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Department of Labor Files Tax Warrant on Maranatha Family Center for Failure to Pay Unemployment Contributions

Written By Editor on 11/30/13 | 11/30/13

The New York State Department of Labor's Unemployment Division has filed a $3,057 tax warrant against the Maranatha Family Center following its inability to pay $2,718 worth of contributions to the state unemployment fund and an additional $134 to the re-employment service fund over the last five quarters of business operation. 
Documentation filed with the Schoharie County Clerk's office shows Maranatha failed to pay over $2,000 in unemployment contributions during the fourth quarter of 2012 into the first quarter of 2013, an early red flag that in hindsight indicates the project's financial struggles from the beginning to pay its bills.
Although this tax warrant is the least of Maranatha's concerns, with its owner Stella McKenna facing both a summons of foreclosure and seizure of equipment notice, it reveals that the project's financial issues have stretched to the first months of operation and begs the question if Maranatha was ever economically sound to be in business.
Community Pipeline Meeting on Monday December 2, 2013 at 7PM inside of the Radez Elementary School Gym located on 319 Main Street, Richmondville, NY. The latest information on the proposed Constitution Pipeline from threats of eminent domain and legal efforts to landowner resistance and the pipeline company's safety record will be provided to the public. This advertisement is sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities and the Stop the Pipeline Schoharie Action Committee

Conesville Town Board to Appoint Highway Superintendent in January

On Tuesday afternoon the Schoharie News published a story on the Town of Conesville and their Highway Superintendent conundrum, which began on November 19th when the final count of absentee and affidavit ballots in the tight race between Democrat Stephen Young and incumbent Republican Larry Brandow resulted in each candidate receiving 154 votes apiece.
Since then we have received new information.
According to Conesville Supervisor-elect Bill Federice, who will take office in January, by New York State law the Town Board cannot appoint anyone to the Highway Superintendent position until the new board is seated, meaning that town residents are still in limbo over how their indecisive vote will effect the highway department and that the Deputy Superintendent will have to serve as interim head from the evening of December 31st until the board decides on someone in their organizational meeting.
But that still wont be the end of this saga, because state law requires any appointment to an elected town office to last only until the next regular election, which sets the stage for residents of Conesville to have their voices heard again on the Highway Superintendent position in a little more than eleven months and it also creates the potential for a electoral rematch between Mr. Young and Mr. Brandow, pending the board's final decision.
Although this process is long from over for the small town of 734 residents, at least we now have some of the blank spots filled in where they were previously question marks - with the notable exception being who will receive the temporary appointment in January - and to that question no-one knows except for the one Supervisor and four Councilmen who will vote on this pressing matter in just a few weeks.
Community Pipeline Meeting on Monday December 2, 2013 at 7PM inside of the Radez Elementary School Gym located on 319 Main Street, Richmondville, NY. The latest information on the proposed Constitution Pipeline from threats of eminent domain and legal efforts to landowner resistance and the pipeline company's safety record will be provided to the public. This advertisement is sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities and the Stop the Pipeline Schoharie Action Committee

Off-Beat Science: ISON Survives Perihelion

Written By Editor on 11/29/13 | 11/29/13

Comet ISON, the topic of conversation amongst Astronomy enthusiasts worldwide, was formed in the Oort cloud near the orbit of Neptune and captured the world's attention as it approached our galaxy's dominant star - the Sun - and faced imminent annihilation. All of which set the stage for the comet's dramatic and Milky Way sized exit stage left yesterday afternoon.

Hottest exit ever
Or did it?

Astronomers predicted that either ISON would be obliterated by the Sun as it reached perihelion or that a small remnant of the comet would briefly survive and bathe the night sky in an galactic firework show. And at first it appeared the little comet was indeed destroyed, being confirmed within the scientific community when NASA declared it dead.


It's alive!!!!!!!
Amateur astronomers continued to watch for signs of ISON and what soon emerged was a nucleus, albeit smaller, and tail of what had survived perihelion (Greek for near the god of the sun) and continuing on its orbit across the solar system, dumbfounding everyone in the process.

It remains to be seen whether ISON survives the next couple of days and does indeed self-destruct, or if the world's favorite little comet completely survives its brush with the solar system's twenty-seven million degree Fahrenheit flaming ball of death and completes its journey across our solar system and beyond.
Community Pipeline Meeting on Monday December 2, 2013 at 7PM inside of the Radez Elementary School Gym located on 319 Main Street, Richmondville, NY. The latest information on the proposed Constitution Pipeline from threats of eminent domain and legal efforts to landowner resistance and the pipeline company's safety record will be provided to the public. This advertisement is sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities and the Stop the Pipeline Schoharie Action Committee

Cobleskill Drug Bust Nets Two Arrests, Meth Ingredients and Equipment Seized

Written By Editor on 11/28/13 | 11/28/13

The Cobleskill Police Department, New York State Special Operations Response Team and additional law enforcement agencies conducted a successful drug bust in the Village of Cobleskill on Wednesday morning that netted two arrests and the seizure of Methamphetamine ingredients and equipment from the suspects location.

Christopher Clark Wood of Richmondville, who was charged with the Unlawful Manufacture of Methamphetamine and as a Fugitive of Justice for similar charges in Tennessee (Cobleskill Police Department, WTEN)
From WTEN:
During an investigation into the sale of controlled substances in the Cobleskill area, information was developed that Christopher Clark Woods was involved in the manufacture of methamphetamine at the residence of Laura K. Kieru. A search warrant was eventually issued for the residence.
Christopher Clark Woods, 27, of Richmondville, was arrested and charged with one felony count of Unlawful Manufacture of Methamphetamine, and also charged as a Fugitive of Justice. Woods was found to be wanted by the Obion County Sheriff's Office in the State of Tennessee for violation of Probation for the crime of Promotion of Methamphetamine.
Woods was remanded to the Schoharie County Correctional Facility without bail.
Laura K. Kieru, 28, of Cobleskill was arrested and charged with one count of felony Unlawful Manufacture of Methamphetamine, and one count of Conspiracy.
Kieru was remanded to the Schoharie County Correctional Facility on $5,000.00 cash bail or $10,000.00 bond.
Both defendants will go before the Town of Cobleskill Court on December 3rd at five p.m. The investigation is still ongoing and more charges may be brought forward, but it represents yet another successful investigation by Chief Larry Travis' department in their campaign against urban drugs moving into our local communities.
Community Pipeline Meeting on Monday December 2, 2013 at 7PM inside of the Radez Elementary School Gym located on 319 Main Street, Richmondville, NY. The latest information on the proposed Constitution Pipeline from threats of eminent domain and legal efforts to landowner resistance and the pipeline company's safety record will be provided to the public. This advertisement is sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities and the Stop the Pipeline Schoharie Action Committee

Middleburgh's Miracle on Main Street December 13th, 5:30-8:30 pm

Middleburgh's annual Miracle on Main Street will be held on Friday, December 13th from 5:30-8:30 in the evening all across the Village of Middleburgh's beautifully lit Main Street. The event is co-sponsored by the Middleburgh Renaissance Council and the Village government.

There will be everything from caroling to pictures with Santa to miniature horses and a live Nativity scene at St. Marks's Church... And that doesn't even include all of the Library's events where there will be dancers, bell ringers, story time and the list goes on.
This one of the must see Christmas time events in the entire county, as the spirited combination of Middleburgh's beautifully lighted Main Street and even greater community minded business owners makes the night one to remember every single year. Now all the event needs is the right amount of snow and the Miracle on Main Street could become a living image of Norman Rockwell's designs of small town America celebrating the holiday's.
Community Pipeline Meeting on Monday December 2, 2013 at 7PM inside of the Radez Elementary School Gym located on 319 Main Street, Richmondville, NY. The latest information on the proposed Constitution Pipeline from threats of eminent domain and legal efforts to landowner resistance and the pipeline company's safety record will be provided to the public. This advertisement is sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities and the Stop the Pipeline Schoharie Action Committee

Happy Thanksgiving

Written By Editor on 11/27/13 | 11/27/13

The Schoharie News would like to thank all of our readers for their unbelievable efforts in support of this project, as it would not be as successful as it is without you, and to wish each and every one of you a Happy Thanksgiving. This is by far the editor's favorite holiday of the season, as it affords everyone the opportunity to give thanks to those most responsible for their success during the previous year and for their hopes of those yet to come.
We will be back on the job Friday morning, until then: have a happy holiday everyone and may your Thanksgiving dinner be plentiful and surrounded by friends and family that love and appreciate you. 
Community Pipeline Meeting on Monday December 2, 2013 at 7PM inside of the Radez Elementary School Gym located on 319 Main Street, Richmondville, NY. The latest information on the proposed Constitution Pipeline from threats of eminent domain and legal efforts to landowner resistance and the pipeline company's safety record will be provided to the public. This advertisement is sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities and the Stop the Pipeline Schoharie Action Committee

Varsity Basketball Heats up as Local Teams Head to Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, Gilboa Takes on Schenevus

Written By Editor on 11/26/13 | 11/26/13

Update (8:28 pm): Gilboa-Conesville's matchup against Schenevus has been cancelled on account of the poor weather conditions.

The Middleburgh Knights, Schoharie Indians and Sharon Springs Spartans varsity basketball teams will be traveling to Fulton-Montgomery Community College on Saturday afternoon to participate in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, the first real test for all three local schools in the Section 2 Western-Southern division.
For the Indians it is an early measure of whether they still have last year's spark that fueled a respectable 13-6 season, best for second in their division, and whether the Knights (3-11) and Spartans (0-18) can rebound from their respective fifth and sixth place finishes, that included both failing twice to Schoharie.
In other local high school basketball news:
  • The Gilboa-Conesville Wildcats are hosting the Schenevus Dragons tonight at seven in a non-conference matchup.
  • The Cobleskill-Richmondville Bulldogs are heading to Broadalbin-Perth tomorrow night at seven thirty to take on the Patriots in a non-conference matchup
We will update with results as we get them through-out the week and the season. Please note that all records and scores are currently provided by Max Preps and are subject to irregular reporting, but we hope to personally cover the five local teams as time and travel permits and would also welcome input from our readership as well.
Community Pipeline Meeting on Monday December 2, 2013 at 7PM inside of the Radez Elementary School Gym located on 319 Main Street, Richmondville, NY. The latest information on the proposed Constitution Pipeline from threats of eminent domain and legal efforts to landowner resistance and the pipeline company's safety record will be provided to the public. This advertisement is sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities and the Stop the Pipeline Schoharie Action Committee

Boil Water Order for Part of Cobleskill

Below is a copy sent out from the County Department of Health

11/26/2013 at 16:00FROM: Public Health SanitarianSchoharie County Department of Public Health 

Please be advised that a Boil Water Order is in effect for the Colonial Village Route 7 Cobleskill.

There was a loss of pressure reported at this system on 11/22/2013 and this was not a planned interruption.  The system did not notify health department.

The chlorine feed pump was disabled when a well pump relay switch failed on 11/24/2013.

Accordingly a boil water order was issued to this system and will remain in effect until furthernotice.

Boil water notices have been distributed to residents as calls about it are being received.

Water leaks were reported by residents of the the mobile home park and water service was interrupted with no notifications.

The park has 80 services and service about 200 people.    Service has been restored according to a resident that reported the incident.  This is the only area affected.  It appears that only the distribution system has been affected as the resident reported pressure is restored.  Relay switch was ordered.  It appears that emergency stockpile equipment will not be required.

However, until samples have been collected and results received, water system flushed and cleared the notice shall remain in effect.

Samples are planned for today and 11/27.

The order may remain until 11/29.

Contact information has been left for the laboratory to contact DOH with sample results.
Water leaks in systems do occur as fittings break sometimes.  The system needs to notify DOH.  A boil water order may be issued anyway but the system must notify residents as well.

Community Pipeline Meeting on Monday December 2, 2013 at 7PM inside of the Radez Elementary School Gym located on 319 Main Street, Richmondville, NY. The latest information on the proposed Constitution Pipeline from threats of eminent domain and legal efforts to landowner resistance and the pipeline company's safety record will be provided to the public. This advertisement is sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities and the Stop the Pipeline Schoharie Action Committee

Town of Conesville Still Without Highway Superintendent

Residents of the Town of Conesville are still wondering this Tuesday - three weeks after election day - who their Highway Superintendent will be in the race between Democrat Stephen Young and incumbent Republican Larry Brandow, which after absentee and affidavit ballots were counted last Tuesday was tied at 154 votes apiece.
We have been working on finding the answer to this unusual occurrence by researching New York State Town law and reaching out to the Town of Conesville, but unfortunately state law does not specify what actions must be taken in case of a tie between candidates and the Conesville Town Clerk is currently on vacation, which has resulted in a game of phone tag with the Deputy Clerk.
Although not specified under the election sub-section of New York State Town law, it is spelled out in other sub-sections that the Town Board is the ultimate arbiter in regards to filling vacant elected and appointed offices, which in this situation could result in the five individuals who sit on the Conesville Town Board electing their next Highway Superintendent.   
However, that only muddies the water further because of the political dynamics of the Conesville Town Board, which is unanimously Republican, and would potentially have the power to choose between the incumbent Republican Highway Superintendent and his Democratic opponent, a disconcerting situation considering the overwhelmingly Republican electorate did not place much political emphasis in their decision on November 5th, but that doesn't mean the Board wont.
Unfortunately, the County Board of Elections had to throw out an absentee ballot during last week's count because its applicant passed away between the time he filled it out and the election occurred, which in New York State results in the immediate invalidation of that vote. A vote that in this tight race would have decided the election and prevented this complicated situation from happening in the first place.
The Schoharie News will continue to monitor this developing story.
Community Pipeline Meeting on Monday December 2, 2013 at 7PM inside of the Radez Elementary School Gym located on 319 Main Street, Richmondville, NY. The latest information on the proposed Constitution Pipeline from threats of eminent domain and legal efforts to landowner resistance and the pipeline company's safety record will be provided to the public. This advertisement is sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities and the Stop the Pipeline Schoharie Action Committee

Heavy Storm Expected Tuesday Night

Written By Editor on 11/25/13 | 11/25/13

Some severe weather is expected to come our way tomorrow. After the bitter cold of yesterday, we can expect more trouble ahead over the next 48 hours. The temperature in the low-lying areas are likely to hover around freezing. According to Weather Underground, temperature Tuesday afternoon will be 39°, leading to early showers. Later in the day, the temperature will fall to just 34°, enough for snow to begin falling. The real issue that comes in is the possibility of heavy freezing rain at that temperature.

Wednesday's high is likely to rise to 41°, but the day will see a mix of freezing rain, rain, and snow. Accumulation is likely to be only an inch-- but the heavy, wet snow and freezing rain could make that day a bear to drive.

And remember, our Schoharie News Weather page is auto-updated. Click to see the latest in forecasts, radar, and dam levels.

Community Pipeline Meeting on Monday December 2, 2013 at 7PM inside of the Radez Elementary School Gym located on 319 Main Street, Richmondville, NY. The latest information on the proposed Constitution Pipeline from threats of eminent domain and legal efforts to landowner resistance and the pipeline company's safety record will be provided to the public. This advertisement is sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities and the Stop the Pipeline Schoharie Action Committee

Vote in Our New Poll: Was Richmondville Right Dealing with Maranatha?

Here is a chance for our readers to weigh in on the controversy surrounding the Maranatha project in Warnerville. Do you feel that the Town of Richmondville's actions were justified? Why or why not? The new poll is on the sidebar.

Community Pipeline Meeting on Monday December 2, 2013 at 7PM inside of the Radez Elementary School Gym located on 319 Main Street, Richmondville, NY. The latest information on the proposed Constitution Pipeline from threats of eminent domain and legal efforts to landowner resistance and the pipeline company's safety record will be provided to the public. This advertisement is sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities and the Stop the Pipeline Schoharie Action Committee

Public Health Director Asante Shipp-Hilts Sumbits Resignation, Effective in New Year

Following weeks of Board scrutiny over her role in now-suspended Personnel Director Cassandra Ethington's "reign of terror" in county government, the Schoharie News has learned that Public Health Director Asante Shipp-Hilts has submitted her resignation to the Board of Supervisors, effective January 2nd, 2014.
According to numerous sources within county government, both on and off the record, Ms. Shipp-Hilts submitted her resignation via email Tuesday night to members of the Board and Supervisors and asked that they refrain from dispersing the information until she had an opportunity to address members of the Health Department last Thursday.
Ms. Shipp-Hilts, who is highly regarded as an intelligent young professional, was first hired into the county Health Department in May of 2011 by Mrs. Ethington as the Epidemiology Coordinator and would serve under the suspended Personnel Director as her supervisor in the department until early 2012. 
She assumed the role of Public Health Director only after lawsuits were initialized against Mrs. Ethington for the then questionable layoffs of department employees Penny Grimes and Eva Gigandet, which the Fitzmaurice Report found to be personally motivated on Ethington's part and the Board has since received a motion to reinstate the two employees.
Board of Health President Betsy Bernocco recently addressed the Board of Supervisors in reading a resolution signed by a majority of the Board of Health in support of Ms. Shipp-Hilts, stating that they had "total confidence... in the abilities of our Public Health Director," but the sentiment of numerous Supervisors was expressed when Schoharie Supervisor Gene Milone simply asked if Bernocco had read the contents of the recently finished report.
There is no immediate front-runner to assume her position atop the embattled Health Department, which she will be spend her last month out of the office by using saved vacation and personal time, but if the Board's decision to appoint Charity Bender to temporarily oversee the Personnel Department is any indication, they may start their search for the county's next Public Health Director by looking outside of the department.

Maranatha EXCLUSIVE: Wu Backs Out of Project, Says Richmondville "Should be Ashamed"

After months of negotiations between the Town of Richmondville and New York City entrepreneur Da-Lai Wu concerning the $5 million Maranatha project, which current owner Stella McKenna was recently served notice of foreclosure on by the New York Business Development Corporation, it was decided Friday evening by Mr. Wu to end his perusal of the shuttered physical fitness center. 
Mr. Wu, who is the CEO and Director of Player Management with RUSH-N-CRUSH, originally came to the area to investigate the possibility of working in partnership with SUNY Cobleskill on developing local tennis programming by updating and using their tennis facilities based on his knowledge in the sport from both being a professional player and coach the past three decades. After estimating the college could repair their poor quality courts to U.S. Open standards with a price tag of $105,000, Mr. Wu expanded his horizons to visit neighboring facilities and to see if there was interest in the area for a tennis program when he discovered Maranatha in August.

Describing the troubled training facility's staff members as "awesome," while adding they are "people with the highest integrity," Mr. Wu soon learned of their plight and took an interest in Maranatha's troubles, which would reach critical mass when unpaid electric bills forced its initial closure, and would lead to Mr. Wu beginning his considerations of taking over the program with plans for extensive expansion of the project.

However, he immediately hit a brick wall - that being the Town of Richmondville government - with its public officials compiling a nine-point list of demands they expected Mr. Wu to meet before they agreed to sign a waiver request allowing his acquisition of the project, due because of the requirements attached to a $650,000 state grant Maranatha received.  
During this time he met with town officials over the extension of a $20,000 equipment audit, which he wanted to push back from next April to July, because he didn't want "all the debts to take capital" away from his investment during what he called the "critical market time for a fitness center," but the town wouldn't budge. And because of this, Mr. Wu estimated he lost anywhere from $120-150,000 in potential revenue because he could not open in October as he was originally planning and that he would now have to come up with approximately $250,000 to just "keep the place from sinking."
But that wouldn't be the end of it for Mr. Wu, who in an attempt to salvage the project, placed a request for a public meeting in October with the Town of Richmondville to discuss his proposed takeover of the facility. However, according to his account, Mr. Wu alleges that Richmondville Town Supervisor Richard Lape's response was that if he wanted a public meeting that he would have to be pay $15,000 first, presumably as collateral against one of Maranatha's outstanding debts, and then they would give him his meeting.
Shocked by the request, Mr. Wu contacted New York State Senator James Seward and after the legislator directly called the Richmondville Supervisor concerning the unusual $15,000 requirement for a meeting that it "disappeared," although a public hearing still wouldn't be held for three more weeks until the Tuesday after election day.
In the end, the "Town [of Richmondville] should be ashamed," said Mr. Wu as we concluded our comprehensive interview "because the whole community losses out." Despite his disappointment with how Maranatha turned out, Mr. Wu is currently involved in discussions with SUNY Cobleskill's PACE program to start a class in which he would instruct continuing education participants  on how to teach tennis for certification while additionally working to expand the college's program in the sport of his passion.  

The future of Maranatha is less certain now that Mr. Wu is out of the project and Ms. McKenna was served with foreclosure papers almost two weeks ago, leaving the Town of Richmondville with a $5 million building that could sit vacant for years while legal proceedings drag out and residents of both the Village and Town governments on the hook for over $50,000 worth of unpaid debts that they may very well have to pick up the tab for.

Poll: Wait and See on Reinstating Fired Employees

Written By Editor on 11/24/13 | 11/24/13

The general sentiment around the County has been to review many of the circumstances surrounding the tenure of former Personnel Director Cassandra Ethington. This remains the case in the most recent Schoharie News poll. Many support immediate reinstatement of the former employees fired by Ethington, but a plurality support more investigation before the decision is made.

Should the Employees Fired During Ethington's Tenure Be Reinstated?

Yes, all- 37: 27%
Yes, if mentioned in the Fitzmaurice Report- 21: 15%
No- 25: 18%
Too early to tell- 56: 40%
Total: 138

The next several weeks will see the departure of the current Board of Supervisors and the seating of the new ones. What the new Board will do is still uncertain, but there will be a further inquiry as the situation unravels.

Heavily Armored Former Military Vehicles Entering into Local Police Departments

No former military vehicles have yet become part of the inventory for the Schoharie County Sheriff's Department, but they could be soon. Surrounding counties have taken on surplus vehicles-- some of which served in Iraq. The Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected craft, or MRAPs have made an appearance in Jefferson and Albany County. They have been offered free to some police agencies-- and the Albany County Sheriff's office obliged.

An armored car in service in Warren County, NY.
Photo credit: AP/Mike Groll
"It's armored. It's heavy. It's intimidating. And it's free," said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple, among five county sheriff's departments and three other police agencies in New York that have taken delivery of an MRAP.
The vehicles, which get about five miles per gallon, offer a punch for the agencies. There are concerns that the vehicles are overpowered for local police enforcement, although some in law enforcement disagree.
"We live in the North Country," he said. "It's very common for people to have high-powered hunting rifles." 
In one recent incident, a team used its armored military-surplus Humvee to approach a barricaded suspect, similar to a circumstance in which it might use the MRAP. 
"We live in the North Country," he said. "It's very common for people to have high-powered hunting rifles." 
In one recent incident, a team used its armored military-surplus Humvee to approach a barricaded suspect, similar to a circumstance in which it might use the MRAP.
The link above leads to a good article on the spread of these vehicles-- which could soon number about 900 across the country. So far, New York agencies have a disproportionately high number of the MRAPs.

Kindness Crew Collecting Pajamas for Needy

Some more good deeds going on around the County. There is a project to assist those that need a little warmth this winter. Below is a press release:
"Caz Girls Conquer 365 Random Acts of Kindness" is running an event called the Pajama Project. They are asking people to donate new pajamas of all sizes to distribute to the kids in the county who may need a little warmth and comfort this winter....especially for Christmas. They will be collecting pajamas until December 14th. People can either mail the pajamas to - The Kindness Crew, P.O. Box 543, Cobleskill NY 12043 or they may contact the ladies through their FB page (Caz Girls Conquer 365 Random Acts of Kindness) to make arrangements to be picked up. Drop off locations are also being worked on.

Letter to the Editor: Milone Looks Toward Future

Dear Editor, Neighbors and Friends,
Now that the dust has settled with respect to elections, it is time to continue focusing on issues of importance concerning both the towns and county. It has been no secret that flood mitigation efforts have been ongoing and numerous meetings have already taken place involving many state and federal agencies attempting to come up with not only a plan to address future flooding events, but also to acquire the necessary funding needed to implement them. I am pleased to say once again, that our Assemblyman Peter Lopez and Senator James Seward as well as our Congressman Chris Gibson, have been in the forefront on this issue ever since my calling upon them for assistance.
It is also important for you to know that there is currently a major movement to afford the County Board of Supervisors opportunity to address both the New York State Assembly and Senate regarding the issues of mandate relief to our county as well as reform on the recently passed Safe Act-two major issues which effect every Assemblyman’s and Senator’s district throughout the state. It is our hope to have our voices heard, and if necessary, summon the assistance of the general public through possible letter campaigns or demonstrations. Once again we have petitioned our Assemblyman, Peter Lopez and Senator James Seward for assisting us in this effort.
The introduction of solar energy to our county buildings and residents is another major issue being dealt with. This issue holds much excitement for county residents particularly with respect to cost savings that should be considerable. There are state contributions available pertaining to the implementation of solar energy, which the county should be taking full advantage of.
There also remains the issue of reconstructing County Government pertaining to policies and procedures being put in place, which have never before existed including disciplinary procedures for department heads. Our entire county workforce must be reassured that a new day has come with respect to workplace environment. Employees shall no longer work in fear and they must come to know how very much they are appreciated. There is necessity for new direction and it is my personal opinion that a county manager is needed to prevent our county from continuing to flounder from day to day causing lack of direction and the loss of accountability. The residents and employees of Schoharie County deserve better than business as usual.
The agenda concerning issues to be addressed and achieved is quite lengthy and I remain completely optimistic that the newly elected supervisors will not fall victim to the issue of control and that each will do their best to work with others concerning all the issues at hand. The struggle for power and control between political parties has caused major setbacks in our Democracy. It is past time for all elected representatives to work in the best interest of the people we represent. Our future depends on it. While change is not always easy to acquire we must remember that the people have given our county a fresh start. Hopefully the people will remain vigilant on the call for change.
Gene Milone

Gallupville Man Arrested for Removing Handicapped Foster Daughter's Teeth

Often times reporting the news brings both the good and the controversial. Unfortunately, this is just terrible. Stephen Walker of Gallupville was arrested after the family dentist discovered something unnerving. Walker's 8-year old foster daughter was complaining about mouth pain. When  the dentist checked the girl's mouth, three teeth were missing-- allegedly forced out of the mouth by Walker. The girl is mentally disabled.

Photo and story references credit Times Union
The dentist gave the information to Schoharie County Child Protective Services, which then handed the case over to the State Police. Walker was arrested and charged with two counts of felony assault and endangering the welfare of a child on two counts. He is held on $10,000 cash bail or $5,000 bond. He is due back in court on November 25th.

Quiltbug to Trade Food for Fabric on Thanksgiving Weekend

Written By Editor on 11/23/13 | 11/23/13

The Esperance based Quiltbug Quilt Shop at 169 Main Street (Route 20) will be trading fabric for food to donate to local pantries on Friday and Saturday of next week. Food pantries are traditionally low in their reserves following Thanksgiving and Quiltbug is encouraging people to bring non-perishable food items to their Esperance shop to help those pantries restock, with donations above $5 value earning an in store purchase discount certificate.  
There will also be a celebrity at the shop to sign autographs on Friday from 12:30-2:00 and to raise funds to provide bullet proof vests for police dogs: local celebrity dog Thor, who was featured in American Dog magazine this month, and who's owners will be selling his calendar with all proceeds going to the aforementioned cause that is run by Vested Interests organization.
If you have any questions concerning the food bank fundraiser or Thor's appearance please contact Kris Driessen at 518-875-9400 or by email at The shop will be open ten until five on Friday and ten to three on Saturday.

Severe Squall Predicted in County Today

If you are about to head out somewhere, you may want to rethink your plans for an hour. From the National Weather Service:
A Line Of Snow Squalls In Schoharie County... At 237 PM EST...Snow Squalls Were Detected By Radar.  These Snow Squalls Were Located Along A Line Extending From Schoharie To Richmondville...And Moving East At 35 Mph. Snow Squalls Will Be Near... Middleburgh By 305 PM EST In New York This Includes Interstate 88 Exits Between 19 And 23. Snow Squalls Producing A 15 To 30 Minute Period Of Heavy Snow And Near White Out Conditions Can Be Expected. Generally An Inch Or Less Of Snow Will Accumulate...But The Severity Of The Snow Squalls Will Significantly Reduce Visibility And Cause Extremely Hazardous Driving Conditions

Green Shirts Leaving Schoharie County

In an emotional ceremony on Monday, December 18th the hundreds of volunteers that assisted flood victims across the County were honored. The Green Shirts, affiliated with the Reformed Church are leaving after two years of service in the area. Many are moving on to help other flood victims affected by Hurricane Sandy. From SALT's press release:

Over the past two years, over 500 Green Shirt volunteers from all over the United States and Canada have come and donated a week or more of their time to helping to rebuild our homes and community. Many of these volunteers have come multiple times and stayed for 2 or more weeks at a time. Collectively, they have volunteered for over 53,000 hours - worth over $1,025,000 of inkind labor. 
In addition, the Green Shirts have spent over $225,000 in our area, supporting our local economy while rebuilding it. After the initial meetings between SALT and World Renew Regional Managers for New York and New England, Doug and Pat Guikema, reported to World Renew that the SALT recovery group was "one of the best organized, ready to lead the recovery efforts that they have had the privilege to work with" in the 10 years since they've been involved with World Renew and, that SALT was "ahead of the curve for Long Term Committees." 
"Closing down our Schoharie site comes with many mixed emotions," said Doug Guikema shares. "We are thankful that we were able to complete the homes that we did, and yet we know there are more families waiting for the assistance they need to finish rebuilding their home yet, and that makes it difficult to leave."

Opinion: Give Bleau a Chance

Written By Editor on 11/22/13 | 11/22/13

In the aftermath of Tuesday's final count of absentee and affidavit ballots in the Town of Wright's too close to call Supervisor race between Democrat Karl Remmers and Republican Amber Bleau, which Mrs. Bleau won by just five votes, the response by some individuals to the Republican's victory was disappointing to say the least.

Ranging from allegations of being a replica of former Supervisor William Goblet, who's passing earlier this year led Mrs. Bleau to assume leadership as Deputy Supervisor, to concerns over her participation in a tri-party advertisement that together formed the county's Conservative Party faction, residents ranging from readers of the Schoharie News to county officials have expressed skepticism and worries over her election to the county board.

These worries are nothing new. We have been hearing them for weeks now at the Schoharie News, but after interviewing Mrs. Bleau two days before the election and reviewing her record of service in the Town of Wright, we believe them to be exaggerated and would ask everyone to give the Supervisor-elect a chance to do her job before casting final judgment.

The election is nothing more then an educated guess as to who we think will do the better job in office, particularly between two non-incumbents as such was the case in this situation, with our guess either being proven to be accurate or inaccurate by their actions in said office.

Mrs. Bleau's focus is primarily on the growth of Wright by improving public services and expanding business in the town of fifteen hundred plus citizens, a job she is well prepared for because of tenure on the town board and her de facto leadership position since early 2013, while she also eases into her equally important role of representing her neighbors on a county-wide level in the currently fluid state of affairs of Schoharie politics.

With that said, could we please give the Supervisor-elect an opportunity to prove herself before casting the first stone and disregarding her leadership experience and qualities just because of her inclusion in an political advertisement that she was invited to join and did so in good faith? Obviously, the reasonable answer would be yes... Only time can vindicate or ostracize the voters of Wright for their decision on November 5th.

Reminder: Schoharie News to Join WSDE on Talking Schoharie Program Wednesday

Just a reminder for our readership: Schoharie News editor Timothy Knight and WSDE 1190 AM owner Ed Sherlock will be co-hosting the Talking Schoharie program on Wednesday morning from nine until ten on your source for premier local radio coverage.

Also - with the Thanksgiving holiday fast approaching, coverage will be spotty at the Schoharie News as we take a breather from the nonstop current of investigations, political news stories and covering county affairs, but we will continue to monitor the pulse of Schoharie County and update with news as it comes in as well as the continued publication of community events.

As always, feel free to send tips and community news to and if you have an opinion, perhaps concurring with or arguing against that of the Schoharie News or a local politician, we publish letters to the editor as we receive them and without editing.

Once again, we can not offer enough thanks to our wonderful readership and we hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving next week. We will be deciding on several potential changes at the Schoharie News while enjoying the break and working on a couple of outstanding stories from the past couple of weeks.

Middleburgh Library Discussion Tonight

Written By Editor on 11/21/13 | 11/21/13

The Middleburgh Library will be holding a discussion on the future of the Library tonight. The event at 7pm will discuss how the institution and its activities will expand. All are invited:
We're hoping to get a representation of all the different populations in Middleburgh-- town officials as well as ordinary citizens, primary residence or second home owner, library users and non library users, older residents, and younger ones! This is your chance to tell us what really makes this library important to this community and what we need to do to keep it that way. We're looking forward to hearing what you have to say-- please come!

More details can be found here on Facebook.

Maranatha Faces Potential Foreclosure, Loss of Physical Assets

Following months of public concern and speculation over Maranatha's financial situation, of which there was a general consensus that they were in dire straits, the Schoharie News has learned through researching a tip provided to us earlier in the week that owner Stella McKenna is close to losing control of her $5 million project because of millions in outstanding debts.
According to legal documentation posted on the Schoharie County Clerk's database, Ms. McKenna was served with not only a verified complaint by NBT Bank that seeks the collection of Maranatha's equipment and inventory due to their defaulting on a $50,000 note, but she also received a verified foreclosure complaint from the New York Business Development Corporation.
The latter complaint was filed on November 13th - last Wednesday - and stated Maranatha defaulted on the "conditions of the Note and Mortgage by omitting and failing to pay installments for principal and interest which were due on August 1, 2013, and each and ever month thereafter." The total sum of the project's debts to NYBDC are over $1.5 million, with it consisting of $1,482,062.57 in principal owed and the remainder being interest.

The day after on Thursday, November 14th, NBT Bank's complaint was filed and its contents show that the project defaulted on a roughly $50,000 note with the balance being 99% principal to interest owed. As part of the note's agreement in February, 2013, that provided NBT with collateral in case of Maranatha's failure to pay its bills - the local lender is seeking to legally acquire all equipment, records and inventory as a result of late September's default.

It is not known whether this will impact investor Da-Lai Wu's efforts to acquire the failed project or how its other interested parties might react to this substantial development, but one thing is for sure - Ms. McKenna's time to salvage what remains of her project, which she spent years putting together, has apparently run out.


Middleburgh Fire Department to Host "Breakfast with Santa"

Written By Editor on 11/20/13 | 11/20/13

The Middleburgh Fire Department and their Ladies Auxiliary will be hosting a breakfast with good 'ole Saint Nicholas on Sunday, December 8th at the fire house from seven until eleven that morning with Santa stopping by from the North Pole around eight for approximately two hours. 
Cost of attendance is $5 per adult, $3 per senior citizen or six to twelve year old, while children under five are admitted at no cost. The breakfast will be served buffet style with the menu featuring pancakes, scrambled eggs and bacon with the choice of several beverages ranging from coffee to juice to wash it all down. 

There will also be children's activities, which will be provided by the local Boy and Girl Scout troops.  

Smith, Skowfoe and Bleau Victorious in Supervisor Races; Conesville Still Without Highway Superintendent

The Schoharie County Board of Elections convened yesterday morning for almost four hours to count hundreds of leftover absentee, affidavit and military ballots in all sixteen towns from November fifth's off-year election. Voters in the Towns of Blenheim, Fulton and Wright finally learned who they elected as their respective Town Supervisor, while the final results in Conesville left residents still without an elected Highway Superintendent heading into the new year.

One of the three too close to call Town Supervisor races was decided just five minutes into this morning's count, with Democratic challenger Sean Smith winning seven of nine absentee ballots and Blenheim's top job over twenty-year incumbent Republican Robert Mann Jr. Mr. Smith received plenty of well wishes and support from members of the county board and other officials in attendance.
The biggest surprise of the morning came from the Town of Conesville's Highway Superintendent election between Stephen Young and Larry Brandow, with Mr. Young heading into the day with what was thought a safe eleven vote lead with twenty-nine ballots yet to be opened. However, as luck would have it, Mr. Brandow carried the absentee and affidavit count overwhelmingly by a decisive 20-9 spread, which resulted in the two candidates ending the day with 154 votes apiece. 

Entering the morning not knowing whether he would retain his position as Town Supervisor in Fulton, let alone the Chairmanship of the county board, incumbent Democrat Phil Skowfoe nervously paced back and forth across the Board of Supervisors chambers as he and his Republican challenger Francis Tatten awaited the results of their highly competitive race, of which the difference was only two votes in the incumbent's favor. With twenty-seven ballots to count Mr. Skowfoe needed only thirteen of them to claim victory, instead he received sixteen and a narrow seven vote victory to boot.

Roughly two dozen observers waited out the remaining eight towns to hear who would win Wright's contest between Democrat Karl Remmers and Republican Amber Bleau, where the Democrat held a three vote lead on election night with forty-five ballots left to count. As anticipation built amongst the audience, the machine decided not to work - delaying the final process for almost five excruciatingly long minutes - which was followed by the Deputy on patrol accidentally turning off the room's lights, adding to the anxiety of everyone in attendance. But after all was said and done, Ms. Bleau carried the absentee and affidavit ballots 26-18 over Mr. Remmers, winning the election by five votes and finally ending the Town of Wright's ten month long lack of representation on the county board.

Conservative Party Did Not File Campaign Finances, Appears to Violate State Law

The Conservative Party of Schoharie County has played a major role in local politics over the last decade under the tenure of current Chair William Hanson. From 2007 to the present it has staked out an independent tack, endorsing multiple candidates across the County for races from Supervisor to Sheriff to County Clerk.

However, as the third largest party in the County it is required to disclose financial transactions so long as they are above $1,000 total. Since 2007, there has not been a single filing.

There is every reason to believe that the Conservative Party has been involved financially in multiple races across the County. Direct evidence came this year in a mailer attacking County Treasurer Bill Cherry and Supervisors Carl Barbic, Gene Milone, and Phil Skowfoe. On the bottom of the mailer, it stated that it was paid for by the Conservative Party. Considering that 4,000 placards were printed and mailed-- it is inconceivable that the total cost was under $1,000.

When researched, there is no filing for the party at all. Not even a basic statement or a quarterly election summary. Not a mention of the mailer or its cost, as required by law.

State law is clear on the issue. On the NYS Board of Elections website there is no room for error.
Committees are required to file either an itemized campaign financial disclosure report, an In-Lieu-Of Statement (if qualified), or a No-Activity Report, as described, for each filing period: 
Itemized Campaign Financial Disclosure Report 
An itemized campaign financial disclosure report is a report disclosing the financial activity for a specific reporting period, detailed on applicable schedule(s), and where at the close of the reporting period, the aggregate of receipts or expenditures of the campaign have exceeded $1,000.
If there is no political activity or fundraising of over $1,000 the committee can report this instead and there would be no money figure attached. Still, with the creation and distribution of the infamous mailer, this does not seem plausible. Since this is the case, how could election law not be followed by a large party in Schoharie County?

New County Board's Weighted Vote Totals by Party, Faction

Written By Editor on 11/19/13 | 11/19/13

As asked for by our readers, we are happy to bring you the totals of the weighted votes controlled by the Democrats and Republicans and those that were endorsed by the Conservative Party or not.

Democrats and Republicans, * Denotes Conservative Party Backing

Cobleskill - 481 (16.2%) (R)
Middleburgh - 352 (11.8%) (D)
Schoharie - 326 (11%) (D)
Richmondville - 241 (8.1%) (R)
Esperance - 204 (6.9%) (R)
Sharon Springs - 184 (6.2%) (D)
Carlisle - 176 (5.9%) (R)
Seward - 164 (5.5%) (D)
Wright -155 (5.2%) (R)*
Jefferson - 129 (4.3%) (R)
Fulton - 127 (4.3%) (D)
Gilboa - 122 (4.1%) (R)
Summit - 112 (3.8%) (R)*
Broome - 95 (3.2%) (R)
Conesville - 73 (2.5%) (R)
Blenheim - 33 (1.1%) (D)

Total Democrats: 6 seats- 1186: 39.9%
Total Republicans: 10 seats- 1788: 60.1%
Total: 2974

Total Non-Conservative: 14 seats- 2704: 91.0%

Total Conservative: 2 seats- 267: 9.0%
Total: 2974

Town of Wright Final Elections Results

The Town of Wright has not seen a Supervisor since the death of Bill Goblet. The infighting left Amber Bleau as de facto Supervisor, unable to represent the Town at the County level. On election night Mr. Remmers led by a scant three votes. However, with over two-dozen absentee ballots left to count, Ms. Bleau wound up with the lead.

Bleau (R-C)- 343: 50.4%
Remmers (D)- 338: 49.6%

It is unclear if there were any affidavit ballots counted in this race but it was the closest in recent memory.

Skowfoe Wins in Fulton

Incumbent Fulton Supervisor Phil Skowfoe has pulled out a dramatic victory in the Town of Fulton race. In the first results, Skowfoe led Republican Town Councilman Frank Tatten by just two votes. With the absentees counted and certified today, Skowfoe expanded this lead.

Skowfoe* (D)- 230: 50.8%
Tatten (R)- 223: 49.2%

* Denotes incumbent

Smith Wins in Final Tally in Blenheim

Newcomer Shawn Smith has officially unseated 20-year incumbent Bob Mann in Blenheim. The 27-year old attorney ran a vigorous campaign and expanded his lead over Mann in the final tally. In the original count, Smith was leading by 6.

Now, with the absentees counted, Smith won by a larger margin.

Smith (D)- 77: 53.5%
Mann (R)*- 66: 46.5%

* Denotes incumbent

Shipp-Hilts Affidavit Points to Collusion with Ethington, Perjury

Details of the infamous Fitzmaurice Report lay out step by step how Personnel Director Cassandra Ethington oversaw a "reign of terror" within county government that resulted in both her control of the Health Department and the termination of public employees based solely on Mrs. Ethington's personal agenda.

This brings us to the curious case of current Health Department Director Asante Shipp-Hilts, who following the Report's revelations of collusion and subordination to Mrs. Ethington, is facing her own removal from power by a Board of Supervisors intent on cleansing the county of the now-suspended Personnel Director's tenure.

Ms. Shipp-Hilts, who has largely escaped public ridicule to this point, appears to have lied in an June, 2012 affidavit in Grimes v. Schoharie County that claimed that after she "arrived at the Department, I was the immediate supervisor of all staff in the Department, plain and simple." Adding that she saw "no rational basis why petitioner would have as she seems to contend, believed Mrs. Ethington was to [sic] holding herself out as head of the Department even after my arrival."

This is directly contradicted by evidence contained within the Fitzmaurice Report that not only documents Mrs. Ethington's takeover of the Health Department - before and during Ms. Shipp-Hilts' county employment started in May, 2011 - but by her own admissions made to investigators. One of which conceded that Mrs. Ethington held the power as the appointing authority in regards to Kim Euler's layoff in late 2011, with additional information showing Mrs. Ethington signed off on it as the "appointing authority and the Interim Director of the Health Department."

Even more troubling is the fact Mrs. Ethington appointed Ms. Shipp-Hilts to the position of Epidemiology Coordinator on April 26, 2011 as the "Appointing Officer with the title of Interim Public Health Director typed under her signature." Which begs the question of how Ms. Shipp-Hilts could have possibly believed she was in charge or made subsequent statements indicating the same when she was clearly hired under the authority of Mrs. Ethington, who was then Interim Health Director.

Mrs. Ethington said as much in a June 14, 2011 memo to Eva Gigandet that stated Ms. Shipp-Hilts "is your immediate supervisor and I am in charge administratively over the health department on a day to day basis until further notice," and again in October, 2011 when she described herself as the "Acting Director, Public Health Department" to co-budget officers Alicia Terry and Paul Brady. Just three months later Mrs. Ethington would sign a letter to then Deputy Director of Public Health Ian Feinstein as the Interim Public Health Director with Ms. Shipp-Hilts listed as only the Epidemiology Coordinator.

All of this proves the glaring inaccuracies of Ms. Shipp-Hilts claims in her June, 2012 affidavit, but that document itself contradicts her past statements in that neither Mrs. Ethington nor Ms. Shipp-Hilts claimed that holding the position of Epidemiology Coordinator constituted control of the Health Department until former health officials initiated lawsuits against the county because of Ethington's actions as Interim Director, with Shipp-Hilts having no say whatsoever in the administrative functions of the department she supposedly was the head of from her appointment in April, 2011 onward.

With November 1st's motion to suspend Ms. Shipp-Hilts fresh in mind, and the Board of Health's subsequent expression of total confidence in her abilities at last Friday's meeting, her fate as Public Health Director could very well be decided by the inaccuracies of both her affidavit and the contents of the Fitzmaurice Report that clearly demonstrate her lack of authority over the embattled department and even that of a subservient role to Mrs. Ethington.

Education Forum Tuesday at Schoharie Central

Written By Editor on 11/18/13 | 11/18/13

All are invited for an Education Forum at Schoharie Central School on Tuesday, November 19th at 4pm to discuss issues revolving around the field of education. Assemblyman Peter Lopez and Senator James Seward have assisted in setting up the event meant to bring in more perspective on modern teaching.

There is no formal format but much of the conversation will likely revolve around two upcoming bills in the State legislature regarding Truth in Testing and Common Core. There will be an opportunity for educators to speak about the issues and ask questions. These concerns in particular have grown since New York State became involved in Common Core.

Opinion: Board Must Re-Institute Grimes and Gigandet

Nearly two years ago Town of Schoharie Supervisor Gene Milone motioned for an investigation to look into allegations of wrongdoing, misconduct and harassment operating within Schoharie County government. It was initially supported overwhelmingly and soon after developed into one of the hottest points of contention on the Board of Supervisors after the tangled weave of corruption started to become unraveled.

The results of this investigative report, with a final price tag in excess of $300,000 that took almost a year to complete after a firm was selected, was damning to Personnel Director Cassandra Ethington: not only did she systemically work with allies on the county board to take over the Health Department following Kathleen Strack's resignation but she fired several employees within that department and others for blatantly personal reasons.

Among those wrongfully terminated, according to the Fitzmaurice Report, were Penny Grimes and Eva Gigandet, two former employees of the Health Department who were intentionally singled out by Mrs. Ethington and fired for decidedly personal reasons - Ms. Gigandet for example was told by the now-suspended Personnel Director that the federal grant money provided for her position could be "better spent elsewhere" and was summarily released without further reason, which at the time led to confusion on the Board of Supervisors over who exactly was in control of the county's health apparatus.

With early November's suspension of Mrs. Ethington and Friday's appointment of Charity Bender to serve as interim head of the embattled Personnel Office, apparently resolving the ongoing management crisis within one of the county's most important departments, there is still one aspect of this entire affair that must be dealt with: restitution for both Ms. Grimes and Ms. Gigandet.

Both of these hard working and experienced Health Department professionals deserve to be rehired not only on the merits of their job qualifications, which are extensive, but to right the unquestionable wrongs of Ms. Ethington's "reign of terror" that resulted in two years of hell for these women that despite separate lawsuits wouldn't be vindicated until the late October release of the investigative report. 

As the Schoharie News reported earlier, the Board of Supervisors will be meeting on December 10th to both approve of the 2014 public budget and to consider reinstating Ms. Grimes and Ms. Gigandet's jobs into the Health Department's budget. The latter proposal faced mixed support at Friday's county board meeting with lame duck Cobleskill Town Supervisor Tom Murray stating that the State Supreme Court had already ruled that they weren't wrongfully dismissed, apparently oblivious to the contents of the report. 

However, at least to the Schoharie News,  it is common sense that final justice should be served as a result of Fitzmaurice's findings with that being the re-institution of both Ms. Grimes and Ms. Gigandet to the county Health Department, which must be approved at the December 10th meeting by the Board of Supervisors in a demonstration of full understanding of the damaging effects Ethington's tenure had on the daily operation of county government and on the lives of her personal targets, who were fired with complete disregard of their credentials and dependent on Mrs. Ethington's agenda.

County Board to Meet on Reinstating Fired Employees

The Schoharie County Board of Supervisors will be meeting to discuss the overall budget proposed by Budget Officer Bill Cherry and will have an extra item on the agenda. Extended discussion was held on Friday revolving around several employees fired during the tenure of suspended Personnel Director Cassandra Ethington.

Multiple Supervisors spoke about what to do about employees that were let go in late 2011 such as Eva Gigandet and Penny Grimes. Mrs. Grimes spoke to the Board and discussed how she worked her way into her position and "earned" her paycheck. Esperance Supervisor Earl vanWormer echoed similar sentiments, calling for reinstatement.

Seward Supervisor Carl Barbic supported a similar tack, but under further consideration. He requested a further look into the budget before making such a decision. After this, Treasurer Bill Cherry said that he would again look into the budget to allow restitution and that he would support such a re-hiring.

Schoharie Supervisor Gene Milone asked for a special meeting to discuss such a re-hire, saying that it was not fair to leave the former employees waiting to know what would happen. He said that the Board should "come to conclusion" on the issue. He called it a "no-brainer" and said that the employees were "wrongfully dismissed."

Cobleskill Supervisor Tom Murray disagreed, stating that the State Supreme Court said that the employees were not wrongfully dismissed.

A majority on the Board did not agree with a consensus call to hold a special meeting at this time.

Penny Grimes Speaking to the Board. Photo Credit SCHOPEG
Former employee Penny Grimes spoke again, asking Mr. Murray what he meant. Murray stated that he did not believe that the Fitzmaurce Report "holds a lot of merit." Grimes stated that the voters supported what the Board did regarding the Report. She said that she was "sick and tired" of other people implying that the Report was a "pack of lies" while looking in Murray's direction. She said that she would not want to sue again, but could in the future.

Watch part of the exchange below. Video credit from SCHOPEG.

Instead of a special meeting, Phil Skowfoe instead asked for the consideration of these issues on December 10th during a regular budget meeting.

Milone, VanWormer, VanGlad Lead in Chair Poll

Written By Editor on 11/17/13 | 11/17/13

The newest Schoharie News poll has a jumbled mix in regards to who should become the next Chair of the County Board of Supervisors. There were many votes-- including an interesting situation revolving around Gilboa Supervisor Tony VanGlad. In rapid succession, about 90 votes were added to his total, which we believe was done either by computer error or someone voting more than they should. As such, with those votes removed we have an interesting picture. Of course, this is an unscientific poll and the extra votes reflects the  imperfect process.

Included in the poll question were Supervisors at least entering in their second term. The poll also includes the current Chair Phil Skowfoe and two former Chairs, Earl VanWormer and Harold Vroman. The results follow.

Manko, Sharon- 17: 7.6%
Buzon, Middleburgh- 13: 5.8%
Milone, Schoharie- 67: 29.9% 
Skowfoe, Fulton- 16: 7.1% 
VanGlad, Gilboa- 29: 12.9% 
Vroman, Summit- 9: 4.0%
Barbic, Seward-7: 3.1%
VanWormer, Esperance- 40: 17.9%
Lape, Richmondville- 15: 6.7% 
Bradt, Carlisle- 11: 4.9% 
Total: 224

Clearly, Gene Milone's leadership relating to the Fitzmaurice Report have been well-received by the residents of the County. In second was former Chair Earl VanWormer, who has not publicly stated that he will seek the chairmanship. Third was Mr. VanGlad, who is very popular in Gilboa. In fourth is Sandra Manko of Sharon.

Story Time and Presents With Santa on December 14

Santa Claus is coming to Schoharie County, bearing gifts and story time, albeit a little early. On Saturday, December 14th from 10-11:30 AM good 'ole Kris Kringle will be at the Zion Lutheran Church in Cobleskill to read the Polar Express and deliver a special gift to every child.

Cost of attendance is $10 per child with a maximum of $20 per family, while children under four are free. Please contact Nancy Brumaghim at 368-5378 or at as space is limited in this special event, of which all proceeds will to the AED Project of Schoharie County.

Advisory for Harsh Weather Tonight

The National Weather Service has put out a bulletin on extreme weather coming to the area tonight. There is a concern that a cold front could bring downpours tonight across New York and New England.

Probability of wind damage. Credit Nat'l Weather Service

The following is the alert from the Weather Service.




And remember-- keep it tuned to the Schoharie News weather page for up-to-the minute forecasts, dam levels, and radar.

Weighted Vote Totals in Schoharie County

Written By Editor on 11/16/13 | 11/16/13

With the polls finally closed across all sixteen towns that make up Schoharie County, and large changes across the Board, the Schoharie News has put together the town by town county board weighted vote totals so that our readers can not only better understand the significance of certain races over others but can track each board faction's strength.

Cobleskill - 481 (16.2%)
Middleburgh - 352 (11.8%)
Schoharie - 326 (11%)
Richmondville - 241 (8.1%)
Esperance - 204 (6.9%)
Sharon Springs - 184 (6.2%)
Carlisle - 176 (5.9%)
Seward - 164 (5.5%)
Wright -155 (5.2%)
Jefferson - 129 (4.3%)
West Fulton - 127 (4.3%)
Gilboa - 122 (4.1%)
Summit - 112 (3.8%)
Broome - 95 (3.2%)
Conesville - 73 (2.5%)
Blenheim - 33 (1.1%)

Board of Health Stands By Public Health Director, Draws Line in Sand

Following the suspension of Personnel Director Cassandra Ethington in November first's special meeting of the county board, there was a motion brought forth by Middleburgh Supervisor Jim Buzon to also suspend Public Health Director Asante Shipp-Hilts, which after a prolonged discussion, was tabled.
Fast-forwarding to yesterday's county board meeting, Board of Health President Betsy Bernocco briefly read a resolution that was recently passed and signed by a majority of their organization in support of Ms. Shipp-Hilts. The resolution "expressed our total confidence... in the abilities of our Public Health Director."
Mrs. Bernocco, who previously served on the county board as the Supervisor of Richmondville, drew a proverbial line in the sand by stating the "power rests on the Board of Health" to determine Ms. Shipp-Hilts' future, and not the Board of Supervisors.
Dr. Joseph Luz, also a member of the Board of Health, stated that "We feel Asante has done an excellent job," and that it "strongly support[s] her to continue in that position." Dr. Luz concluded his remarks by adding that removing her would be an "error."
Schoharie Supervisor Gene Milone followed up Mrs. Bernocco's and Dr. Luz's statements by asking if "either of you read the Fitzmaurice Report," of which both responded that they had, and Mr. Milone replied simply that "was all he wanted to ask." No further discussion was had on the matter.

Cherry to Board: Relocate County Jail

Written By Editor on 11/15/13 | 11/15/13

County Treasurer and Flood Recovery Coordinator William Cherry presented multiple facets of ongoing relief efforts to the County Board of Supervisors earlier today. Among the items was a proposal to move the jail from its existing location to higher ground. The Harvey Stoddard complex remains heavily damaged and a complete solution has not been agreed upon.

On November 1 Senator Chuck Schumer visited the site and agreed with the position of elevation. Treasurer Cherry wrote a letter to Governor Cuomo's office asking for a solution. The issue revolving around the jail will be included with a set of FEMA-related issues that Cuomo's office is sending to Washington.

In his letter to the Governor, Cherry argues that replacing the jail in its current location "doesn't make sense if building a new, relocated facility is cost-effective." In his figures, $14 million would be required to fix the in situ jail and $18.7 to relocate the facility to a location out of the floodplain. He also points out that FEMA must consider the idea of rebuilding in a floodplain if "any such possibility exists."

Cherry continues that the existing site would not only be flood prone, but that emergency response could be hampered. "Every single one of those critical offices was rendered inoperable" due to Hurricane Irene.

Board Names Charity Bender as Interim Deputy Personnel Director

The Town of Carlisle Supervisor and Personnel Committee Chairman Larry Bradt reported to the Board of Supervisors in this morning's session that New York State Civil Service has recommended the creation of a interim Deputy Personnel Director to fill in while current Personnel Director Cassandra Ethington remains suspended following the release of the Fitzmaurice Report in late October.

Mr. Bradt, who made a motion for the position to be created, followed up by motioning that current Deputy Board of Supervisors Clerk Charity Bender should be named to head it. Ms. Bender, argued the Carlisle Supervisor, is qualified for the job and would remain in her current position while also handling the duties of the Personnel Office when need be.

With lunch recess approaching and County Attorney Mike West's presence not expected until after one, discussion of the matter was delayed until the afternoon session, which was passed by voice-vote on a motion to table by Jefferson Supervisor Dan Singletary.

If Bradt's motion to create an interim Deputy Personnel Director is approved this afternoon, it would represent the Board's beginning framework of what a post-Ethington Personnel Office will look like in county government. The introduction of Ms. Bender to oversee its operations in the present signals the Board of looking for outsiders to take the reins of the troubled department.

Update - The Schoharie News has just learned that the Board has approved Ms. Bender's appointment and she is now the legal head of the county's Personnel Office. We will update with for more information as we receive it.

Update 2 - Ms. Bender's motion passed 9-3, with Supervisors Murray, Singletary and Vroman voting against.

Board Votes 12-1 to Contract Guilford Mills Marketing to CBRE

The Schoharie County Board of Supervisors, on a motion by Seward Town Supervisor Carl Barbic, voted 12-1 to enter into a one year contract with CBRE-Albany, a global real estate firm that focuses on property management and leasing, to handle the marketing of the vacant Guilford Mills property in Cobleskill.
Treasurer William Cherry, who was tasked by the Board at last month's meeting to manage marketing of the former Interknitting property that has gone without an occupant for twelve years now, recommended CBRE be contracted because of their extensive global and local portfolio in handling similar transactions.
Mr. Cherry reasoned that since there is "no market for a 265,000 square foot building," that you would "subdivide it and break it up." Cobleskill Town Supervisor Tom Murray, who still believed the offer from Butternuts should be considered, questioned the judgment of the county "becoming a landlord," saying that it would be a "bad road to go down."
In the end only Jefferson Town Supervisor Dan Singletary voted against the motion, arguing that people can "look wonderful on paper," and that he would "like to see another proposal." Supervisor Barbic called that argument a "delay."
CBRE will receive a 5% to 6% commission depending on the final asking price of a potential sale, which Mr. Cherry recommended be set at $3 million but could be lowered to $2-2.5 million depending on the situation.

Letter to the Editor: HCR - We Never Defaulted

To the Editor:
The Schoharie News published a piece recently about Schoharie County’s sale of its Certified Home Health Agency to HCR Home Care. Unfortunately, your article included misstatements about HCR.
For example, your article claimed that HCR was defaulting on payments to other counties in 2011. The fact is that HCR never defaulted on a single payment, and today we maintain strong relationships with each of these counties. In fact, they refer our agency to other entities.
HCR is proud to provide home health services to the people of Schoharie County, through our team of local registered nurses, physical, occupational and speech therapists, medical social workers and home health aides.
Our client service and quality of care are routinely recognized nationally and statewide:
HCR Home Care of Schoharie County was recently listed in HomeCare Elite, which names the top 25 percent of agencies nationwide, based on such performance measures as quality patient outcomes and patient satisfaction ratings.
An independent survey commissioned by the federal government gave HCR of Schoharie County high marks for patient care quality and patient satisfaction, exceeding New York state and national averages in numerous categories.
Clearly, Schoharie County and its residents are benefiting from the CHHA sale to HCR. The people of Schoharie County can be assured that when they choose HCR, they will receive the highest possible quality care.
Sincerely yours,
Elizabeth Zicari, RN BSN CENP Jacklyn R. Losie, RN, AS
Vice President of Clinical Services Director of Patient Services
HCR Home Care HCR Home Care of Schoharie County

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