Red Cross, others reach out to families who lose home

Nine people were driven from their home by fire at 17 Thomas Street in Chatham, April 12. Photo by Bill Wallace

CHATHAM—Volunteers from the Hudson Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross provided emergency aid to nine people after a multi-family fire at 17 Thomas Street, Wednesday, April 12 at 12:56 p.m.

Columbia County 911 initially dispatched the Chatham Task Force and Chatham Rescue to the blaze.

Firefighters from Chatham, Valatie, Ghent, East Chatham, Niverville and Greenport responded to the scene.

The Columbia County Fire Coordinators Office, Chatham Police Department, Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and State Police assisted at the scene. Read more…

‘Swatting’ calls put schools on cautionary lockdown

KINDERHOOK—Parents of students in the Ichabod Crane Central School District were alerted March 30 that several school districts in the Capital Region and surrounding areas received what were believed to be hoax “swatting” phone calls and social media communications indicating an active shooter was present at their school.

Parents initially received a text message at 9:52 a.m. followed by an email a few minutes later.

Superintendent of Schools Suzanne Guntlow wrote that local law enforcement had advised the administration that several school districts across multiple counties regionally, and across the state, have received threats.

“In response to this information and out of an abundance of caution, we are going into a lockout along with neighboring districts. Read more…

Copake man charged with reckless endangerment and criminal mischief

COPAKE—Columbia County Deputy Sheriff Daniel Stang was dispatched by Columbia County 911 for a reported trespassing complaint on Connolly Road, March 28 at 5:26 p.m.

According to a press release from Columbia County Sheriff Donald Krapf, the person who reported the incident, told 911 he fired two rounds from a shotgun at the vehicle of the person whom he believed was trespassing.

One of the rounds did strike and damage a tire on the vehicle. No one was injured and the person in the vehicle left the area. The Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Branch responded to the scene and began the investigation. Read more…

Allegedly unlicensed psychotherapist arrested in Columbia County

AUSTERLITZ—State Police arrested William G. Culley, 57, of Chatham for the unauthorized practice of a profession, a class E felony, March 18.

After receiving a law enforcement tip, investigators determined Mr. Culley was allegedly practicing as a psychotherapist without a license.

He was issued an appearance ticket returnable in Austerlitz Court at a later date.

State Police Troop K weekly activity February 25 through March 5:

*Arrests, felony 15, misdemeanor 34, violations 3

*DWI arrests 21

*Crash investigations, property damage 104, personal injury 19, fatals 0

*Vehicle and traffic tickets issued 1,539

*Total calls for service 990.

To contact Diane Valden email

Leggett retires from Surrogate’s Court. Lisa Leggett, celebrated her retirement from Columbia County Surrogate’s Court with a party attended by family, friends, co-workers, and local legal professionals, Thursday, March 9 in The Catskill Room at The Wick hotel in Hudson. Ms. Leggett worked as a clerical assistant in the Columbia County Surrogate’s Court for nearly 25 years. Pictured are current courthouse staff together with Ms. Leggett (back row, 5th from left). Photo contributed

Volunteer firefighters save NY taxpayers billions

ALBANY—New York’s volunteer firefighters, who respond to emergency calls in a majority of the state, save not only lives and property, but also billions in taxpayer dollars.

According to an economic impact study released by the Firefighters Association of the State of New York (FASNY), these dedicated volunteers help New York taxpayers save $4.7 billion annually through their services, according to a press release.

The report emphasizes the critical role of volunteer firefighters in safeguarding New York’s communities and helping to save lives. The 80,000 volunteer firefighters in the state provide vital protection and services during emergencies and contribute significantly to their communities through continuous training, outreach and fire safety education. They also play a critical role in the statewide response plans to major emergencies and natural disasters.

Prepared by Resolution Economics (ResEcon), the “Economic Study of The Tax Savings Generated by New York’s Volunteer Fire Service” is the second study in the past decade to examine the economic impact of New York’s volunteer firefighters. Volunteer firefighters keep local taxes and expenses low by eliminating the need to pay career firefighters wages, benefits and related costs. New York State relies heavily on volunteer fire departments, and a conversion to paid departments would cause a severe economic burden and require a massive increase in property taxes.

“This report underscores the importance and value of the volunteer firefighting service to New York. Without the dedication and service of the brave volunteers throughout the state, local taxpayers would face a significant financial burden to fund the type of emergency response they are accustomed to. Our volunteer firefighters train extensively to be able to respond to their neighbors in a time of need, and we are proud to do our part to keep this great state safe and taxpayer costs for fire protection low,” FASNY President Edward Tase, Jr., said in the release.

Among the findings in the report:

*Fully paid career departments would cost New York taxpayers $4.7 billion annually in pay, benefits, operating, maintenance, and capital costs

*31,058 full-time paid firefighters would need to be hired

*Of New York State’s 1,640 fire departments, 93.2% are all-volunteer or mostly volunteer.

If NYS switched to an all-paid fire service:

*Local government property taxes would rise an average of 28.4% absent volunteer firefighters (taxes would increase between 5.8% and 133.8% depending on the county)

*There would be a one-time cost of $8.17 billion to acquire existing structures, vehicles, and equipment.

“In addition to saving lives, the selfless individuals who volunteer as firefighters in New York also save residents a significant amount in tax dollars. Towns, and ultimately taxpayers, are able to save money by contracting with volunteer fire departments for fire protection services. We look forward to working with legislators and stakeholders on creating local options to encourage retention and recruitment, as well as state funded programs and incentives to support volunteer emergency service providers,” Executive Director of the Association of Towns Gerry Geist said in the release

Founded in 1872, the Firefighters Association of the State of New York (FASNY) represents the interests of the approximately 80,000 volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel in New York State.  For more information, visit

Annual brush burning ban starts March 16

GHENT—New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the annual statewide ban prohibiting residential brush burning begins March 16 and runs through May 14.

Since 2009, DEC has enforced the annual brush burning ban to prevent wildfires and protect communities during heightened conditions for wildfires.

“This winter was warmer and drier than most, but regardless of the winter weather, we are always at a greater risk of wildfires in the spring. This ban helps protect our communities, natural resources, and the rangers and other firefighters who extinguish the fires. We’re encouraging all New Yorkers to think about safety first, before starting a potentially dangerous fire,” Commissioner Seggos said in a press release. Read more…