would house a research room and a preservation or repair room.

"We’re interested in doing what libraries do," Sacco said, noting that the library would not own, but only store, materials.

"We see ourselves as a cooperative group to enable the preservation of documents," Sacco said. She said that the archivists are not interested in being historical societies or town clerks, but want only to facilitate storing documents and allow access.

"Everybody needs to use this material, and they just can’t get to it," Koerpel said.

"This area is so rich. It was settled so long ago," Sacco said. "We’re really lucky to live in a community that has been settled so early and has so much history." The project "makes records accessible to the people whose records they are. This is part of what our mission in life is. It seemed like a logical fit," she said.

Many records in nearby towns are kept in places that are too hot in summer and too cold in winter, Sacco and Koerpel said. These conditions are "disastrous to wood-pulp-based paper," Sacco said. Local museums and historical societies have no place to store records with heat control to "keep records useful," she said.

Working together, she said, the library could store originals properly, digitalize copies, and make the information available to researchers outside the Capital Region.

"We’ll be looking for other money"to work out practical details," Sacco said. The size of the facility and its cost, and legal agreements to safeguard ownership and clarify what kind of access to records the library can have and grant to others would all need to be determined.

For example, she said, can the library show records from the 1600s, or does it need permission from the owner of the documents"

"It’s really a model project," Sacco said. She and Koerpel said that there are not many places around the state with central record storage.

"I don’t see this as a tax item. I see it as a grant-funded project," Sacco said. The center would likely be built on the library site. The library recently purchased land, and the board is already looking at plans to redo the library, Sacco said. The center would incur no additional staffing cost because it is already open seven days a week. "We’re already set up to provide that access," she said.

Saving for generations

"It’s taking those valuable historical documents at risk," Koerpel said. "Some are where they could catch fire. We’re taking them from an unsafe environment and putting them in a very secure and environmentally-sound place."

Sacco said that until the early 19th Century, paper was made with materials like cotton fiber. Such a relic is "still vital. You can touch it. It doesn’t crumble," she said.

After that time, much paper was made from wood-based pulp, which grows brittle over time and on which ink fades.

"If you put your fingers on it and pick it up, it falls apart," Sacco said. Those working with paper records protect them from light, use acid-free gloves, and make copies of the originals so people can see the records without damaging them, she said.

"Librarians know how to do that. It’s part of their niche," she said.

"Many of these items are unique, and they need to be preserved. They reflect life 200 years ago. They’re valuable," Koerpel said.

At the Rensselaerville History Society, a book from a sawmill has been kept, Koerpel said. The book listed every type of tree that had been logged; it was an original listing of the trees growing in the area, she said. A horticulture student might find the information useful for research, she said. Records from old businesses — "things you don’t think of in everyday life" — might be protected at a research center like the one proposed, she said.

"There’s something about the original that’s quite magical," Sacco said.


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