Willie L. Cleveland

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CHESTERTOWN u Willie L. Cleveland, 79, of White Schoolhouse Road, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, June 16, 2009, at his home surrounded by his loving family.

Willie was born on Aug. 21, 1929, in North River.

He married Lillian Baker on June 2, 1951, in North River.

Survivors besides his wife of 58 years include his three children, seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother and two sisters, and several nieces, nephews, and cousins.

At Willie's request, there are no calling hours scheduled and that a private burial take place at the convenience of the family at the North River Cemetery.

"When I come to the end of the road and the sun has set for me, I want no rites in a gloom-filled room. Why cry for a soul set free? Miss me a little - but not too long and not with your head bowed low. Remember the love that we once shared. Miss me - but let me go. For this is a journey we all must take, and each must go alone. It's all a part of the Master's Plan, a step on the road to home. When you are lonely and sick of heart, Go to the friends we know and bury your sorrows in doing good deeds. Miss me - but let me go."

Please visit www.alexanderfuneralhomes.com for online guest book and condolences.

Dock space dispute drags on over the years

HORICON - A 20-year root canal. A dance that won't end. A waste of time and money.

That's how Brant Lake residents describe a decades-old dispute between a now-dissolved development company and town officials.

More recently, the conflict resulted in residents of the Brant Lake Heights development having to give up dock space they bought.

"We're not asking for anything that hasn't been there for 18 years," Maureen Rossley said of her dock, which she bought along with her home in Brant Lake Heights about a year ago.

In December, Rossley learned the town issued an order to remedy a violation, telling her she couldn't put her dock slip back into the lake come spring. Instead, she and dozens of other homeowners also notified of the order would have to share eight dock slips.

"We just don't understand what the big deal is," Rossley said.

The order came from the town's zoning administrator, Gary McMeekin, who believes the dock slips were sold in violation of the town's zoning ordinance.

According to Horicon Town Supervisor Ralph Bentley, the state Attorney General's Office is poring over 20 years of legal documents that trace the developments of the labyrinthine debate.

Essentially, Bob Olson, who sold homeowners many of the dock slips in question, believes the slips were "grandfathered" into the ordinance. He said the slips were grandfathered because the Brant Lake Heights subdivision was approved in June 1972, before the zoning ordinance was passed that prohibited the 21 dock slips he later sold.

"It's a simple one line sentence that takes precedence in this," Olson said. "These docks were in and serving these people for 17 years. … He has allowed them to put in eight slips, which doesn't nearly serve them, and he has required them to put it in the middle of a swimming area instead of where they had been located for 17 years without incident."

But the zoning administrator who issued the order to remove the docks says he is following the law.

"Him saying it's grandfathered, the Zoning Board of Appeals doesn't state that at all," Zoning Administrator Gary McMeekin said.

What Brant Lake Heights homeowners see is government interfering with their way of life.

"We're paying taxes up there and paying taxes on a dock. Many of us have to rent a dock space someplace else. This is going to hurt Brant Lake," Rossley said.

Compounding the already complex dispute is a neighboring family who, some say, took issue with the number of docks at Brant Lake Heights.

Bentley, the town's supervisor, said members of the Webster family, who live next to the common beach for Brant Lake Heights homeowners, were concerned that the docks violated the local ordinance.

"The unfortunate issue is there are neighboring properties affected by these dock systems," McMeekin said, responding to some homeowners' claims that the zoning was the problem, not the dock slips.

"There is about 120 feet of lake shore that belongs to the Websters that is virtually unusable," Olson said. "That insulates their property from the Brant Lake Heights waterfront."

Efforts to reach a member of the Webster family familiar with the issue were unsuccessful.

Olson, who also sits on the Town Board, said he felt he was being singled out because he ran in 2007 against Bentley for town supervisor. Olson lost by 12 votes. As for McMeekin, Olson said the zoning administrator once tried to run a competing general contracting business, which created a conflict of interest when it came to issuing permits.

McMeekin dismissed claims that the dock issue has to do with anything but the zoning code.

"Once you review the paperwork … it becomes very evident what the process is," he said. "It's getting the zoning correct."

Bentley also claimed that Olson's wife, Jean, removed a key court decision from the town's files that would have set the whole thing straight. Bentley said it was his "best guess" that Jean Olson, the former town supervisor in 1992 when the court decision was made, never filed the court decision with the town clerk. The court decision granted the Olsons only six dock slips, Bentley said, far fewer than the number Olson sold.

Bob Olson disputed Bentley's remark.

"I just cannot understand why he would say just a venomous thing to you about me," Olson said.

Homeowners like Rossley who bought one of the dock slips along with her house feel caught between the sides.

"I never realized your deed means less than a zoning thing," she said. "It's like a dance that's never gonna end."

Post-Star Pulitzer

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Post-Star Pulitzer

Preserving the past

FORT EDWARD u Two years ago, a researcher came to Washington County Deputy Historian Loretta Bates with an interest in the area's history during the American Revolution.

Bates had just what the researcher was looking for: reams of documents that spanned 1774 to 1806, meticulously kept by one of the area's earliest and most prominent citizens of the time.

From a shelf, she pulled down an acid-free box used for preserving precious and delicate documents. Inside were two books of land deeds, bonds, receipts and maps kept by John Williams, a surgeon, soldier and politician who lived in what is now Salem.

But there was a problem: The documents that had survived a war and three centuries were in terrible shape.

"There were pieces of paper that were falling out of the book," Bates said. "The glue that was holding them in the book was damaging the documents."

Something had to be done to preserve a large piece of the early days of Washington County.

"They were too valuable to not be able to use them," Bates said. "We could not use these books."

Bates, along with former Washington County Historian Joseph Cutshall-King, successfully obtained a $14,000 grant from the state to preserve the documents.

The papers were given a chemical treatment to reverse the aging process, digitized to a compact disc and put on microfilm.

The original copies now sit in the Washington County historian's office in four large portfolio binders.

Stark black ink stands out on the yellowed, awkwardly shaped pages.

The documents were written in flowing, almost artistic cursive that has all but become extinct in a world of computers and ink jet printers.

The preservation and restoration project, which was performed by the Vermont-based Brown's River Records Preservation Services, took less than a year.

No one is quite sure how the documents of John Williams came into the possession of Washington County.

"They were here when I first arrived in 1993," Bates said. "They were always just sitting around."

Williams immigrated from England to what is now Salem in 1775.

A surgeon by training, he was chosen to be a representative in the Provincial Congress and later served as a colonel in the Charlotte County Committee of Safety.

By the end of the war, Williams prospered as one of the largest landowners in the county, owning nearly 20 percent of the area - much of the property being obtained from loyalists who fled the newly born country for England or Canada.

Williams would go on to serve as a state representative and judge in Washington County.

"He's got quite a resume," said Washington County Clerk and Historian Dona Crandall.

By the time he died, Williams had amassed hundreds of documents that, in 2009, illuminate how early residents of the area lived.

"People get to see how their lives were shaped by our early settlers," said Cutshall-King, a vice president at Adirondack Community College. "We forget why we are here because of people like Williams. He helped lay out roads. He helped to get the first surveying for what later became the Champlain Canal. He was a mover and shaker."

The hope is that the newly preserved documents will be used by scholars, land surveyors or genealogists who are delving into the area's past.

"They will always have a pertinence," Cutshall-King said. "They will show something or reveal something. And for the curious, people can just say, 'Wow look at what happened back then.'"

Crossing dangers

QUEENSBURY - It has been five days since Clifton Park resident Stephanie Darwak and her 12-year-old daughter saw a woman get hit by a car and thrown through the air as she crossed Route 9. But they can't get what they saw out of their minds.

"I have vivid images of the accident that I cannot get out of my head and my daughter is still very upset after witnessing the accident," she said.

Darwak was referring to the Thursday afternoon car-pedestrian collision on Route 9 at the intersection of Round Pond Road, in which Margaret Hines, 47, of Glens Falls, was seriously hurt. Hines suffered two broken legs, broken ribs and other injuries and was being treated at Albany Medical Center. Her condition was not available.

Darwak and her daughter had been to the Great Escape amusement park that afternoon, and had parked at Mountainside Auto, where Great Escape customers can pay $5 instead of the $20 parking fee in the Great Escape lots. They were walking to the lot when they saw Hines get hit.

Hines, a Great Escape employee, was crossing from the east side of the road to the west, but Route 9 has no crosswalks. Pedestrian traffic to and from Great Escape is funneled to a pedestrian bridge a quarter-mile or so from where Hines tried to cross.

With the proliferation of less expensive, private parking lots on both sides of the road, a new hotel on the east side of the highway and the rejuvenation of Martha's Dandee Cream because of a change in ownership, the summer has brought more pedestrian traffic to the sidewalks along Route 9.

Those who park in Great Escape lots are funneled to the pedestrian bridge, but those who park elsewhere cross Route 9 whenever they see a break. The speed limit in the area is 45 mph.

"There are people crossing the road all over the place," Darwak said.

Queensbury Supervisor Dan Stec said crosswalks would be the responsibility of the state Department of Transportation because Route 9 is a state highway. He said Great Escape's traffic management plan calls for another access road to its parking lots from Route 9 across from Round Pond Road. That road would be built if attendance rose to a certain level and, if it was built, it would have a traffic light, Stec said.

"I suppose at that point they would have to put in a crosswalk," he said.

Becky Valenti, a spokeswoman for Great Escape, said the company has no plans for crosswalks to or from the park, the bridge is the designated way to cross the highway.

"We urge all of our guests to use the bridge," she said. "It comes right up to our main entrance."

Both the private parking lot on the west side, which is at the former Shenanigans restaurant, and at Mountainside Auto Sales have gotten town Zoning Board approval to operate parking lots at their premises. Northlind Sports Outfitters also offers discounted parking, and Brown said the owner has not sought permission to offer parking but has been doing it for so long the town has not made an issue of it.

Brown said the operators of the lot at the former Shenanigans property have posted a sign directing those who park at their lot to use the pedestrian bridge.

The other two lots are on the same side of Route 9 as Great Escape.

"There is a lot of walking traffic from that (Mountainside) lot to the Great Escape and a lot of it from my location," said Dennis Lafontaine, owner of Martha's. "I don't know what the answer is."

On the other side of the news

I guess you could say I crossed over for a night.

No, I'm not talking about a near-death experience, but I did get a taste of what's it's like to be on the other side of the news.

As a journalist, I talk to people often during as well as after they've experienced something traumatic, including car accidents and fires.

I walk away at the end of the day a little shaken by what I've seen, but I have to set those emotions aside in order to deliver the news and do my job. What left a lasting impression on someone else was fleeting for me.

A few weeks ago, though, the tables were turned.

As the night general assignment news reporter, I work late shifts. On Aug. 27 at 11 p.m., I left work, walked out the front door and across the street to my car, like I usually do. I got in, started it up and realized I had left something at my desk.

I hopped out with keys in hand, locked the door and started back across the street. Two steps in, I turned at the sound of a man's voice calling to me. He was about 50 feet away and saying things I can't possibly print. I froze for a moment as I realized he was sprinting toward me. All I could think to do was run.

I booked it across the street - proving that I can, in fact, run in heels. I made it up the front steps. He was behind me calling me names and telling me not to run from him, and that if I did, I would make it worse. I got through the first door, into the entryway and threw my keys, which held my key card, at the electronic key pass while I grabbed for the second door. With a quick beep, it opened.

At this point, the man had a fist-full of the back of my shirt and was pulling. I was able to get the door open and lunge in, screaming for my editor. The man let go.

I didn't look back, and assumed he fled the scene.

I went to my desk, shaking, and tried to explain what had just happened. My editor and a few others ran outside to see if they could spot the guy. I followed, and we saw someone lurking by the fence surrounding the Troy Shirt Factory who then began walking down Cooper Street.

Glens Falls police arrived later. They never ended up catching the guy, it didn't help that I couldn't give them a decent description. I was too busy running to get a good look. I wasn't even positive of the color of his shirt.

An armed officer escorted me to my car, and I headed home.

I usually ask questions of other people, but after that incident, I had a whole bunch I was asking myself.

Like what possessed this guy to chase me? What would he have done if he had caught me? What if my car was parked farther away? Was he on drugs, drunk or both? What would have happened if I didn't run, and confronted him instead? What if I took off my stiletto and used it to puncture him? Why didn't I think to kick my leg out behind me, Billy Blanks-style and peg him in the privates?

I've been told not to think of the "what ifs," and that I did the right thing. And although that's hard to do, what is harder for me is to think of the people who we've written about. The women who have their own list of questions and traumatic experiences worse than mine.

I feel pretty embarrassed that this encounter has made me afraid to walk to my car alone, or anywhere for that matter. I can't imagine how I'd be handling it if the situation had gone any other way, unless, however unlikely, I had totally beat the snot out of the guy. I stand only 5 feet 5 inches tall, and I'm pretty sure I could be carried away as effortlessly as the pink Kate Spade handbag I haul around with me everyday.

It's been a few weeks and the jumpiness has subsided, although I feel bad for the next guy who approaches me at night just to ask for directions, as it's likely I will whip out my Mace.

And no, that's not an exaggeration. I did go out and pick up two cans of pepper spray, one for Kate and one for my car.

At some point, as my mother always says, "This too shall pass." But I don't think the memory of this incident will ever totally fade away.

I think from now on I'll walk with a little more swagger in my step. A don't-mess-with-me stride, you could call it - just one of many things I picked up in the self-defense classes I took. My senses will be a little more tuned in to what surrounds me, and my finger will be ready on the trigger of my pepper spray.

Maybe my story will make the women who read it do the same.

Company reuses shipping containers for modular houses

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Bob Ferro looked out the airplane window and saw a jigsaw pattern of long metal containers piling up on the Port of New York and New Jersey.

"I thought that there's got to be a better way to be able to put those to use," he said, of that day in the mid-1980s when the light bulb of innovation went off inside his head

Shortly afterwards, he became the co-owner of a company on Long Island that converted those unused metal shipping containers into modular homes and offices buildings.

"We were the only people on the planet to be doing that at the time," he said.

Ferro retired a decade ago and relocated upstate with his wife, Sonya. The retirement, however, didn't take.

He went back to designing and perfecting the business of recycling and reusing the containers and transforming them into habitable "steel core" structures. Four years ago, Ferro and his wife started 21st Century Homes and Structures on Excelsior Avenue in Saratoga Springs.

Today, they employ a crew of about 15 workers inside the 25,000-square-foot factory, where those workers turn the 40-foot-long containers into four homes per week.

He expects the number of workers to grow 10 times over the next two years with contracts in place that total more than $20 million in residential, commercial and governmental business during that time. A larger, 85,000-square-foot factory sits on Pruyn's Island in anticipation of future growth.

Ferro designs the homes and created a patented locking system that secures the entire structure to its foundation. He said the structure can sustain winds in excess of 200 miles per hour, making them suitable for use as portable disaster emergency units.

"You can drive a car into the side of the home. The car will bounce off," Ferro said.

A crew inspects and selects specific containers for the purpose of reusing them. Ferro said he pays "less than $3,000" for each container, which measure approximately 40 feet long, 8 feet wide and 9-1/2 feet high.

Each provides about 320 square feet of space. By using multiple containers, the finished structure can grow to specific proportions of the customer and can be built as high as seven stories.

Most of the work inside the Saratoga Springs factory is single-story residential, where crews cut spaces for windows, install cabinetry, plumbing, electric panels and deliver a turnkey modular home in about four days.

The rugged metal exterior is covered with insulation, which is then fronted by siding. A roof is placed over the top of the existing metal covering and the interior is fitted with sheetrock walls.

"Anything you can put on a house, I can put on this," Ferro said.

Once complete, the home is delivered to a site and fixed onto a foundation. The entire process from start to finish takes about six days. Plans range from 480 square feet to a 2,720-square-foot colonial style.

A 960-square-foot home with two bedrooms and two baths is priced at $81,560. A 1,600-square-foot model with three bedrooms goes for $115,200. Site work and foundation are not included.

The company is exploring a variety of applications for construction, from residential to commercial, transportable emergency housing units to low-income housing projects as well as prison cells.

Two motorists pull driver from fiery wreck

KINGSBURY - A 67-year-old Granville woman was pulled from the fiery wreckage of her 1996 Jeep Cherokee today by a pair of good Samaritans.

Mary L. Skelton was traveling west on state Route 196 at about 11:20 a.m. when her sport utility vehicle went off the left side of the highway and careened into a ditch, according to the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

The car flipped over multiple times until coming to rest on its wheels, police said.

As a result of the accident, Skelton was knocked unconscious and the engine caught on fire.

Police said Graig Bell, of Watervliet, and James Winters, of Hartford, pulled Skelton from the car.

"I don't think she would have survived," said sheriff's Investigator Bruce Hamilton. "That fire brewed up pretty quick."

Winters, a carpenter, was driving about four car lengths behind Skelton's car.

"It was pretty surreal," Winters said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon. "I was following behind her and she turned the wheel and went of the road pretty quick."

Bell, who was traveling in a separate vehicle, and Winters pulled over and ran to Skelton's SUV, which by that point was belching smoke from the engine.

"Me and the other guy we were pretty clear about it," he said. "We knew we had no choice once it started smoking. I just knew what to do. We just wanted to help this lady and keep her from suffering from anymore than she was."

Winters said his son Jarod, 10, directed traffic until authorities arrived.

"He didn't lose his head or nothing," Winters said.

About a two-mile stretch of Route 196 near the intersection with Hinds Road was closed for an hour while emergency crews investigated the scene and extinguished the fire.

The Fort Edward Rescue Squad and the Kingsbury Fire Department responded to the accident, police said.

The road was reopened to traffic at about 12:35 p.m. Thursday.

Skelton, who suffered head and internal injuries in the crash, was transported from the scene by medical helicopter to Albany Medical Center. Her condition was not immediately known.

Built to last: Old armory to be auctioned

GLENS FALLS - Cobwebs hang from the ceiling and the windows are covered with film on the third floor of the east turret of the Glens Falls armory on Warren Street.

Apparently it's been a while since the last military inspection of that section of the historic armory, built in 1895 of local limestone and brick.

Yet even covered with dirt and film, the windows offer picturesque views of downtown Glens Falls and beyond.

State and local officials hope those views, combined with architectural features inside and out, will capture the imagination of some developer who would buy the building, assessed at $1.62 million, and put it on the property tax roll.

The National Guard unit that was stationed at the armory relocated to a new facility in Queensbury earlier this year.

The state Office of General Services will auction the building at 11 a.m. Oct. 21 at Room 6-103 of the Warren County Municipal Center on Route 9 in Queensbury.

The minimum bid is $500,000.

The building has drawn a fair amount of interest, albeit some from curiosity seekers, at a series of open houses, the last of which was on Wednesday, said Richard Bennett, a real estate officer with OGS who guided media on a tour.

About three dozen parties have toured the building so far, some on multiple occasions, and the state has distributed information brochures to more than 100 people that requested them, said Brad Maione, an OGS spokesman.

Yet there has been minimal substantive interest in actually buying and redeveloping the building, said Leonard Fosbrook, president of EDC Warren County, which has been marketing the building on behalf of the city.

Challenges to redeveloping the building include limited parking, restrictions because of its listing on the National Register of Historic Places, and the configuration of space, cut up into nooks and crannies, he said.

The building has about 38,000 square feet, about the same amount of space as two floors of the Monument Center office tower downtown, or about half the space of the Hannaford supermarket on Quaker Road in Queensbury.

The armory space includes a full basement and main floor, with additional space in upper floors on the east and west turrets.

The configuration of the space and thick walls make it a challenge to renovate for offices or apartments, said developer Peter Hoffman, the only developer that responded in an initial request for proposals earlier this year.

The state rejected Hoffman's offer because it was less than the $500,000 minimum.

Hoffman said he had a potential main tenant interested in the building at the time, but not any more, so he doubts he will bid on it.

"I'll go (to the auction) and sit down, but I don't expect to do any bidding," he said.

Michael Kaidas, another local developer The Post-Star contacted Wednesday, offered a more optimistic view of redevelopment prospects.

Kaidas said the building could be attractive to the right developer because of its wide, open gymnasium on the first floor and former mess hall in the basement.

"That's got some big open spaces, which is unusual. There aren't that many places like that left in Glens Falls," he said.

Kaidas, who is in the process of renovating the former Empire Theatre building on South Street as a retail, office and apartment complex, said he is busy with other projects and does not plan to bid on the armory building.

State officials hope historic architectural features, such as the locker with wooden lockers, will catch the attention of someone.

"Look at the details," Bennet, of OGS, said as he led members of the news media on the tour.

Locker 16 still has a faded vintage instruction sheet stapled to the inside of the door - with details about how to care for a steel helmet, tie a neck tie and lace up boots.

Regardless of how many serious bidders show up, the auction is expected to be well attended, local developers and real estate brokers said.

"I'll probably go up, just out of curiosity," said Mark Levack, a local real estate broker who said, as of Wednesday, he did not have any clients interested in the building.

Photographing the farm

Through the lens of her camera, photographer Laurie Rhodes can find elegance in tomatoes ripening on the vine or a wilting zucchini blossom.

The beauty of the rolling hills and lush fields of Washington County often fades into the background during the hectic day for local farmers, but Rhodes, who lives in New York City, finds inspiration in the sometimes overlooked splendor of agricultural life in upstate New York.

"I love the fact that Washington County is mostly farmland. It's very rural. It reminded me of my childhood," said Rhodes, who moved to Manhattan from Kittery, Maine, when she was 18.

An award-winning photographer with a reputation for artistic wedding photojournalism, Rhodes first came to the region in 2005 while working on a project with the Farm to Chef organization. She felt an immediate connection.

"I just fell in love with Washington County and the people," she said. "I have a split personality. I love the city - I love living here because it's so diverse. But I also really love the country."

While shooting photos for Farm to Chef and a show at Chef Mary Cleaver's Green Table restaurant in New York City, Rhodes began to bond with the farmers of Washington County.

"I saw an immediate community of farmers. The people are just so nice. In the city, people tend to be a little more guarded and a little less open-hearted," Rhodes said.

During a number of visits, Rhodes explored the depth of agriculture in the region and made friends in places like Easton, Greenwich and Shushan.

"I would come up every year for Farm to Chef. Last year, I made four trips," she said.

The landscape has a different feeling from other parts of the state, according to Rhodes.

"The light there is very different. It's a much warmer light," she said.

For the assignments, Rhodes was able to combine her pursuit of scenic beauty with an interest in agriculture.

"I love food, and I'm very interested in the environment and eating well and treating the land well," she said. "I love vegetables - the color of vegetables is so vibrant and saturated. It was so wonderful to take my skills being a photographer and apply it to something I really love."

She also was drawn to the animals who call the farms home.

"I love animals, and farm animals are very special. They are incredible. They are like people. They are very connected to you. Cows will come right up to you and look you in the eye," she said.

Rhodes developed a special fondness for the hogs.

"They would go running away and then they would come running back. It probably helped that I had chocolate in my bag. The pig shots crack me up," she said.

So far, Rhodes has been able to capture images of the region during two seasons.

"I've only photographed in the summer and early winter. I'd like to photograph the spring, and I haven't really photographed the depths of winter," she said.

She also hopes to make another trip to the area during autumn, but October is a peak season for her Manhattan business.

"The fall coincides with the busiest part of the wedding season," she said.

Although Rhodes initially came to Washington County as part of a special project, she hopes to be able to continue her efforts on her own.

"My goal was to get the absolute best pictures of farms that I could. I would like to try to add a different layer - maybe add more people," she said.

Exploring the macabre

Another time of the year, Wayne Rizzo might be mistaken for Santa Claus.

With his snowy beard and plump belly, Rizzo is a dead ringer for Father Christmas.

But the Belcher artist is more likely to be the harbinger of a different holiday.

When the days get cooler and the leaves start changing to orange and crimson, Rizzo's thoughts and artwork turn to Halloween.

"Christmas is way up there, too, but Halloween is just fun. Kids get to dress up and be something else for a night. It just thrills them," Rizzo said.

Through his art, Rizzo recaptures the grotesque and mysterious nature of All Hallows' Eve.

His paintings are a mix of trick-or-treaters, black cats, jack-o'-lanterns, haunted houses, witches and monsters.

"A lot of people say I have a dark side to me. That may be true. But I think everybody does. I just bring it out in my paintings," he said.

Rizzo will showcase his darker side in "Danse Macabre … Halloween and Beyond," which opens Thursday and runs through Nov. 1 at the Ginofor Gallery in Cambridge.

The artist, who paints a variety of subjects - from portraits and nudes to landscapes - in other seasons, said he usually creates one Halloween-themed work every year.

"My wife said, 'Why don't you put them in a show?'" Rizzo said.

The painter pulled out some of his favorite pieces from past years and then began to create a series of new work. The images range from creepy to whimsical.

"I use quite a bit of symbolism in my work," he said.

The spooky apparitions come mostly from Rizzo's vivid imagination. Sometimes he adds local landmarks.

The Pember library in Granville, which he had painted during daylight in a previous work, became the model for a haunted house in a piece titled "Do We Dare." In the painting, young trick-or-treaters stand outside the gate debating if a haul of candy is worth facing what lurks inside.

"I thought it would lend itself to a Halloween painting," Rizzo said of the prominent Victorian building.

The murky night scene highlighted with the fiery illumination of carved pumpkins and ominous glowing windows is one of Rizzo's favorite recent works.

His wife, Leslie, is fond of another painting, which Rizzo describes as "Concerto of Crows."

The work features a grand piano abandoned in a field. Two crows are perched nearby, and a mysterious hag looks on from the distance.

Rizzo's work has taken over a room in his house. He used to paint in a converted garage on the property, but it was a constant struggle.

"I was competing with animals out there digging in," he said.

After an early morning visit from a skunk, he decided it was time to find a different place to conduct his work.

These days, the only wildlife to distract him are the seven cats and Chinese water dragon that share his house and sit comfortably around the easel and tubes of paint. They don't seem phased by Rizzo's grim canvases.

The Halloween series, however, isn't meant to scare. For Rizzo, it's all about having a little fun and putting his personality into his work.

"For me, the whole point is mood and atmosphere," he said. "If I can get the person who is viewing the painting to feel what I was feeling when I was painting, then I'm satisfied."

Murphy talks health care

Don't say it's a revolution.

The health care legislation winding its way through Congress and being pushed by President Obama isn't a world-changer, U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy, D-Glens Falls, told The Post-Star editorial board on Wednesday.

Still, it is understandable that the complicated and costly proposal to expand health insurance to cover millions more people has raised fears, he said.

"A lot of people are very nervous about change to the health care system. Everybody interacts with the health care system in some way and they all are nervous about it," Murphy said. "A lot of them are frustrated with something but at the same time they're not saying they want anything to change in their life. They get frustrated with the billing process or the approval process. But hey, they're frustrated with it, but they don't really want it to change."

Around the country, the legislation has stoked heated protests and debates at town hall meetings with members of Congress.

Since returning from Washington earlier this summer for the August recess, federal representatives have been fielding questions from often skeptical - if not emotional - protestors wary of increased federal spending and the government's expanding role in their lives.

Murphy said the venues where he has spoken recently have hosted spirited, but respectful, debates on the health care issue.

"I think they've all been respectful, thoughtful, wide disagreement on issues and kind of a general concern and frustration with the current state of the health care system," Murphy said. "It's what makes my job really fascinating. Every once in a while people get a little riled up. It's nice to get people to get good dialogue."

The proposal could add a "public option" to compete with existing health insurance plans and allow the uninsured to enter into a national pool of health insurance.

The proposal is also considered expensive. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that nearly 100 million people could be enrolled in the public option within three years.

The White House has suggested slashing more than $150 billion from the Medicare Advantage program (a private option for people who qualify for Medicare) to pay for at least a portion of the costs.

At the same time, opponents of the plan point to so-called "death panels" which, according to the legislation, don't exist.

"A whole lot of things are scaring people," Murphy said. "The goal is to introduce competition - at least that's my reading of the bill."

Murphy said having more people insured would cut down on inefficiencies in the health care system.

"Getting more people into the system - we've got a large number of people not in the system," he said. "One of the reasons why costs are so high for us that have insurance plans is because of uncompensated care."

But he admitted the savings from making the system more efficient wouldn't be substantial.

"If everyone is covered it takes away the whole uncompensated care morass," he said. "It's not fundamental savings. It's mostly moving around but it makes it more efficient, but not massive savings."

He also criticized the existing legislative proposals for not corralling state mandates added on top of a national insurance pool.

"What the bill does poorly is that it allows state mandates to come on top of this and mess up this kind of pool," he said. "It's very frustrating to me and something I'd like to change."

Despite polls showing a majority of Americans are skeptical about the cost and efficiency of a government insurance program, Murphy said he expects Congress to vote on health care reform of some sort.

"Democrats and Republicans identify a lot of the same problems," he said. "What we end up with is to be determined, but I think we will end up with something."

DATABASE: Saratoga County Salaries

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Use our database to find out the salaries paid to public employees in Saratoga County.

Click here to access the database.

Lake George

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Lake George has had a number of names over the hundreds of years that human inhabitants have enjoyed its clear, pure water and the spectacular views provided by the mountains around the lake.

The Iroquois Indians called it "An-di-a-ta-roc-te," which meant "there where the lake is shut in," a reference to the mountains that surround the lake on its eastern and western shores.

In 1642, Father Isaac Joques was among a group believed to be the first white men to travel the 32-mile-long lake, and he dubbed it "Lac du Saint Sacrement," French for "Lake of the Blessed Sacrament."

One of the lake's major tour boats carries this name today, and a monument to Joques sits in Battleground Park.

Lake George was the scene of a number of historic battles in the 18th century, including the three-part Battle of Lake George in 1755. It was during this period that the lake was dubbed Lake George, after King George II, by British Major General William Johnson.

Johnson had Fort William Henry built in 1757, to defend the British hold on the lake's south end, and the historic fort sits off Beach Road in the village of Lake George today.

Fort Ticonderoga, which sits just north of Lake George's north end in the town of Ticonderoga, was one of a number of places in the Lake George region that played a pivotal part in the battles for independence from the British.

The Lake George region's history is a large part of its allure to people around the world. There are numerous monuments to various figures who played major parts in its past, and both Fort William Henry and Fort Ticonderoga are open as tourist attractions.

Many of the hundreds of thousands of visitors to Lake George each year come to enjoy the natural attractions that were first noted by indigenous settlers hundreds of years earlier.

The lake's water remains clear and cool, perfect for swimming, boating, fishing and virtually every other water-borne activity. Two companies operate tour boats from piers in the village of Lake George.

The mountains that ring the lake are home to thousands of acres of state-owned land that host dozens of hiking trails and numerous state and private campgrounds. State-run camping facilities include Hearthstone Point, Battleground Park, Rogers Rock and dozens of sites on islands that dot the lake's northern narrows.

There are also "day use" areas on state land, as well as on the eastern shore in Fort Ann at the popular "Shelving Rock" area.

For those who enjoy the beach, municipal beaches can be found in the towns of Lake George, Bolton, Hague, Ticonderoga, Dresden and Fort Ann. Among the more notable ones are at Huletts Landing in Dresden, Veteran's Park in Bolton and Ticonderoga Beach in Ticonderoga.

For rainy days, there is plenty to do inside at communities around the lake, including visiting popular shopping areas in Lake George, Queensbury and Bolton, visiting historic attractions or an indoor waterpark, like Great Escape Lodge and Waterpark.

Swimmer is presumed dead

LAKE LUZERNE - A missing swimmer who was "sucked under" by the Hudson River's strong current Sunday is presumed to have drowned following an unsuccessful, multi-agency search, police said.

The man, whose name was withheld pending notification of his family, was swimming with about six other friends north of Rockwell Bridge when he attempted to cross from the Hadley side to the Lake Luzerne side around 4:30 p.m.

According to Warren County Sheriff Bud York, the 20-year-old man got caught in the current and drifted downstream past the bridge. He was seen floating face down about 2 feet underwater before witnesses lost sight of him.

A search was terminated Sunday night due to darkness, and will resume Monday morning.

The current also nearly claimed one of the man's friends, who was pulled under but managed to make it to shore moments later.

Jim McChesney, an East Greenbush resident who witnessed the incident, had planned to swim along that section of the river Sunday, but decided the current was too strong to risk it.

He and a few friends were hanging out under the bridge watching others when they saw the swimmer get sucked under.

"We saw his body underwater, barely moving," McChesney said.

York said that section of the Hudson is particularly dangerous; he estimated five or six other swimmers have required rescue there in the past 10 years.

"It's a very difficult spot," Warren County Fire Coordinator Brian LaFlure said. "There's a lot of undercurrents, caves and crevices."

In November 2000, state Supreme Court ordered the town of Lake Luzerne to pay $4 million to the family of Steven Romero, a Clifton Park teenager who drowned downstream of the Bridge Street bridge in 1994.

An attorney representing the family argued that the town had shown "a pattern of some indifference" to the dangers of the area. The town argued that it can't prevent people from swimming there.

Dive teams from Corinth, Lake George and Horicon participated in the search Sunday.

Ready to strike back

On Saturday around 5 p.m., Glens Falls resident Amber Lynch said she was out for her usual walk on the bike path in Glens Falls from Sandford Street to the bridge above Quaker Road, when a man exposed himself in front of her.

Lynch said she pulled out her cell phone and told the man she was calling the authorities, at which point he ran off into the woods. She said the experience was scary, and it made her afraid for what else could have happened.

"I'm angry now, because I feel like I can't walk the bike path and exercise on my own without getting someone to walk with me," she said.

Many women who have been or worry about being the victim of an attack look to self-defense classes to feel more empowered.

Craig MacDonald, a black belt and grand master at Glens Falls Tae Kwon Do in South Glens Falls, said he's had quite a few women take his classes because they've been attacked. Still, nothing prepares you for reality, except reality, he said.

"One girl was attacked in her room at school. She took a six-week course and said, 'You've given me my life back.' It's the helplessness that gets you," MacDonald said.

At a self-defense class on Wednesday at Pai's Tae Kwon Do in Saratoga Springs, the participants were there for a variety of reasons.

Cindy Green, 60, of Fort Edward, said she signed up simply because she works alone and late at night.

Before Master Kwang Pai showed the women in the class a few moves to get away from an attacker, Saratoga County Sheriff's Deputy John Stevenson spoke about things all women should do as precautionary measures.

"Wherever you're going to go, our suggestion to you is to think ahead and plan ahead," he said. Stevenson advised the women to spend a few extra minutes driving around to find a spot closest to the entrance.

"Never ever, ever should a lone female to be in the furthest reaches of a parking lot. I'd rather see you park on the grass or in a spot where you'd get a ticket. If you get a ticket, so what," he said.

In today's world, Stevenson said you have to be aware of your surroundings. Whenever possible, he said to travel in pairs. And if you are grabbed or attacked by someone, Stevenson said the first thing to do is draw attention to yourself.

"I don't care if you sound funny. At all costs, bring attention to yourself. Scream as loud as you can," he said.

Master Pai's class teaches that there are five areas where every human being is weak.

"It doesn't matter if you are a body builder," Pai said.

The first area is the eyes. Even if someone is choking you, Pai said, your hands are still free. Just putting your thumb into someone's eye is going to cause pain, he said.

"You could gouge it right out. Especially you ladies with the pretty nails. Those would work well," he said.

The other target areas are the nose, the neck, the ears and the groin.

Hitting any of these areas with enough force will slow someone down, Pai said long enough for you to break away and run to a safe location.

The majority of people who are attacked are not paying attention to their surroundings, said Alycia McDermott, domestic violence program director for the Mechanicville area who was at Pai's class.

McDermott said you should always let a friend or loved one know where you are going.

"Not because you aren't your own woman; it's that if you don't get from point A to point B in a certain amount of time, there is a place for someone to start looking for you," she said.

McDermott told Pai's class to err on the side of rude and cautionary.

"We're sharing the world with a whole bunch of people you don't know and can't trust. It's OK to judge someone at first glance and to trust your gut instincts. Your gut picks up on the things your eyes have yet to see," she said.

Women in the area who have been the victim of domestic violence, rape or a sexual assault can call 792-4305 or (866) 307-4086.

Crowd gathers as Murphy opens to new office in Glens Falls

GLENS FALLS - U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy opened his new office in downtown Glens Falls today in an event that lured dozens of people.

Murphy, D-Glens Falls, used the open house to answer questions and hear comments on various subjects such as health care, the recent House-approved climate bill, and the revitalization of downtown Glens Falls.

"It's fun to hear what people have to say," said the congressman as he led the public inside his 136 Glen Street office for a tour.

Prior to the open house, Murphy visited the Chocolate Mill Pastry Shop & Cafe on 164 Glen Street.

The business will soon open after its owners, Frank and Jessica Vollkommer, received a $125,000 loan from the Small Business Administration. Murphy's office helped the new owners apply for the loan.

To contact Murphy at his Glens Falls office, call 743-0964.

Read more about the open house in Wednesday's edition of The Post-Star.

Oscars double best-picture nominees

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BEVERLY HILLS, California (AP) - The Academy Awards will have 10 best-picture nominees instead of the usual five starting next year, improving the odds for films such as "The Dark Knight," a fan and critic favorite that was snubbed last time.

Doubling the field for Hollywood's top prize will make room for more worthy films and potentially give a jolt to the Oscar TV ratings, Sid Ganis, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said Wednesday.

The change takes effect with the 82nd Oscar show March 7.

The academy board of governors decided there were more than five films last year that deserved best-picture consideration, Ganis said.

Among those that "were part of the conversation" were the Batman blockbuster "The Dark Knight," along with fellow superhero flick "Iron Man," the animated "WALL-E" and the comedy "Tropic Thunder," Ganis said.

All were huge box-office successes but the sort of movies that rarely make the best-picture cut.

"It's going to give the public the possibility of being more interested in the show this year, just because it might very well include more populist movies," Ganis said. "And because it's 10, not five, there will be a larger group of people who will be interested."

The change caught studio executives and others in Hollywood by surprise. Some said it was a good idea to open the main prize up to more films.

Academy voters often have overlooked "big box-office successes that also were really big artistic successes," said Christine Birch, an academy member and head of marketing for DreamWorks. "Those weren't deemed quote-unquote 'academy' movies. This gives those movies an opportunity to not have to fall by the wayside."

Two of this year's best-reviewed movies, Paramount's sci-fi adventure "Star Trek" and Disney and Pixar Animation's animated tale "Up," now have better odds of best-picture nominations, Birch said.

Publicist Tony Angelotti, who has worked on awards campaigns for such studios as Miramax and Universal, said Oscar voters might stick largely to the sober dramas that typically dominate the best-picture category.

"Academy members vote for the films they like," Angelotti said. "This doesn't change their taste, so the kinds of nominations we've seen the past are probably what we'll see in the future. There's just going to be more of them."

Others said it was impossible to say how it might affect the Oscars, which are awarded by the academy's 5,800 members.

"With a voting body that large, you just can't predict what this means," said Disney spokeswoman Jasmine Madatian, an academy member who oversees the studio's awards campaigns.

Along with animated films, comedies and other blockbusters, Ganis said academy board members hoped the new rules might open the best-picture category to documentaries and foreign-language movies. Animated films, documentaries and foreign-language movies already have their own categories, but they also will be eligible to compete for best picture.

The kinds of films academy members include in the expanded nominations could have a huge effect on the Oscar ratings, which generally have declined over the last decade. The show tends to draw more TV viewers in years when blockbusters are serious contenders for best picture.

The biggest audience ever, 55.2 million viewers, tuned in when "Titanic" won best picture for 1997, according to Nielsen Media Research. The 2003 Oscars, when "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" won, drew 43.5 million viewers, the most in recent years.

Two years ago, when "No Country for Old Men" took top honors, the Oscars had their worst ratings on record, with just 32 million viewers. Ratings rose last February, when "Slumdog Millionaire" won, but the audience of 36.3 million still was modest compared to the show's glory years.

Had there been 10 nominees for last year's films, "The Dark Knight" easily could have made the cut. That likely would have stoked audience interest in the ceremony and could have made the best-picture category more of a horse race, since "The Dark Knight" was one of the year's most acclaimed films.

That could hold true in future years with 10 films in the mix.

"I think it makes the race much more exciting and offers a broader showcase to celebrate and honor the year's most outstanding films," said Sony Pictures spokesman Steve Elzer, an academy member. "Folks who really didn't have a chance to get into the top five will now really rethink whether they can be competitive in that environment."

Studios spend millions on advertising, screenings, DVD mailings and other expenses to position films for awards consideration. Expanding the main event will force studios to decide whether to boost their awards budgets or spread the money among more movies, potentially diluting their investments in the films with the best prospects of winning.

But studios also could ring up more theater and DVD sales, since nominations - and particularly a best-picture win - prompt more people to see Oscar contenders.

"It gives the potential Oscar bounce to five additional films. The fact that they were a best-picture nominee, whether they win or not, that can be a very powerful marketing tool," said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. "There's still only going to be one winner, though. That's the bottom line."

Wilfred 'Grumpy' Baldwin

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FORT EDWARD u Wilfred "Grumpy" Baldwin, 83, passed away following a courageous battle with cancer on Sunday, June 28, 2009, at the Indian River Nursing Facility in Granville.

Born in Whitehall, N.Y., on April 27, 1926, he was the son of the late Daniel and Mamie (Rondeau) Baldwin. "Bill's" father died when he was a young child; from that young age, he took care of himself and continued to be self-sufficient until the end.

"Bill" served our country in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was a member of the 25th Division and saw action in the Philippines. After the war, he enjoyed his time stationed in Japan as part of the American occupation forces.

He retired from Ciba-Geigy in 1987, following more than thirty years as an employee.

When he wasn't tinkering around in his garage, "Bill" loved to ride his scooter around town, especially enjoying his social trips to Stewarts. "Bill" also liked going to garage sales and, he was forever purchasing "As seen on TV" items … since he always seemed to "need one of those."

Besides his parents, his longtime companion, Shiralee McCrea; and, his sister, Marilyn Manell predeceased "Bill."

Survivors include his former wife, Lucy Baldwin of Fort Edward; his son, Dan Baldwin and his wife, Mary, of Hudson Falls; his son, Sam Baldwin of Queensbury; his daughter, Mary Hall and her husband, Joseph, of Queensbury; his daughter, Sherry Genier and her husband, Mickey of Fort Edward; his son, John Baldwin and his wife, Barbara, of Fort Edward; his son, Ronald Baldwin and his wife, Teri, of South Glens Falls; his grandchildren, Alex Baldwin, Anna Blackburn, Kelsey and Nick Hall, Brian and Brittany Genier, Rhonda Rosick, Michael and Cadi Baldwin, Ashley Daley, and Danielle and Nathan Baldwin; and, three great-grandchildren. "Bill" is also survived by several nieces, nephews and cousins.

Family and friends may call from 4 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 1, 2009, at the M. B Kilmer Funeral Home, 82 Broadway, Fort Edward, NY 12828. To send condolences or to view the Book of Memories please visit www.kilmer

funeralhome.com.

Funeral services and burial will be private.

Donations may be made in "Bill's" memory to the C.R. Wood Cancer Center c/o the Glens Falls Hospital Foundation, 126 South St., Glens Falls, NY 12801.

Billy Drake

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HUDSON FALLS u Billy Drake, 79, of Farm Way, passed away unexpectedly on Sunday, June 14, 2009, at his home.

Born on Oct. 23, 1929, in Yonkers, he was the son of the late Horace T. and Dorothy "Bubs" Williams Drake.

Billy was born and raised in Yonkers, N.Y.

Upon completion of high school, he served in the United States Navy on the Destroyer USS Fred T. Berry from 1951 to 1954. While in the Navy, Billy boxed competitively and continued with this sport, following his honorable discharge. In the early '60's he hung up the gloves, got married and raised a family; Billy and Elisabeth "Betty" Alley were married on Jan. 4, 1963. In his 50's and 60's, Billy's competitive streak returned as he took up running, winning more awards than would fit in his home. Billy had a wonderful sense of humor and lived life on his own terms.

Billy was a lifetime National Rifle Association member and an avid Civil War buff; he joined several Civil War associations, including Save the Battlefields.

Unfortunately, after his retirement, Betty passed away. Billy's next chapter took place in Fort Edward, where he built a new home and resided until his passing.

In addition to his parents and wife, Billy was predeceased by his brother, Horace G. "Boy" Drake and his sister, Dorothy "Dot" Drake Little.

Survivors include his three sons and nephew: James T. Drake and daughter, Christen V. of Anaheim, Calif.; William W. Drake of Lincoln Park, Mich.; John G. Drake and his wife, Patricie, of Peekskill, N.Y.; and James S. MacKaye and his wife, Marie, of Chesapeake, Va.

There will be no calling hours.

Burial will be at a later date at Verbank Rural Cemetery in Duchess County.

Arrangements are under the direction of the Carleton Funeral Home, Inc., 68 Main St. in Hudson Falls.

Online condolences may be sent by visiting www.carletonfuneralhome.com.

Memorial donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, 959 Route 9, Mount Royal Plaza, Queensbury, NY, 12804.

Obama takes off the gloves

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WASHINGTON - Shaking off a summer of setbacks, President Barack Obama summoned Congress to enact sweeping health care legislation Wednesday night, declaring the "time for bickering is over" and the moment has arrived to protect millions who have unreliable insurance or no coverage at all.

Obama said the changes he has in mind would cost about $900 billion over decade, "less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans" passed during the Bush administration.

In a televised speech to a joint session of Congress, Obama spoke in favor of an option for the federal government to sell insurance in competition with private industry. But he said he was open to alternatives that create choices for consumers - a declaration sure to displease its liberal supporters.

Obama's speech came as the president and his allies in Congress readied an autumn campaign to enact his top domestic priority. While Democrats command strong majorities in both the House and Senate, neither chamber has acted on Obama's top domestic priority, missing numerous deadlines leaders had set for themselves.

In a fresh sign of urgency, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., announced that his Senate Finance Committee would meet in two weeks to begin drafting legislation, whether or not a handful of Democrats and Republicans have come to an agreement. The panel is the last of five to act in Congress, and while the outcome is uncertain, it is the only one where bipartisanship has been given a chance to flourish.

Obama said there is widespread agreement on about 80 percent of what must be included in legislation. Any yet, criticizing Republicans without saying so, he added: "Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics" and ideological warfare that offers no hope for compromise.

"Well, the time for bickering is over," he said. "The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action."

"I am not the first president to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last," he added.

The president was alternately bipartisan and tough on his Republican critics. He singled out Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for praise at one point. Yet, moments later he accused Republicans of spreading the "cynical and irresponsible" charge that the legislation would include "death panels" with the power to hasten the death of senior citizens.

In one gesture to Republicans, Obama said his administration would authorize a series of test programs in some states to check the impact of medical malpractice changes on health insurance costs.

In a reflection of the stakes, White House aides mustered all the traditional pomp they could for a president who took office vowing to change Washington. The setting was a State of the Union-like joint session of Congress, attended by lawmakers, members of the Cabinet and diplomats.

The House was packed, and loud applause greeted the president when he walked down the center aisle of the House chamber.

Additionally, the White House invited as guests men and women who have suffered from high costs and insurance practices, seating them near first lady Michelle Obama. Vicki Kennedy, the widow of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., was also on the guest list. Kennedy, who died last month, had made health care a career-long cause.

Obama intends to follow up the speech with an appearance Saturday in Minneapolis, the White House announced.

Despite deep-seated differences among lawmakers, Obama drew a standing ovation when he recounted stories of Americans whose coverage was denied or delayed by their insurers with catastrophic results.

"That is heartbreaking, it is wrong, and no one should me treated that way in the United States of America."

The president sought to cast his own plan as being in the comfortable political middle, rejecting both the government-run system that some liberals favor and the Republican-backed approach under which all consumers buy health insurance on their own.

Obama said the legislation he seeks would guarantee insurance to consumers, regardless of pre-existing medical conditions, as well as other protections. "As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most," he added.

The president assured those with insurance that "nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have."

Obama also said the legislation he seeks would help those who lack insurance to afford it. "These are not primarily people on welfare," he said in a line that appeared aimed at easing concerns among working-class voters. "These are middle-class Americans."

The president also said he wants legislation that "will slow the growth of health care costs for our families."

Obama said a collective failure to meet the challenge of overhauling health care for decades has "led us to a breaking point."

Responding on behalf of Republicans, Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., said in excerpts released in advance that the country wants Obama to instruct Democratic congressional leaders that "it's time to start over on a common-sense, bipartisan plan focused on lowering the cost of health care while improving quality."

"Replacing your family's current health care with government-run health care is not the answer," said Boustany, a former cardiac surgeon.

The so-called government option that Obama mentioned has emerged as one of the most contentious issues in the monthslong debate over health care, with liberal Democrats supporting it and many moderates inside the party opposed. An early draft of Baucus' plan calls for an alternative consisting of nonprofit co-ops. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, the Republican who seems most inclined to cross party lines on the issue, favors a different approach, consisting of a standby in which the government could sell insurance if competition fails to emerge in individual states.

The speech took place after weeks of halting progress and highly publicized setbacks for Obama and his allies on the issue of health care. After internal divisions prevented House Democrats from passing legislation in July, numerous members of the rank and file were confronted in town-hall style meetings with highly vocal critics.

There were charges - launched by former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and debunked by nonpartisan organizations - that the legislation included "death panels" whose purpose was to facilitate the end of life for the elderly under Medicare.

At the same time, polling has shown a deterioration in support for the president, and an AP-GfK poll hours before the speech showed public disapproval of Obama's handling of health care has jumped to 52 percent, an increase of 9 percentage points since July.

Democrats had yet another change to factor into their plans. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's death this summer robbed them not only of the experience of one of the Senate's most accomplished legislators, but also of their 60th vote in the Senate. That meant they needed at least one Republican vote to choke off any filibuster. Alternatively, they could try a more partisan approach, drafting a bill that could not be filibustered, but also shorn of some of the provisions they want.

Republicans greeted Obama's appearance politely but coolly.

"When it comes to health care, Americans don't want government to tear down the house we have," said Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

"They want it to repair the one we've got. That means sensible, step-by-step reforms, not more trillion-dollar grand schemes."

Obama has said repeatedly that agreement exists on about 80 percent of the issues involved in drafting legislation, and the White House and Baucus have lined up numerous outside interests to help shepherd a bill to passage.

The nation's drugmakers and hospitals have already made deals to help pay a cost of the legislation. The American Medical Association also is in support, in large measure because the bills would avert planned reductions of 20 percent in their Medicare fees.

AARP, which advocates for those aged 50 and over, supports the approach Obama and his congressional allies have taken.

On the other hand, the nation's health insurance providers have yet to come to terms with the White House. In recent weeks, Obama has used them as a target, accusing them of putting profits over patient coverage by denying coverage and other steps.

Health care talks lack ailing Kennedy

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WASHINGTON - Ted Kennedy wakes up mornings in his house on Cape Cod to a packet of news clippings put together by his wife. If there's a hearing going on in Washington, D.C., he watches on his computer.

Five hundred miles away, Congress is wrestling with historic legislation to give every American access to quality health care. It is the moment the Massachusetts Democrat has worked toward for 46 years. But instead of marshaling the crowning achievement of his political career, he is sidelined, battling brain cancer.

"He has lived for this day when America would finally extend this right to every citizen. There's no doubt if he could, he would be here in the thick of this," Kennedy's son Patrick, a Democratic congressman from Rhode Island, said in a recent interview, sitting on a bench on the Capitol grounds with tears in his eyes.

But history's third longest-serving senator isn't out of the game yet. Exerting what influence he can from his sickbed, he advises his aides in Washington over the phone. He has made himself the poster child of what he calls "my life's cause," and is using his illness in a final press for universal health care.

Kennedy, 77, seems determined not to miss this. He has outlasted medical expectations since doctors diagnosed a malignant tumor in spring 2008, and is not above expending every last bit of his political capital to deliver the bill he will be most remembered for. Democratic leaders are making plans to bring him back to the Senate floor later this year in a wheelchair, a bed if necessary, to cast his vote for heath-care reform.

"I have enjoyed the best medical care money (and a good insurance policy) can buy. … Every American should be able to get the same treatment that U.S. senators are entitled to," Kennedy wrote in an unusually personal essay published in Newsweek last week, adding: "We're almost there."

He cited his sophisticated course of treatment - risky surgery at Duke University Medical Center to remove part of the tumor, proton-beam radiation at Massachusetts General Hospital and multiple rounds of chemotherapy - as a privilege of the rich.

"My wife, Vicki, and I have worried about many things, but not whether we could afford my care and treatment."

Kennedy's aggressive cancer is bringing a sense of urgency to a famously slow-moving Congress, with friends on both sides of the aisle mindful of passing a bill in time for him to see it signed.

The last time he came to the Capitol was April. In June, he missed passage of his own ground-breaking measure to regulate tobacco. This month, Kennedy, who heads the Senate Health committee, could not participate in the crucial drafting of his legislation.

People close to him say he has his good days and bad. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., who has taken over duties as chairman, has had dinner with him twice. Former aides recalled hundreds of meals at Kennedy's home in McLean, Va., or later on in Washington's elegant Kalorama, where experts on all manner of subjects gathered for lively exchanges that began in his study, moved to the dining room and finished in the living room, sometimes with Kennedy offering coffee. "Cream or milk?"

His well-informed staff is respected on Capitol Hill and in Kennedy's absence enjoys unusually direct access to some lawmakers.

"One of the things Teddy has going for him is the remarkable caliber of staff. Arguably they may be one of the best, if not the best, staff on the Hill. The staff's professionalism and reputation and credibility also go a long way to helping fill the void," said Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader and an informal adviser to the White House on health-care issues.

But Kennedy's aides, who have fiercely defended their boss' bill, have not been in a position to broker compromises and have caused tension at times, trying to carry on in Kennedy's stead while lacking his stature.

Few senators possess the friendships that have brought Republicans to the table or the gravitas that holds the party rank and file in line.

"He's the only Democrat who really has the sway with the unions, the trial lawyers, gays and lesbians, environmentalists, feminists," said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a conservative Republican who has teamed with Kennedy on health-care legislation for three decades. "We've linked arms on a lot of things for the good of the country. And I give him a lot of credit because it hasn't always been easy to link arms with me."

The tragedies Kennedy experienced in his life - his brothers' deaths, his son Ted Jr.'s partial leg amputation from bone cancer, his daughter Kara's lung cancer - shaped a commitment to universal health care that spans nearly a half-century.

Patrick Kennedy recalled traveling with his father in the 1970s to some of the poorest corners of America to highlight people without health insurance. He said his father walked the halls while hospitalized for treatment in Massachusetts and North Carolina this year, asking other cancer patients and their families how they were managing the bills. "It still breaks his heart," the younger Kennedy said.

Ted Kennedy's record on health-care reform is hardly flawless. Critics say his refusal to compromise with presidents Richard M. Nixon and Jimmy Carter missed promising windows of opportunity. During the Ronald Reagan years, he bowed to labor unions and declined to back a plan for catastrophic health insurance, a move he later regretted.

Now an overhaul seems more possible than it has in years, and Kennedy's absence is keenly felt on both sides.

Hatch hasn't heard from his old friend in more than a month. That's a long way from the days when, in the throes of creating a government health insurance program for poor children, Kennedy enlisted his chief of staff to serenade Hatch, an amateur songwriter, with one of his most patriotic tunes.

Back then, when Kennedy displayed his liberal stubbornness, Hatch would threaten to call his big sister, Eunice. "He'd say, 'Oh, no, don't do that. We'll work it out,' " Hatch chuckled at the memory recently. Last week, a frustrated Hatch walked out of bipartisan negotiations.

Such deep, cross-party friendships - it was Hatch who urged Kennedy to quit drinking after a fatal accident on Chappaquiddick Island in Edgartown, Mass., in 1969 - are rare today among younger lawmakers more focused on conquest than compromise. And, some people say, that's what's missing as opponents struggle to find common cause on an issue of great concern to most Americans.

Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, ranking Republican on Kennedy's health committee, found himself largely left out of the process and took to calling the product the "Kennedy staff bill," refusing to believe his friend would have denied him a seat at the table.

"He wouldn't have done that," Enzi said recently. "I have always been able to sit down and have some input."

Some wondered privately if Kennedy could have headed off some of the contentious debates and staggering number of amendments his health committee's bill carried.

Patrick Kennedy said he believes his father is wielding a higher influence off the Senate playing field.

"He is a spiritual man. He prays a lot," Patrick Kennedy said. "And I think there is almost something spiritual about where he is right now. He is reminding every one of his colleagues about the fragility and the dignity of life. I feel like he's contributing in way that's perhaps more profound."

Times staff writer Mark Z. Barabak contributed to this story.

Crash with motorcycle yields DWI charge

SARATOGA SPRINGS u A 47-year-old Florida man will be facing felony vehicular assault and driving while intoxicated charges following a serious crash Monday night involving the man's truck and a motorcyclist.

The motorcyclist, whose name was not released because his family had not been notified of the crash, remained in critical condition late Tuesday at Albany Medical Center, according to Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy.

"The victim is going to live, thank goodness. We thought that he wasn't going to make it through the night," Murphy said. Hospital personnel were "very concerned," however, about the condition of the man's legs as a result of the crash, Murphy said.

Police said Michael Charles Clark, of 3031 Ocean Drive, Hollywood, Fla., was driving his pickup truck west on Lake Avenue shortly before 6:30 p.m. Monday when he began a left turn onto Henning Road just as the motorcyclist was heading east on Lake Avenue, causing a collision.

Police said Clark had impaired speech and smelled of alcohol Monday night, according to court documents. On Tuesday, the results of a blood-alcohol test had not yet come back from a lab, police said.

Clark was also ticketed for unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and not yielding the right-of-way.

Clark is being held on $10,000 cash bail or $20,000 bond. He was arraigned early Tuesday afternoon at Saratoga Hospital where he was taken after complaining of chest pains, according to police.

Murphy said it appears Clark was in the area to work for a trainer at one of the stables at the racecourse, but has no ties to the area and is considered a risk to flee.

A guard was placed outside his room at Saratoga Hospital on Tuesday, Murphy said.

Clark is expected to return Aug. 4 to Saratoga Springs City Court.

Think Big

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The current state of the economy may encourage us to downgrade spending, but it doesn't mean halting your home upgrades. Look to the smallest room in the house to make the biggest imprint, and look to yourself to make the difference. Don your overalls and bust out the hammer - here's how to breakthrough a boring bathroom without sending your savings down the drain.

Think Outside the Bathroom

Alison Hall, editor at Domino magazine, suggests the biggest misconceptions about bathroom do-it-yourself projects comes from personal limitations. "People always think in bathroom mentality, but you can treat the bathroom like a living room." Space limitations allow for unlimited creativity.

"Get crazy with this small area. Hang pictures, art collages or decorative plates like you would in any other room of the house." Bold and bright colors that become overkill in a larger room light up a lavatory. Working with a number of home-design firms in California, Christina MacDonald, of DRS & Associates, says that simply choosing a sink makes a statement. "Today, there are so many designs made from innovative materials like bamboo, onyx and colored glass."

American Standard's 2008 Bathroom Habits Survey, which the Piscataway, N.J., company released in the fall of 2008, revealed that being comfortable and being able to multitask are top priorities for people when it comes to time spent in their bathrooms. Add homey décor touches or double-duty fixtures and shelving units to meet your needs.

Let there be Light

Hall warns to not be trapped by tradition. When it comes to lighting up your bathroom, "don't think you can't use something glamorous like a chandelier." Create old world style by swapping out the current light fixture and bringing in ornate illumination. No re-wiring necessary.

Floor Coverage

Love the faucet but hate the floor? Gutting the groundwork can be costly and timely. For a quick fix to cover tile or linoleum Hall suggests, "forget limiting yourself to just bathmats. To cover the bathroom floor, opt for an indoor/outdoor rug that you would typically use in a front foyer or living room." Built to absorb water and heavy foot action, a carpet of this variety offers colors, patterns and sizes that go beyond the traditional range of solid toned bathmats.

Shower Door Bore

Think of the shower stall as a wall for art. If saddled down with sliding glass doors on the shower, glam up the glass by covering with a curtain. "Hanging a beautiful shower curtain in front of sliding glass doors adds instant stall style," says Hall. No doors? Go mod by removing the uniform shower rod. An inventive friend of Hall's modeled the hospital look by installing the same cords used for patient privacy to hide peeling paint above his shower. Bring this style saving look to your bathroom by, "attaching a really beautiful, textured fabric and run from the floor to the ceiling," suggests Hall.

Fun with Fixtures

Both Hall and MacDonald agree for the quickest bathroom fix-up, look no further than your fixtures. Hit up the local hardware store to change out the existing hardware like the towel bar, toilet paper holder and cabinet knobs, suggests Hall, which means minimal effort and money for a maximum makeover. For an upgrade that appeals to the body as much as the eye, MacDonald suggests swapping out your old showerhead for a spa rain canopy. A fan of a clutter-free surface, MacDonald also recommends wall-mounted accessories like soap dishes and toothbrush holders for a cleaner, more pulled together look.

"Opt for a suite of furnishings in the same pattern for a fresh transformation." Simply switching from your sleek shower curtain holders to a decorative detailed set changes the look from mod squad to French Country without consulting an interior decorator.

Wall Flower

From eye-popping pinks to muted mochas, a fresh coat of paint creates a new look overnight. But Hall warns, "be careful when you purchase the paint. Make sure to speak with someone and explain you are painting the bathroom, as you'll need to pick a moisture-resistant brand." Use tape to guard against brush strokes on the tile, tub and medicine cabinet.

Look beyond the traditional lavatory layout for an instant home improvement. From new knobs to a fancy faucet, picking a new pigment or swapping the shower curtain, get the biggest bang for your buck by taking on the bathroom yourself.

-CTW Features

Music is for the birds

Michael Pestel is a cross between Dr. Doolittle and the Pied Piper.

The artist and musician uses music to communicate with birds.

"I happen to be biased in my belief that birds taken as a whole represent the most extraordinary sound on the planet. Birds are the most talented musicians," Pestel said.

Through his experimental work, he has interacted with birds like the flamingo and the coral-billed New Guinea ground cuckoo.

Pestel is one of several artists featured in "Zoo Logic," an exhibit opening Saturday and running through Aug. 14 at the Lake George Art Project's Courthouse Gallery. The musician's contribution to the show is a DVD presentation of his work with live birds. During an opening reception, which will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the gallery, Pestel will give a performance using his "Birdmachine," a musical device he created for the project.

Working with traditional musical instruments, his own voice and the Birdmachine (a one-man-band-like contraption), Pestel has developed his ornithological series at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh and the Central Park and Bronx zoos in New York.

Although the musician, who now lives in Connecticut, does elicit responses from his feathered friends when he performs, his intention is not to mimic. Drawing from a roster of extinct species, he tries to imagine what sounds each of the birds might have made. Using his musical tools, he gives the long-gone creatures a voice.

"I kind of pretend I represent the sounds that we can't hear anymore," he said. "By doing that, I sort of remind myself that I'm not there to mimic the sounds I hear around me. I'm there to carry on the conversation with living birds. I'm as interested in the forgotten voices as the living voices."

After years of experiments, Pestel has developed a better understanding of bird behavior. He even managed to become a part of the flock at the National Aviary through regular visits.

"I got to know those birds very well. It would just take me walking in the sliding door for them to start going crazy," he said.

One bird in particular seemed interested in the project, according to the musician.

"There was a specific bird named Monster who was a coral-billed New Guinea ground cuckoo - he looked sort of like a miniature tyrannosaurus rex with feathers - who took a real interest in me," he said.

Pestel even enticed other musicians to get in on the act through performances at aviaries. The experimental music intrigued both the birds and the humans in attendance.

The work has inspired Pestel to bring his sound experiments into more traditional musical forums, which he said have been met with mixed reactions.

"When you play in an aviary context, everybody gets it. They understand that I am there improvising with the birds. The sounds I make are pretty abstract, and I'm really pushing the flute to its limits. But in that context, people instantly get it," he said.

In a concert hall, the same nature-inspired sounds often have been met with frowns and confusion.

"Many will leave before the concert is over or will just be shaking their heads. Although most people like bird sounds, they're not thinking of this as music. Whereas, to the modern musician, this has everything to do with music," he said.

The artist hopes the project will inspire people to think about the sounds of nature from a musical perspective.

"When you walk into a forest, the sounds around you are pretty abstract - birds, wind, rivers and streams rushing by - but they have this overwhelming context," he said.

In Pestel's view, both he and the birds he performs with are making music.

"I've found this to be a great way to get people to listen to sounds in ways they might not have before and really appreciate them and not struggle with them," he said.

Byron H. Paynter Sr.

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WARRENSBURG - Byron H. Paynter Sr., 60, of River Street, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, July 28, 2009, at the Glens Falls Hospital surrounded by his loving family.

Born on March 25, 1949, in Bloomington, Ind., he was the son of the late Claude and Beverly (Colglazier) Paynter.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1968, where he served his country overseas in South Korea.

Following his honorable discharge, he worked as a truck driver in Alaska, taking his chances on the ice roads while transporting supplies in the remote wilderness.

He spent the remainder of his time in New York and New Jersey with his family and friends.

He is survived by his wife, Donna Paynter of Warrensburg; his brothers: Scott Paynter of Bradenton, Fla. and Randy Paynter of Indiana; his two sons: Byron Paynter of Warrensburg; Shawn Paynter and his companion, Jessica Shaldone, of Clifton Park; step-children: Kenneth Sutphin of Medford, N.J.; William Sutphin and his wife, Tammy, of Fort Ann; Michelle Eanes of Ephrata, Pa.; Leo Sutphin of Warrensburg; and Jim and Shannon Foster of Hamilton; along with several grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins.

At Byron's request, there are no calling hours scheduled.

Friends are invited to gather to celebrate Byron's life at 1 pm, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2009, at the Lake George American Legion, 3932 State Route 9L, Lake George.

Please visit www.alexanderfuneralhomes.com for online guest book and condolences.

Home away from home at the fair

EASTON - After a long week at the Washington County Fair on Sunday, 14-year-old Rachel Liebig seemed tired and ready to go home.

The Hartford teen had not only worked the fair all week, she'd slept there.

Liebig said she spent the week living with 50 other youths in the on-site dorms, which were built in the mid-1970s for Cornell Cooperative Extension's 4-H youth program. The dorms provide a home away from home for kids who are either working or exhibiting at the fairgrounds.

Chrys Nestle, Cornell Cooperative Extension educator, assists with the youth dorm and said it's for the kids who have to stay late and get up early to care for their animals. Liebig has been showing cows at the Washington County Fair for the past six years, and although she bunks with others her age, she said the setting is nothing like summer camp.

A heavy workload and early-morning rise are Liebig's least favorite aspects of the week, but little sleep and hard work is worth showing her cow, she said.

This year, she showed her 1-year-old cow, Camaro.

"(Camaro) won junior champion one day and reserve champion the next," she said with a smile.

Logan Sweet, 9, of Argyle, agreed that showing his animal makes the hard work and long days of living at the fair worth it.

"I got a trophy. She won grand champion," he said of his pig, the Wicked Witch.

Although Wicked Witch was a little testy this past week, Sweet said her mood had nothing to do with her name, rather she's extremely pregnant.

"It's going to have babies in three weeks," he said.

Sweet, a 4-H youth, said he stays with Tammy Duel, his 4-H leader, either on the grounds or at her house.

Sweet said he's up with the Wicked Witch by 6 a.m. everyday, cleaning her messy pen.

But kids aren't the only ones who live at the fair for the week, said fair manager Mark St. Jacques. He estimated that more than 200 people stay overnight, from carnival exhibitors, employees, volunteers and entertainers.

St. Jacques said people who work the fair live at the grounds out of convenience.

"For people who have animals here. it's easier to care for them if they are staying here. Employees and volunteers are here for long hours. The entertainers use campers because there are no hotel rooms on the week of Travers," said St. Jacques.

The fair provides camper hook-ups and open space. And as for hygiene, St. Jacques said the restrooms on the grounds are already equipped with showers.

"I have a camper, and I've been here for the past two and a half weeks," St. Jacques said.

Instead of eating fair food everyday, St. Jacques stocks the camper with groceries and prepares sandwiches and other quick meals.

He said a lot of others staying on the grounds do the same.

"It's part of the economical impact the fair has here. The managers at Hannaford tell me they have a better week at the store because of the people we have here for the fair," he said.

Some exhibitors even bring their own appliances with them to make life a little easier.

"We have our own fridge, microwave and skillet. Occasionally as a treat we'll eat fair food, but mostly we eat what we brought for the week," said Duel, the 4-H leader and part owner of Burch Farms.

Duel not only had her cows on display but she has pigs as well.

Sunday wrapped up the last day of the fair, and by Monday morning, the crowds were gone - as were the campers.

Through Saturday, the latest attendance information available, 87,500 people had flocked to the Washington County Fair for the fun, food and animals.

The six-day total falls about 11 percent short of last year's attendance for the same period.

This year, a waterlogged Saturday was the least attended of the six days with 11,526 visitors; last year,

Saturday was the most attended day of the week with 23,706.

Criminals do the time, pay for the crime

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A one-night stay? Ninety dollars. Need to see a doctor? Ten bucks. Want toilet paper? Pay for it yourself.

In the ever-widening search for extra income during desperate economic times, some elected officials are embracing a new idea: making inmates pay their debt to society not only in hard time, but also in cold, hard cash.

In New York, GOP Assemblyman James Tedisco introduced a bill that would charge wealthy criminals $90 a day for room and board at state prisons.

Dubbed the "Madoff Bill," after billion-dollar Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff, the legislation is designed to ease the $1 billion annual cost of incarcerating prisoners.

"This concept says if you can afford it, or even some of it, you're going to help the beleaguered taxpayers who play by the rules," Tedisco said.

In Arizona's Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, Sheriff Joe Arpaio calls himself America's toughest sheriff and makes prisoners sleep in tents in 100-degree-plus heat.

Earlier this year, he announced that inmates would be charged $1.25 per day for meals. His decision followed months of food strikes staged by inmates who complained of being fed green bologna and moldy bread.

In Iowa's Des Moines County, where officials faced a $1.7 million budget hole this year, politicians considered charging prisoners for toilet paper - at a savings of $2,300 per year. The idea was ultimately dropped, after much derision.

A New Jersey legislator introduced a bill similar to New York's, this one based on fees charged by the Camden County Correctional Facility, which bills prisoners $5 a day for room and board and $10 per day for infirmary stays - totaling an estimated $300,000 per year.

In Virginia, Richmond's overcrowded city jail has begun charging $1 per day, hoping to earn as much as $200,000 a year. In Missouri's Taney County, home to Branson, the sheriff says charging inmates $45 per day will help pay for his new $27 million jail.

Prisons and jails took some of the biggest cuts this summer when legislators took machetes to their state budgets, trying to slash their way out of an economic morass exacerbated by dwindling tax revenues. But to civil rights advocates - and some law enforcement officials - trying to raise money by charging inmates makes no sense.

"The overwhelming number of people who end up in prison are poor," said Elizabeth Alexander, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project. "The number of times in which these measures actually result in a lot of money coming in is very small."

Alexander also says such efforts only amount to political window dressing. "They allow someone to look tough on crime instead of being effective," she said.

Collecting the fees covers a wide spectrum. In Richmond, they are deducted from a prisoner's personal account - which contains whatever money relatives send and any cash the suspect had when arrested. In Arizona, sheriff Arpaio, who makes inmates wear pink underwear to increase the humiliation factor, also taps prisoner accounts. Inmates who have no money still receive food, the sheriff says.

Other authorities slap the prisoner with a bill upon release from prison. But it's often hard to collect. In Kansas, Overland Park officials acknowledged collecting only 39 percent of fees. In Missouri's Jackson County, officials discovered they spent more money trying to collect fees than they actually received from inmates.

In some cases, it's prisoners' families who shoulder the financial burden.

"It's the spouses, children and parents who pay the fees. They are the people who contribute to prisoners' canteen accounts," said Sarah Geraghty of the Southern Center for Human Rights, which successfully opposed an effort earlier this year in Georgia to bill prisoners $40 per day.

The money was to be collected by seizing cash in their jail accounts or by filing lawsuits. The proposal also would have denied parole to those who could not make payments after being freed.

"It makes no sense to release people with $25, a bus ticket and $40,000 in reimbursement fees," she said. "Saddling people with thousands of dollars in debt is contradictory to helping someone become a functioning member of society."

In recent years, as get-tough sentencing and drug penalties increased, the nation's prison population skyrocketed. Chain gangs returned to states including Arizona and Alabama. Premium cable was eliminated in federal prisons. New York killed an inmate program that paid tuition for college-degree programs.

But trying to make prisoners pay to serve time is a wasted effort, civil rights advocates say. "This is a dry well," Alexander said. "They're not going to solve this (economic) problem by going down it."

Asked if she had heard about Des Moines County's proposal to charge inmates for toilet paper, Alexander laughed.

"I did not," she replied. "That's a good metaphor for the whole effort."

New life for Madden

GLENS FALLS - The new owners of the Madden Hotel are considering several long-term redevelopment options such as providing housing for students at Adirondack Community College.

Apartments for the elderly is another possibility, although that would require installing an elevator in the South Street building, which has not been used as an actual hotel in years.

Peter Shabat, the previous owner, primarily rented rooms to transients and others with limited income.

"We've got some ideas and some plans and things that we'd like to do," Jack Perna, one of the co-owners, said during a tour of the building on Tuesday. Chad Nims is the other co-owner.

Before determining a long-term use for the building, the duo will work with an architect to draw up plans to refurbish the building's facade, Nims said.

Both men hope improving the building's exterior will help attract commercial tenants to the ground floor.

Nims and Perna said they are talking with a caterer who may be interested in using the storefront, which used to be a bakery. They're also speaking with people who are considering establishing an upscale-type bar in a second ground-floor space.

The Open Door soup kitchen will remain a third ground-floor tenant.

For the time being, the plan for the upper floors is to make minor interior renovations and continue renting rooms on a month-to-month basis, so long as tenants do not create a disturbance.

Perna said it's necessary to maintain cash flow while they develop long-range plans.

"Obviously, it's a business," he said.

Old carpets have been ripped up, and other minor renovations have been completed to make the interior more presentable.

More importantly, Perna and Nims said, is that Shabat, the former owner, evicted the tenants who had been causing disturbances.

City officials had sought to close the building based on the city's nuisance abatement law, which addresses complaints over things like loud noise, disorderly conduct, fighting and lewdness.

The city ended its legal action last week after Shabat was fined $200 and assured city officials he had dealt with disruptive tenants.

Shabat said Tuesday he did not go through a court process to evict the tenants but made it clear they could no longer live there.

"Some of them just moved by themselves, and some of them I actually paid for them to move somewhere else," he said.

There were 13 vacancies - nearly half of the 30 units - on Tuesday. Tenants who remain in the building appreciated their unruly neighbors' being told to leave, Nims said.

"They thanked us," he said. "They said, 'We finally got a good night's sleep.' "

Most of those who still live there have jobs, Perna said.

Nims and Perna are in the process of renovating space on the ground floor for an office.

They said they plan to be visible landlords, stopping by the building on a daily basis to check on things, even though they have other jobs.

Nims owns a property maintenance company and another company that rents tents, tables and chairs for outdoor parties and banquets. Perna manages the bodyshop at Whiteman Chevrolet in Glens Falls.

Glens Falls Mayor John "Jack" Dimaond said he toured the building last week with Perna and Nims and noticed that a few doors had been replaced.

Diamond said the city will continue to be diligent with its crackdown on nuisance tenants, whether they reside at the Madden Hotel or at some other apartment building in the city.

Paterson addresses mayors, Senate

SARATOGA SPRINGS - The condition of the state and the three-week political crisis disrupting the Senate took center stage Monday during the annual gathering of the New York Conference of Mayors.

"We are in very difficult times," said Gov. David Paterson, who made a brief conference appearance at the Saratoga Hilton Monday morning, where he defined the state as being in a "perilous economic condition."

"We are probably going to come out in the next couple of weeks with an economic forecast that no one is going to like," he said. "Our tax receipts may be down 35 percent this year from where they were projected. We might have just as difficult a budget to grapple with this summer as we did last summer."

Paterson called on the state Senate to quickly resolve its political differences before several key bills expire Tuesday night - putting as much as $1.9 billion in play if the Senate fails to act.

"We've had an inoperable state Senate paralyzing our state government," Paterson said.

"It doesn't mean that we're going to lose $1.9 billion on July 1, but it does set in motion the inability of local municipalities and counties to address some of their needs - and some of the money that's lost will never be returned. So it is very serious, and it occurs in 48 hours.

"There is a seamless web of issues that will be ignited if we don't seek resolution of this economic crisis compounded by government's crisis in the next two days."

The state Senate has been working through the weekend to resolve its three-week dispute over control of the body, and Paterson has called the two squabbling factions to work every day for a week since the power struggle resulted in gridlock.

No bills have been passed since the June 8 overthrow.

"The Senate cannot allow its political differences to obfuscate the need for public service at this time," Paterson said. "This is not the time for politics."

Paterson spoke for just 12 minutes Monday and cancelled a scheduled press availability afterward.

City Deputy Finance Commissioner Kate Jarosh, who attended Monday's gathering, said the brevity of Paterson's visit didn't allow enough time to address the governor personally.

"I wanted to stand up and thank him for taking our VLT money away," said Jarosh, in a sarcastic nod to Paterson's decision to eliminate nearly $4 million in revenue over the past year that the city was supposed to receive for hosting the Saratoga Gaming and Raceway facility.

The resulting shortfall has forced the city to re-open its 2009 budget and make cuts that are tentatively scheduled for a City Council vote on July 7.

City employees and their unions are planning a protest targeting some of those proposed cuts, as well as stalled contract negotiations, outside the Saratoga Springs City Center at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday during the final day of the state Conference of Mayors gathering.

During his turn at the podium, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said that, while he's hopeful about the future, there will be many challenges in the short term.

Historian, memoirist and political author Doris Kearns Goodwin also spoke at Monday's gathering.

Her presentation segued from her childhood spent penning accounts of her beloved Brooklyn Dodgers to her biographies of the presidential eras of Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln.

Showcasing her Lincoln biography "Team of Rivals," Goodwin likened the political adversity faced 150 years ago by the 16th U.S. president to the challenging times faced by municipal leaders

today.

Providing one of the more humorous anecdotes of Monday's session - as well as perhaps unintentionally defining the changing times - Goodwin recalled the days she spent working as a 24-year-old intern for President Lyndon Johnson.

"It used to be an honor saying you were a White House intern," Goodwin said with a laugh. "Things are more complicated these days."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.