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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, July 12, 2007

Storm wreaks havoc, shocks Berne super

By Tyler Schuling

ALBANY COUNTY — During violent thunderstorms Monday that caused area flooding and power outages, Kevin Crosier was shocked by an electric current and hospitalized.

Berne’s supervisor, Crosier works as a firefighter for the city of Albany. A home on Cuyler Avenue off Delaware Avenue had been struck by lightning and Crosier, called to the scene of the fire, was crawling in the basement along with two other firefighters.

He reached down and felt in the dark what he thought was a metal cabinet.

An electric shock blew him backwards, he said, as current shot through his right arm and his right leg. His right arm was numb and he could barely move it, he said.

He was admitted to Albany Medical Center Hospital for testing and x-rays on Monday and was released on Tuesday. He had some burning sensations and soreness in his right bicep Tuesday evening and was taking pain pills, he said.

"It was quite an experience — one I hope I never have again," he said. "How it occurred is going to be a mystery"The entire building was electrified."

Monday afternoon and into the early evening, thunderstorms raged throughout the county, bringing down large trees, and causing power outages and flooding.

Three separate storms, each lasting from 30 minutes to one hour, hit Albany County, said Brian Frugis with the National Weather Service. The last of the three storms, he said, caused the most extensive damage and is probably the worst he’s seen in Albany County this year.

High temperatures and humidity, both conducive to thunderstorms, contributed to the violent nature of the storms, Frugis said.

Around 8 p.m. near the Pine Hills Public Library in Albany, road flares marked streets and residents sat on curbs across from their darkened homes, waiting for power to be restored. Power was out at the high school in Guilderland Center, causing the school board to meet briefly in a darkening room, before postponing the rest of its meeting. Route 20 was closed between Stuyvesant Plaza and the Northway due to flooding. Motorists passed through intersections cautiously, traffic signals not telling them whether to go, yield, or stop.

Crosier described the circumstances of the Cuyler Avenue fire.

While he was in the basement with two other firefighters around 6:45 p.m., rain poured outside. Lightning had struck the Cuyler Avenue house. Visibility was poor; it was hot and dark, and heavy smoke filled the house. In a basement with one entrance and small windows, Crosier and fellow firefighters had only "one way in and one way out," he said.

Once Crosier received the electric shock, he and the other two firefighters realized they were trapped and quickly left the house. Other firefighters were fighting the fire on the first floor. The battalion chief then ordered everyone out of the house, and the fire company fought the fire from outside. The wet house — sheathed in aluminum siding with a loose electric connection — was electrified.

"There’s no such thing as a routine fire," said Crosier, who has been a firefighter for 19 years. "I’ve never seen anything like it."

Frantzen proposes contest for photos of Knox scenery

By Tyler Schuling

KNOX — Residents may soon be toting cameras and taking snapshots of what they think are the most beautiful vistas in town.

Tuesday, Cheryl Frantzen, chair of the Conservation Advisory Committee, suggested a townwide photography contest to start in the fall, with participants to take pictures during all four seasons.

Frantzen said a previous pictorial inventory for the town’s comprehensive plan didn’t have some pictures from areas in the town not seen from roads.

Board members were receptive to Frantzen’s ideas.

Councilman Nicholas Viscio, who called the project "harmless," asked if the contest’s purpose would be to update pictures of scenic vistas in the town’s comprehensive land-use plan. Frantzen replied that the purpose of the contest wouldn’t be specifically for comprehensive plan use but photographs could be used for such a purpose at a later date. Photographs from the contest could also be placed on the town’s website, Frantzen said.

The town’s attorney, John Dorfman, was concerned about the town sponsoring a contest and said he would have to do more research. "I’m going to have to look at this. It’s new to me," Dorfman said.

Planning Board chairman Robert Price said he didn’t think the concept any different than the planning board members’ routinely taking photographs for site-plan approvals.

The board discussed possibilities for funding and prizes.

A committee to judge the photographs and determine the top three photographs would need to be formed. Frantzen recommended the winner receive a framed and matted photograph of his or her picture.

Board members, uncertain whether the town could be responsible for the contest, explored the possibility of having the youth committee, which holds an annual chili contest, sponsor it.

Board members also discussed the willingness of the town’s businesses to donate prizes and gift certificates.

"I think it’s a great idea," Councilman Joseph Best said of the project. Best, who owns the Knox Country Store in the Knox hamlet, said he would be "very willing" to donate to the project.

Other business

In other business, the town board:

— Heard from Supervisor Michael Hammond that the town will receive a $4,000 grant through Assemblyman John McEneny’s office to be used for engineering on the town hall renovation project. For the project, the town also hired Susan Lombardi as its grant writer, who is investigating funding opportunities.

Hammond said the town will also try to secure more funds through McEneny’s office during the next round of applications;

— Heard the latest information on the readings of a meteorological tower on Middle Road from Price. The met tower was erected in mid-October, and is measuring wind speeds for the Helderberg Wind Project.

From January to the end of March, Price said, speeds averaged 14 to 15 miles per hour at a height of 50 meters, and 10 to 12 miles per hour more at 80 meters. From April to the end of June, speeds averaged 12.5 to 13 miles per hour at 50 meters, he said, and were just higher at 80 meters;

— Heard from Price that the agendas for planning-board meetings are now being posted on the town’s website;

— Voted unanimously to fund the youth committee $450 to take a trip to the USS Slater, a battleship on the Hudson River. Councilman Dennis Decker said the committee is trying to obtain a bus and a driver from Berne-Knox-Westerlo;

— Heard praise from Councilwoman Patricia Gage and Hammond for Highway Superintendent Gary Salisbury’s efforts to obtain funds for road projects. Since area flooding in April due to a nor’easter, Salisbury has reported to the Federal Emergency Management Agency roads, culverts, and road shoulders affected by the storm. Salisbury said he should know how much money the town expects to get from FEMA within two weeks.

Salisbury said he is also trying to obtain funding and materials for repairs to Quay Road, which has been repeatedly damaged. Before determining whether a squash pipe or a box culvert is needed, a hydraulic study must first be conducted with FEMA; and

— Heard from Salisbury that the highway department recently finished chip-sealing on Whipple, Helderberg, Malachi, Adams, and Suto roads. The department will now begin work on Line, Church, and White roads, he said.

Man in Berne accused of abusing girl

By Tyler Schuling

BERNE — A complaint alleging that a Berne man repeatedly assaulted his 3-year-old daughter led to his arrest.

Adam J. Wright, 21, of 1638 Helderberg Trail, was arrested by the Albany County Sheriff’s Department on June 29. He was taken to Albany County’s jail without bail.

Wright had been abusing his daughter over the past few months, according to the sheriff’s department. He was convicted of third-degree assault for assaulting his daughter in July of 2006, police say.

Albany County Child Protective Services received a call from Albany Medical Center Hospital stating doctors thought the girl’s injuries were inconsistent with Wright’s account: Her orbital socket was fractured and numerous bruises covered her body, which were in various degrees of healing, police say.

Child Protective Services called the sheriff’s department on May 7, police say.

The girl is currently in foster care, supervised by protective services.

Wright was charged with two counts of second-degree assault, a felony; aggravated assault upon a person younger than 11 years old, a felony; and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.

Also charged was Dolores N. Dober, who resides with Wright. Dober was charged with one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, due to her having knowledge of the abuse and not attempting to help the child, police say.
Wright, on July 17, and Dober, on July 16, will meet with Albany County Judge Stephen W. Herrick office to "conference," said Herrick’s clerk.

Zuk closes the bus doors for the last time

By Tyler Schuling

BERNE — After 35 years of directing transportation at Berne-Knox-Westerlo, Alan Zuk is retiring.

His last day with the district is July 27.

"It was a good match for me. I can’t really explain why," he said. "It fit. It was like a natural thing for me to be here."

Zuk, who grew up in Berne on his family’s farm, started out as a bus driver in March of 1972. His father, a dairy farmer, was also a school bus driver and mechanic at the school.

A long-time volunteer in the community, Zuk is currently president of the Berne Volunteer Fire Company and Helderberg Ambulance. Serving in town government, as supervisor, a member of the planning board, and as a town justice, Zuk has lived in Berne his whole life.

"I’m a lifer," he said.

He attended Clarkson College, which is now Clarkson University, in Potsdam. After graduating with a management degree, Zuk sold insurance. "I found that it was really hard — a difficult way to make a living," he said. His father then recommended he drive a school bus. Shortly after, the position of director of transportation opened.

Zuk characterized his experience at the district, and the changes he has seen.

While growing up, Zuk said, he probably spent more time with his parents than the average person because they were both home. While working with them on their dairy farm, he said, he picked up their work ethic, working long hours. His mother was a school board member, and was also involved in the PTA, the Farm Bureau, and her church, Zuk said.

Charged with the day-to-day operations of the school’s transportation system, Zuk trained drivers, recommended equipment purchases, handled personnel issues, made recommendations to superintendents about delays and school cancellations, and planned for the needs of special-education students.

He said his earlier years with the district stand out. Enrollment, he said, was higher, and Zuk tried to accommodate by trying different routes. During the first five or six years, the district had three different routes. "Every year was a learning year," he said.

In the mid-1970s, legislation passed requiring schools to provide services to special education students. BKW then used large 60-passenger buses to transport just a few students to a program at the Middleburgh elementary school, he said. Currently, BKW transports nearly 40 special-education students to 28 different locations in the Capital Region.

"There were no small vehicles here," he said. "The cost of that service"was not a reason to not provide the service."

Now, the district has smaller buses, and more bus drivers, mechanics, and vehicles, Zuk said.

"Our population hasn’t changed that much, but the number of vehicles has more than doubled," he said. The number of bus drivers and mechanics, he said, has also doubled.

Standards for mechanics are much higher, he said, and maintenance programs are "much more defined." Mechanics are required to take "very sophisticated," and "specialized" mechanics training.

"Mechanics work really, really hard in keeping our fleet up," he said.

Bus aides, which BKW now uses regularly, "were unheard of when I started out," he said. BKW now monitors buses with video cameras.

The number of routes has also changed, Zuk said. This summer, he said, he has nearly as many routes as he did during the regular school year.

Once he retires, Zuk plans to not have a schedule. "I’ll probably pick up my actions in the fire company," he said, adding that he will do the same with the ambulance squad, which is planning for a satellite station.

Working as both director of transportation for the school and supervisor for the town of Berne, a post he held for 16 years, Zuk said, there was no time to develop a hobby.

"Not having a hobby is a little bit of a worry for me," he said.

On a warm day just before BKW’s graduation, he was considering traveling more on the weekends with his wife, Mildred, a long-time BKW elementary teacher who retired last year after 34 years with the district. His daughters are both grown. His elder, Stephanie, is a school teacher in Rhinebeck (Dutchess County). His younger, Laura, recently began graduate school at the University at Albany.

"I really enjoy my work here," Zuk said. Employees, co-workers, administrators, and educators have all been really wonderful, he concluded.

"It just fit."

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