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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, September 13, 2007
CM Fox plans more senior housing
By Saranac Hale Spencer
VOORHEESVILLE Potential for senior housing has increased the value of a piece of village property 12 fold.
A bid for 1.4 acres on Voorheesville Avenue for $171,000 from CM Fox Living Solutions was recently accepted by the village. That property was assessed by the town at $14,000 in 2007.
The land is vacant, said Deputy Mayor William Hotaling, and it hasnt been used for decades. It used to have a pump house, he said, but use of that well was discontinued in the 1970s when the village started using a water tower on Swift Road.
About a year ago, the village board took stock of its real property holdings and, so far, this is the only piece it has decided to sell, Hotaling said.
Earlier this summer, when the village first put the property up for sale, it received two bids one from CM Fox and the other from Paragon Prime Funding, said Karen Finnessey, the villages deputy clerk treasurer. Both offers were rejected because of contingencies requested by the bidders, she said. CM Fox, which had bid $160,000, required that the amount it would ultimately pay for the property would be dependent on the number of units it could build. Paragon Prime, which had bid $152,000, planned to build senior housing mixed with housing available to anyone, which is not generally allowed, Finnessey said.
The second round of bidding yielded only one offer $171,000 from CM Fox.
"We felt the need to be as aggressive as we could," said CM Fox owner Troy Miller of the $11,000 increase in his bid. It was supposed to be a sealed bidding process, he said, but since both offers were rejected the first time, they became public and the competition knew what his bid had been.
Miller was eager to buy the property because of the feedback he has been getting on his current project in the village, he said. Right now, CM Fox is building Severson Manor, a complex of nine townhouses for senior citizens near the Salem Hills development in Voorheesville. Miller has also completed a small senior-housing complex in Altamont.
The plan for the new property is for senior apartments, Miller said, which means that he would retain ownership of the building and rent the apartments. He expects to offer a range of sizes that will cost between $700 and $900 per month.
"I still have to go through the approval process before closing on the property," Miller said. "If I don’t get the approval, I don’t buy the property."
The plans will have to go before the village planning and zoning boards to be approved, which Miller hopes will happen within the next 60 days.
"He’s got to jump through all the hoops," said Hotaling. Of the plan, he added, "I think it’ll be a plus for the village."
Farmers say no
County office to buy the farm"
By Tyler Schuling
NEW SCOTLAND At a public hearing last week, farmers said No to closing a federal farm service office in Albany County.
The Albany County Farm Service Agencys office in New Scotland at the William Rice Center is one of eight sites in the state slated to merge with a neighboring county.
The FSA pays $55,800 in rent, utilities, travel expenses, and temporary staffing for the Albany office, said Mark Dennis, executive officer of the FSA. The figure does not include the salaries of full-time employees.
Many farmers and county, village, and town officials attended the hearing. No one spoke in favor of consolidation.
If the state closes the facility, the Albany FSA office will merge with the Schenectady-Schoharie office in Cobleskill.
Brymer Humphreys, the state executive director of the FSA, said he doesnt have the funding or the resources to staff the states FSA offices.
"If the name is Farm Service Agency, what word are we having trouble with"" asked County Legislator Alexander "Sandy" Gordon.
Gordon, a Knox farmer and county legislator, has been a proponent of farmers rights. He recently co-sponsored Albany Countys right-to-farm law, which passed unanimously in the county legislature.
Farming, Gordon said, is the largest industry in New York State. "It needs more attention, not less attention," he said.
"Tell Washington, ‘No,’" said William Cooke, the chairman of the Albany County Water Quality Coordinating Committee and a lobbyist.
Cooke is a farmer.
"What you people do will affect farming for the next century," Cooke said. He implored the state FSA members to listen to those in the audience, "not the pencil-pushing bureaucrats in Washington."
Both Gordon and Cooke cited Senator Hillary Clintons efforts to stop the closure of governmental offices.
No one at the public hearing was in favor of closing the office, Cooke said to the committee near the hearings end.
"Are you listening" What more do we need to do"" Cooke asked.
Many farmers applauded the small staff of the Albany County FSA.
After the hearing, Cooke also praised the office’s three employees. "Everybody is focused on one thing that farm," Cooke told The Enterprise.
Thomas Della Rocco, the executive director of the Albany County FSA, said the state committee members will have a finalized plan by the end of September.
According to Dennis, the FSA paid $413,000 to 162 farmers in Albany County in 2005. In 2006, the agency paid $625,000 to 153 farmers.
At the Cobleskill office, 222 farmers in Schenectady and Schoharie counties were paid $672,000 in 2005, and 212 were paid $1,208,000 in 2006.
Farmers say No
At the public hearing last Thursday, farmers wanted the committee to stand up to leaders in Washington D.C.
"I think you should be outraged. I think you should be indignant," said Peter Ten Eyck, who owns Indian Ladder Farms in New Scotland. Farmers, he said, "get things out of pity, not out of respect."
Ten Eyck and his daughter retired their development rights to their property in exchange for payment from the state and private funds raised for that purpose.
"It’s farmland forever," Ten Eyck said. He and his daughter, he said, have tried to close the gap between agriculture and the consumer.
Many attendees were not convinced with the committees justification for closing the office.
"I would be happy to come and volunteer," said Hilder Stanton, an elderly woman whose family’s dairy farm in Coeymans has been in operation since 1873.
"I don’t know what I can do, but I’d be willing to try," she said.
Stantons son, Mark Stanton, said he doesnt approve closing the FSA office in New Scotland.
Stanton is the vice-chairman of the countys soil and water conservation district board of directors and a Farm Bureau representative.
He called the Albany FSA "our agricultural center of our county" and the "life-blood of the county," where farmers are able to do "one-stop shopping."
The FSA office in Cobleskill is "a good hour away," he said, where there aren’t any John Deere dealers. Mark Stanton said he is proud to be in Albany County, which he called "the dairy capital of New York State."
John Santacrose, also a board member of the Albany County Soil and Water Conservation Districts board of directors, questioned the FSA committees process for deciding which sites will close. He questioned whether there was a conflict-of-interest policy. He asked if some committee members recused themselves. The process used by the committee in their decisions should be made public, Santacrose said.
Robert Howland, a state committee member, responded by saying he had experienced the merger of the FSA office in Tioga and Chemung counties in the mid-1990s.
"I know what this process is about," Howland said. Howland was once a farmer and a Tioga County FSA committee member.
"It works. It can work. I’ve lived through it, and it’s not a difficult thing," said Howland.
Farmers were concerned about the distance between their farm and the FSA office in Cobleskill.
"You don’t have to go to the office. You have to communicate with the office," Howland said.
"When Dawn [Latham] goes on maternity leave, what am I going to do"" Humphreys asked a hostile crowd. Latham is one of the Albany office’s staff. If the office closes, a part-time position, held by Margie Renko, will be eliminated.
"Tell Washington we’ve got a problem," Gordon replied.
Near the end of the meeting, Kevin Crosier, Bernes supervisor and a maple syrup producer, pressured FSA committee members to drive with him to the lookout at John Boyd Thacher State Park, where, Crosier said, they can see farmland being encroached upon.
"They don’t face that in Schoharie County," Crosier said. "We’re facing it in Albany County."
Near the end of the hearing, some farmers, angered and frustrated, walked out, slamming the door behind them.
"We will consider what you’ve said," Humphreys said at the hearing’s conclusion. "This isn’t my favorite topic either, by any means."
Cash-strapped cemetery proposes cell tower be erected,
Voss says hardship must be proven for use variance
By Rachel Dutil
NEW SCOTLAND A proposed cell-phone tower, if approved, would not only increase wireless communication coverage, but could also prevent the New Scotland Cemetery from being turned over to the town.
A 150-foot monopole is proposed for a site owned by the New Scotland Cemetery Association, located in the commercial district off of New Scotland South Road.
Jacqueline Phillips Murray represents Enterprise Consulting Solutions, a company that develops wireless telecommunications structures; she recently presented the application for a use variance and two area variances, and a special-use permit to the towns zoning and planning boards.
The use variance is required to allow the construction of a tower in the commercial district, and the area variances are for the height and the property-line setback.
Because of the "unique nature" of the proposed facility, the tower is classified as a public utility which is considered necessary for the safety and well being of the public, Murray told the planning board last week. She also said that local fire departments and public safety agencies have been asked if they’d be interested in collocating their equipment on the tower.
Martha Oden and Arlene Herzog are members of the cemetery association. At last Tuesdays planning board meeting, the women spoke on behalf of the group.
The association works on a budget that is "rapidly declining," said Oden. "It’s very difficult to make money," she added.
The cemeterys only source of income is from money it receives for burials. The cemetery, on average, has between two and five burials a year, The Enterprise reported earlier. [For the full story, go on-line to altamontenterprise.com, under archives for Oct. 5, 2006.] The cost for a lot in the cemetery is $400. The burial cost is $690; the gravedigger is paid $550.
In lawn care alone, the association pays about $5,000 per year.
With the money currently in the associations budget, Herzog said the cemetery could sustain itself for two years, at which point, state law mandates that the cemetery be turned over to the town.
"This is a chance for us to get some monies to help us maintain the cemetery," said Oden.
"If we could receive funds from leasing a tower," Herzog said, "we can get liability insurance and do some repairs every year." She added that the association would be willing to put extra money into community projects.
"It’s kind of a win-win situation," Murray told The Enterprise last week, regarding the tower proposal. The location works from a technological standpoint; it is available for lease; and the cemetery association needs the money to sustain itself, she said.
"A new structure is typically the last resort for a carrier to pursue," Murray explained. The cellular provider, T Mobile, identified a need for service in the area, and proceeded to analyze seven existing structures, none of which were of sufficient height to provide service, she said.
In 2003, New Scotland won a court challenge after turning down a cell-phone company with a willing landowner. The town subsequently adopted a law requiring existing structures be used first and also stipulating collocation.
T Mobile has no coverage in the proposed area, Murray said at the public meetings. The 150-foot tower would allow the carrier to fill the gap in service, she said.
"Technologically, they wouldn’t work," Murray said of the sites that were examined. She explained that the technology is "line-of-sight," meaning that the antennas have to be high enough to see over tree lines and structures.
"Even if T Mobile collocated on every existing structure, it would still have a gap in coverage on New Scotland Road," Murray said.
The site, essentially a vacant field, is located to the east of the cemetery itself.
"It’s really not in an area that we use," Herzog told The Enterprise. "It would take years to get that much fill in," Herzog said of what would be required for the area to be usable as additional cemetery space.
"It’s really out of sight back here," Herzog said. "To me, it’s just out of the way and it shouldn’t bother anybody."
The cemetery is located behind the oldest church in town New Scotland Presbyterian Church. It was organized in 1787, and the first church building was constructed in 1791. The church that stands today was built in 1849.
The church cemetery, adjacent to the New Scotland Cemetery, holds the bodies of 14 Revolutionary War soldiers. Jacob Moak was in the Albany County Militia; his is the oldest known grave in the cemetery. He died in 1795.
Murray said she is awaiting a response from the state’s historical preservation office, to determine what effect the tower might have on the historic property. "We anticipate a response any day now," she told The Enterprise.
The planning board, which passed along a favorable recommendation to the zoning board subject to the findings of the states historical preservation office, stipulated that another balloon test be done to determine visual impacts. Balloons are floated at the height of the proposed tower so that the impact is clearly visible.
Planning board Chairman Robert Stapf also required that a long-form environmental review be done, and the board appointed attorney Peter Barber to oversee the state environmental quality review.
Planning-board member Charles Voss, who was not present at the Sept. 4 meeting, conveyed, through e-mail correspondence with the board, that he is not in favor of the proposal.
Voss, who is running for one of two open town board seats, told The Enterprise this week that, in terms of the use variance, the applicant must prove an unnecessary hardship, and, in this case, he said, "The hardship is self-created." He also indicated that the applicant did not explore collocation, and did no technical analysis.
The requested variance will change the essential character of the neighborhood, which is rural and near a historic church, Voss said. "We certainly support the cemetery association," he said. "That’s a completely separate issue," he added, saying that other funding sources might be more suitable for the association.
In his experience as a professional planner, Voss said that the revenue generated from towers such as this proposal is "fairly lucrative." In general, he said, it ranges from $2,000 to $5,000 per month in other towns.
Murray explained that a sign has been posted on the property since the end of May indicating that it is a proposed site of a new cell tower, urging residents to submit questions and comments.
"We received a handful of comments in support of the project" some neutral comments, and one negative comment," Murray told the board.
Based on the topography of the site, there are very few areas within a half-mile radius where the tower would be seen, she said. "Those are partial views. The facility will largely be screened by topography and vegetation," said Murray.
The project’s civil engineer, Michael Ries, informed the zoning board that galvanized steel is an "ideal" construction material for the tower. "It does not shine or glare, it is not obtrusive, and it blends in with the environment in all seasons," Ries said.
If the plans are approved, Enterprise Consulting Solutions will improve the gravel roadway that provides access to the cemetery from New Scotland South Road. It would also install a stockade fence and plants around the tower itself, Murray said.
Not a tremendous burden
To find out what maintenance of the cemetery might cost New Scotland, The Enterprise checked with a neighboring town.
Dennis Moore is the director of parks and recreation for the town of Guilderland, which had to take over the cemetery in Guilderland Center, after the cemetery association could no longer afford to maintain it.
"We basically just mow it," Moore told The Enterprise. "I don’t believe it’s a huge burden," he said, adding that, because it is on the town’s mowing schedule, he is unsure of the annual cost to maintain the cemetery. "We’re handling it the best we can," said Moore.
"It doesn’t put a tremendous burden on the town because we use our parks staff to maintain it," said Guilderland Supervisor Kenneth Runion. The burden the cemetery faced prior to the town takeover was with salaries and benefits for cemetery employees, and for insurance, Runion said.
"Our insurance covers all town-owned facilities," he added.
The Guilderland Parks Department has been maintaining the cemetery for about five years, and has never needed to ask for extra money in its budget to maintain it, said Runion, adding that the situation in the smaller municipality of New Scotland could turn out differently.
The tower proposal, Herzog said, received unanimous support from the cemetery board.
"Nobody was really confident that the town would take care of it, and then all the taxpayers are hit with it, and that’s not fair," she told The Enterprise.
"It’s a great thing for everybody, instead of having a wasted piece of property," Herzog concluded.
In other business at recent zoning- and planning-board meetings:
The zoning board granted an area variance to Joseph Vogel III, allowing him to build a detached garage on a lot he owns on Cliff View Lane, a private road in the residential-agriculture district. Vogels property is landlocked, and does not meet the 15-feet of road frontage requirement; and
The zoning board heard from Daniel Hershberg, on behalf of Amedore Homes, on an application for an area variance for a proposed development at the Colonie Country Club. The variance is for 545 feet of relief to allow for a cul-de-sac roadway to be installed at a length of 1,545 feet. If the developer were to limit the roadway to 1,000 feet, as town regulations require, Hershberg said, it would have to run through an old mine on the property. The proposal is for 35 lots as a cluster subdivision with two duplex units and 31 single-family homes. The zoning board scheduled a public hearing for its Sept. 25 meeting.
No b-ball coach yet, parents petition for Baron
By Rachel Dutil
VOORHEESVILLE In contrast to the public outcry in August over the possible appointment of Robert Baron to coach the Lady Blackbirds basketball team, on Monday night, a petition signed by 89 parents was presented to the school board in support of Baron.
The team has a history of winning and is a point of community pride.
The search for a coach for the Voorheesville girls varsity basketball team was reopened after Dennis McCormick, a physical education teacher at the Voorheesville Elementary School and coach of the girls junior varsity team for eight years, declined the position for personal reasons.
The board appointed McCormick at its Aug. 13 meeting.
The controversy over the post began when rumors surfaced around the Voorheesville community that the board was going to appoint Baron over McCormick to fill the position vacated by John McClement, who resigned in June after being approved to coach Albany High Schools varsity boys basketball team.
Baron, a former president of the school board, is not a certified teacher.
Regulations of the state’s commissioner for education stipulate: "A person who does not hold a current New York State teaching certificate may be employed as a temporary coach only if there are no certified teachers available with experience and qualifications to coach the team."
The districts athletic director, Joseph Sapienza, had recommended that the board appoint Baron.
The meeting hall was packed on Aug. 13, and a lengthy public comment session ensued over the coaching appointment.
A few residents spoke fondly of Baron, and many were concerned that Baron might be appointed over a certified teacher, which violates State Education Law. [See earlier articles regarding this issue at altamontenterprise.com under "archives" for Aug. 2, Aug. 16, and Aug. 30 in 2007.]
On Monday, after school board President David Gibson opened the meeting up to the public, Chris Madden, a district resident for seven years, addressed the board regarding Baron.
He said that he had provided Sapienza with a petition that had been circulated to parents of girls who participate in the basketball program at Voorheesville. It was signed by 89 parents, all of whom "fully support the hiring of Bob Baron," he said.
He urged the board to "hire Mr. Baron" if no other candidates were qualified. Madden said that Baron has a "commitment" to the girls, and maintains a high level of sportsmanship.
Gibson announced that the board did not have a recommendation, due to "unexpected events" that had occurred since the last meeting.
"We are trying to close it as soon as possible, for the sake of the girls, and for the coach," said Gibson.
Resident Tav Daly asked if there is any reason why Baron is not eligible for the position. She went on to ask if it is more important to hire a certified teacher over someone who may be more qualified.
The district is getting an interpretation on that, Gibson said, explaining that the requirements are different for those who are not certified teachers.
Baron told The Enterprise earlier that he has been involved in numerous youth leagues around Voorheesville over the past 20 years Catholic Youth Organization, Amateur Athletic Union, and community basketball teams and coached third- through twelfth-graders. Last year, he was the assistant coach for the girls varsity team at Scotia.
"I have all my credentials first aid, CPR, and coaching first aid," Baron told The Enterprise earlier.
After McCormick declined the position, the district re-posted the opening, first internally, and then ran ads in both The Times Union and The Gazette, Langevin told The Enterprise this week.
She said there are now seven applicants and stated, "Our candidate pool is sufficient."
When asked how the board would consider the petition in support of Baron, Langevin said that the process is being completed and "we’re making sure each of the applicants is thoroughly reviewed for their qualifications and certifications.
"We will have closure very soon" We’re going to complete the process and find a coach," Langevin said.
The district has been working with the State Education Department to check the candidates qualifications, she said.
"Review has been very thorough," Langevin concluded. "We don’t want to make any missteps."
In other business at the Sept. 10 school board meeting, the board:
Heard from former school-board member Richard Brackett that he doesn’t feel the board should rush into a contract extension for Superintendent Langevin. "The school is in chaos," Brackett said. "It is almost a hostile work environment," he said, adding that the hostility has trickled down to the students. "There is no reason to rush into this," he said of the contract extension.
Longtime bus driver Chris Allard, who heads the United Employees of Voorheesville, informed the board that she thought Brackett’s assertion that the school is in chaos was inaccurate. "I didn’t see any hostile environment," Allard said. "Teachers all seem to be very happy. I thought it went well," she said of the opening of school.
Administrators from all three schools categorized the events of the first day as "uneventful" and said things ran smoothly.
After an executive-session discussion regarding Lagevins contract, the board unanimously approved an extension ending June 30, 2009;
Unanimously approved, following an executive-session discussion, a renewal agreement with Whiteman Osterman & Hanna for legal services, effective from Jul 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008, at a retainer fee of $22,000 and a non-retainer fee of $185 per hour;
Approved substitute-teacher appointments for the 2007-08 school year from the Capital Region Board of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES) substitute registry;
Designated Superintendent Langevin as signatory for health-service contracts relating to special-education students individualized education programs;
Approved the 2007-08 contract with Four Winds Saratoga, which treats those with mental-health problems, for tutorial services for Voorheesville students who may be admitted there. The district will pay $26 per hour for instruction, allowing 10 hours per week for high-school and middle-school students, and five hours per week for elementary-school students;
Approved the request for non-public school transportation for one additional student to a private school for the 2007-08 school year, bringing the total number of students transported to private schools to 77. Transportation Supervisor Michael Goyer informed the board that he has contacted the neighboring districts of Bethlehem, Berne-Knox-Westerlo, and Guilderland to explore the possibility of working together on transportation to private schools where possible. He said that, at this point, nothing really works;
Accepted a donation of $1,000 from the Karen J. Cole Educational Trust for funding of the Cole Summer Writers Institute, which was held July 16 through July 20. The board appointed Brian Stumbaugh to teach the course, at a rate of pay of $900;
Heard from Associate Principal Michael Paolino that Voorheesville students scored better on the ACT (American College Test) than did other students in New York State. The average overall score for Voorheesville students was 24.7, and the average in New York State was 22.9, Paolino said. "It goes to show the outstanding performance of our students," he said. He explained that students tend to do better on the ACT than on the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test), and the numbers of students taking the ACT has spiked. Many colleges, he said, are taking the results from either test, where previously, SAT scores were required.
The average score in Voorheesville on Advanced Placement exams, said Paolino, was a 3.44, with a perfect score being a 5. Seventy-seven percent of students who took the tests successfully passed, and 43.6 percent scored either a 4 or a 5, which awards those students college credit, he said;
Heard that the first phase of the $2.28 million building project at the elementary school went well. Phase two will be done in the evenings during the school year, and classrooms being renovated will be transferred into "swing rooms," said Goyer, who added that the students’ desks will be moved as units, so the children will have their things with their desks.
The project, said Gibson, "provided a much-improved environment at the elementary school." Kenneth Lein, the elementary school principal commended his staff. Two weeks ago, he said, "It was just a demolition site." Custodial and teaching staff, though, pulled together and worked to get the building in functioning order for Monday’s first day of school. "Everyone understands how difficult it was to turn it around like we did," Lein said;
Approved amendments to the school district officer and employee code of ethics and to district policies for home-schooled students and for expense reimbursement. The board also approved the second reading of the districts capital assets policy;
Postponed approval of the first reading of the district’s policy on disclosure of wrongful conduct after a discussion on the stipulation in the policy that the wrongful conduct be "school related." Board member Timothy Blow asked the school’s attorney, Norma Meacham, if there would be any harm in taking out that clause. Meachan said that it would depend on how much responsibility the district is prepared to take on. "If something is reported to you, you have the responsibility to do due diligence," Meacham said.
"As a practical matter, I don’t know how we assume that level of responsibility," said Vice President C. James Coffin. "We don’t want to open up the risk for defamation of character," said Gibson.
Blow argued that the district would take the same steps whether the conduct took place within school limits, or outside.
Board member Kevin Kroencke said he is concerned about "turning the district into a police state." He said that, if a matter is criminal for instance, if a bus driver is arrested for drunk driving law enforcement will reach out to the district.
Blow said that he will call the New York State School Boards Association to get its recommendation, and report back to the board;
Approved the inter-municipal agreement between the district and the town of New Scotland regarding tax certiorari. Payments for attorney fees, litigation expenses, and expert costs will be divided between the two parties the district will pay 80 percent, and the town will pay 20 percent. The district receives far more in taxes than the town;
Amended the 2007-08 budget, allowing the expenditure of a gift donation of $1,112 to the elementary school from Life Touch for BOCES Reading Conference;
Announced that the district has been awarded a $50,000 general fund grant from the State Education Department; and
Transferred $42,248.75 from the capital fund to the debt service fund to be used in 2008-09 to offset general fund debt expenses. District voters approved $190,000 for the high-school roof replacement project, and the projects actual cost was $147,751.25.
A poets psalm of war acts as a balm for sore
By Rachel Dutil
NEW SCOTLAND Frank Desiderio learned about the birth of his daughter, Mimi, while in a chow line in Germany, during World War II. Letters from Desiderios wife describing the birth of their baby girl had been lost in the mail, and he learned from a buddy, who had heard from his wife.
Mimi Moriarty says she has always admired her father, though they’ve never had a rela-tionship filled with "warm, fuzzy" feelings.
"I come from a very close-knit Italian family," Moriarty said, adding her father "always seemed distant. He didn’t seem to have an emotional connec-tion," she said.
Most Frank Desiderio’s peers served in the war, and, "though they came back as heroes, they never talked about it," she said.
So many men "suffered in silence," Moriarty said. "They could function very well" but were distant emotionally.
"My mother always said he was a different man when he came back," Moriarty said of her father. Desiderio was the sergeant of an infantry unit that helped liberate concentration camps, Moriarty said. "I’m sure he saw terrible, terrible things," she said.
War not only affects soldiers, it affects families and society, she said.
Through poetry, Moriarty addresses consequences of war. She recently published a collec-tion of poems tilted, War Psalm, dedicated to her father, who is "no stranger to war and its aftermath," she writes in her dedication.
The collection is "not an anti-war book," said Moriarty. The purpose is to address the consequences of war. "I have an awful lot of poetry about this subject, so it’s been eating at me for a long time," she said. "I’m the outsider looking in, trying to figure it out from a poetic point of view."
July 4, 2006
"July 4, 2006 Washington D.C." is the book’s first poem, and, it "started the manuscript," said Moriarty.
The autobiographical poem begins, "The saddest songs were sung tonight on our TV: O beautiful, for spacious skies, for am-ber waves of grain."
Moriarty was visiting her father in Virginia during the Fourth of July holiday last year. After putting him to bed, she sat in the sitting room and watched a fireworks display on television, she recalled
"A Vietnamese neighbor disturbed my father’s sleep. He mounted blasts and flares into the night air echoing the television’s gaudy display," the poem reads.
"My damaged silent father sat down as well. He joined in and sang: God bless America, land that I love," the poem continues.
Moriarty described the emotion she felt sitting there as the neighbor and the nation cele-brated, soldiers fought on in Iraq, and her father, who had been so affected by war, sang patriotic songs.
"I couldn’t make that make sense," Moriarty told The Enterprise. "He started singing along" and yet it was the war that made him damaged."
The poem ends: "We watched the Vietnamese neighbor clean up the debris and later we watched the news anchor give the latest body count. Such sad, sad songs: My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing, I sing, I sing."
Last year, Moriartys father was dying.
Her poetry was like therapy, she said, helping her to cope and to put things in perspective. Her father miraculously recovered.
"I would have never sent this out, if I thought he was going to see it," she said of the book. Moriarty has not told her father about the book she dedicated to him.
"I dedicated it to him thinking it would be posthumous, and it isn’t," said Moriarty. "I’m afraid he’ll take it the wrong way," she said, specifically about her reference to him as being "damaged."
"I’ve always loved my father," Moriarty said. "He’s such a good man.
"He was always behind the scenes," Moriarty said. "I’ve watched him develop his interests," she said, adding that she has come to realize that many of her personality traits come from her father.
"I’ve always had a great admiration for him," she said. "It hasn’t been the most ideal relationship, but it has been a beautiful growth."
Posttraumatic stress disorder is a common consequence of war, Moriarty said. Every society faces it when their veterans return from war, she said.
In her fathers era, she said, it was referred to as shell shock. Nobody really knew what to do with soldiers who were suffering from shell shock many were either locked in mental institutions or cared for by their families, said Moriarty.
Her cousin, who also served in World War II, "came back truly mentally deranged," Moriarty said, remembering how she used to be afraid of him when she was a child.
"He left a whole person" He came back a completely broken man," she said.
Though her poem, "Shell-Shook," is fictional, it is partially based on her cousin, she explained.
Moriarty explored the idea of what a soldier would do with a knife in his hands if he had a tendency toward violence, she said.
"They said Uncle Pete was never the same after the takeover of trenches, capture, imprisonment. He returned with a dazed look in his runny eyes, trembling, mumbling scant lines of poetry, his new language," the poem begins.
"You say nothing about your buddies, can’t remember their names, the war grows anonymous, your medals stashed in your sock drawer, you drink heavily after supper, and every Thanksgiving your wife carves the turkey. You are no longer able to hold a knife without the urge to plunge it," the poems ends.
The effects of posttraumatic stress disorder are not instantaneous, Moriarty said. "This shows up years later. It’s something we’ll deal with in 20 years with Iraq vets," she said.
As a child growing up in Washington D.C., Moriarty says she was always a storyteller. Coincidentally, so was her father. Her 8-year-old grandson, Daniel, is carrying on the family tradition as well, she said.
She started writing humorous personal essays when her chil-dren were teenagers, Moriarty said. Twelve years ago, she attended a womens writing camp at Pyramid Lake in the Adirondacks, where she was introduced to fiction writing. Soon after, she began writing poetry, she said.
She went on to attend Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt., earning a master of fine arts degree in creative writing.
In April of 2005, Moriarty quit her job as a coordinator for mar-riage education and preparation with the Roman Catholic diocese, to write full time.
Moriarty holds workshops, belongs to several local writing groups, and produces and hosts the show "Write Stuff," which airs weekly on the town of Bethlehem’s public access chan-nel.
Once a month, Moriarty inter-views a different local writer for the show. "I’ve had every kind of writer there is," she said.
Fran Dempsey, a journal writer, was Moriarty’s first guest back in 1999, she recalled. "She was a delight," Moriarty said of Dempsey.
"Everyone’s story and family’s story is so unique" and holds the power to heal," Moriarty said.
"Poetry has made me a much better observer, and has helped me to have a more creative outlet," she said. "For me, this has been a way to honor that crea-tive spark that’s in all of us."
Moriarty even incorporates music into her poems. "I am a big fan of Paul Simon," she said. "Sometimes, when I listen to his music, a phrase jumps out at me," she said.
The title of her poem, "Finally Home," is from the lyrics in Paul Simons song, "Hurricane Eye," Moriarty said.
Moriarty wrote the poem while Jill Carroll, a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, was being held hostage in Iraq. "I put myself into her mother’s shoes," Moriarty said.
"Until you are finally home wondrous traveler in treacher-ous lands your headscarf aban-doned in the winddrift of sand," Moriarty says in "Finally Home."
Moriartys goal with War Psalm, she said, is that people "read it, enjoy it, and pass it on
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