Taghkanic tales

Sam Pratt‘s blog reprints a press release from Tivoli resident Ardith Truhan (a co-founder of the local community group Taghkanic Neighbors), and, as Pratt points out, it is a story so far unreported. An excerpt of the press release follows, take it for what it is worth:

A former Taghkanic resident has charged the town with arbitrarily and selectively penalizing her and her husband as a result of poor record keeping by the town’s previous building inspector and a politically motivated vendetta in connection with their outspoken opposition to the illegal motorcycle racetrack another resident has attempted to build in the town. Ardith Truhan read a letter at the town’s monthly board meeting Monday night accusing town officials of selectively enforcing a little-used building ordinance that requires all residents to have certificates of occupancy (C of Os) for residential buildings constructed on their property. She added that the town board was “fully apprised of all these events from the start,” and that it met in an improper and illegal executive session last fall—some 13 years after they completed construction on three buildings at their County Rte. 11 property—to determine what she and her husband John Markus owed the town, in “what amounts to an arbitrary $3,500.” Truhan said the board’s “complicity” in the attempt to penalize her and Markus “is quite evident.” At the core of the complaint against them, according to Truhan, was an investigation begun by unsuccessful 2009 town council candidate Erik Tyree, who is an employee of controversial racetrack builder Alan Wilzig. Truhan and Markus have been vocal opponents of Wilzig’s racetrack plan. Tyree, according to Truhan, investigated the paperwork associated with construction of their home, studio and garage apartment, and discovered that former building inspector Ed Waldron had not issued C of Os when the projects were completed in 1996. Tyree then set the town’s current building inspector and code enforcement officer Dennis Callahan on the trail with a formal letter of complaint in 2007, suggesting that Markus and Truhan owed the town $800,000 in fines because of the absence of the C of Os on the buildings. Acting on Tyree’s complaint, Callahan sent Truhan and Markus notices of violation. After consulting with Town Attorney Rob Fitzsimmons, however, Callahan then advised the couple that they could pay “fees” adding up to $10,800 to retroactively renew their building permits for each of the intervening years since construction was completed in order to qualify for the suddenly necessary C of Os. The couple challenged that ruling, and ultimately paid the town a settlement of $3,500 to resolve the matter. Read the entire press release and story at Sam Pratt.

“Hydrant, road trade controversy continues”

The Jamie Larson story in The Register-Star today is incredibly detailed, but I still do not understand the big picture of the proposed switcheroo of a fire hydrant for a road closure. And which meeting did things get decided at, who says, or is that just implied? Can someone in Taghkanic explain?

The occasionally contentious inter-municipal deal to trade the installation of a hydrant for the Taghkanic Fire Department along the city of Hudson water supply line for the closure of the road along the city owned Churchtown reservoir has shifted course, according to town and city officials. At the Monday meeting of the Taghkanic Town Board, members and Highway Superintendent Tom Youhas said the two issues are now separate. Taghkanic Supervisor Elizabeth Young said the hydrant is a public safety issue that is up to the fire department and Youhas will have the ultimate say on whether the road along the reservoir and dam will be closed. Youhas has expressed disapproval of the proposal to trade Reservoir Road for a fire hydrant to be located on Post Hill Road. Hudson Superintendent of Public Works Robert Perry said he’s not sure whether they are separate issues or not. He said the city would like to alleviate a certain level of risk on the city’s end, meaning potential dangers posed to the dam by allowing vehicle traffic on its bank, if the city is going to assume the risk associated with installing and monitoring a hydrant that taps into the city’s pipe running from the smaller dam at a waterfall on the Taghkanic creak to the reservoir 10 miles away. “The ball’s in their court,” Perry said. “The negotiations have just begun. All we’re asking is some consideration to minimize risk elsewhere.” The forge, of New Forge Road, has also become a focus of concern for some in Taghkanic who take issue with the fact that during a drought the waterline can drop below the forge dam spillway and cut off the stream entirely. There is a valve in the dam that can release water past it but Perry said it may never have been opened in the nearly 100 years since it was installed and they aren’t going to touch it for fear that it may rust out and not close. “The DPW people are not sure if the dam is holding the valve in place or if the valve is holding the dam in place,” said Town Board Member Lawrence Kadish at the meeting Monday. “Even if we could open the valve it’s unlikely in a drought situation it would create flow. The obvious conclusion is you need to build a new dam there.” Perry said there is no need to build a new dam and such construction in a creek bed would never be approved by the Department of Environmental Conservation in the modern era. Destruction of the old dam, he said, would most likely have to involve blowing it up with dynamite. “You can clearly see it is lack of rain and not any appurtenance on the part of Hudson that reduces the amount of water in the creek during time of drought.” Taghkanic Creek runs right behind the town’s firehouse and the Taghkanic Volunteer Fire Company #1 uses the creek for water to put out fires. When the creek is dry, the fire company has to travel to one of five privately owned ponds and pump out of a dry hydrant into the four water-carrying vehicles. The dry creek is another reason a hydrant would be so useful. Perry said he does not have a problem with taking the road out of the deal but will hold his opinion until he hears the official request he expects soon from the fire department and not the highway department. All of these issues were discussed on April 24, at a meeting between representatives from both municipalities that included Young, Hudson Mayor Richard Scalera, Perry, Youhas and Kadish. Perry said at the end of the meeting he had the understanding that at the Monday Taghkanic Town Board meeting the idea of closing Reservoir Road to vehicle traffic but leaving it open as a pedestrian trail would be brought up to the public. On Monday however the topic was not brought up at the meeting.

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Official comment?

One of the best results from the recent redesign of the web sites of The Daily Mail and The Register-Star has been the increase in reader participation through online comments. Lately, the politicians and officials at the heart of many stories on the paper’s web sites are writing their own comments. Or are being carefully impersonated in the largely unregulated world of online comments. First, Hudson Mayor Rick Scalera, or someone posing as the mayor, responded to a Feb. 11 Register-Star “My View” opinion column by Taghkanic-based activist Sam Pratt. Three days later, State Assemblyman Marc Molinaro, or an online simulacrum, commented on a Register-Star article about his recent vote against making it easier to cast an absentee ballot. Bob Sacks, or someone claiming the identity of the Copake Town Councilman, also commented on that article. And if The Daily Mail mentions the Cairo Planning Board, you can bet board Chairman Dan Benoit will comment. In a Feb. 11 “My View” column by Leeds-based businessman Bob Nappa, Benoit pipes in once the chatter in the comments section gets around to Cairo. In each case, officials leave e-mail addresses and phone numbers for constituents to get in touch about whatever issue getting is being discussed. Bravo!

Taghkanic board votes for mine moratorium

Molly Salisbury in The Register-Star reports the Taghkanic Town Board last night voted to set the process in motion to enact a six-month moratorium on any new gravel mine permit applications in areas zoned R-2 and R-3. The moratorium, which will only take effect after a public hearing March 1, comes largely because of the the Berry Pond LLC gravel mine application. The Taghkanic Zoning ordinance contains a discrepancy regarding the code’s stance on mining in Residential 2 and 3 acre zones, although Salisbury does cite it specifically. The Berry Pond mine application being reviewed by Taghkanic’s Zoning Board of Appeals is asking for a special permit to mine in an area zoned R-2, and, if the moratorium survives the public hearing, would be delayed six months. “The March 1 date [for the public hearing] is tentative, as the availability of the firehouse is in question, and the hearing will need the larger space,” Salisbury wrote, failing to name the firehouse in question.

Judge Nichols says GOP case “completely unconvincing”

Sam Pratt is reporting from the Taghkanic absentee voter case at the Hudson Elks Club on Harry Howard Boulevard, next to the high school:

“Judge Jonathan Nichols dressed down James Walsh, attorney for Greg Fingar and the Columbia County Republicans, in court this morning. Nichols characterized the GOP’s legal arguments as “completely unconvincing,” and ordered 46 ballots to be opened by the Board of Elections. Court will reconvene at 2 p.m. to discuss three remaining ballots…”

and later posted:

“After the BOE review of ballots, all of the Democratic candidates in Tagkanic whose races were still in doubt are now in the lead or tied, with just four ballots (all presumed to be Democratic-leaning) to be ruled upon by Judge Nichols at 2 p.m. [Alan] Wilzig [local landowner, would-be racetrack builder] employee Erik Tyree is currently tied with Larry Kadish for one of the two Town Board seats.”

Judge McGrath rules permanent injunction against Wilzig race track

Sam Pratt is reporting Judge Patrick McGrath gave a ruling granting, “the Granger Group’s petition for a permanent injunction against the mile-long, 40-foot-wide racetrack which Alan Wilzig began bulldozing way back in the Summer of 2006.” McGrath wrote: “Petitioners request for a permanent injunction is granted enjoining the Town of Taghkanic, Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of Taghkanic, Town of Taghkanic Planning Board, Dennis Callahan as Code Enforcement Officer and Building Inspector for the Town of Taghkanic or any other employee or agent of the Town of Taghkanic from issuing a Building Permit, Certificate of Compliance and/or Certificate of Occupancy or Site Plan approval for the sporting course or track located on the Wilzig property and Alan Wilzig and Karin Wilzig are permanently enjoined form using, constructing, or completing the sporting course or track in any way or manner as well as any agent, guest or invitee of Alan or Karin Wilzig.”

Officials stressing One City Centre purchase

Check out that headline in The Register-Star by the usually smarter writer Francesca Olsen. If you read deep down in her story you see why the officials are stressing a future building purchase: they don’t want you to think about the tax increase they just passed. Five paragraphs in Olsen mentions “Local laws renewing an additional half-percent of mortgage tax and an additional $2 per $1,000 of additional transfer tax on real property were also enacted.” Finally, seven paragraphs in, Olsen quotes Rick Rielly, president of the Columbia-Greene Board of Realtors, saying, “These are taxes, any way you look at it.” Olsen doesn’t even dare to say who voted for the tax, only that, “The renewal of taxes passed, with Supervisor John Musall, D-Hudson 1, abstaining, Supervisor William Hughes, D-Hudson 4, voting no on the additional transfer tax, and Supervisor Ed Cross, D-Hudson 2, voting no on the renewal.” Cross voted no on both taxes.

Here is who voted for the mortgage tax:
Ancram’s Thomas Dias; Canaan’s Richard Keaveney; Chatham’s Jesse DeGroodt; Claverack’s James Keegan; Clermont’s Raymond Staats; Copake’s Reginald Crowley; Gallatin’s Lynda Scheer; Germantown’s Roy Brown; Ghent’s Lawrence Andrews; Greenport’s John Rutkey Sr.; Hillsdale’s Arthur Baer; Hudson’s 4th Ward-William Hughes, 5th Ward -Bart Delaney; Kinderhook’s Douglas McGivney; Livingston’s Philip Williams; New Lebanon’s Margaret Robertson; Stockport’s Leo Pulcher; Stuyvesant’s Valerie Bertram; Taghkanic’s Elizabeth Young. The same group voted for the transfer tax, except for Hudson’s William Hughes, who voted against.