Latinx fest celebrates heritage and community

The Columbia County Sanctuary Movement hosted the 2nd annual Latinx Festival on Saturday, September 17 in Hudson. Organizers say over 1,000 people attended. Events began with a Warren Street parade stepping off from the 7th Street Park and continuing down to the Hudson Riverfront Park. During the parade, flags of many countries were carried by parishioners of Iglesia Evangelica “Amigos” of Kingston (pictured). At the park, there were performers as well as food, craft vendors, children’s activities and community tables. The Latinx Afterparty started at 7 p.m. at the Hudson Brewery across the street from the festival. Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States runs from September 14 through October 15. Photo by David Lee

Hudson looks to improve teacher morale and retention

HUDSON – The Hudson City School District (HCSD) is participating in a study on how to improve teacher morale and retention, with the support and guidance of the NoVo Foundation. Results so far suggest that HCSD teachers and paraprofessionals need to feel appreciated, according to Assistant Superintendent of School Improvement, Dr. April Prestipino, in a presentation August 23 and dialogues September 13 and 19.

On December 7, 2021, at a HCSD Schoolboard meeting, Wayne Kinney, science teacher and president of the Hudson Teachers Association, portrayed teachers as feeling “unsafe” and “disrespected” on the job, subject to verbal insults and occasionally physical attacks. In the spring of 2022, outgoing school board member Charles Parmentier, whose wife has taught in the HCSD for close to three decades, said teachers spend extra time and their own money preparing for their students but “are not appreciated.”

Now, Dr. Prestipino said, although the HCSD has not seen “a significant increase in the number of teachers who leave after they have started to work for us,” the district is “struggling to find teachers in hard-to-fill areas, [such as] Technology, Family & Consumer Science, Spanish, and Special Education.” Other school districts in Columbia County are also “experiencing similar struggles. Districts are competing for the same small pool of qualified applicants.”

This spring, the HCSD received a grant of $50,000 from NoVo to use between March 2022 and June 2023 in order to participate in the study. The study is part of a program whose two “key purposes” are to “collaborate with educators and school leaders to co-design solutions that will address root causes of decreased teacher morale” and to “develop an…understanding of the experiences and challenges” that confront classroom educators related to social/emotional dimensions, well-being, and Covid-19 effects. In total, the program includes 12 school districts and charter schools across the country. Read more…

K’hook Town Board seeks lower speed on 9

VALATIE—The Kinderhook Town Board passed a motion at the September 12 meeting to petition the state Department of Transportation (DOT) for a reduction of the speed limit on state Route 9. The request comes after another fatal accident on the highway.

On the evening of August 13 State Police investigated a fatal motor vehicle crash involving an SUV and a golf cart on Route 9 near Maple Lane South. The golf cart operator, Dopson A. Wynter, 60, of Kinderhook was pronounced dead on scene. According to the police reports, initial investigation found the SUV was southbound on Route 9 when the Club Car golf cart entered the roadway from the west shoulder and subsequently collided with the SUV.

The board talked about issues along that area of Route 9, which has been the site of other accidents, including another fatal car accident in 2017. Supervisor Tim Ooms said during the discussion that he hoped the state would look into the speed and improve the safety along that stretch of Route 9. The speed limit is 50 mph. It was reduced from 55 mph several years ago. Read more…

No decision yet on farm OT from state, county tables motion

GHENT – Whether to lower the overtime threshold for New York State farmworkers, from 60 to 40 hours, is before the state Department of Labor. Commissioner Roberta Reardon has until October 21 to act on the recommendations approved by the Farm Laborers Wage Board (FLWB), in a 2-1 vote, in January of this year.

The Columbia County Board of Supervisors’ Finance Committee weighed in on the issue, at its monthly meeting September 14, voting in favor of Resolution 395-2022 to oppose the Wage Board’s recommendation for a lower OT threshold. Committee member Michael Chameides was the lone vote opposing the resolution. An effort to bring the resolution before the full County Board of Supervisors, later that evening, was tabled.

On Wednesday, September 7, representatives of 8 farmworkers’ advocacy groups held a Zoom press conference to urge the commissioner to act before the October deadline. The FLWB calls for phasing in the lower threshold over 10 years starting in 2024. The overtime (OT) threshold would be reduced by four hours every other year. Governor Kathy Hochul has pledged to reimburse farmers for their OT expenses. Read more…

New Ancram Center for the Arts comes together

“A graceful series of porches and ramps will tie the two structures together to create a visually unified identity,” says the architect’s feasibility study. Design/renderings by Ackert Architecture PC

NOTE: After this article went to press, Ancram Opera House co-directors had to postpone their September 24 kick-off volunteer event and public remarks due to Covid. A new date will be announced soon. Until then, the co-directors say many thanks to those who signed up to volunteer and for all who were planning to come by to celebrate Ancram Opera House and our expansion plans.

ANCRAM—Tucked into the southeastern corner of this rural county, the Town of Ancram is scenic, historic and steeped in farming. Soon, it will add an arts center to its list of notable features.

Ancram Opera House (AOH) co-directors have announced the expansion of the existing premises at 1330 County Route 7, to include a newly-acquired adjacent property at 1326 County Route 7, to be known as The Annex. Together the Opera House and The Annex will be known as the Ancram Center for the Arts.

The Annex, a 1,300 square-foot, two-story post-and-beam structure, dates back to 1780, believed built by descendants of the Livingston family. It has been vacant, but is structurally sound, according to a September 8 AOH press release. The building and .08 acre property will allow the campus to include a community meeting room, outdoor areas for audience gatherings pre- and post-show, and housing for artists and interns.

To get the community involved a volunteer clean-up day and ground-breaking ceremony will be held there, Saturday, September 24.

Volunteers need no experience and can sign-up for shifts from noon to 2 p.m. and/or 2 to 4 p.m. Gloves, dust masks, hard hats (donated by Herrington’s Lumber), water and snacks will be provided. To get involved, email . Read more…

How did housing become a crisis?

(This is the first in a series of articles about housing in Columbia County.)

HUDSON—Some call it a crisis—the state of housing in the county. Precipitated by the skyrocketing price of single-family homes during the pandemic (the median price rose by 54.7% from $239,000 to $379,000 between 2018 and 2021) and the simultaneous significant decrease in available housing (by 58.6%), many in our workforce and many longtime residents simply cannot afford to live here.
Rents have followed the same trajectory, often close to doubling. Since wages have not increased to keep pace, the lack of affordable housing is impacting the economy, as younger workers leave the county to find locales where they can find both work and housing, according to Matt Murell (R-Stockport), chairman of the county Board of Supervisors.

Recognizing the need to develop and implement solutions, on September 14 the Board of Supervisors unanimously authorized a three-year contract with the Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) to further the development of housing that is affordable. To fund the contract, the county will draw on federal 2021 Covid Stimulus Plan (ARPA) money that were awarded to further activities that are “vital to the overall economic health of the county, its residents, and the local economy.”

The contract is subject to annual review and the three-year cost will not exceed a total of $250,000. The county was allocated approximately $11 million under the ARPA legislation.

Affordable housing is key to an area’s health. It benefits community stability and individual financial security, improves health, education, and employment outcomes, reduces public service costs and stimulates and supports economic development. Read more…