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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 20, 2007

Grimm says Bosworth is profiting from his non-profit business and taxpayers foot the bill

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — A Republican challenger is saying his Democratic rival, David Bosworth, has a serious conflict of interest.

Bosworth says there is no conflict, and Republican Mark Grimm has gone "too far" in his accusations.

Bosworth chairs the town’s Democratic Party and co-chairs the county’s committee as well. He and his wife work for the Center for the Advancement of Family and Youth, which is funded by the county.

Grimm cites an IRS form that, he says in a letter to The Enterprise editor, "reveals Mr. Bosworth and his wife, Eileen, in the year 2005 alone collected nearly $190,000 in pay and benefits from this nonprofit that is funded nearly entirely by Albany County taxpayers."

The county legislature is more than two-thirds Democratic.

Bosworth fired back, saying "Some of these accusations are approaching recklessness"I’ve never seen anything like this" in a Guilderland campaign.

Grimm is seeking one of two open seats on the town board in the Nov. 6 election. He, along with Republican Warren Redlich, are looking to oust incumbent Democrats Councilman Bosworth and Councilman Michael Ricard.

Bosworth co-chairs the Albany County Democratic Party along with Frank Commisso, who is the legislature’s majority leader.

Bosworth questioned Grimm’s motive and asked, "I wonder what my county position has to do with my town run""

Grimm responded by saying it constitutes a significant conflict of interest because the majority of legislators who vote on appropriation bills to fund county not-for-profit organizations are politically managed by Commisso and Bosworth.

Bosworth directs a not-for-profit organization that, through Project Strive, offers various services and counseling for troubled youth and their families. (See related story.)

The organization is funded largely from the Albany County Legislature, which awarded Project Strive $1.4 million in 2004. According to legislature documents of that year, the only other organization to get more money in the same resolution was Parsons, which includes Families United Network; it got $2.1 million.

Grimm states that Bosworth is supervising his wife and that the amount of money they are paid is "a glaring example of old-style politics." According to the 2005 IRS 990 Form, which The Enterprise obtained through the county comptroller’s office, Eileen Bosworth was paid $67,347 in 2005 and $22,252 in benefits. She is Project Strive’s program director.

David Bosworth, who is the executive director, was paid $74,251 in 2005, the most recent year on file, and $23,426 in benefits.

Bosworth said Grimm was going "too far" in his campaign to unseat him and that he is being personally attacked.

"This is a very uncomfortable thing to respond to"no one else believes there is a conflict," Bosworth said. "I believe he is doing this for political reasons."

As for his wife, Bosworth replied, "We’ve worked together for 35 years"We’ve won a number of awards for our work."

Bosworth said that his wife is highly qualified to do her work, holding two masters’ degrees, and that she is a private practice social worker.

"Anytime you’re a challenger, you’re negative and are making personal attacks," Grimm responded through The Enterprise. "We’re talking about taxpayer money, it’s not a personal attack."

The board of directors for Project Strive includes two Albany County Legislators, representatives Phillip Steck and Nancy Wiley, and nearly all of the board members are enrolled Democrats.

The board’s treasurer is Patricia Slavick, a second-term Guilderland councilwoman who lost Tuesday’s primary against incumbent Michael Conners for county comptroller.

The board, according to Bosworth, is independent and "self perpetuating," and creates its own nominating committee to appoint board members as the organization grows.

Bosworth denies any political improprieties, saying he has been working for The Center since 1972, but has only been active in politics for the past decade. He was elected to Guilderland Town Board in 1999 and officially named county co-chair a little over six months ago.

Furthermore, Bosworth said, outside auditors monitor his business’s finances, which he fully discloses, and he has sought the opinion of several lawyers familiar with New York State ethics laws on his political positions.

Bosworth said he was told by "several sources" that he is not in conflict.

The Albany County Executive’s Office oversees and signs off on appropriations made by the county legislature, Bosworth said, adding "There’s implications here that Mr. Grimm should be careful of"There are many people involved in this process."

Grimm maintains that he is simply pointing out what he sees as a conflict of interest on several different levels, but that his assertions are not personal.

"Anyone who claims that this is personal is wrong," Grimm said.

Bosworth said his challenger should be reminded that Commisso is the county legislature’s majority leader and that "it’s no secret" the two of them "had their differences" leading to a court battle before they became co-chairs.

Commisso originally won the party election last fall, after the former party chair, Betty Barnette, held a controversial standing vote. The two later formed a combined slate and became co-chairs.

"He wouldn’t do any favors for me," Bosworth concluded of Commisso. "Prior to Mr. Grimm’s remarks, I have honestly never heard anyone bring this up."

School leaders say
Project Strive is valuable

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Project Strive has been serving Guilderland students in need since 1993, and those who work closely with the program praise it.

Fourteen years ago, Penelope Heath, who was then the principal of Westmere Elementary School, worked with David Bosworth, executive director of The Center for Family and Youth, a position he still holds, to develop a program for troubled suburban students and their families.

"Many programs are targeted for lower income families in the cities"We were made aware urban problems were present in the suburbs here," Bosworth told The Enterprise in 1993. "We try to prevent family break-up," he said of Project Strive. At that time, he said, Project Strive was a quarter-century old.

He called the Guilderland satellite program an "unprecedented partnership" between school and county agencies.

The program continues today, housed at Westmere Elementary School, and drawing on referrals from all five Guilderland elementary schools.

"The program helps children and their families, not just educationally, but in social and emotional ways," said Nancy Andress, the assistant superintendent for instruction at the Guilderland schools. "They deal with issues that go beyond what our social workers in the schools can do," she said, citing as an example counseling with homeless families.

Time after school and over summer vacation can be difficult for struggling families, Andress said, and Project Strive provides programs for these times.

Westmere’s principal, Deborah Drumm, said of Project Strive, "It has helped many, many families"They offer intensive family treatment to help keep a child out of foster care."

In the five years she has been at Westmere, Drumm said she has witnessed four or five families being helped.

Information that Drumm sent The Enterprise on Project Strive lists Eileen Bosworth, the wife of David Bosworth, as the director of community and preventive services, the role in which Drumm also identified her. Mrs. Bosworth is listed as an LCSW-R, which means, as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, she has a master’s degree in social work from an accredited university and has passed the state’s licensure exam. The "R" designation is awarded only after an LCSW has had at least six years of postgraduate professional supervision, and has met credentialing guidelines; it allows for third-party insurance reimbursement.

Louisa Lombardo, an LCSW and a certified school social worker at Westmere Elementary School, said she has worked with Eileen Bosworth and "absolutely" considers her to be a qualified professional who does a good job.

The literature from Drumm outlines Project Strive’s three community-based program centers — one on Ontario Street in Albany for city youth; a second in Watervliet on 14th Street, for youth in Watervliet, Cohoes, and Green Island; and the third at Westmere Elementary for Guilderland children.

Each site offers after-school and summer programs for youth "at risk of foster care placement, or who could return home sooner, if provided with intensive community-based treatment services," the literature says.

"I truly believe in it," said Drumm of the Westmere program. "Otherwise, it wouldn’t be here in our school"space is at a premium."

The Guilderland School District does not pay for Project Strive services, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders. "We pay for the transportation," he said; this involves bussing the children to and from the Westmere school.

And, Sanders said, "We let them use classroom space." This involves no additional cost to the district, he said, since the school is open in those after-school hours and custodians are already on duty.

When the program was launched at Guilderland, on June 1, 1993, with 20 families, the business administrator at the time said Guilderland’s annual contribution was $47,000 in "in-kind expenditures," including use of school space, electricity and phone costs, transportation costs, and use of office equipment and supplies.

David Bosworth, at that time, said the program was based on a system of matching funding: 75 percent to 25 percent.

In addition to the school district’s $47,000, The Center for Family and Youth contributed $8,000 in in-kind expenditures. This $55,000 was matched by 75 percent more from the state’s Department of Social Services, administered through the county’s Department of Social Services, for a total program cost of $220,000, Bosworth said at the time.

Lombardo, the Westmere school social worker, said she refers from one or two up to five or six students to the program from her school each year and each student’s progress is well monitored, through regular evaluations.

"It’s an intervention program," she said. "You don’t wait till the horse is out of the barn and try to deal with these problems [when the student is] in high school"

The services that Project Strive offers are beyond what she can offer as a school social worker, Lombardo said. This includes home visits for family therapy, she said.

"Some families that don’t have health insurance need therapy and ongoing support," she said.

The program also offers group counseling, tutoring, homework supervision, and recreational activities.

Families participate in Project Strive on a voluntary basis, she said. "Every family sets out goals they want to attain," Lombardo said.

"Think of where these kids would be after school or in the summer without this program," she said.

Dems get Conservative line

GUILDERLAND — Candidates for town board have agreed that Democrats got the Conservative line in Tuesday’s primary, although no official results are available.

Three candidates sought the Conservative line for town council seats. Democratic incumbents David Bosworth and Michael Ricard, and Republican challenger Mark Grimm.

Bosworth and Ricard won the Conservative line over Grimm, the candidates say.

In the County Legislative races, District 29 saw incumbent Republican Lee Carman win the Conservative line over Dennis Feeney and incumbent legislator Mary Lou B. Connolly also won the Conservative line over a write-in campaign for her seat in the 32nd District.

The Conservative primary was forced to use paper ballots instead of the traditional lever machines because of the number of Third-District Judicial Delegate races. As a result, the paper ballots were not counted until Wednesday afternoon and several absentee ballots have yet to be collected, according to board officials.

In the town board race Bosworth and Ricard already have the Democratic and Independence lines, and will most likely have the Conservative line. For county legislature, Carman will have the Republican and Conservative lines and Feeney will have Democratic and Independence lines.

Candidates try to pick up third-party lines because it broadens their appeal in the general election. A handful of primary voters could lead to many more votes on Election Day in November.

— Jarrett Carroll

Comptroller Conners wins
Takes cities and rural areas

By Jarrett Carroll

ALBANY COUNTY — After being shunned by the party, Michael Conners got the green light from the county’s Democratic voters in yesterday’s primary for comptroller.

He was challenged by Guilderland Councilwoman Patricia Slavick for the post. The unofficial results from the Albany County Board of Elections show that Conners received 1,600 more votes than Slavick — 55 percent to 45 percent. Preliminary results show that Conners primarily carried the cities and the rural districts of the county, while Slavick carried the suburban towns.

Slavick has unofficially won the Independence Party line, with 294 votes to Conners’s 279, but a number of absentee ballots are still out, which could affect the outcome. Slavick’s campaign manager, Donald Csaposs, said an announcement will be made next Wednesday morning on whether Slavick will drop out of the race or continue to run on the Independence and Working Families line.

Conners picked up the Conservative line before the primary. There is no Republican challenger for comptroller.

"The people of Albany County have spoken," Conners told The Enterprise yesterday.

He said he felt ecstatic.

"The Albany County prodigal son has returned and is home and welcomed back to the table," Conners said of his victory. "We, as a party, should put all of these problems behind us."

Conners had irked Democrats when he left the party to run as a Republican for a short stint.

Conners called for county officials to "stop dividing people because we’re all in the same boat"Now is the time to put behind us this suburban-urban rift."

The county’s Democratic Party has been mired in a struggle for the past year, with a court-contested chairman race that ended with urban and suburban co-chairmen. Later this summer, a separate Albany City Democratic Party was founded by Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings.

Democrats voting in Tuesday’s primary also could choose between two slates for delegates to the Third Judicial District, who nominate judges — one slate was from the county Democrats and the other was from the city Democrats.

Out of 22 nominations, 14 delegates were elected. The county’s slate won 13 of the 14 delegates, with only Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings himself winning from the Albany city slate.

As for the county comptroller race, Conners said that Slavick ran a tough campaign.

"I thought she ran a very tough campaign"people really liked her," Conners said, but he added, "I think the negative campaign backlashed on them"I feel badly for her."

"Given the fact that I’m unknown outside of Guilderland, I think I did pretty good," Slavick said yesterday. "Of course it’s disappointing, but overall it was a good experience."

Slavick said she would have never run for comptroller if her town board was up for election. She said she is glad to still be on the board.

"She ran a solid campaign. She wouldn’t have done anything"differently," Csaposs said. "The next step is to see what happens with that Independence line.

"The county’s loss is the town’s gain," he said of Slavick. He claimed they ran a clean campaign.

Csaposs said that a big primary voter turnout in Cohoes and Watervliet local elections helped the Conners campaign because the cities are "areas where Conners is historically strong."

Without the Democratic line, Csaposs said, it would be very hard for Slavick to raise enough money to mount a county-wide race for comptroller. Csaposs said Slavick’s run was much more successful than the primary race four years ago, by then-Albany County Legislator Allen Maikels, also of Guilderland.

Conners handily defeated Maikels in that primary.

Weeks prior to Tuesday’s primary, the race began to get heated as several letters to The Enterprise editor were written on campaign issues and tactics. Conners never responded to the letters while Slavick, through Csaposs, made an issue out of Freedom of Information requests she sent to Conners’s office for audits.

The requested information — in 122 audits — has sat in Conner’s office since Aug. 14, but nobody picked up the information. Slavick’s campaign made an issue out of the release of Conners’s audits, it topped her list of criticisms in campaign literature.

Csaposs said the Slavick campaign was never notified the requests were available even though the Albany County Clerk confirms that notification was sent.

"The county clerk has a record of sending an e-mail, but I didn’t get that e-mail," Csaposs told The Enterprise on Friday. "They said, ‘You sent the request electronically, so we responded electronically."

Conners contends that, once he sends confirmation to the Freedom of Information Officer, in this case the county clerk, he is not allowed to contact the applicant.

Csaposs described the FOIL request snafu as "a sore point whether there was confirmation or not."

"On my to-do list for next week is to go to the county comptroller’s office and look at those audits," Csaposs said. "If we can work it out"Patricia will be accompanying me. We feel it’s important to Albany County."

Conners said he hopes that Slavick continues her race for comptroller and that the only real losers in Tuesday’s primary are the party bosses.

"People deserve a choice"I would still love to have a debate, right in the town of Guilderland. I would answer any of Patricia’s questions if she would answer mine," Conners concluded. "I love competition."

An announcement, however, has yet to be made.

"If you’re all done, your lawn signs go into the landfill," Csaposs said yesterday. "We’re putting ours into storage right now."

District 31
GOP’s Danz challenges incumbent Aylward

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALTAMONT — The race to represent western Guilderland in the Albany County Legislature is on.

Republicans have asked long-time Gardner Road resident and local businessman Ted Danz to run on their ticket and Democratic incumbent William Aylward will be seeking his third four-year term on the Dems’ line.

Now that some of his five children have taken on a share of the work at the business he founded, Family Danz Heating and Air Conditioning, Danz, a political newcomer at the age of 60, has time to give back to the community, he said.

Aylward, 72, of Altamont, began his political career in the 1970s, when he became the mayor of Altamont. The retired Guilderland social studies teacher has been the Guilderland supervisor and is currently on Altamont’s board of trustees.

"It’s getting so expensive to live out here," said Danz of the biggest issues facing the county in the coming years. "The taxes are number one, number two, and number three," on his agenda, he said.

Making his announcement on Terry Seery’s front lawn, Danz appealed to the tax conscious.

When Seery bought his Altamont home 13 years ago, he said, it was assessed at $164,000. And he knows it was 13 years ago because the day he and his wife moved in was the first time his now 12-year-old daughter kicked, in utero.

Now, with a full fledged, yellow-school-bus-riding daughter, his house is assessed at $280,000, he said, and he wants a representative who will work to make living in the area more affordable.

Taking a different tack, Aylward announced his bid for re-election by bringing in a letter to The Enterprise editor. The week before he brought in a letter opposing the federal plan to shut down the local Farm Services Bureau. Aylward supports offering government programs to county residents.

"The nursing home is a big issue for me," Aylward said when asked about the major issues facing the legislature in the next term.

In 2006, the Berger Commission, a panel put together by former Governor George Pataki and the state legislature to evaluate health care in New York, recommended that the Albany County Nursing Home and the Ann Lee Infirmary be rebuilt into a "unified facility," and reduced by 345 beds.

One year earlier, the Albany County Legislature spent $750,000 to develop a plan for a new nursing home, Aylward said. That home was slated to house 450 beds, he said; a plan which he thinks is superior to the Berger Commission’s mandate.

"It defies reality," he said of the commission’s plan. With the aging baby boomers, there will be a need for more beds, not fewer, he said.

As it is now, with the executive’s moratorium on accepting new applicants to the county’s nursing home, some residents are getting sent out of the county, and even out of the state, for care.

Of his vote supporting the county executive’s plan to abide by the 250-bed recommendation, Aylward said, "I voted because I felt that we needed to move forward and I didn’t want to be an obstruction."

Danz cites the Democratic majority as one of the problems with the legislature — of the 39 seats, 29 are held by Democrats and the county executive, Michael Breslin, is a Democrat.

"We’re not getting a good representation and good balance in the government," Danz said. The nursing home fell into disrepair because of mismanagement stemming from politics in the legislature, he said. Careful selection of people to run the facility and careful supervision of its management are necessary for the new nursing home, he said, something that he doesn’t see happening with the current legislature.

"I’m not one of the good old boys," he said.

Another plank in his platform calls for a reduction in the number of representatives in the legislature — he’d like to see 15 or 17 rather than the current 39.

While cutting back the number of legislators looks like it will save money, Aylward doesn’t think that it would actually lower the budget since those who are left would have bigger jobs, representing more people, and they would require larger staffs. As it stands now, Albany County legislators each earn $20,298, according to the 2007 budget.

Also, constituents wouldn’t get the same quality of representation, since the districts would be bigger, Aylward said, and redistricting would likely under-represent minorities.

Both parties should work through the redistricting process together, Danz said. Done properly, it wouldn’t negatively affect representation; rather, it would improve government, he said.

"Less people involved, less of a mess," said Danz.

Both candidates see a role for the county in maintaining farmland in the rural area that District 31 encompasses.

The county’s recently adopted right-to-farm law was co-sponsored by Aylward. The law essentially protects farmers from complaints by neighboring developments. He has also supported the creation of agricultural districts in the county, Aylward said.

After a recent meeting with the Altamont Fair’s board of directors, Aylward said, local farmer Everett Rau posed an interesting question: It’s good to keep farmers on their land, but who’s going to come after them"

That’s a question Aylward would like to explore further, especially with the federal proposal to close of the Farm Service Agency office in Voorheesville, a move he has objected to.

"What message does that send to young people"" asked Aylward. "That sends a terrible message."

Danz owns rural land himself, where he has a small business boarding horses. "I’m a member of the Farm Bureau," he said.

First, said Danz, legislators have to look at how farmland is taxed. He’d like to offer tax breaks or incentives to working farms in the area. He applauded the state’s STAR (School Tax Relief) program, which offers breaks on school taxes to homeowners.

Offering incentives like that to farmers would give the local economy a boost, he said, citing the income generated by area farms like Indian Ladder and Altamont Orchards. Keeping farms like those in business also helps to maintain the character of the area, he said.

"Every time a tax goes up, you have to charge more for what you do," said Danz. "It’s Economics 101."

Saving money by sharing services among municipalities in the county is also supported by both candidates. Each cited the failed highway department merger between the town of Berne and Albany County as a good idea handled poorly. Last summer, Berne Supervisor Kevin Crosier and county officials came up with a preliminary plan to merge their highway departments in an effort to be more efficient and save money. Public opinion soon echoed the concerns of town highway workers and, by October, the plan was essentially dead.

"I think" that was premature," said Aylward, referring to the way officials proposed the plan. Government should come up with a method for implementing shared services, he said, adding that doing something as small as buying road salt in larger quantities and sharing it among municipalities can save money.

Similarly, Danz said that sharing services is a "great idea." But, he said, only "if it’s approached in the right way."

On Nov. 6, Danz will appear on the Republican and Conservative lines and Aylward will be on the Democratic, Independence, and Working Families lines.

Political flap a sign of the times

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — School buses whisk children away, the air becomes cool and crisp, weekends are filled with apple-picking and final camping trips — and politicians squabble over political signs.

Fall has officially begun.

The perennial election-time fight has once again returned to the local political scene. In the weeks building up to Tuesday’s primary, political signs began appearing on every major intersection, town park, and residential lawn.

This year’s target was Supervisor Kenneth Runion, who is running unopposed in the Nov. 6 election. Signs for Runion were posted with those for fellow Democrats, Councilman David Bosworth and Councilman Michael Ricard. Also posted were signs that included all three incumbents, who say they are running as a team.

However, as pointed out by some town residents, Runion was not in Tuesday’s primary.

Town law allows election signs to be posted 21 days prior to an election, so election signs for primary candidates could be legally posted, while signs for candidates only in the Nov. 6 election could not.

The Enterprise has received some calls about the sign issue as well as a letter to the editor this week. (See letters to the editor.) The town’s current Republican chair, Barbara Davis, who dropped out of a race for town board, also sent an e-mail to the town’s zoning department, citing a violation.

In an e-mail to the town’s chief building inspector and zoning administrator, Donald Cropsey, Davis asks about the signs.

"Dear Don: Guilderland Town Supervisor Ken Runion has political lawn signs up even though Guilderland Town Law only allows political signs to be posted 21 days prior to an election. As you know, Mr. Runion does not appear on the ballot until Nov. 6," Davis wrote. "Please tell me when we can expect the signs to be removed."

The e-mail was dated Wednesday, Sept. 5.

According to town code, "Signs shall be erected not more than 21 days before the election and shall be removed within four days after the election."

Runion told The Enterprise two weeks ago that a state Supreme Court decision handed down against Guilderland Democrats several years ago cited freedom of speech in regards to political signs, and "overruled town codes."

When Republican challengers put up signs that read, "Guilderland + Republicans = Good Government," Democrats sued, but eventually lost in court.

"Any candidate is allowed to write anything they want or any slogan they want on a political sign as long as it’s not offensive," Runion said when asked. The supervisor said that his running mates are able to use his name on the campaign trail as well.

However, in the meantime, the individual "Supervisor Runion" signs have disappeared and no one is quite sure where they went. Runion said he didn’t know what happened to them.

When asked at the time, Cropsey said no political signs had been removed by the town’s zoning enforcement officers and he was not aware of any violations in town. All signs taken for code violations are brought behind Town Hall on Western Turnpike and piled up next to a dirt driveway.

No political signs could be found in the pile on Tuesday.

Yeas and nays for McKownville Shabbos House

By Jarrett Carroll

MCKOWNVILLE — Plans for a Jewish Synagogue and community center on Fuller Road have come under fire by a neighborhood association which cites water runoff problems and says that the plan is simply too big for the residential neighborhood.

Proponents say the Shabbos House serves as a religious focal point for the University at Albany nearby.

The 10,000-square-foot plan for the Shabbos House, which has been in limbo for the past three years, was reviewed by the town’s zoning board Wednesday night because the applicants are applying for a special-use permit and a parking variance.

Currently, a smaller Shabbos House stands at 320 Fuller Road, near the intersection with University Drive West. The plan is to tear that down and build a new, larger home.

The Shabbos House was founded by Rabbi Yisroel Rubin in 1976 on Fuller Road. The house doubled in size in the early 1980s and Rabbi Mendel Rubin and Raizy Rubin became the directors of the house in 1997.

The house primarily serves students at the University at Albany through the university’s Jewish Student Center, but the Shabbos House is open to anyone in the Jewish community. It provides a place for study and worship as well as traditional and Kosher foods to its members and guests.

The town has appointed Boswell Engineering to review the plans for construction and the Shabbos House has hired Hershberg and Hershberg as the engineers for the two-story project.

A letter-writing campaign, both for and against the project, has sent dozens of letters to Town Hall.

The McKownville Improvement Association, one of the oldest neighbor associations in Guilderland, which frequently fights to preserve its residential neighborhoods, is opposed to the project because of four basic issues:

— An "oversized non-residential building in a residential area";

— Limited parking spaces;

— The destruction of a "useful" residential building; and

— A "high-maintenance" water system.

The association’s president, Donald Reeb, sent letters to residents, stating that the Shabbos House proposal does not fit in to the "residential community of small lots and small homes" on Fuller Road.

Reeb said that most single or two-family homes on the road are about 1,500-square-feet, compared to the proposed 10,000 - square - foot Shabbos House.

"The association has asked if they could reduce its size,’ Reed said yesterday. "The idea of a Synagogue in McKownville would be wonderful."

Reed suggested that a site such as the former Denney’s on the corner of Western Avenue and Church Road would be more appropriate for such a large project.

However, a department head from the University at Albany sees it differently and has described the project as an asset to the community.

Herman Prins Salomon from the University’s department of languages, literature, and cultures, wrote letters to Supervisor Kenneth Runion and Zoning Board Chairman Peter Barber.

"Their home serves as a religious focal point for the student community, providing meals on the Sabbath and holy days to students who participate in the religious services, and even to some who don’t," Salomon wrote. "The back yard of the ‘Sabbath House’ contains an essential part of the Jewish religious panoply, making it such an attractive focal point for the students and an asset to the whole neighborhood."

At a website for the Shabbos House, www.shabboshouse.com, dozens of testimonials from university alumni and others can be found. Construction plans, donation opportunity, and descriptions of the house can also be found on the site.

"I knew I could always bring my friends here to Shabbos House, because no matter how they dressed, how little they knew, or how irreligious they were, I could always count on Rabbi Mendal for a warm welcome," wrote Marc Hanono, from the class of 2000. "Not many people can look deep inside people and ignore what they see on the outside. You were almost like a father to me during my years in Albany, and I will never forget the lessons you taught us about being Jewish."

Another testimonial reads, ""Throughout my life I have felt very close to Judaism, but not until I became a member of the Shabbos House "family" did I really understand what it meant to be part of services, or Friday night dinner, or holidays, and all the other times we shared over the year."

The university has offered 30 parking spaces to be used for the proposed Shabbos House where Rabbi Rubbin currently lives with his wife and five children, ages 2 to 10.

Donald Cropsey, the town’s chief building inspector and zoning administrator, doesn’t see a problem with parking, he said, but water runoff has been problematic,

Albany County denied the plan’s original proposal to hook into the municipal system to control water runoff, said Cropsey.

The new site plan calls for a water recharge basin, he said.

"They have resubmitted their storm water plans. That was one of the big issues," Cropsey told The Enterprise on Monday. "One of the primary issues is the drainage"the county won’t allow the drainage to go into the system."

Cropsey said retention basins are quite common in the area. The system holds runoff water over a period of time and then slowly "re-percolates" the water back into the ground, he said.

Reeb contends that the water system would have to be monitored regularly and that it could lead to problems where water runoff and flooding is already a serious issue. He is urging residents to contact town board members and write to local newspaper editors on the issue, because it "is an election year," he said.

Caregivers get grant, offer legal aid

ALTAMONT — Legal referrals will soon be added to the services offered by the Community Caregivers.

The local not-for-profit agency recently received a $2,000 grant from the New York Bar Foundation to create a system that would provide legal help to area senior citizens.

"Often, our clients may run into a legal situation," said Diane Cameron, executive director of Community Caregivers. "So we want to refer them to free or low-cost legal services."

The organization, which usually receives about a dozen grants a year, applied for the Bar Foundation grant at the beginning of the summer, Cameron said. She added that $2,000 is a typical amount for a first-time grant and the Caregivers will probably apply again next year.

Being faced with legal issues can be intimidating for people who aren’t versed in the law, she said, so this grant will help Caregivers point elderly clients towards organizations that provide legal advice or representation and put together a list of lawyers who might take pro bono cases.

— Saranac Hale Spencer

Kitto earns medal
Altamont soldier dives in to save lives

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALTAMONT — Each time Sgt. Christofer Kitto dove into the murky water of a canal off of the Euphrates, he brought a soldier up for air.

"The funny thing is, Chris hates the water," said his mother, Fran Kitto. "That’s why he didn’t do the Navy SEALS."

Kitto, 23, is a sniper in the Army who grew up in Altamont and is now in Iraq.

"I feel sorry for every life that’s lost over there," said his father, Mike Kitto. "I feel that he’s saved three of those families from hearing the news."

His son’s Humvee "sank like a rock" to the bottom of a river while out on a night patrol, Mr. Kitto said. Stuck upside down in the muddy riverbed, the five soldiers in the truck couldn’t open their doors for several minutes. Sgt. Kitto was the first to break through and swim up for air. He and Sgt. Michael C. Pesamoska each went back down to bring the remaining soldiers to the surface.

"We have three families that don’t have to go to a funeral," said Mr. Kitto. "I think that’s important."

Sgts. Kitto and Pesamoska were awarded the Soldier’s Medal for their heroics. That medal is the Army’s highest noncombat award, given for voluntary risk of a soldier’s life not involving direct combat with an enemy. According to the Military Awards branch of the Army, a total of 79 Soldier’s Medals — out of a total of 281,227 medals given overall — have been awarded in Iraq as of April, which is when the incident occurred.

"He did what he had to do, he said," Mrs. Kitto recounted of her son’s reaction to the honor.

Sgt. Kitto is serving his second tour of duty in Iraq as part of President George W. Bush’s troop surge.

"On his first tour, he loved it," said Mr. Kitto. "He felt he really had a purpose."

His first tour was 12 months, his parents said, and the second time around he’s gotten discouraged with the way things are progressing.

Reconciling the two sentiments that Mr. Kitto holds equally dear is hard, he said. He wants to bring the troops home, but he also wants to get the job done. "We’re caught between a rock and a hard place," Mr. Kitto said.

Three years ago, on his first tour, Sgt. Kitto used his own body to shield an Iraqi boy from an incoming mortar, Mr. Kitto said. That action saved the boy, and his family was so grateful they invited Sgt. Kitto for a goat dinner. Of the language barriers at the meal, Mr. Kitto said, "There was a lot of head bobbing."

Sgt. Kitto has trouble hearing in one ear as a result of shielding the boy, but he felt the work he was doing was important, his parents said.

Now, on his second tour, "He’s disenchanted," his father said; he had hoped that there would be more improvement.

"He’s not as optimistic," added Mrs. Kitto.

His decision to fight for his country was immediate and intense.

At the beginning of his senior year at Guilderland High School, Sgt. Kitto called his mother on the morning of Sept. 11 and told her he wanted to join the military.

"He was very affected by 9-11," said his father.

Both of his parents encouraged him to go to college instead. "Unfortunately, we fought it all the way," Mrs. Kitto said of their urgings away from the Army. Now that Sgt. Kitto is there, they are proud of him, but they’re anxious for him to come home.

Before leaving for Iraq last winter, Sgt. Kitto proposed to his high-school sweetheart and talked about plans for a career in law enforcement, rather than the military, when he returns, his parents said.

Right now, they are taking it "one day at a time," Mrs. Kitto said. "We fear all the time," said Mr. Kitto. "But it’s nothing compared to the fear that he has to go through."

We, the fifth-graders at Pine Bush, do teach the Constitution of the United States

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Students became teachers on Constitution Day, Sept. 17, at Pine Bush Elementary School.

After the usual Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag, fifth-graders visited each classroom in the school to teach about the document that created the United States government — the "one nation"indivisible with liberty and justice for all."

They took their task seriously.

"We read books to learn about the Founding Fathers," said 10-year-old Erik Webb.

He worked with classmates Caitlin Zuk-Pafumi, Taylor Clark, and Kyasia Bowen to create a story board centered with a hand-dawn White House. One side listed the three branches of government set up by the Constitution — explaining each in clear, understandable terms:

— Legislative: "We make the laws"";

— Judicial: "We decide what the laws mean. We also decide what to do with the people who don't follow the laws and settle conflicts";

— Executive: "We enforce the laws. The state executive is the governor. The executive of the country is the president."

On the other side of their board is a copy of the Constitution with this explanation: "The Constitution was started in 1787. The first meeting was on May 14. Before every meeting, they locked the door. The Founding Fathers made three branches of government."

Their teacher, Donna Lawrence, who is also a social studies teacher leader, said, "We need to make sure children learn what our Constitution is about and the way our government works."

She went on, explaining the origin of the observance: "Constitution Day is mandated by our Congress," she said, crediting Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia with the legislation.

Byrd added a rider to the 2004 Omnibus Spending Bill, requiring schools that receive federal funds to "hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17." It was on Sept. 17, 1787 that the Constitution was signed.

Lawrence said that all Guilderland schools observe Constitution Day. "We'll go deeper into it as the years go on," she said. At Pine Bush Elementary, she said, each class writes its own constitution "on how they want to live in their classrooms."

Her own son, Jeremy, was inspired by teachers he had at Guilderland High School to pursue the study of Constitutional law, she said. After graduating from Harvard, Jeremy Lawrence is now a second-year low student at the University of Southern California.

Donna Lawrence's students, just five days into the school year, worked in groups, each coming up with their own way of presenting information to younger students. One group depicted the three branches of government as literal branches of a tree.

The trunk, explained Caitlyn Hilland, represented the preamble and the leaves on top, the Constitution.

Another group on its big yellow board listed each of the signers of the Constitution grouped by state.

"There were 13 states," said Matt Class, one of the board's creators.

"And there were 39 names," said Jonathon Larcom. Each name was carefully penciled on the board.

Chris Sour had researched a timeline for the Constitution that stretched from the Revolution in 1775 to the adoption of the Bill of Rights— the first 10 amendments that protect individual liberties — in 1791.

Many of Rebecca Wlazlo's fifth-graders used sock puppets to teach second-graders about the Constitution in a way that would appeal to them.

Michael Decker created a puppet of George Washington, complete with a white wig and braid-trimmed blue coat. Washington, who presided over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, could speak directly to the students — in puppet form.

Another group presented a story with their puppets, featuring Jennifer Hoffman who described her puppet part as that of "a kid who doesn't know much about the Constitution."

"We decided to make it funny and cut it short so they wouldn't get bored to death," said Aubrey Walden.

In another group, Ali Rider made a sock puppet topped with a big red bow; she described her puppet as "sort of snobby." Meghan Gutkneckt kept the group's story line flowing as narrator.

One group in Wlazlo's class didn't use puppets; they acted out a skit for the second-graders.

"We didn't want to be like everyone else," said Zoe Wicks.

Waslo said that members of the group had started out with different ideas about what they wanted to do and, just like the farmers of the Constitution, they had learned to compromise.

Some of the kids said their teaching had spilled over from the classroom to their homes.

"This morning, I was telling my Mom about the framers," said Taylor Wood.

Amir Rastegar said, "My Mom is from Italy and my Dad is from Iran, so I have a lot to tell them."

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