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Killing of teens, Kateri’s sainthood among top 10 stories

December 31, 2012
By TIM FONDA , The Leader Herald

EDITOR'S NOTE: As 2012 draws to a close, The Leader-Herald is reviewing the top local stories of the year in a five-part series. In today's final installment, we look at the top 10 local stories in Fulton, Montgomery and southern Hamilton counties.

The killing of two teenagers in the town of Florida, local school districts' financial struggles and the merger of the Oppenheim-Ephratah and St. Johnsville school districts were among the top local stories of 2012.

The Leader-Herald ranked the top local news of the year.

1) Teens killed

The killing of two teenagers in the town of Florida in July stunned the community.

Anthony E. Brasmeister, 16, and Matthew Phelps, 15, were arrested in the July 9 shooting deaths of Paul Damphier, 16, and Jonathan DeJesus, 13, in a field near Snooks Corners Road in the town of Florida.

Phelps and Brasmeister were indicted earlier this month on two counts each of second-degree murder and two counts each of fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon in connection with the slayings.

The Montgomery County district attorney said Brasmeister and Phelps will be tried as adults.

2) St. Kateri

Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 21 named Kateri Tekakwitha a saint in Vatican City while thousands of people gathered at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville to celebrate the first Native American to be named a saint.

Many traveled to the shrine in Auriesville and the National Kateri Shrine in Fonda. For the local shrines, Kateri's sainthood ended years of efforts to have Kateri named a saint.

Kateri, known as the Lily of the Mo-

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hawk, was born in 1656 to an Algonquin mother and a Mohawk chief in the Mohawk village of Canaouaga, which now is Auriesville.

3) Amsterdam slaying

Two Amsterdam residents, William McDermott and Cheryl Goss, were found stabbed to death March 2 in an apartment on Locust Avenue in Amsterdam.

The alleged killer, Ivan Ramos, 30, of 51 Milton Ave., later was indicted in September in the case. He is scheduled to stand trial Jan. 22 on two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

4) School finances

Some local school districts had to make difficult budget decisions this year. For the first time, schools had to adhere to guidelines under the new tax-levy cap imposed by the state. Voters in the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District and the Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School District rejected their districts' budget proposals, which sought to exceed the tax cap. The districts later adopted lower budgets.

Other rural school districts also had to cut expenses to keep tax levies down.

The Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Education Services cut more than a dozen jobs based on the needs of member districts.

In the middle of the school year, Fonda-Fultonville had to make more budget cuts, which resulted in the elimination of spring sports.

5) Motorist convicted

A young man who authorities said drove his car recklessly and crashed it, killing a front-seat passenger and badly injuring the deceased man's teenage sister, was sentenced in September.

Justin M. VanNostrand, 20, of 186 Elmwood Ave., Gloversville, pleaded guilty June 13 in Fulton County Court to second-degree manslaughter and third-degree reckless endangerment, both felonies. He was sentenced Sept. 17 to 2 1/3 to seven years in state prison.

VanNostrand was driving recklessly on Steele Avenue Extension and crashed into an embankment at the end of the road at the intersection with Route 29 in the town of Johnstown, authorities said.

The accident claimed the life of his friend Christopher Insogna, 19, and seriously injured Insogna's sister, Kelsey, then 17, who was riding in the back seat.

6) New form of


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.

An elected county executive position also will be created. The full-time executive will supervise all administrative departments, offices and agencies.

7) Proposed school mergers

In efforts to save money and programs, some school districts have been proposing mergers.

Among the local proposals: a merger between the Mayfield and Northville central school districts; and a merger between the Oppenheim-Ephratah and St. Johnsville central school districts.

Voters rejected the Mayfield-Northville proposal, but the Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville proposal passed.

Oppenheim-Ephratah voters approved a merger with St. Johnsville in a 385-366 vote. The merger will take effect July 1.

A year ago, district residents rejected the proposed merger in a vote of 458-400. St. Johnsville school voters approved the merger last December.

8) Tryon plan

Fulton County in the new year plans to take possession of the stated-owned Tryon youth detention facility property on the Johnstown-Perth line.

The 515-acre complex was closed in 2011.

In September, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the property will be turned over to the county Industrial Development Agency at no cost.

The county plans to turn it into what will be called the Tryon Technology Park and Incubator Center. State and local officials say the site, with its 40 existing buildings, could be ready to welcome its first business occupants in 2013, and it could eventually generate hundreds of jobs.

9) Regulating district's tax debt

The Hudson River-Black River Regulating District failed to pay its property taxes this year.

The district, which regulates the Great Sacandaga Lake, says it doesn't have the money to pay its taxes since a court ruled in 2008 the district no longer could assess downstream hydropower companies.

The district, however, now says it will assess five counties that benefit from the district's services - Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren and Washington - to obtain the money to pay its taxes. Those counties counter the issue is not yet resolved.

Earlier this month, Fulton County Attorney Arthur Spring told the county Board of Supervisors the county can expect $1.66 million in taxes owed by the regulating district by the end of February.

10) Legislative


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.

Under the new boundaries, two congressional representatives will share Montgomery County.

A new state Senate seat includes Montgomery County and parts of Schenectady, Albany, Greene and Ulster counties.

Another state Senate district, whose representative will be Sen. Hugh Farley, includes all of Fulton and Hamilton counties, and parts of Herkimer, Schenectady and Saratoga counties.

The new 118th state Assembly District includes St. Lawrence County, as well as Hamilton County and some of Lewis county. Voters elected Assemblyman Marc W. Butler to that seat.

The new 111th Assembly District includes all of Montgomery County and parts of Schenectady and Albany counties. Angelo Santabarbara won the seat.



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