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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 6, 2007

17-year-old arrested for sex abuse

VOORHEESVILLE — A 17-year-old man with a history was arrested for sexually abusing two young boys.

Michael T. Hallenbeck was arrested at his home at 12A South Main St. in Voorheesville on Aug. 29 without a sign of remorse, said Senior Investigator Ron Bates of the Albany County Sheriff’s Department.

An investigation done by the county’s Child Protective Services and the sheriff’s department found that Hallenbeck, a Votec student, had abused the boys, who are ages seven and eleven, between December of 2006 and April of 2007 in Kissel’s trailer park, Bates said.

Hallenbeck was charged with second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child, a felony; second-degree sex abuse, a misdemeanor; and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, according to a release.

Hallenbeck was put in Albany County’s jail on Aug. 29 and was out on $15,000 cash bail the next day, Bates said.

— Saranac Hale Spencer

New Scotland Primary season

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – Republicans and Democrats here will vie in the Sept. 18 Conservative and Independence party primaries to secure the small-party lines in the November general election.

The town board currently has three Democrats and two Republicans and, although fewer than 1-percent of New Scotland voters are enrolled in small parties, an alternate line often attracts many more voters on Election Day.

Five candidates are listed on the Conservative ballot for the Sept. 18 vote – Douglas LaGrange, a Republican, for town supervisor; Deborah Baron, a Democrat, for town board; Gary Schultz, a Republican, for town board; Charles Voss, a Republican, for town board; and Diane Deschenes, a Democrat, for town clerk. Write-ins are offered for all categories of office because of opportunity-to-ballot petitions.

Four candidates running for two town-justice positions will be on the ballot in both the Independence and Conservative primaries. The two Republican candidates are incumbent Margaret Adkins, and John Keenan III. Brendan O’Shea and incumbent David Wukitsch will be running for judge as Democrats.

The town board appointed Wukitsch in May after the late-March resignation of Democrat Thomas Dolin, who is running for town supervisor.

Candidates running for judge collect signatures and submit a nominated petition; they don’t need the permission of the party, and therefore, the names of all the candidates can appear on the primary election ballot.

According to figures provided by the Albany County Board of Elections, New Scotland is divided roughly into thirds — 35 percent of registered voters are enrolled as Democrats, 29 percent are enrolled as Republicans, and nearly 36 percent of voters are not enrolled in a party. Less than 1 percent of New Scotland voters are enrolled in one of the small parties.

Because more than one-third of New Scotland voters have no large-party affiliation, the small parties are an important factor in the outcome of an election.

The Democrats

The New Scotland Democratic Team, as the candidates refer to themselves, is made up mostly of incumbents. Dolin, a lawyer, is making his first run for supervisor, and will be joined by O’Shea, also a lawyer, and the only other new candidate.
Democrats up for re-election include: Deschenes for town clerk; Baron, a school secretary, and Richard Reilly, a lawyer, for town board; and Darrell Duncan for highway superintendent. Wukitsch, a lawyer, is running to keep his appointed seat for town justice.

"If you look at the qualifications and experiences of the candidates, they are the strongest candidates, in my memory, that the Democrats have ever run," said L. Michael Mackey, the town’s Democratic Party chair. Dolin "has a tremendous amount of municipal experience. His background is really, I think, unparalleled," said Mackey.

"They should all appeal to Conservative voters," he said of the entire slate of candidates.

The biggest campaign issues generally tend to be development and land-use, providing municipal services, specifically water and sewer, and, at the same trying to keep taxes low, Mackey said.

The Democrats "really want to encourage light industrial and commercial development," said Mackey, adding that this type of expansion tends to ease taxes.

"That issue appeals not only to Conservative voters, but to everybody in the town," he said.

The town needs to implement a plan of "controlled growth to help alleviate the tax burdens" without changing the fundamental character of the town," Mackey told The Enterprise earlier.

"I know that the feeling of the candidates is that the town does need some growth, particularly commercial growth," he said earlier.

In Dolin’s mid-May announcement of his run for supervisor, he stressed the importance that the town enact "a policy of smart, controlled, responsible growth."

Mackey said this week that all the candidates are committed to seeing that the town gets development that fits in with the existing character. They are also "cognizant of keeping a lid on town expenses," he said.

Mackey said that he doesn’t believe that the proposed senior-housing overlay zone will turn into a large campaign issue, but added, "You never know."

The town board has divided along party lines over the bill. With Baron abstaining because her husband would be the contractor on a development that could proceed if the bill passes, the current board may be deadlocked on the issue.

In any election year, Mackey said, "There’s a potential that any issue surrounding town government can become a campaign issue."

People who once supported the proposal, "sometimes change their minds," Mackey said. In the midst of a campaign, a candidate may "oppose something they earlier supported, and, sometimes that has the potential to turn it into a campaign issue," Mackey said.

The Republicans

The Republican candidates refer to themselves as: Team New Scotland. "It’s not about our party, it’s about our town," said LaGrange, who spoke to The Enterprise as a candidate and the vice-chair of the town’s Republican Party.

The party is in the process of appointing a new chair, he said.

The current supervisor, Ed Clark, who ran successfully for three terms on the GOP line, is stepping down.

The slate includes: LaGrange, a farmer and current town-board member, running for supervisor; Charles Voss, a professional planner and current planning-board member, running for town board; Gary Schultz, a businessman, running for town board; Penny Barone, running for town clerk; Margaret Adkins, a lawyer, running for re-election as town judge; and John Keenan III, also a lawyer, running for town judge.

LaGrange, Voss, and Schultz "went through the rigors of the interviews" for the endorsement of the Conservative Party, said LaGrange. The Conservative Committee liked the candidates and endorsed them, he said, adding that the Conservatives also endorsed Baron, a Democrat. The process is "basically pretty fair," he added.

The Republicans are running on a platform emphasizing economic development, planning for the future, and making Town Hall more accessible to the public, said LaGrange.

It is crucial, he said, to focus town energy on formulating an economic development plan. He urges the town to take a proactive approach rather than a reactive one.

"Rather than just vote along party lines," he said, "we’ve got to work together."

Senior housing is a "very important" issue in the town, but "it’s not a campaign issue," LaGrange said.

"I don’t think it’s proper to claim it as a political pawn," he said. "It’s not fair to the seniors, it’s not fair to what’s right for the town, and it’s not fair to the public," he said.

The town needs to implement affordable senior housing, to "keep people from having to leave our town, and not just import more affluent seniors," LaGrange said.

"Let’s not make it political," he said.

Independence Party

"The Independence line, shall we say, has become a stronghold for the Democrats in town," LaGrange said. "I chose not to try to primary the Independence line," he said.

The Republicans filed no petitions for opportunities to ballot, said Mackey this week. The Independence Party has endorsed Dolin, Baron, Reilly, and Deschenes, he said.

The Independence Party’s central mission is to "restore Democratic choice and electoral accountability," according to the New York State’s party website. "In effect, our current two party system has proved a monumental failure in the most essential public function it performs — the representation of what Americans want from government," the website states.

"I suggested we not waste time pursuing a line that is unpursuable," LaGrange told The Enterprise about the collective decision of the Republican candidates to not seek the Independence Party line.

Two years ago, when LaGrange ran for his town board position, he sought the endorsement of the Independence Party, and mailed letters to all the town residents enrolled in the party, he said.

In the letter, he said, he asserted his belief that there are three categories of people enrolled in the Independence party. The first group includes people who know what the party is about, he said. The second group contains those individuals who sign up thinking that enrolling in the Independence Party makes them "independent" of party politics, said LaGrange. And the final group, he said, is made up of people who are loyal to either Republicans or Democrats, and enroll in the Independence Party to vote in the primary and "steal" the line for their big party.

"It’s unfortunate, because it’s disingenuous," LaGrange said. "It doesn’t seem like it should go on in our town," he added.

FSA says: Too few farmers, plans to close local office

By Tyler Schuling

NEW SCOTLAND — At a public hearing today, the future of a federal office to help farmers will be discussed.

The Albany County Farm Service Agency, located at the William Rice Extension in New Scotland may close, sending local farmers to the Schenectady-Schoharie County FSA in Cobleskill. The New Scotland site is one of eight offices slated to close in the state.

The FSA, which has offices throughout the United States, administers and manages farm commodity, credit, conservation, and disaster and loan programs as laid out by Congress through a network of federal, state, and county offices.

According to the agency’s website, there are 2,346 FSA county offices in the continental United States as well as offices in Hawaii and a few American territories.

Forty-three offices are currently open in New York State. Another county office near Albany County slated for closure is the FSA’s Troy location in Rensselaer County.

The change in the FSA’s structure dates back to January of 2006, when Teresa Lasseter, the FSA’s national administrator, met with executive directors of states to determine local needs and concerns of individual states rather than Washington D.C. dictating what each state must do, said Kent Politsch with the FSA.

Brymer Humphreys, the state executive director of New York State, will attend today’s public hearing at the William Rice Extension Center.

Many factors were considered in deciding which offices may close, he said. Humphreys and his committee looked at the number of farms in each county, the number of programs at the sites, the location of the offices in relation to other FSA sites, and the size of the offices, as well as the number of staff members.

Six of the eight counties considered for closure have an executive director who manages two county offices, he said.

The goal is to adequately staff the FSA’s offices for the complexity of its programs. A staff of four to five employees, including an executive director, is ideal, he said.

"A larger staff creates a better work environment," Humphreys said, adding that it is hard to train a new person.

Asked if rental prices determined which offices were chosen to close, Humphreys responded, "very little."

"We’re governed more by the number of people we’re allowed to hire," he said. "Overhead is not something we seriously looked at."

Humphreys attends the public hearings of affected communities, and, if a community makes a strong enough case, he may revise his plan, said Politsch.

"That kind of change can occur," said Politsch, adding that it is rare. "The hope is jobs will not be lost," he said.

"The full-time positions are not being lost," said Humphreys.

He said his goal is to have a plan finalized at the end of September. If he decides to close the facility, the office would not close for 120 days — mid-February at the very earliest, Humphreys said.

"There’s a continuous appraisal of the structure," said Politsch. The basic structure of the FSA, he said, has been in place since the 1930’s, with grass-roots control.

"That’s still our goal," said Politsch.

The Albany County office employs an executive director and two program technicians. If the offices merge, one of the programtechnician positions will be eliminated, said Thomas Della Rocco, the executive director of the FSA’s Albany County office. Della Rocco also manages the Schoharie-Schenectady office.

"I’m not in favor of this," said Della Rocco. "The biggest impact is going to be in services to agriculture," he said. "It’s important that the USDA have a presence in Albany County," Della Rocco said. "It is the capital."

According to results from 2002 from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, there are 484 farms in Albany County.

In 2006, the Albany County FSA office paid 153 individual farmers, according to Humphreys.

"That’s a pretty low number," he said. "The county average is about 300."

Mark Quandt, executive director of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, has worked with the FSA. He called the Albany County FSA "invaluable," "a wonderful resource," and a consultant that has aided the food bank in how to use the land most effectively.

The food bank farms a large plot of land in the Hilltowns, at the home of Pauline Williman in Knox. The farm recently expanded the operation with the help of the FSA, and hired a manager to run the farm.

The FSA, he said, has helped the food bank form relationships with farmers, who have provided "thousands and thousands" of pounds of food for the food bank. Should the office close or merge with the Schoharie-Schenectady office, it would be "a grave loss," and relationships the FSA has helped build between the food bank and local farmers would suffer, he said. Quandt said Tuesday he will attend the public hearing.

Humphreys said FSA is not alone; other federal agencies run by the United States Department of Agriculture are consolidating and closing offices, too. Rural Development Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service are also working on similar plans to provide services more efficiently, he said.


A public hearing on the proposed closure of the Albany County Farm Service Agency is today (Thursday) at 2 p.m. at the William Rice Extension Center at 24 Martin Road in Voorheesville.

Firehouse rehab delayed

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — Renovations on the firehouse are coming along, slowly but surely.

Two years ago, the village made plans to upgrade the 38-year-old firehouse on Route 156 in a project then-mayor John Stevens called "functional not fancy." More space was needed for training, equipment, and community events and the building was to be renovated to comply with current codes.

The million-dollar project was supposed to be completed by Aug. 1, but contractors are still working. The heating and cooling system and the epoxy floor are yet to be finished, say village officials, and the brickwork that was done earlier in the project needs to be redone.

"The craftsmanship is not up to par," said Stevens, now a trustee, on Wednesday.

Dutch Valley General Contracting, the general contractor for the project, did not want to comment and referred questions to James Blendell, the engineer in charge on the site. Blendell works for Barton and Loguidice, which contracts with the village for inspection and design services; he helped design the firehouse project.

"The general contractor, Dutch Valley, had trouble with subcontractors responding," Blendell said of the missed deadline. He expects that the project will be finished in a week.

"We’ve rejected the brickwork," he said. That part was done by a subcontractor and it will have to be taken down and redone.

"Fines can and will be levied," said Stevens. The village can charge the contractor $500 for everyday that the project is overdue, he said.

Other business

In other business at recent meetings, the board:

— Heard from Deputy Mayor Bill Hotaling that work on village sidewalks is underway. Work started about two weeks ago, Stevens said when asked on Wednesday, and he expects it will be finished in a week;

— Heard a request for a vendor permit from Jason Gerstenberger of Edward Jones Investments. He wanted permission for door-to-door solicitation, but was denied. "We believe people’s homes are their castles," Mayor Robert Conway said;

— Discussed allowing a bonfire in the village park on Sept. 28 for the high school’s homecoming weekend, a community tradition that was stopped after officials thought explosives were put in the fire. "I’d like to see it back down here again," Hotaling said; for the last few years it has been held at the high school. On Wednesday, Stevens said that the village had agreed to allow the bonfire, "with a lot of supervision";

— Heard from Linda Pasquali, the village clerk, that Voorheesville spent about $1,200 on concerts this summer and got poor turnout;

— Went into executive session to discuss a lawsuit against the village;

— Voted to apply for a justice court grant. All voted in favor except for Trustee David Cardona who abstained because he is an employee of the justice courts; and

— Voted unanimously to accept a $10,554 grant from the New York State Archives to scan the minutes, laws, and other official documents of the village into a computerized system.

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