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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, June 14, 2007

Crosier to contest Gordon for county seat

By Tyler Schuling

HILLTOWNS — The race is on.

Two Democrats will be battling to represent the Hilltowns in the Democrat-dominated county legislature.

Whoever wins the Sept. 18 primary can expect to take the seat.

Berne Supervisor Kevin Crosier announced this week he will challenge incumbent Alexander "Sandy" Gordon for the 39th District, which includes the Hilltowns of Berne, Knox, and Rensselaerville.

Supervisor Crosier, a life-long Berne resident, has been a firefighter for 19 years for the city of Albany. He was elected supervisor in 2001.

During his terms as supervisor, Crosier has worked on a senior housing project, the town’s sewer project, the Berne transfer station, and started a summer youth program. He encourages tourism, small businesses, agriculture, and instilling a sense of rural community.

Crosier said "one of the real reasons" he is running is because, "There’s a lot of opportunities down in Albany that we certainly missed out on that I’ve been able to bring here to the town of Berne," he said.

Gordon, a life-long Knox resident, was first elected to the county legislature in 1996. He is a former Knox council member and has always been elected as a Democrat.

He started farming in Knox in 1984, and is a proponent of farmers’ rights. The county’s Right-to-Farm Law, which he worked on for three years and co-sponsored, passed unanimously in the legislature this week. (See related story.)

He is also a proponent of rehabilitating criminals, creating jobs, conservation, and using green energy sources. He frequently attends meetings in the towns he represents. Gordon has been participating in the county’s budgeting; this year Albany County’s tax-levy decreased 2.3-percent.

If elected to the legislature, Crosier said he would no longer serve as Berne’s supervisor. "I couldn’t because I would be devoting way too much time to my job as county legislator," he said.

"It will be a full-time commitment," Crosier said, adding that he will work to bring money and small businesses to the community, revitalize and rejuvenate the downtowns, and make the area what it was years ago — "a very vibrant rural community."

Currently in his second term as Berne supervisor, Crosier was elected in 2001 and in 2005 on the Republican ticket.

"I’ve been a Democrat my whole life," Crosier said this week. "Unfortunately, I’m an independent Democrat"I just think the current Democratic machine is out of step with what the people want in the town of Berne, and I think that they’re out of step with what the residents want in the Hilltowns," he said.

Crosier said he has been called a "maverick Democrat."

"I’m happy to have that label. I think our country was formed on people who were able to stand out on their own and let people criticize. People have criticized me for it. I don’t care. I’m going to work hard for the people. I’ve been a public servant my whole life," he said.

Gordon said he has conducted research for people outside of his political party, and helped a friend and former rival. Once the political season is over and all political alignment is through, it’s about serving your people, he said. "I hope to have the opportunity to do that."

Range of experience

Crosier said this week he has "worked tirelessly for the people to bring back economic development" and worked on initiatives that have been beneficial, "not only for the people in this community, but in surrounding communities.

"I’ve been an active partner in good government"I’ve seen the value of how someone who can work hard at government can really make a change in people’s lives," he said.

Gordon has sponsored initiatives for tax exemptions for owners of solar and wind energy equipment. He wants the area "to go from an energy-consumption region to an energy-production region," he said. Anytime we can get more than one use out of a resource, we should do so, Gordon said.

The Cass Residential Center, formerly an all-male juvenile detention center, located in Rensselaerville, is slated to close in 2008. Following the escape of a youth last year, residents campaigned for its closure. A Cass worker who was raped and abducted at the center by a youth two years prior circulated a petition signed by nearly 500 area residents.

As the Rensselaerville Town Board voted unanimously to close the center in March, Gordon encouraged the board to reconsider. Some residents, adamant about closing the facility, lashed out at him.

A memorandum of understanding exists between the state agency that runs the facility and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, the agency that owns the Cass land. The agreement between the agencies allows the town to participate in decisions on how it is re-opened as well as on the youths it would hold, Gordon said. The center employs 32 people.

"It’s very easy to destroy something," Gordon said this week, adding that he’d like to see the council members "step up to the plate," consider the memorandum, and control the center’s future.

One of Crosier’s projects has been working with local developer Jeff Thomas, who is planning to build rental apartments for retirees in the Hilltowns.

"I think it’s important that the people who have been the cornerstone of our community can have a place "here in the Hilltowns, where they can have a community of their own," Crosier said.

Crosier said he also started a summer youth employment program, which has given participants "a sense of community." Some of those in the program have "gone on to be great volunteers" with the fire department and emergency services, and have returned "to get themselves through college"It’s been spectacular," Crosier said.

Gordon has encouraged municipalities to support the county’s added 1-percent sales tax. Money from the additional tax is refunded to municipalities on a quarterly basis. The town of Knox uses its returns to fund its highway department’s purchases.

Merge or share

Last year, County Executive Michael Breslin held the first Inter-municipal Cooperative Forum. Crosier encouraged Berne to consolidate its highway department with the county’s department of public works.

The merger proposal was the town’s most controversial issue; many town residents protested by placing "No merger" signs in their front yards. All of the town’s highway workers opposed consolidation.

Last fall, Crosier included the consolidation in his budget proposal; it was not supported by the Democratic board. No board member would second his motion to apply for a grant to study a merger with the county. Though all town highway workers and many residents oppose consolidation, Crosier continues to pursue the issue.

At its meeting last month, the Berne Town Board discussed sharing services with the county. The board, before sending a proposal to the county for review, must show a savings. Crosier recommended last month the town also send the merger proposal along with a shared-service proposal. Berne councilmen James Hamilton and Wayne Emory were skeptical about sending a proposal not supported by the board.

Last month, an initiative sponsored by Gordon to create a board for all municipalities in Albany County to discuss sharing highway services passed unanimously. Each of the 19 municipalities in the county will be represented on the board; the county will appoint two members.

Shortly after the bill was passed, Gordon said he doesn’t think talks of consolidation have been discussed openly in Berne. Crosier called Gordon’s proposal for a highway board to discuss shared services "a day late and a dollar short."

Crosier said this week, "Myself and [Breslin] worked on this long before it was a popular political buzzword"We were working a year ago on the consolidation and shared services efforts in the county."

He applauded Breslin for holding inter-municipal forums and bringing leaders together to look at issues.

Preserving resources and open spaces

"I want to protect our rich, natural resources in Albany County. The Hilltowns are the jewel of the county," Crosier said.

"They are the last bastion of true open space in the county, and as we see pressure from Tech Valley and housing pressure — all you have to do is go to the Thacher Park escarpment, stand and look over the edge, and tell me what you see. You see housing developments encroaching on farm fields," he said. Crosier said "the time is now" to preserve the Hilltowns’ rich, natural resources. "People in the Hilltowns have a very fierce dedication to their natural resources," he said.

"It’s going to be harder and harder to preserve these things, and we now need to get ahead," Crosier said.

Crosier said it is critical to get the county to commit to preserving natural resources.

"And the way we do that is simply one thing — money," Crosier said. "We need to get the county legislature to commit funds for open-space preservation in the Hilltowns because, if we don’t, we won’t have those rich, natural resources anymore," he said.

Preserving open spaces and promoting agriculture will help keep property taxes low, Crosier said. "If we do not control our property taxes here, you are going to have sprawl because people are not going to be able to afford to hold on to these farms," he said. "We need to finds ways to do that, and we need immediate relief."

Some communities around New York State, he said, have borrowed money, Crosier said. "The citizens have said, ‘We think so much of our open space, we’re going to borrow money, and we’re going to buy some of these development rights, and we’re going to offset the cost of ownership to these people," he said.

Crosier said, "If we can get the county to chip in, then I can get the state to chip in, and we can get some co-funding initiatives."

Throughout his nearly six years as Berne Supervisor, Crosier said, he has gotten over $1.25 million in grants through co-funding initiatives — getting some monies from the state and federal governments, and also from the D.E.C.

"It’s now time to bring that money to all the Hilltowns so that we can all benefit, because, really, we’re all tied in this together," he said.

Crosier also said he wants people to come to the Hilltowns for recreation.

"Then we want them to go home," he said. "We want them to spend their dollars." Crosier cited the Partridge Run State Wildlife Management preserve, located on the west end of Berne.

"Having these natural resources is an economy for us, and protecting them is protecting our economy," he said. "And by protecting our economy, we’re protecting our taxes and keeping a lower tax rate."

Crosier started the Big Backyard Program for owners of large lots to lease their land for recreational use, he said.

Gordon has worked on keeping farming viable as a way to maintain open space and rural character. He has secured state and federal grant money to promote local farms.

Gordon sponsored a drive-it-yourself farm trail and updated a farm products map, which gives directions to all area farms. Many people, he said, are now purchasing their food locally and going on a 100-mile diet.

In the spring of 2005, Gordon said he started the process that saves area meat farmers time and expenses to travel and market their products. Prior to a center created in Guilderland, local farmers didn’t have a USDA-approved processing center and had to travel long distances to Bridgewater or Oneonta. Farmers can now travel to Guilderland to Nichols Meat Processing, owned by Jeff Nichols, and to J and L Processing, a business located nearby and owned by Nichols’s brother, which has the ability to air-vacuum the packages.

Gordon said he has also sponsored a grant application for housing for migrant workers in the area for seasonal work. "We weren’t successful on the first try, but we’ll try again," he said.

He also supports upgrading county buildings. Improvements have been approved for the county office building, the judicial center, the family court, and the county courthouse. Gordon said he has pushed for renovations to the William Rice Jr. Center in Voorheesville. The building, he said, is not compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, and said that, if renovations are not completed before September, two federal agencies will no longer lease the space from the county.

Currently, farmers are able to do "one-stop shopping" at the center, and, if it isn’t renovated, farmers, "who are pressed for time," would have to travel to other parts of the county or other counties.

Improving the community

Gordon cites a long list of initiatives to improve the lives of his constituents.

He worked with the towns of Berne and Rensselaerville on their broadband communications, and kept up with state legislature tax exemptions for senior citizens and disabled citizens to provide them with higher exemptions.

Gordon said he also is continuing work, in conjunction with the Albany County Sheriff’s Department and Cornell, on a resolution he introduced in 2005 that would put non-violent offenders to work in households on weatherization products. "I’m still working on it," he said.

In 2005, a resolution passed unanimously that allows county workers serving in the military to retain their sick leave and vacation time. In 2001 and 2003, the county passed a resolution to "pick up the difference" between a county worker’s military salary and their county salary. Gordon said the legislature is trying to keep the families of county employees who are serving in the National Guard and other branches of the military together.

Gordon also pointed to cost-saving measures.

The county operates under an agreement with the Voorheesville School District to wash their buses at the county’s department of public works station in Voorheesville. The county currently charges $25 dollars for each bus, Gordon said. He said he thinks the service could be extended to other municipalities.

Gordon also approved the cooperative purchasing agreement between the county and municipalities within the county. After passing a resolution, a municipality has the opportunity to join in with the county for things such as office supplies, bathroom supplies, and uniforms. Gordon said it is more expensive for towns to complete a request for proposals, and the county has gotten better prices than through the state on a number of items.

Gordon has supported every initiative to wipe out Medicaid waste, fraud, and abuse, he said. He has supported hand-gun control in the City of Albany. Since May, he said, there have been over 10 shootings. "That’s just totally unacceptable."

Gordon said he also facilitated donations in Guilderland and Knox to the Mohawk and Hudson Land Conservancy, to the Pine Bush Preserve in Guilderland, and also sponsored an initiative to ensure the safety and preservation to an entrance of one of the Northeastern Cave Conservatory’s caves in Clarksville.

Gordon has also backed the Safe Child ID Program. Identification cards, which would be issued to anyone under 18, could be given to police in pursuit of a missing child, and help with an Amber Alert and "reverse 911" calls, both police notifications.

Crosier, too, points to his accomplishments in improving the community.

Crosier said small-business owners in Berne make the community "just like the rural land-owners do." He said he hopes everyone supports local business. "It’s a big part of our community," he said.

He recalled working in his parents’ grocery store in East Berne — The Village Pantry. Some of his fondest memories, he said, are of people coming into the store. Crosier said he wants to create businesses in the other Hilltowns. They create a sense of community, he said, because they are places for people to go and trade thoughts.

Crosier is currently on the board of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which is set up to provide affordable housing for young people in the Hilltowns.

"As property values rise, our young people want to come here and live. They want to settle on the land that their grandparents had, and we need to find ways for that to happen," he said.

The housing trust fund, started by Breslin, "is a great opportunity"I’m glad to be able to try and bring some housing trust fund money here to the town of Berne, not only for senior housing but for young families that want to start here. I think that’s important," he said.

Crosier supports building one community center for all the Hilltowns. Services from agencies such as Families Together, Meals on Wheels, and Community Caregivers could all be located "under one roof," he said. Crosier described the community center as "one-stop shopping." Rather than having to travel to different locations in the county, residents would come to one centralized location.

New rules for pools

By Tyler Schuling

New commercial and residential swimming pools need to have alarms to detect an unsupervised child or pet, or an intruder breaking the water.

The state law was enacted last December to prevent children from drowning. The law applies to all above- or below-ground pools 24 inches deep or deeper that are installed, constructed, or "substantially modified" after Dec. 14, 2006.

According to the state’s Department of State, "Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths in children between the ages of 1 and 14 nationwide, and the third leading cause of injury-related deaths of children in New York."

Depending on the size of a pool, more than one alarm may be needed. The law also includes hot tubs and spas.

"Every pool we build, every pool we sell, has to have an alarm," said Doug Dantrowitz, manager of Concord Pools in Clifton Park. The law stipulates alarms must be meet American Society of Testing Materials standards.

A municipality’s building inspectors or fire departments enforce the law, said Eamon Moynihan, spokesperson for the state’s Department of State.

All pool alarms on the market are not ASTM-certified, Dantrowitz said. One is available for an in-ground pool, and another is available for above-ground pools. Both are made by Poolguard, Dantrowitz said. Concord Pools, which has four locations in the Capital Region, includes the alarm with each pool. "We would never charge more for safety," Dantrowitz said.

An above-ground pool alarm by Poolguard uses a 9-volt battery, which sends out a pulsating sound. The alarm includes a remote receiver to be placed within a home, which also sounds an alarm. It sells for about $125.

Poolguard’s in-ground pool alarm sells for about $190 and works much like the above-ground alarm. It may be put in sleep mode when a pool is in use. Designed for a 20-by-40-foot pool, the alarm will detect "a 1-year-old child weighing 18 pounds and up." A receiver placed indoors has a range of up to 200 feet.

Right-To-Farm Law Passes in County Legislature

By Tyler Schuling

ALBANY COUNTY — A local law to support and protect farmland and foster good relations between farmers and non-farmers passed unanimously Monday night in the Albany County Legislature.

The Right-to-Farm Law, long in the developing stages, was sponsored by Alexander "Sandy" Gordon, a Democrat who represents the towns of Berne, Knox, and Rensselaerville, and Chairman Charles E. Houghtaling, also a Democrat, who represents Westerlo and parts of New Scotland.

Gordon, who farms over 100 acres in Knox, said there are now over 70,000 acres of farmland in Albany County. The law "helps sustain the viability of farming." Worked on for over three years, the law extends to those making $2,000 or more in gross sales, which helps in a market where many landowners have small operations or are just starting out, Gordon said.

Farm products, as defined by the new law, include: field crops, fruits, vegetables, horticultural crops, livestock, maple sap and syrup, Christmas trees, fish, fish products, woody crops, apiary products, and compost products.

Gordon said the law also helps preserve open space, defies sprawl, and keeps property taxes down.

When selling a property within 500 feet of an agricultural district, sellers must give prospective buyers a notice that says: "It is the policy of Albany County to conserve, protect, and encourage the development and improvement of agricultural land for the production of food, and other products, and also for its natural and ecological value"Such farming activities may include, but not be limited to, activities that cause noise, dust, and odors"."

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