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Weekend in review

Mar 21, 2016 5:30 am
Some of the stories that made the news Fri., Mar. 18 through Sun., Mar. 20:

Chris Bragg reported at Capitol Confidential the people hoping to remove Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz from the Republican presidential primary ballot in New York have filed an expedited appeal. The petitioners argue that Cruz, who was born in Canada to an American mother, does not qualify to be president.. Arguments will be heard on the appeal Wed., Mar. 23. Earlier this month, a state Supreme Court justice dismissed the suit, saying the petitioners failed to meet a February Board of Elections deadline to challenge Cruz.

Melanie Lekocevic reported in The Daily Mail the cost for water and sewer services is going up for Coxsackie town residents. The Town Board last week held a public hearing on the proposed hike, and then later voted to approve it, after no opposition to the rate change was expressed. Residential water rates for 300 town residents will increase $10 per quarter, from $22 to $32. Sewer rates will likewise increase by $10 per quarter. The rate change will not affect village residents. The additional funds are needed to maintain and improve the town's infrastructure.

The Daily Freeman reported Sara Niccoli, Palatine Town Supervisor, officially announced Sat., Mar. 19, her candidacy for the 46th state Senate District seat. The Montgomery County resident is challenging incumbent Rotterdam Republican George Amedore. In a press release, Niccoli said, “Albany’s culture of corruption is hurting our communities. Taxes are too high relative to income, good jobs with benefits are scarce, public schools aren’t receiving the funding they need, and small businesses are getting edged out." Niccoli has received the backing of Kingston Mayor Steve Noble, Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach [HOUR-bahck] and Kingston Democratic Committee Chairman Joe Donaldson. Niccoli and her husband, Sean Mallinson, operate a second-generation family farm. The 46th Senate District includes part of Ulster County, all of Greene and Montgomery counties and the western portions of Albany and Schenectady counties.

Scott Waldman reported at Politico New York a major economic development project planned for the state's southern tier may be threatened by the lack of natural gas connections, according to the New York State Electric and Gas Corporation. Lawmakers and the region's business leaders say that even though the Southern Tier is relatively close to the fracking operations of Pennsylvania, economic development is being hurt because there is not sufficient pipeline capacity for natural gas. NYSEG [NIGH_segg] recently outlined a major project to create almost 200 jobs, but the plan is dependent on natural gas connections. The unnamed project would create 164 full-time jobs, according to documents NYSEG filed with the Public Service Commission. The company is proposing to invest $132 million in manufacturing, warehouse and office space in Nichols, Tioga County. The filing does not explicitly say the project would be affected by state delays on pipeline decisions. But Republican state Sen. Jim Seward of Oneonta said a lack of pipeline capacity is hurting the region’s businesses. “We are reaching a critical point. There is a great need in this area for natural gas.” Seward said last month. The state is increasingly reliant on natural gas as older coal-burning power plants close or are converted to gas. Pipelines needed to bring in the gas are meeting strong resistance from community groups and environmental activists statewide. Pipelines are also increasingly being scrutinized as a significant source of methane pollution, a potent contributor to global warming. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has delayed final approval of the Constitution pipeline for more than a year. On Thu., Mar. 17, New Yorkers Against Fracking and other groups released an ad calling on the Cuomo administration to reject the proposal.

Gail Heinsohn reported in the Chatham Courier a recent audit of the Berkshire Union Free School District by the state comptroller has been released. Among the findings: The population of the school declined by more than 30 percent between 2011 and 2016, while revenues declined by $2.6 million. According to the report, district officials said if the trend persists, the district’s long-term viability could be at risk. Berkshire operates two schools in Columbia County. The Warren Street Academy in Hudson, with an enrollment of 120 students and 60 employees, and the junior/senior high school in Canaan. Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said in the report, “A school district in poor financial condition usually struggles to balance its budget, may suffer through disruptive service level declines, has limited resources to finance future needs and has minimal cash available to pay current liabilities as they become due.” Berkshire Superintendent Bruce Potter said the audit's conclusion was based on "an inaccuracy," and that the funding shortfall was due to a failure on the part of the state Education Department, which resulted in a deficiency going uncorrected until last year. Potter said the reduced enrollment was directly related to a national trend away from residential placement. In the past 10 years, out-of-community placements have decreased by 56 percent statewide.

Katie Kocijanski reported in The Daily Mail the village of Catskill officially welcomed the Rural Ulster Preservaton Company, known as RUPCO, to Main St. last week. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in front of its new 408 Main St. home near the Greene County Chamber of Commerce. RUPCO is a nonprofit agency specializing in housing and rental opportunities for low-income people and is based Kingston. The agency has been working to provide increased service to Greene County. Approximately 190 landlords participate in the housing voucher program countywide. Residents are also offered low cost or free energy audits as a part of RUPCO’s services. The Catskill location is staffed by HCV program specialists Danielle Antonelli and Jaclyn Lazarus. RUPCO's new location offers better parking and handicapped access, an improved waiting room and a confidential conference room.

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