What sap? At the Farm at Miller’s Crossing in Claverack Pam Banks fills a steel beaker into which she will place a hydometer to check the sugar content of the maple syrup. The sap was running Saturday, March 16 in time for the Columbia Land Conservancy’s tour of the maple syrup operation at the farm. Farm owners Chris and Katie Cashen ushered a group of visitors along the route the sap takes from the trees out in the “sugarbush” to the collecting tank, the evaporator, and to a taste of the finished product. This year they began tapping the trees the first week of February. Once it is boiled down, the syrup goes to a tank and flows through a series of filters to yield the amber finished product. Photo by David Lee

Consolidated courts Hillsdale’s cable market

HILLSDALE–The monthly Hillsdale Town Board meeting last week was dominated by a presentation from Consolidated Communications, Inc. (CCI) representatives, Peter Mercer and Bill Mulrein. The company plans to compete with Spectrum/Time Warner for franchises to provide cable television service to Hillsdale and other towns in the Hudson Valley. Consolidated already provides internet and phone service in Hillsdale and many other towns following its recent acquisition of Fairpoint Communications.

Mr. Mercer used a census map of Hillsdale to identify areas that currently are underserved, namely the northwest, southeast and west end sections. He also fielded questions from town Broadband Committee chair, Andrew Dash.

According to Mr. Mercer, the state agreement that underwrites a significant amount of the costs for service providers to upgrade their systems, bars towns from entering into an exclusive franchise agreement with any service provider. Hence CCI’s bid to enter the Hillsdale cable TV market. Read more…

Mayor, trustee apologize for Chatham tax mess

CHATHAM—Monday, March 11 was the last regular meeting for Village Mayor Tom Curran and Trustee Jay Rippel. Neither was seeking reelection in village elections on March 19. During the public comments at the end of the meeting, both men personally apologized for the financial issues the village is currently going through.

Last summer the Village Board discovered that federal payroll taxes had not been paid for three years and then last December the board announced at a meeting that the village had not paid state payroll taxes for the same period. The village was able to pay the back taxes, which had been withheld from employees, but there was interest and penalties on the late payments that must still be paid to both the state and the US governments.

The IRS forgave several thousand dollars in penalties but says the village still owes $18,112. And the state has not yet said what the village owes, though it could be about $25,000. The village is also under investigation for the late payments by the county District Attorney and the state Department of Taxation. In January State Police and state officials seized village computers and documents. Read more…

Ashby reaches out to local leaders and gets an earful

VALATIE–Assemblyman Jake Ashby (R-107th) held a Municipal Executive Forum with county supervisors and the mayors of Valatie and Kinderhook on March 13 at the Martin H. Glynn Municipal Building. The assemblyman said he was hosting forums like this in other counties in his district with an agenda to discuss the many issues municipalities deal with and the ways that he can assist.

Mr. Ashby’s Assembly district includes the towns of Austerlitz, Canaan, Chatham, Hillsdale, Kinderhook and New Lebanon as well as most of Rensselaer and southern Washington counties.

Mr. Ashby was joined by his constituent liaison, Sally Hogan, who is also a Town of Kinderhook councilwoman, and by his chief of staff, Tom Grant. Valatie Mayor Diane Argyle and Kinderhook Mayor Jim Dunham attended the afternoon meeting with Kinderhook Town Supervisor Pat Grattan, Chatham Supervisor Maria Lull and New Lebanon Supervisor Colleen Teal. Read more…

Rail trail chugs ahead

COPAKE—The Harlem Valley Rail Trail is almost half-way there.

Construction work is now underway on the fourth phase of the trail, an eight-mile section which will complete the Dutchess County portion of the trail from the Village of Millerton, Town of North East and link it to Under Mountain Road in Ancram, Columbia County.

Once this section is completed—23 miles of continuous trail will be in place from the Metro North Train Station in Wassaic (Dutchess County) north to Copake Falls (Columbia County.) The milestone is half-way to the goal of a 46 mile-long recreational trail linking Wassaic to Chatham on an abandoned portion of what once was the New York and Harlem Railroad line. Read more…

Driver, chief and mayor critique ICE incident

HUDSON–The driver of the car stopped by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in Hudson March 5 conversed with Hudson City officials about the episode and its implications at Hudson City Hall March 15, in front of an overflow audience.

Columbia County Sanctuary Movement Executive Director Bryan McCormack, who had driven the car, Mayor Rick Rector, Common Council President Tom DePietro, Alderman Kamal Johnson (D-1st Ward), and Police Chief Ed Moore discussed the how police interacted with ICE officials during the episode, the citizenship question and translation services. The meeting was calm.

Chief Moore reported, “On March 5, I got a call from ICE. They said they had a warrant to arrest two men in a car driven by Bryan. I sent two police officers. The decision to send them was mine and mine alone.” At the scene, “the officers saw Bryan sitting behind the wheel and lots of ICE officers around the vehicle, but they did not see the men. I instructed them to stand and watch. Then an ICE officer told our officers that they would not execute an arrest. So I told our officers to leave.” The Hudson officers had been there eight or nine minutes. Read more…