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New Queensbury board brings back old law firm, restores deputy supervisor post

QUEENSBURY — The new Queensbury Town Board got right to work on the first day of 2018 by approving resolutions to rehire its former law firm and restore the deputy supervisor’s position — two issues intertwined with 2017’s political drama that led to the Democrat takeover of the board.

Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, swore in the town officials as a group on Monday, including new Democratic board members Jennifer Switzer and Catherine Atherden.

The board then conducted its organizational meeting, which included voting unanimously to retain the services of Miller, Mannix, Schachner & Hafner. The firm will provide the bulk of legal services to the town at a fee of $200 per hour.

Fitzgerald Morris Baker Firth will still have a small role, as the board voted to retain Mike Crowe for an ongoing CSEA legal mater. Supervisor John Strough said the firm may be used on other projects.

Miller, Mannix, Schachner & Hafner had previously represented the town until the board in November 2016 voted to switch legal counsel to Fitzgerald Morris Baker Firth. Supervisor John Strough objected to that decision because Fitzgerald Morris Baker Firth has ties to the Republican Party, with at least three of its lawyers having served on the Warren County Republican Committee.

Board member Tony Metivier joined Strough in voting against that change, which led to GOP leaders not endorsing Metivier for re-election. GOP officials recruited Hal Bain for the position, but Bain subsequently told party leaders he did not want to continue the campaign after Metivier filed positions to force a primary.

GOP committee members had a discussion, over official email accounts, about keeping Bain on the ballot. Then, he could resign after being elected and the committee could select someone new to be appointed to the board.

John Aspland, managing partner of Fitzgerald Morris Baker Firth and then a vice chairman of the Queensbury Republican Committee, said in an email, “This option would be optimal” regarding the Bain situation.

Metivier subsequently won the GOP primary and was cross-endorsed by the Democrats.

The Democrats swept all the contested seats, with Strough and Metivier being re-elected and Switzer and Atherden ousting Republicans Tim Brewer and Brian Clements. George Ferone, who ran unopposed, is the lone Republican on the board.

The new board on Monday also voted to appoint Metivier to the deputy supervisor post. Strough had wanted to appoint him in December 2016, but Clement and former board members Doug Irish and William VanNess voted to eliminate the position — possibly in retaliation for Metivier’s vote on the law firm.

Strough alluded to the past controversy over the job.

“Tony made history for being the briefest deputy town supervisor in history,” he said.

Metivier will receive a $3,000 stipend for the position.

Strough offered some brief remarks at the beginning of the meeting about the historic nature of the new board.

He said he cannot remember a time when two women have been on the board at the same time. Atherden and Switzer are the first Democratic women on the board.

“It only took 255 years,” he said.

Strough also believes this is the first time a Democrat is serving a third term as supervisor.

Strough made it clear that the board is going to work together — regardless of party labels — to provide stability and and dependability and provide government that is open and transparent, environmentally friendly, economically progressive and taxpayer-friendly.

“We care about your concerns and we care about this community and we will work to make Queensbury a better place to live,” he said.


Lake George Polar Plunge one of the coldest yet

LAKE GEORGE — As the air temperature hovered near a record low, so did the number of participants for this year’s New Year’s Day Lake George Polar Plunge charity event.

The plunge has had more than 1,000 participants in previous years, but only about 400 were willing to brave the frigid waters this time around, as the air temperature stood at a stubborn 4 degrees early Monday afternoon.

Firefighters, police and other volunteers broke up the ice and kept a watchful eye on all swimsuit-clad participants as they stood shivering on the shoreline. Organizer Linda Duffy, who has been involved with the event for 18 years, said a firefighter measured the surface temperature of the water at 8 degrees when they broke the ice.

“The fire department has been very cooperative this year,” said Duffy. “They took it upon themselves to make sure we have enough people here for the conditions.”

This is the first year the plunge has had a heated tent for the swimmers’ comfort.

Despite the arctic weather, which forced the cancellation of similar events in the Northeast, the bright sunshine on Shepard Park Beach evoked summer sentiments for some. Oscar Turpin, dressed in swim trunks and a beach pullover, rocked barefoot in the powdery snow, playing air guitar to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” which blared over the event PA system.

“You’ve got to be reborn every year,” said Turpin, a 54-year-old South Boston, Massachusetts, resident.

This was Turpin’s first time taking part in the Polar Plunge in Lake George. He participated in similar events 13 times in the Boston area.

“This is colder because you don’t have the ocean saltwater,” he said.

Among local participants were three high school girls from Chestertown, one of whom has participated in the event since age 9. The three have made it a New Year’s tradition for five years.

Grafton resident Marcy Pfeiffer has also braved the plunge for the past five years.

“It’s a tradition,” she said. “Most people think it’s crazy, but it’s a great way to start the year.”

Pfeiffer has brought friends to the plunge in the past, but no one had wanted to return until this year, when she came with her boyfriend, Kyle Sweet of Cropseyville. The two vow to return next year, but not without hope for warmer temperatures.

Legislature returns, faces tough choices on budget, MTA

ALBANY — The new year dawns with political storm clouds bearing down on New York lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The New York City subway system, beset by breakdowns and delays, needs a massive investment. The upcoming corruption trial of a former top Cuomo adviser threatens to dim the Democrat’s presidential chances. The state faces a $4 billion deficit, while ongoing conflicts with Republicans in Washington mean the state could lose even more health care funding. Then this fall, Cuomo and the entire Legislature face re-election.

It all adds up to a year of political maneuvering, tough choices and no easy answers.

“Extremely difficult,” is the prediction from Sen. David Carlucci, a Rockland County Democrat. “The most important thing we can do is try to put the politics aside, at least for six months.”

The work gets underway Wednesday when the Legislature reconvenes and Cuomo delivers his state of the state address.

Big issues for the year include a contentious bill that would extend the statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases to allow victims to sue for decades-old abuse, a proposal long opposed by the Catholic Church and other institutions.

Lawmakers are also expected to take up measures to require greater disclosure when it comes to the groups paying for online political ads, and possible changes to state voting laws to make it easier for New Yorkers to cast ballots.

The year’s toughest challenges are likely to be financial. Following a few years of relative fiscal stability thanks to the economic recovery and bank settlements following the financial collapse, New York is staring down a budget deficit of more than $4 billion, an amount that could be grow because of cuts in federal health care spending and the tax overhaul.

With elections in the fall, tax increases are likely to be a last resort for lawmakers looking to balance the more than $150 billion spending plan.

“The last thing upstate’s economy, its employers or its residents can endure are any additions to our already suffocating tax climate,” said Greg Biryla, executive director of the economic advocacy group Unshackle Upstate.

Republicans, who control the state Senate, will focus on ensuring existing funds are being spent effectively, according to Senate Leader John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican. He said they’ll also push to make an existing cap on tax increases permanent.

“I want to look at every tax dollar we spend,” he said.

The state’s long-term fiscal outlook gets bleaker still when major needs like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority are added to the balance sheet. New York’s subways, suffering from decades of relative financial neglect, require billions of dollars for equipment upgrades and repairs. City officials, Cuomo and lawmakers have blamed each other while the country’s largest mass transit system continues to languish, forcing commuters to put up with chronic delays, breakdowns and service interruptions.

“The finger-pointing has to stop,” Cuomo said, before pointing his own squarely at lawmakers: “If the Legislature does nothing, they’re driving the train.”

The MTA is only one of the potential pitfalls waiting for Cuomo. Former top aide Joe Percoco, who Cuomo once likened to a brother, is scheduled to go on trial in late January in a federal bribery case involving Cuomo’s high-profile economic development programs. The case, likely to highlight Albany’s chronic insider, pay-to-play culture, comes at a bad time for the governor, who is running for a third term in 2018 and is widely considered a possible candidate for president in 2020.

The state will also be buffeted by strong winds from Washington and beyond. Democrats say they’ll look for ways to push back on attempts by President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans to curb immigration or roll back environmental protections.

“We will do everything in our power to protect New York families from Washington’s greedy, shameless and misguided policies,” said Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat.

The national attention on sexual misconduct, meanwhile, is prompting bipartisan calls for new laws to combat harassment and wrongdoing in the workplace, in government and society.

Sen. Catharine Young, a western New York Republican, is the sponsor of a proposal that would expand the legal definition of workplace harassment and prohibit confidential settlements as a way to encourage companies to adopt a tougher stance on the problem. Young said the idea is to “help prevent harassment, punish abusers and protect victims.”





Dan Hall sworn in as Glens Falls mayor

GLENS FALLS — A standing-room-only crowd gave a warm welcome to Mayor Dan Hall and the new Common Council as they took their oaths of office on Monday.

Hall said he was very excited to take office as the 22nd mayor of the city of Glens Falls and thanked the audience for their support. He said people often do not know what lies ahead in their path of life.

“I think God puts people in your path, and a lot of you people here are people that God has put in my path,” Hall said.

He said he was humbled to have so many in attendance, including city department heads, local leaders, his twin brother and family and friends from as far back as grade school.

He said he was grateful to have as a mentor former Mayor Jack Diamond, who was not present at the ceremony because he is recovering from hip surgery. Hall said Diamond encouraged him to run for mayor and put the city on a solid footing.

“It seems like I’m taking over a first-place team,” he said.

Hall said the word he would use to describe his administration is “optimistic.”

“I’m very optimistic with this council, with you people, with your support. I think the city’s headed in the right direction and I want to keep the momentum going,” he said.

Retired New York State Supreme Court Justice David Krogmann swore in the new council.

After a brief bit of routine business, including setting the meeting schedule and making appointments to city positions, the councilors shared their thoughts on the new term.

Councilor-at-Large Jane Reid simply said “onward.”

First Ward Councilor Bill Campinell said he appreciated being re-elected.

“I will do my best to forward the agenda for the betterment of Glens Falls and especially working with my unity team and our newest member, Diana Palmer,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll do a lot for Glens Falls. We’ve accomplished a lot in four years and I think we’ll do even more in the next four years.”

Second Ward Councilor Bill Collins said he is grateful to be in his position. “I’m very excited to be part of this,” he said.

Third Ward Councilor Palmer expressed her gratitude and appreciation for friends and family and all who have supported her during this process. She has been meeting with department heads to get up to speed on city issues.

“I’m really looking forward to working with this fine group of people and rolling up my sleeves and getting to work,” she said.

Fourth Ward Councilor Scott Endieveri was among those who passed on well wishes to the new mayor.

“You can count on me — anything you need,” he said.

Fifth Ward Councilor Jim Clark said he has gotten close with his fellow councilors, which is why the group decided to run as a bipartisan unity ticket.

“We know each other personally. That helps us in our decision-making process. We care deeply about this city and about each other. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with,” he said.

Hall also praised the department heads and other city officials, including City Clerk Robert Curtis, who helped organize the ceremony. Curtis said local government is the “heart and soul of our democracy” because it is closest to the people.

Curtis said he believes Hall shares similar qualities with the first mayor of Glens Falls, Charles W. Cool, in his passion for the city.

“He’s the number one cheerleader for the city, with the same upbeat, can-do qualities, a very high energy level and a driven agenda,” he said.