Weekend in review
Some of the stories that made the news Fri., Feb. 17 through Sun., Feb. 19:
Roger Hannigan Gilson reported in the Register-Star approximately 200 people gathered in front of the Columbia County Courthouse in Hudson on Fri., Feb. 17, to protest the removal of three men by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from Hudson City Court, Wednesday. The men were in court to answer charges of drunken driving, according to their attorney, Michael C. Howard and Hudson Police Chief Ed Moore. Attendees at the rally heard from various speakers and waived signs, in resistance to the local incident and in protest of ongoing detentions around the country. An executive order signed by the president last month expanded the country's immigration enforcement priorities. Immigration officials have been directed to prioritize undocumented individuals convicted of any criminal offense, as well as anyone who has "committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense." ICE has repeatedly failed to respond to the paper's requests for comment about the Hudson detentions.
U.S. Rep. John Faso, Republican of Kinderhook, on Thu., Feb. 16, voted "no" on a bill that would help states defund Planned Parenthood. The measure would repeal a rule Barack Obama signed in December that prevents state governments from blocking federal family-planning funding from specific health-care providers for any reason other than competence. Faso was one of only two Republicans to vote against the measure, which passed in the House, 230-188.
William J. Kemble reported in the Daily Freeman Central Hudson has announced its plans to replace nearly 21,000 feet of natural gas lines along 22 streets in the city and the town of Ulster. The work is expected to begin in June, and will be done in phases. A company spokesman said the new lines will be polyethylene and will replace a system of iron and steel. He said most of the lines to be replaced were installed before 1950; in some cases they were put into the ground as early as the early 1900s. The Ulster project is part of a 15-year initiative to update all of Central Hudson’s natural gas lines. The utility will spend $21 million this year to replacie 14 miles of lines. Replacement lines are also scheduled for Catskill, Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, Cornwall, New Windsor and Wappingers Falls.
Jeanette Wolfberg reported in The Columbia Paper the Columbia County Board of Supervisors approved resolutions relating to sales taxes, bus service and housing at its regular meeting this month. The board renewed its annual request to the state legislature that would allow the county to continue charging a four percent sales tax, one percentage point above the state three percent state default. The current four percent authorization will expire Nov. 30, and the recent request from the Board of Supervisors would extend that okay through November 2019. The board also voted to reassign the county bus contract to Johnston Transportation LLC, effective March 1, through Apr. 12, 2018. The board also authorized the payment of $24,500 to Capital Advocates "to help plan 'for the acquisition of transitional and permanent low income housing.'" The county Department of Social Services reported 95 homeless individuals in its system in December, and 94 in November.
Rick Karlin reported at Capitol Confidential Republican state Senator Kathy Marchione is sponsoring legislation that would mandate annual staff surveys at Office of Children and Families Services facilities. The survey would take note of how many non-administrative employees are on duty, and provide information on the number of employees out with workers compensation claims or who have suffered on-the-job injuries. Marchione took the action in the wake of the controversy concerning recent staff attacks and staffing levels at OCFS facilities, such as the Brookwood Secure Center youth facility in Claverack. In December, a Brookwood employee was hospitalized after a resident struck him on the head with a "Wet Floor" sign while the man was working as an aide. Assaults on youth center employees has long been a controversial area and it seems to be continuing as a point of contention between unionized workers and management, Karlin writes.
Victoria Addison reported in the Register-Star the New Lebanon Board of Education last week rejected a measure that would have provided an alternative tax exemption for veterans who own real property in the district. Five of six board members voted against the resolution; one abstained. The alternative exemption would have provided a reduction in school taxes for veterans who served in overseas conflicts. The amount of the reduction would vary depending on where the veteran served, and if they have a service-related disability. New Lebanon Town Supervisor Colleen Teal said Fri., Feb. 17, she was disappointed with the board’s decision. “But, I also recognize that the school district is an important part of the community and I think it’s really important we work collaboratively,” Teal said.
Amanda Purcell reported in The Daily Mail the Catskill Central School District is currently in talks with a candidate for superintendent. The final candidate was chosen from a field of three finalists February 1. An announcement is anticipated “soon,” Board of Education President Kyle Lyles said. If negotiations are successful, the new superintendent will begin work July 1, he said. “We are not able to release any details about the candidate, but we will as soon as everything is official,” Lyles said. “However, until the contracts are signed, it is not official.” The district has been without a schools chief since Kathleen Farrell left the position in November 2015. Interim School District Superintendent Annemarie Barkman is expected to continue to serve in the district's top spot until June 30. The new superintendent will be paid an annual salary of $140,000. Farrell earned a base salary of $213,000 a year, and a benefits package worth $43,000, during the 2015-16 school year.