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Tax issues, elections among year’s top government stories

December 27, 2012
By RODNEY MINOR , The Leader Herald

Editor's note: As 2012 draws to a close, The Leader-Herald will review the top news stories of the year in a five-day series. Today, we look at the top government stories of 2012.

In 2012, redistricting plans affecting local congressional districts and state Senate and Assembly seats were unveiled.

While the plans - and the process they were made by - were the subject of sometimes contentious discussion, ultimately the plans for new districts went through.

Here is a look at that issue, along with others affecting local governments.

Redistricting

Redistricting plans affecting local congressional districts and state Senate and Assembly seats were unveiled this year. Voters in November elected candidates for the altered or new seats, which will go into effect in 2013.

A federal judicial decision in March resulted in changes to local congressional districts.

A three-judge federal panel approved the new election-districts lines drawn by U.S. Magistrate Roanne Mann. The realignment was required to balance statewide district populations based on the 2010 Census. The state lost 2 congressional districts, going from 29 seats down to 27.

Before redistricting, Fulton County was shared by two districts, the 21st and the 23rd. Redistricting meant all of Fulton and Hamilton counties went into the new 21st district.

Voters elected incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, to represent them in the 21st congressional district. Owens represented part of Fulton and all of Hamilton counties in the old 23rd district. He beat Republican challenger Matthew Doheny.

The judicial redistricting decision meant congressional districts 19 and 20 share Montgomery County. The entire county was previously represented by U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, in the 21st district.

The 19th district includes the western part of Montgomery County, including Palatine, St. Johnsville, Minden, Canajoharie, Root and their villages. The district also includes all of Ulster, Dutchess, Greene and Columbia counties.

In November, incumbent U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, has defeated Democrat Julian Schreibman of Ulster County in the 19th Congressional District race.

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Gibson currently represents the 20th District, but parts of his district are to be combined with large swaths of the 22nd Congressional District, represented by retiring U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Saugerties, to form the 19th district.

The 20th district includes only the eastern part of Montgomery County, including Amsterdam and the towns of Mohawk, Glen, Florida and Charleston, along with Fonda, Fultonville and Fort Johnson.

In November, Tonko claimed victory in the race for the 20th district.

Tonko, a veteran of the state Assembly who now represents New York's 21st Congressional District, defeated Bob Dieterich, a Glenville Republican who ran with the support of the Conservative Party.

In January, the proposed redistricting in the state created a new state Senate seat, lumping the agricultural Montgomery County in with parts of Schenectady, Albany, Greene and Ulster counties.

Longtime Republican Sen. Hugh T. Farley lost his representation of Montgomery County in his 44th District under the plan. Montgomery County became part of a new 46th District that includes all of Greene County and parts of Schenectady, Albany and Ulster counties.

The 46th district was created by the Republicans to help protect their majority in a state where Democrats have a nearly 2-1 voter enrollment advantage.

The Republican majority's move to create a 63rd Senate seat in a Republican-friendly area seems to have paid off.

On Dec. 19, Montgomery County Supreme Court Judge Guy Tomlinson declared that Sen.-elect George Amedore won by about 37 votes out of 120,000 cast in the new 46th Senate District.

However, Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk is appealing to a higher court.

The new 49th State Senate District includes all of Fulton and Hamilton counties, as well as northern Herkimer County, eastern Schenectady County and western Saratoga County.

Farley, R-Niskayuna, won the right to represent the new 49th district in November, beating Democratic challenger Madelyn C. Thorne of Schenectady.

Redistricting altered the 117th Assembly District, turning it into the 118th seat and adding a large geographic portion of rural St. Lawrence County, as well as Hamilton and some of Lewis County.

Voters returned Republican Assemblyman Marc W. Butler, who had represented the old 117th Assembly District, to office in November as the new holder of the 118th seat. Butler beat Democratic challenger Joseph Chilelli of Herkimer.

The 105th Assembly District, which includes all of Montgomery County and parts of Schenectady County, including Duanesburg, Princetown and Rotterdam, as well as part of Schenectady, was only changed slightly by redistricting. While it became the 111th District, it only added Knox and Berne in Albany County.

Democrat Angelo Santabarbara won the race for the 111th Assembly District, beating out Republican Thomas Quackenbush, supervisor for the town of Minden.

Nursing home sold

The 176-bed Fulton County Residential Health Care Facility, which was run by Fulton County since the 1960s, switched to private ownership in April.

The county sold its longtime nursing home to Bronx-based Centers for Specialty Care for $3.52 million as part of a fiscal move to strengthen the county's coffers. The sale process took more than two years.

The facility is now known as the Fulton Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare.

Gloversville

facing lawsuits

In April, former Gloversville Transit System Manager Al Schutz agreed to drop his $34,325 suit against the city for overtime and other benefits he said he wasn't paid during his time heading the transit service.

Schutz signed a settlement agreement of about $1,000 in April to resolve the matter. The Common Council later that month authorized Mayor Dayton King to sign the agreement.

Schutz resigned in October 2010 to become transit director in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. He worked for the city from 2004 to 2010. Schutz's suit claimed he was owed $31,175 in overtime pay for four years, $2,250 in longevity pay and a $900 annual clothing allowance.

In May, it was reported a former DPW head has filed suit against the city, claiming negligence in the way his employment was handled.

Former Department of Public Works Director Heath Hardman, represented by Ronald Schur of the Mayfield-based Law Office of Schur & Rose, filed suit in state Supreme Court in Fulton County seeking damages as a result of his employment termination in July 2011 after city officials were told Hardman did not meet the minimum civil service requirements for the job.

King's appointment of Hardman was approved by the Common Council on March 8, 2011, at a $55,000-per-year salary. Council members and King lauded Hardman's work, but his last day on the job was July 8 after the Fulton County Civil Service Office officials found he did not meet the minimum requirements for the position, which does not require a civil service examination.

The requirements were never listed in the job posting, according to the lawsuit.

The suit claims the city was negligent in hiring Hardman without complying to applicable Civil Service rules, as well as failing to enforce and execute provisions in the City Charter.

HRBRRD tax issues

Earlier this month, Fulton County Attorney Arthur Spring told the Board of Supervisors the county can expect $1.66 million in taxes owed by the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District by the end of February.

In August, State Supreme Court Justice Richard T. Aulisi ordered the regulating district to pay Fulton County more than $1.66 million in unpaid county, town and school district taxes by Sept. 28.

However, officials with the regulating district indicated they did not have the money to pay the bill at that time.

Spring told the board earlier this month that the five downstream counties that the regulating district is trying to charge for flood prevention had their appeal denied in court, and the regulating district will begin receiving payments from those counties.

However, the attorney representing the five downstream counties - Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren and Washington - said this month the issue has not been resolved.

The regulating district, a state authority, manages the water level of the Great Sacandaga Lake and in turn controls downstream water levels. The district is trying to find a new way to get revenue after it lost its traditional source of revenue when a court ruled in 2008 it no longer could tax downstream hydropower companies.

In 2010, the district began taxing the five downstream counties. However, the move resulted in the counties challenging the process in court. While courts have upheld the plan, changes were made to charge a percentage of the tax bill to the state. The revised plan was put together in July.

New police chief

Gloversville got a new police chief this year.

Donald VanDeusen was sworn in by Mayor Dayton King on May 8.

VanDeusen worked his way up the ranks, having started with the department in 1990. He replaced former Chief Edgar Beaudin, who retired.

VanDeusen's annual salary is $88,500.

New firehouse

The Berkshire Volunteer Fire Department awarded construction bids totaling a little more than $1.3 million for its new firehouse in late November.

The current fire station on East Fulton Street Extension has been problematic in recent years. The bay doors are 10 feet wide, which is too narrow for modern trucks.

The new firehouse, which will be located on Steele Avenue Extension at the site of the former Fireside Restaurant, will have 12-foot-wide doors.

Officials with the district said the new firehouse could be open in the spring.

CVS Pharmacy is proposing a new 13,225-square-foot store to be built at the site of the current wood-frame firehouse.

Access road

In August, the Gloversville Common Council approved spending $30,000 for a study on whether to build a road accessible to future commercial development along Route 30A.

The road would be built near the site of a Walmart Supercenter off Kingsboro Avenue Extension. The store is now under construction.

City officials have said the Walmart store could attract other businesses to the Route 30A corridor in the city.

The city received the results of the study this month. Peter Faith, assistant vice president of Long Island-based Greenman-Pedersen Inc. Engineering and Construction Services, gave a presentation about the results to the council.

The study showed if the city is granted permission to build a direct access road off Route 30A, it will increase traffic on the state road by more than 145 percent compared to the city using an alternate plan to access properties, being eyed for potential development, using city roads.

However, Faith said, if the access road can't be built with direct access to Route 30A, it would create extreme congestion at Steele Avenue and Route 30A intersection and would need major changes - such as a five-leg roundabout - to mitigate the traffic conditions, Faith said.

Faith said if direct access to Route 30A is granted, it would provide significant benefits, including reducing traffic on city roads, improving site access and improving overall traffic operations by diverting traffic to the higher-designed roadway.

Faith said the goal of the traffic study was to take the first necessary step to obtain state Department of Transportation acceptance of the city's request to allow new access on Route 30A.

The city must submit a draft study to the state DOT for comment and use the comments received to finalize the study. The city will then need to revise its zoning and master plan to accommodate the access road and submit a "Break in Access" request packet that includes the study to the DOT for approval.

Officials with DOT said it is possible the request could be approved. The officials said the access road must show a public benefit to get approval.

Charter approved

In November, Montgomery County voters approved a new charter that will change the county's form of government.

The charter calls for a county legislature and an elected county executive. The charter replaces the current system of a Board of Supervisors with nine district legislators, who will be elected for three-year terms.

A limit of four consecutive terms will be placed on each legislator.

An elected county executive position also will be created.

The executive post will be a full-time position. The executive's powers and duties will include responsibilities such as executing and enforcing all laws and resolutions of the legislature, and exercising supervision and control over all administrative departments, offices and agencies of the county government. The executive also will have the ability to approve and veto any votes by the legislature.

A hearing on the new legislative districts, which are roughly of equal population size, for the new government is set for Jan. 22 at 6:45 p.m.

Interesting elections

While may incumbents and won decidedly on election day, some new faces were chosen by voters. Some races were so close the issue dragged on for more than a month.

In Gloversville, Republican Traci DiMezza was winner in the race for Gloversville City Court judge in November.

DiMezza received a total of 2,228 votes, while current City Court Judge, and fellow Republican, John Clo received 1,792 votes, according to the official results.

DiMezza was endorsed by the city Republican committee after she won the Republican primary. DiMezza also won the Conservative party nomination in September.

The race was initially a three-person contest, but Matthew Trainor stopped campaigning after his September loss in the Republican primary. However, he still received 130 votes in the general election.

Clo was appointed City Court judge in December 2011 by Mayor Dayton King to finish the remaining term of retired Judge Vincent DeSantis.

The City Court judgeship carries a 10-year term and pays $127,400 annually.

DiMezza will be sworn in Jan. 1.

On Dec. 19, Montgomery County Supreme Court Judge Guy Tomlinson declared that Sen.-elect George Amedore won by about 37 votes out of 120,000 cast in the new 46th Senate District.

However, Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk is appealing to a higher court.

The initial results in November left the race too close to call.

Those unofficial results had Tkaczyk, a former president and current vice president of the Duanesburg Central School District Board of Education, with 58,314 votes to Amedore's 58,175.

That result led to a court battle where the validity of hundreds of ballots were challenged by the campaigns, cutting down the number of ballots that were counted.

The new 46th District includes Montgomery and Greene counties and parts of Schenectady, Albany, and Ulster counties.

The 46th district was created by the Republicans earlier this year to help protect their majority in a state where Democrats have a nearly 2-1 voter enrollment advantage.

Right now, the Republican majority's move to create a 63rd Senate in a Republican-friendly district seems to have paid off.

If Amedore's win holds, Republicans have a working majority in the state Senate. That's because Republicans enticed Democratic Sen.-Elect Simcha Felder of Brooklyn to sit and presumably vote with the Republican majority.

Another race that was initially too close to call was for the last spot on the bench in the 4th Judicial District's state Supreme Court race.

A total of eight candidates ran for four judgeships in the district and the election night results provided three clear winners leaving the fourth seat to be decided.

Initial report actually indicated there were four winners in the 11-county race. But Montgomery County Court Judge Felix Catena said he led Franklin County Family Court magistrate John Ellis by only 61 votes.

The election was to be decided by absentee ballots. However, that became more difficult due to the legal action surrounding the new 46th District race.

According to media reports, Catena eventually conceded the race.

The other winners were sitting Supreme Court Judge Joseph Sise, Schenectady Family Court Judge Christine Clark and Rotterdam attorney Thomas Buchanan.

The 4th Judicial District includes Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Montgomery, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren, St. Lawrence and Washington counties.

The justices elected will take office in January for 14-year terms and be paid $136,700 annually.

King extortion

Gloversville Mayor Dayton King was involved in a case where a woman allegedly tried to extort $2,000 from him.

In September, Kristi L. Lyons, 29, a Gloversville resident, pleaded guilty to second-degree harassment, a violation, and was ordered by the court to pay a $120 surcharge. Judge John Clo told Lyons her previous time served is her punishment.

Lyons served nine days in jail from July 16 to 24 after she was arrested, Fulton County Undersheriff Kevin Lenahan said.

The judge also granted two orders of protection against Lyons for the mayor and his wife, Chanda.

City police charged Lyons on July 16 with a felony count of grand larceny.

Authorities said King told police Lyons "invented a relationship" with the mayor and was demanding $2,000 from him in exchange for not divulging the relationship to the media. King said the woman's claims of a relationship were false, and he notified authorities.

King helped police gather evidence in the case by meeting the woman on Spring Street and paying her under police surveillance. Police said detectives observed the meeting and the payoff from King to Lyons in exchange for deleting an email.

 
 

 

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