Weekend in review
Some of the stories that made the news from Fri., Nov. 3, through Sun., Nov. 5:
Lauren Stanforth reported in the Times Union the planned detonation and demolition of a large smoke stack at the Lafarge cement plant in Ravena Sun., Nov. 5, sent a booming sound through neighborhoods as far away as 12 miles north in Slingerlands at around 8:15 a.m. The booming sound came from what Coeymans Supervisor Philip Crandall called the "controlled drop" of a very high smoke stack that has been a fixture in the landscape for decades. Explosives were placed at the bottom, which sent the smoke stack in its entirety crashing to the ground in a grassy area of the plant off Route 9W. The removal is part of $300 million in upgrades the plant has done to reduce emissions.
Bill Williams reported for WCTW-FM, the CAT, five fire companies were on the scene of a structure fire in Chatham Fri., Nov. 3. The call was received at approximately 10 a.m. reporting an electrical fire at Sundog Solar, located on Route 295. Volunteers from Chatham, Ghent, East Chatham, Valatie and Niverville responded. There were no reported injuries.
Patricia Doxsey reported in the Daily Freeman New York voters will consider three propositions on the back of the ballot when they go to the polls on Tue., Nov. 7. One referendum asks voters if the state should create a 250-acre “health and safety land account” in the Catskills and Adirondacks. Voter approval of the Forest Preserve Land Bank Amendment would allow the state to create a 250-acre forest preserve land bank that could be used by municipalities in the “forever wild” preserves of the Catskills and Adirondacks for small public health-related projects, like straightening a dangerous road or digging a drinking well. A second referendum asks if the state should strip the pensions of elected officials convicted of felonies. Voter approval of the public officer pension proposition would amend the state Constitution to allow judges to revoke the state pension of any public officer who is convicted of a felony related to his or her officials duties. The third, and most controversial, asks if the state should hold a constitutional convention. This Constitutional Convention measure is mandated by a provision in the state Constitution that requires voters be asked every 20 years if they want to revise the document. The last time a New York constitutional convention was held was 1967. Ultimately, voters rejected the constitutional amendments recommended by the convention.
Rick Karlin reported at Capitol Confidential former New York State Education Commissioner Richard P. Mills, has died, according to the state Education Department. Mills served as commissioner from 1995 through 2009. He was responsible for many changes during his tenure and had a tremendous impact on public schools statewide. Mills led the push to make the Regents exams the closest thing to a universal high school exit exam the state had seen. He was also commissioner as the charter school movement got under way in New York. Locally, in 2005, Mills personally ordered a thorough evaluation of the Hudson City School District be conducted by an outside review team in response to the district's over-classification of black students as students with disabilities, its poor academic performance and the district's consistently high suspension rate. After he stepped down Mills kept a low profile and details surrounding his passing last week were not immediately known.
Mid-Hudson News Network and the Daily Freeman reported Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro Fri., Nov. 3, signed into law a ban on the use of polystyrene foam containers at chain food-service businesses countywide. He signed the law surrounded by fourth-graders at Joseph D’Aquanni West Road Intermediate School in Pleasant Valley. The same students who wrote to him in June, when they were in third grade, to express displeasure about foam cups and their impact on the ecosystem. Polystyrene foam, or Styrofoam, is classified as a likely carcinogen in humans. It does not biodegrade and is considered a major component of plastic debris in oceans and the waste stream. The Dutchess ban was approved 23 to 1 in October by the county Legislature. The law takes effect immediately, but will not be enforced until Jan. 1, 2019.
Claire Gilbert reported in The Columbia Paper the Ghent Town Board last month adopted Local Law 2, which amends the town’s zoning laws to include time limits for special use permits. Passage of the law means the town has set parameters on the amount of time an applicant has to begin or finish construction of a building; it also covers the timing for when an applicant applies for a special building permit. If construction has not begun within 180 days of receiving a permit, that permit will have to be renewed.
Richard Moody reported for Columbia-Greene Media Greene County honored retired Staff sergeant Robert Stefanko as Veteran of the Year at the county’s annual ceremony held outside the county courthouse in Catskill, Sat., Nov. 4. Stefanko was drafted into the U.S. Army in July 1967, as he was finishing his studies at SUNY Farmingdale State College. Stefanko was deployed to Vietnam in March 1968 with the 31st Infantry Regiment, and became part of the Ninth Infantry Division. During his tour of duty he earned the Bronze Star, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Combat Infantry Badge. He eventually returned to New York and moved to Windham where he ran Skyland Automotive until his retirement in 2013. “Mr. Stefanko is a proxy for all the other veterans who have fought and died for this country,” U.S. Rep. John Faso said Saturday. “God bless all the veterans and God bless America.” State Sen. George Amedore said, “Veterans are the most important members of our community."