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Local
'You can't ignore this': State and others talk salt during Lake George summit

LAKE GEORGE — People from all different stakeholder groups came to talk salt Wednesday at the fourth annual Stop Aquatic Invasives from Entering (S.A.V.E.) Lake George Partnership Salt Summit held in the Fort William Henry Conference Center in Lake George.

Changes in winter road maintenance are making the Lake George area a little less salty, but some local officials and water quality advocates think there’s more work to be done.

The conference took a more business-oriented approach this year, at times focusing on the budgetary impacts of reducing salt use and pushing lawmakers to adopt policies and purchase salt-reduction equipment. The Lake George Park Commission made known that it can help municipalities apply for grants to help offset costs.

Robert Fitch, director of the Office of Transportation and Maintenance for the state Department of Transportation, provided an update on a salt management study that will happen this winter on an approximately 17-mile stretch of Route 9, from the village of Lake George to the town of Bolton.

Fitch said DOT will use brine when appropriate, use a segmented live-edge plow blade, use enhanced GPS and a system that detects how much salt is released and where, train plow operators in salt management and conduct post-storm reviews to see how different practices went.

A similar pilot studying is happening in Lake Placid, except DOT will be testing an abrasives mixture. Fitch said local officials were against abrasives in Lake George because the lake has enough sediment issues. Lake George is currently on an impaired water body list for having too much sediment.

gcraig / Gwendolyn Craig, gcraig@poststar.com 

Lake George Highway Superintendent Dan Davis, left, and Executive Director of the Fund for Lake George Eric Siy, right, stand before a live-edge plow Wednesday during the fourth annual Salt Summit in Lake George.

DOT is also organizing a strategic working group for both pilot studies made up of water quality advocates and state agencies. A second tactical working group will meet, too, made up of municipalities, highway crews, businesses and local advocates.

“Thankfully, we’re all working together,” Fitch said. “... You can’t ignore this. The bottom line is the department is concerned about this. We’re engaged, and we’re tying to find some meaningful results.”

The Town of Lake George’s Highway Department was honored during the second half of the day for its road salt reduction initiatives. The crew received an award for becoming the first Sustainable Winter Management road certified municipality in the Adirondacks. That new certification is part of a program administered by WIT Advisors, a landscaping and winter management services company.

gcraig / Gwendolyn Craig, gcraig@poststar.com 

The Town of Lake George Highway Department is awarded a Sustainable Winter Management road certification Wednesday during the fourth annual Stop Aquatic Invasives from Entering (S.A.V.E.) Lake George Partnership Salt Summit in Lake George.

David Wick, executive director of the Lake George Park Commission, gave an overview of salt reduction efforts in the watershed in the past decade. There are 22 road sensors measuring real-time road surface temperature. More municipalities are using brine, or saltwater, to prevent icing. Each town in the park, he added, will have at least one live-edge plow coming up this year.

“This whole project has come together with a whole consortium of people working together,” he said. “... We do have some resources to make some good things happen.”


Local
Former Mayor DeSantis, who led Glens Falls in mid-1990s, remembered

GLENS FALLS — Vincent DeSantis was all about the community and connections.

The former mayor, who died on Tuesday at the age of 91, enjoyed connecting people who had similar interests.

“Relationships were his forte,” said Kathy Thomson, one of his daughters.

Thomson said her father, who served as mayor from 1994 to 1997, would engage anyone in conversation.

DeSantis was able to build so many connections because of his work and community service. He spent 30 years as a fourth-grade teacher at Harrison Avenue Elementary School in South Glens Falls, where he was affectionately referred to as “Mr. D.” and known for being fair but firm.

“You wanted to please him,” Thomson said.

DeSantis kept in touch with many of his students — attending their weddings and graduation ceremonies.

A son, Raymond DeSantis, said his father’s Catholic faith was important to him and that reflected how he interacted with people.

“The people that were in the house were treated no differently than the people outside,” he said.

It was through his teaching career that he got involved in politics. DeSantis did various jobs during the summers to keep busy, including tending bar and leading the local Youth Conservation Corps. He was elected and served two terms as city assessor. Then, he ran for mayor in 1994 and was elected.

Mary Ellen DeSantis said her father-in-law looked the part of a mayor — wearing suspenders and a tie.

“I can still see his smile from ear to ear,” she said.

DeSantis thought nothing of riding down a roller coaster, or up in a hot air balloon, as part of his duties.

Regarding the latter, Thomson said her father agreed to the ride on the condition that he make it back in time for the Common Council meeting at 7 p.m. The balloon pilot was having a little fun flying and dipped the basket too low into a pond, getting his father wet. His father made it time for the meeting — with wet shoes and socks.

DeSantis was also active in the Italian American Club, American Legion Post 253, Knights of Columbus, St. Mary’s Church and numerous other groups.

Another son, John DeSantis, said his father learned his civic duty from his grandparents, who ran a restaurant on Lawrence Street in Glens Falls and gave over 50,000 free meals to veterans just coming back from World War II.

Despite his numerous commitments, daughter Mary DeSantis said her father always made time for his family.

“He always tried to attend everything we ever had — concerts, sporting events, anything we had going on,” she said.

The family said DeSantis was able to accomplish as much as he did with the support of his wife, Shirley, who died in 2015.

Even though he was undergoing dialysis three times per week, he was still up for adventures. This past June, he took a trip with his family to California, where he met up with Mary Jane Dennehy Larkin, who was the only other surviving member of the St. Mary’s Academy Class of 1944.

DeSantis maintained that same zest for life right up until the end. Mary DeSantis said one of his last questions to her was, “What are we doing tomorrow?”

Community members on Wednesday reflected on the legacy of DeSantis.

“Mayor DeSantis was a wonderful man who was always supportive of whoever was the mayor,” said Glens Falls Mayor Daniel Hall in a news release. “He was full of history, and if you had a question about something to do with Glens Falls, he was the guy to go to. He was always very encouraging to me and he will be missed.”

Fifth Ward Councilman Jim Clark, who served as DeSantis’ assistant, said he considered him a mentor. Clark first met DeSantis while Clark was still in college, and he inquired about working for DeSantis, should he be elected mayor.

When there was opening, DeSantis reached out to him and convinced him to move back from Binghamton, where he was working for a state senator, to take the job.

It was a wonderful experience, according to Clark.

“Every day he cared so much for the city in his work ethic and his demeanor with constituents and with the council, and it was just evident in all that he did,” he said.

Clark said while DeSantis was a Republican, he had good relationships with his Democratic colleagues.

“The mayor was respectful of their opinions. He certainly wanted to move the city forward,” he said.

DeSantis declined to seek re-election because he wanted to spend more time with family and friends, according to a Post-Star article at the time.

Former Mayor Robert Regan, who served as assistant city attorney under DeSantis and succeeded him as mayor, credited his boss at the time for beginning the economic revitalization of downtown Glens Falls.

“His was the first administration to actually create and fund a full-time economic development director. Prior to him, that position didn’t exist. I think he understood the importance of having a person full-time solely devoted to that activity,” he said.

Among the initiatives were starting a program to improve building facades and recruiting the Davidson Brothers brew pub to the city, Regan added.

Regan said DeSantis was the “most genuinely nice human being he has ever met” and a great storyteller who had intimate knowledge of the community.

“He knew every neighborhood, every block, every family,” he said.

EDC Warren County President Edward Bartholomew, who served as mayor from 1978 to 1985, said DeSantis was a great “ambassador” for the city.

“He was a most welcoming individual, and he will be missed. He remains part of our charm within our city,” he said.

Flags will be lowered to half staff in the city for the rest of the week.

A wake will be held on Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Singleton Sullivan Potter Funeral Home at 407 Bay Road, Queensbury. The funeral will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Mary’s Church at 62 Warren St. in Glens Falls.


Local
Some in region got Amber Alert, others didn't in Hudson Falls missing girl case

Putnam resident Robin McGrath saw from media coverage that an Amber Alert had been issued for a girl missing from her county, but she was perplexed as to why she didn’t receive a cell phone alert when others in the region did.

She had received phone alerts before when Amber Alerts were issued, but couldn’t understand why residents less than an hour north of the missing girl’s hometown weren’t notified.

“We’ve received them when a kid was missing in Vermont before. They should blast this news everywhere,” McGrath said.

Police: Hudson Falls girl found safe

Police said Friday afternoon that the 12-year-old girl who had been missing from Hudson Falls for two days was found unharmed in New York City, hours after a man who drove her there had been arrested for his alleged role in her disappearance.

The alert was issued after 12-year-old Hudson Falls resident Malaya Johnson ran away from home last week, catching a ride with two men she met on social media. She was found unharmed in New York City 46 hours later, after a massive police investigation.

Residents of northern Washington and Warren counties may not have received a cellphone alert last week’s because of a quirk in the system that places them in a northern region of the Amber Alert system, including Essex, Franklin and Clinton counties, instead of the region that includes the rest of the counties and points south.

The state is broken into 12 Amber Alert zones, and the State Police administrators of the system determine to which zones the notifications should go based on leads in the case. If there are no leads, statewide activation can be made.

In last week’s case, police knew the night that Malaya was missing that her phone had been located in Rockland County, so notification was made to the Capital District zone that includes the Glens Falls region and points south, but not to the north, Washington County Sheriff Jeff Murphy said.

Beau Duffy, a spokesman for the State Police, said Amber Alerts are sent out two different ways — through the state emergency alert system that sends out emails, text messages and makes phone calls; and a “wireless emergency alert” phone system used by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Police: Runaway girl is home, investigation continues

HUDSON FALLS — The 12-year-old girl whose decision to run away from home to New York City prompted a massive police investigation last week was home with her mother as of Monday, and police were looking into whether anyone else should face charges for her disappearance.

The state warning would have gone to every resident of Washington County who signed up for state emergency alerts, and the NCMEC alerts would go to cellphones of all users in the zones that were activated, he explained.

“The leads they had gotten were that they were traveling south,” Duffy said of Malaya’s case.

Amber Alerts generate a high number of phone calls and leads for police. Murphy said that four additional people were assigned to the county dispatching center on Thursday to field tips from the public.

“They were getting reports about red Mustangs all around the area that had to be checked out,” the sheriff said. “It’s very helpful, but it adds a lot of work to the case.”

While some have questioned why an Amber Alert wasn’t issued Wednesday night or earlier Thursday, Murphy said the Sheriff’s Office requested one but was initially turned down. It wasn’t until after investigators learned that Malaya had gotten into a red Ford Mustang after school with two men her friend didn’t recognize, and no trace of her had been found for nearly 24 hours, that Amber Alert administrators agreed to issue the alert.

“It’s kind of common that every time a child is missing, people want an Amber Alert, but if we used it every single time people would see it and think, ‘Oh, it’s just another Amber Alert,’” the sheriff explained.

The state has specific criteria, listed below:

“The New York State Amber Alert Plan can be activated when an investigating law enforcement agency has reasonable cause to believe that:

An abduction of a child (under the age of 18) has occurred, and the child is believed to be in danger of serious bodily harm or death, either due to the actions of another or due to a proven mental or physical condition. Even if formal activation criteria have been met, activation may be impractical if available information is not specific enough and/or an extended period of time has passed since the disappearance.”

Hours after the alert was issued, someone claiming to be Malaya did reach out to a loved one via an online messenger application, indicating she was safe in Manhattan, but it wasn’t until the next day that police located her in an apartment in New York City.

To sign up for state emergency alerts, go to alert.ny.gov/.


Washington
McConnell sets Friday test vote on Kavanaugh nomination

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set a crucial threshold vote for Friday on Brett Kavanaugh's tottering Supreme Court nomination, moving his polarized chamber toward a potential confirmation roll call over the weekend that would determine which party wins an election-season battle royale that has consumed the nation.

McConnell, R-Ky., touched off the process late Wednesday and announced that sometime during the evening, the FBI would deliver to an anxious Senate the potentially fateful document on claims that Kavanaugh sexually abused women. With Republicans clinging to a razor-thin 51-49 majority and five senators — including three Republicans — still vacillating, the conservative jurist's prospects of Senate confirmation remained murky and highly dependent on the file's contents, which are supposed to be kept secret.

The report was arriving at a Capitol palpably tense over the political stakes of the nomination fight and from aggressive anti-Kavanaugh protesters who have rattled and reportedly harassed senators. Feeding the anxiety was an unusually beefy presence of the U.S. Capitol Police, who were keeping demonstrators and frequently reporters at arms length by forming wedges around lawmakers walking through corridors.

Amid complaints that some lawmakers were being confronted outside their homes, McConnell claimed on the Senate floor that the protesters were "part of the organized effort" to derail Kavanaugh's nomination.

"There is no chance in the world that they're going to scare us out of doing our duty," he said.

Adding to the uncertainty, the three undecided GOP senators who could decide Kavanaugh's fate rebuked President Donald Trump for mocking one accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, by mimicking her responses to questions at last week's dramatic Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

"I would tell him, knock it off. You're not helping," Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said of Trump's Tuesday night tirade.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Trump's insults marked a "new low."

Barring leaks, it was unclear how much of the FBI report, if any, would be made public. While senators from both sides have expressed support for revealing at least parts of the findings, FBI background checks on nominees are supposed to remain confidential.

Underscoring rising tensions, Democrats suggested that previous FBI background checks of Kavanaugh may have unearthed misconduct by the nominee.

Democrats wrote to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, challenging a Tuesday tweet by GOP aides saying prior investigations never found "a whiff of ANY issue — at all — related in any way to inappropriate sexual behavior or alcohol abuse." Democrats wrote that the GOP tweet contained information that is "not accurate."

Committee Republicans tweeted in response that their prior tweet was "completely truthful" and accused Democrats of "false smears."

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told reporters that Trump's lampooning of Ford at a Tuesday night Mississippi campaign rally was "just plain wrong." Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, called it "wholly inappropriate and in my view unacceptable," and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said on NBC's "Today" show that the remarks were "kind of appalling."

Those senators, along with Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, have yet to declare how they will vote.

"All of us need to keep in mind there's a few people that are on the fence right now. And right now, that's sort of where our focus needs to be," said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who has traded barbs with Trump and will retire at year's end.

Trump drew laughs Tuesday with his rendition of how Ford answered questions at last week's hearing. "I had one beer — that's the only thing I remember," he stated inaccurately.

As he flew aboard Air Force One to the Mississippi rally, Trump was enraged by New York Times articles about Kavanaugh's high school and college years and alleging tax avoidance efforts by the president and his family, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Wednesday echoed the president's newly aggressive approach. She said Ford has "been treated like a Fabergé egg by all of us, beginning with me and the president," and said Trump was merely "pointing out factual inconsistencies."

The California psychology professor has testified that a drunken Kavanaugh sexually abused her in a locked room at a high school party in the 1980s and has said she believed he was trying to rape her. Kavanaugh has denied her assertions and those of two other women, who have accused him of other instances of sexual misconduct in the 1980s.

In a statement Wednesday night after McConnell set the vote in motion, Ford's counsel wrote: "An FBI supplemental background investigation that did not include an interview of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford — nor the witnesses who corroborate her testimony — cannot be called an investigation. We are profoundly disappointed that after the tremendous sacrifice she made in coming forward, those directing the FBI investigation were not interested in seeking the truth."

Lawmakers were making plans to begin reading the FBI report early today, with senators and a small number of top aides permitted to view it in a secure room in the Capitol complex.