Weekend in review
Some of the stories that made the news from Fri., Oct. 20 through Sun., Oct. 22:
Anthony Fiducia reported for Columbia-Greene Media a house fire in the early morning hours of Sun., Oct. 22, in Leeds claimed the life of one person and destroyed a home. Firefighters were called to a log home on Charles Road, off Cairo Junction Road in Leeds around 3 a.m. and remained on the scene until noon. “It was a total loss,” Leeds Fire Chief Tom McCullough said. “There were many factors in play.” The cause of the fire, the identity of the victim and other details are under investigation, according to the Greene County Sheriff’s Office.
Bill Williams reported for WCTW-FM, "The Cat," residents of John Street in Coxsackie were evacuated from their homes Wed., Oct. 18, after a noxious chemical agent was released from the Coxsackie Correctional Facility. According to the account of the incident provided by Coxsackie Mayor and volunteer firefighter Mark Evans, the fire department was called to John Street at 6:20 p.m. and found residents fleeing their homes and complaining of burning eyes and noses. The street was evacuated and the county Has Mat team called in. Evans said they subsequently learned the emergency response team from the prison had been drilling near County Route 9 and set off the chemical agents. The gas was carried north by the wind into the residential area. Evans said there were no lasting effects from the exposure, but two firefighters were sent to EmUrgent Care for evaluation. Residents were permitted to return to their homes.
Matthew Hamilton reported in the Times Union Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation on Sun., Oct. 22, extending health care benefits to volunteer firefighters who develop certain types of cancer during their time of service. The new law goes into effect in 2019. It applies to volunteers who develop lung, prostate, breast, lymphatic, hematological, digestive, urinary, neurological, reproductive system or melanoma cancer. To qualify for the benefit, firefighters would have to prove their entry physical exam did not show evidence of the cancers covered under the law, have at least five years of interior firefighting service and be currently active or have been active within the last five years.
Jeanette Wolfberg reported in The Columbia Paper the Columbia County Department of Social Services announced last week its bus to Columbia-Greene Community College from various county locations started running this month. The buses to and from the college serve Philmont, Mellenville, Claverack and Hudson and run three days a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. The hour-long trip leaves the Johnston Transportation garage in Philmont at 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., and reaches the college one hour later. The return trip leaves the college at 3:30 p.m. and gets to Philmont at 4:30 p.m.
Anthony Fiducia reported for Columbia-Greene Media the proposed 2017 Athens town budget includes no tax increase for the fourth year in a row. The $2.3 million spending plan includes one of the lowest tax rates in Greene County, town supervisor Robert Butler Jr. said, and according to data provided by the county attorney's office, town taxes have actually decreased over the past four years. With reconstructed highway budgets and reserves set up, the town can purchase equipment in the future without having to borrow. “It’s been interesting,” Butler said. “If we can do five years in a row — that’d be great — but that’s next year.” As for this year, Butler said the town may add some money for the town cemetery to provide for additional maintenance, but there is money in the budget to do so. A public hearing on the proposed budget is tentatively scheduled for Thu., Nov. 9.
Anthony Fiducia reported for Columbia-Greene Media on the progress being made in the town of Cairo on its new annex building. The structure will house the Cairo Police Department and also provide storage space for court records and town historical documents. The building will be located across from Town Hall, next door to the fire department. Cairo Town Supervisor Daniel Benoit said the project is moving along. The town buildings and grounds department are now painting, laying the floor and installing interior doors. Cairo police Sgt. Richard Busch said the new building is “...a major upgrade from what we’re working out of now. It’s more secure, more comfortable for investigations and for citizens.” The police department has been housed at Angelo Canna Town Park for 10 years. Benoit said he hopes the annex building will be finished this fall.
Brian Nearing reported in the Times Union U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and six members of Congress from New York are pushing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to declare more work is needed on the $1.7 billion PCB cleanup of the Hudson River. In a letter last week to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Gillibrand and the other lawmakers said the seven-year cleanup, which ended in 2015, failed to reach the goals of a 2002 agreement between EPA and General Electric Co. The lawmakers' letter criticized a draft EPA report issued this summer that found the cleanup will reach its goals, although it will take five decades or more, and depends in part on a natural degradation of the remaining PCBs in the river. The letter was signed by Gillibrand, and Congressional members Paul Tonko, an Amsterdam Democrat, as well as Jerold Nadler, Nita Lowey, Carolyn Maloney, Sean Patrick Maloney and Eliot Engle. All are Democrats, and represent districts that include the river. GE has steadfastly rejected calls for any additional cleanup, maintaining the company lived up to its EPA agreement. The company dredged about 310,000 pounds of PCBs out of the river.