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gcraig / Gwendolyn Craig, gcraig@poststar.com 

Contractors work on a stretch of Burgoyne Avenue on Monday after a sinkhole opened up on June 11 in Hudson Falls. Two culverts running underneath the road need replacing.


Local
Warren County sheriff, Queensbury Town Board seats among key primary races

Voters will head to the polls on Tuesday to cast ballots in the state primary.

The state moved its primary from September to June so it would coincide with the federal primary, which takes place only in the even-numbered years.

The polls are open from noon to 9 p.m. in municipalities holding primaries. The only voters allowed to vote in a party’s primary are registered members of that party.

Among the competitive races is the Republican primary for Warren County sheriff. Undersheriff Shawn Lamouree and sheriff’s Major Jim LaFarr are both seeking the Republican nomination to replace the retiring Bud York.

During the campaign, Lamouree has stressed his experience in budgeting and managing the day-to-day operations of the department, and LaFarr said he would bring a fresh set of eyes to the job and wants to return to community policing.

Regardless of who wins the primary, both men will be on the November general election ballot. Lamouree has the Independence Party ballot line and LaFarr has been endorsed by the Conservative Party. There is no Democrat in the race.

Queensbury races

Queensbury has two Town Board primaries. In Ward 4, incumbent Jennifer Switzer, an accountant, and Travis Whitehead, a government watchdog, are vying for the Independence Party line. There are 190 enrolled members of that party.

Switzer has the Democratic backing in November.

In Ward 1, incumbent Tony Metivier is seeking the Republican nomination over endorsed candidate Paul Ryan. Metivier was endorsed by the Democrats in 2017 and has their line in this year’s general election, too, so he will be on the ballot regardless of whether he gets the GOP nod.

If Whitehead and Ryan lose their respective primaries, they are out of the race because they have no other ballot lines.

Other Warren County races

Further north in Warren County, former Bolton Supervisor Alexander “Zandy” Gabriels is seeking a political comeback. Gabriels, who held the job from 2002 to 2007, is running against incumbent Ronald Conover, who has been supervisor since 2008. Gabriels has no other ballot line, so he is out if loses the Republican primary.

In Johnsburg, Town Board member Peter Olesheski is mounting a write-in campaign to win one of two Republican ballot lines.

Olesheski did not circulate petitions because he thought he would be getting a promotion at work and would have to take a step back from some of his other responsibilities. When he found out that was not the case, it was too late to circulate any petitions for the GOP line, but he wants to get back on the board for a third four-year term.

The three Republican candidates listed on the ballot are incumbent Eugene Arsenault, Roger Mosher and Justin Gonyo.

If Olesheski’s write-in campaign is unsuccessful, he will still have his own Community Vision party line in the general election.

There is also a contested primary for highway superintendent. Frederick Comstock and Curtis Richards are vying for the nomination.

In Horicon, incumbent Sylvia Smith, Peter Palmer and William Siegle II are seeking two GOP seats on the Town Board.

Lake Luzerne has incumbents Anthony Cirillo and Mark McLain and newcomer Paul Lewandowski vying for two Republican ballot lines for Town Board. Also, incumbent town justices Bruce Hayes and Eugene “Gene” Kules are being challenged by Frederick Gilles Jr. for two GOP lines.

In Chester, there is an “opportunity to ballot” for the Democratic line for supervisor. John Maday has the Republican and Conservative ballot lines in the November general election, and incumbent Craig Leggett has the Independence Party nomination for November. Leggett, in an email Monday, said he is seeking Democrats to write in his name on the primary ballot.

Washington County

The lone primary in Washington County is in Kingsbury, with Town Council member Richard Doyle, Jane Havens and Les Macura vying for two Republican spots.

Saratoga County

In Corinth, incumbent town justices Lane Schermerhorn and Michael Woodcock are running for re-election and being challenged on the ballot line by Peter Gunning.

Hamilton County

Hamilton County has two candidates vying for the Republican nomination for district attorney: Dana Beyer and Christopher Shambo.

Tatiana Coffinger, James Hyde IV and Marsha King Purdue are seeking one family, county and surrogate court judgeship. All three are vying for the Republican and Conservative nomination and Hyde and Purdue are seeking the Independence ballot line as well.

Primary elections: Meet the candidates

Lamouree


Local
West Mountain unveils Aerial Adventure Park

QUEENSBURY — Gabriel Goss, 14, was completely confident that the ropes would hold him if he fell on West Mountain’s new Aerial Adventure Park.

So he took them to their limits, leaping through the air and taking risks that would have landed him in a heap on the ground if it weren’t for his safety gear.

He laughed all the way.

“It’s so much more fun when you make it difficult,” he said after he nearly did a split as he crossed too quickly on a bridge of disconnected pieces of wood.

When asked what to tell his parents if he died, he added, “Tell them it was worth it.” And then he took a running leap into the air, from one treetop to a landing about 20 feet away.

He didn’t make it, of course, but the ropes held.

He loved the course, which his school group was the first to try. On Monday, the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake middle school group spent the afternoon there.

It opens to the public on July 1.

Kathleen Moore, kmoore@poststar.com 

Angelo Fusco, 14, of Burnt Hills, navigates the Aerial Adventure Park at West Mountain Ski Center in Queensbury. The park features six courses of all difficulty levels.

The $850,000 course was built in two months this spring, after about four months of planning. The goal was to create a series of increasingly difficult challenges, without cutting down trees to make room. So designers walked through the woods, selecting the best trees and designing the course around them, West Mountain co-owner Spencer Montgomery said.

The goal is to make the business year-round.

“You just can’t guarantee a lot of snow and a long winter,” West Mountain General Manager Sara Montgomery said. “It’s so important you’re open more than four months of the year.”

The entire course is about 5 acres in size, though most people won’t do the entire thing in one visit. There are five courses, from easiest to expert, and visitors must start with an easy course. No one can just skip straight to the expert course. There is a three hour time limit to complete the course and visitors can complete as many courses as they desire.

Challenges include a barrel that you must crawl through, bridges to cross, a net to climb through, several free-falls and six zip lines.

Park manager Adam Sheerer led the first group to do the course. He loves it too.

“Just being outside and being able to climb through the trees,” he said. “It’s a great workout. Having something really close is nice too.”

Visitors buy tickets at the ski lodge, then take the West Express to the top of the mountain. There’s a short walk to the course. Monitors run everyone through “ground school” to be sure they know how to safely hook onto the equipment before they start the course.

The harness include “smart belays,” which are used to hook the climber’s harness to the safety lines. When one belay is locked, the other one can be unlocked. But both belays cannot be unlocked at once. That ensures that climbers are always hooked to a safety line with at least one of their two belays.

When a climber falls, they can only fall about three feet. They can easily grab onto the course and haul themselves back into position.

Ryan Lussier, 14, of Burnt Hills, learned that when he fell repeatedly as the first student on the course.

The first fall startled him.

“But after that hooked me, I was like, all right, I’m fine,” he said.

By the end, he loved it.

“The challenge of it. The feel of success afterwards,” he said.

Photos: West Mountain Aerial Adventure Park

AP
Government fails to release data on deaths in police custody

Editor’s note: This is the third in a three-article series by the Associated Press investigating inmate suicide rates in U.S. jails. Parts 1 and 2 ran in Sunday and Monday’s editions.

More than four years after Congress required the Department of Justice to assemble information about those who die in police custody, the agency has yet to implement a system for collecting that data or release any new details of how and why people die under the watch of law enforcement.

The information vacuum is hampering efforts to identify patterns that might lead to policies to prevent deaths during police encounters, arrests and incarceration, say advocates and the congressman who sponsored the Death in Custody Reporting Act.

“The result of it is that people are not coming home,” said Jesselyn McCurdy, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office. “They’re not coming home because they’re dying.”

The law, enacted in December 2014, is meant to paint a clearer picture of police-involved killings and deaths inside correctional facilities. It requires both state and federal law enforcement agencies to report information about those who die while under arrest, in the process of being arrested or while incarcerated.

The measure passed amid public outrage over police killings including the death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed black man shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Now, a crisis of suicides in jails across the U.S. — prompted in part by the incarceration of the mentally ill — has raised interest in the law and its delayed implementation.

Until the Department of Justice begins collecting this information, the public will have no way of knowing how many people are dying or under what circumstances, said U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the measure’s primary sponsor. With the data, Scott said, “We can at least begin the discussion.”

The 2014 law renewed and expanded a measure that had expired eight years prior. It required the DOJ to issue a report by the end of 2016 exploring how the agency and law enforcement could use the information collected to reduce deaths in custody. No such report has been completed, however, and advocacy groups worry the lack of accountability is letting law enforcement officials off the hook.

“Serving time in jail shouldn’t be a death sentence,” said Shannon Scully of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Late last year, the DOJ’s inspector general’s office issued a review criticizing the department’s failure to move ahead. A string of bureaucratic hurdles caused the biggest holdups, the report found, most notably ongoing debates over what methodology to use to collect data. The report noted a new system isn’t likely to be in place until October at the earliest.

The agency has continued collecting some data about in-custody deaths under its old standards, but the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the DOJ arm responsible for releasing it, is years behind.

Statistics through 2016 should be made public sometime this summer, spokeswoman Tannyr Watkins said. She blamed the delays in part on understaffing due to a hiring freeze from 2017 until April of this year. With the freeze now lifted, the agency “will expeditiously move to hire staff to fill the most critical positions,” she said.

Scott said the DOJ needs to do better, whatever the reasons.

“I’ve just been disgusted that the executive branch can’t figure out how to require people to fill out these little forms on a quarterly basis,” he said. “It can’t be that complicated.”

As the delays drag on, some states are moving to address the lack of data themselves.

In Oregon, a measure signed into law last month mandates that counties report to the state information related to the medical, mental and behavioral health of inmates and inmate death rates. The proposal followed a report by Oregon Public Broadcasting, KUOW public radio and the Northwest News Network that revealed at least 306 people had died since 2008 after being taken to county jails across the Pacific Northwest. The investigation found at least 70 percent of those inmates were awaiting trial and that suicide accounted for nearly half of all cases with a known cause of death. Deaths were tallied after reporters went county by county to seek information, because no state entity was required to amass it.

In some states, deaths in prisons are tracked at the state level but those that occur in local and county jails are not.

“It really is kind of a dark spot in our criminal justice system in terms of what we can figure out,” said Mike Schmidt, executive director of the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission.

Jail commanders in the state are eager to help but say funding and staffing are obstacles. In resource-strapped communities, departments say they can’t afford to hire new staff or divert the attention of current staffers.

“We’d have to essentially take from what we’re doing to protect and serve the community to do data pulls. And so it becomes difficult,” said Marion County Sheriff Jason Myers, who sits on the executive committee of the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association.

Utah last year began requiring counties to report deaths in custody. State Sen. Todd Weiler introduced the legislation following a rash of deaths in jails across the state.

“We kind of wanted to know what was going on and if there was something we could do to try to ... stem that tide,” he said.

The state’s first annual jail deaths report found that 71 inmates died in county jails from 2013 to 2017, and more than half were suicides.

Another Utah legislator, Rep. Carol Moss, had been working on similar legislation to reduce overdose deaths in correctional facilities as more people with addictions to opioids and methamphetamines land behind bars.

In an interview, she described incidents in which those not yet convicted had “virtually no medical care” and died while detoxing, adding that understanding the extent of the problem is the first step.

“In order to know how to address the problem,” she said, “we have to have data”


LaFarr


Local
breaking
Police: Diver died of 'trauma' at Greenwich mill

Wingard

GREENWICH — An autopsy performed on the diver who died at a hydropower plant in Greenwich last week found he died from “blunt force trauma” to his torso, according to State Police.

State Police are trying to figure out how 25-year-old Steven Wingard came to be fatally injured Friday morning while diving in a pool of water on the Batten Kill, below the Dahowa Hydro plant in Middle Falls.

Wingard, of Falls Village, Connecticut, was working as a commercial diver at the plant off county Route 53 when he died around 9:30 a.m. He was underwater to clear a drain valve at the plant, which was formerly owned by Dahowa Hydro until being sold to Gravity Renewables last month.

He was attached to an air line and safety line that was being monitored by a crew on shore nearby, and they pulled Wingard up when they noticed that he had stopped moving, State Police Senior Investigator Robert Stampfli said.

Stampfli said it was not known how Wingard came to be injured while underwater, and the State Police investigation was continuing. He said there is no indication of foul play, but State Police may have the agency’s divers enter the pool later this week to see if they can help figure out what happened.

Rich Morin, former owner of Morin’s Dive Centers in Glens Falls who currently operates Underwater CSI International Academy, a program that teaches emergency divers how to respond to underwater response, recovery and investigations, has worked underwater at the plant where Wingard died, and said he did not understand how the death could have occurred.

He said he was not aware of any objects that Wingard could have hit that would cause serious trauma.

“He (Wingard) should not have encountered anything underwater that could have caused that. Perhaps prior to the dive he was struck by an object that contributed to his death. Possibly upon his entry into the water he struck his torso on the edge of the (concrete hydro plant) silo,” Morin said.

Morin questioned whether Wingard had a pre-existing injury that could have led to a medical issue underwater.

Morin said he usually had a “safety diver” with him when he dove at the plant. He said he spoke to the diver who typically accompanied him, and “We really couldn’t think of anything else in the water that could have caused the trauma.”

Wingard worked for Commercial Diving Services LLC of Connecticut. A man who answered the phone at the company Monday had no comment on the matter. A spokeswoman for Gravity Renewables also had no comment.

Heavy rain on Thursday swelled the Batten Kill and other streams, but it was unclear whether that rain played a part in the accident.

Bader Abou-hamze a friend of Wingard’s who emailed The Post-Star photos of Wingard, also questioned why he was alone when diving.

He said Wingard was a beloved son, brother and uncle.

“He was the best of the best. One of a kind, loved by many,” Abou-hamze wrote.

Wingard was fondly remembered by friends and loved ones on social media in recent days as well.

“He was a son, a brother, an uncle, a nephew, a cousin, a friend to so many. He was so unconditionally loved by everyone who had the privilege to know him,” wrote Stefanie Pederson in a post on social media. “I personally know I could never be in a bad mood if he was around. You know you could count on the fact that everyone would be laughing non-stop if he was in the room.”

Wingard was a Connecticut state champion as a high school wrestler in 2012.

A fundraising page on GoFundMe has been set up to help Wingard’s family with funeral expenses. It can be found at bit.ly/2RGbIR3.