County police panel tackles scope of change needed

HUDSON—The Columbia County Police Reform Panel focused its February 3 discussion on what the Police Reform Plan under preparation must include and emphasize, while noting that some reforms require the involvement of departments other than law enforcement.

In the wake of tragic encounters nationwide between police officers and people of color last year, Governor Cuomo ordered each local government with a police force to deliver police improvement plans by April 1 of 2021. To develop such a plan, Columbia County formed a Police Reform Panel, which has had several meetings since October 2020. The panel covers the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and the Greenport, Philmont, and Stockport police. The Village of Chatham and the City of Hudson are preparing its their own plans.

February 3 meeting participants viewed an outline of the county plan. Matt Murrell (R-Stockport), chairman of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, said he would like the document completed by March 1, and disseminated to the public in time for a public hearing March 8, so the full Board of Supervisors can vote on it March 10. Read more…

Ancram marshals green brain trust

Pictured are cows at Chaseholm Farm, which won a Good Earthkeeping Award in 2020 after being nominated by the Ancram Conservation Advisory Committee. Photo contributed

ANCRAM—Pandemic or not, the Ancram Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) produced a long list of achievements and activities in 2020 as reported by Chairperson Jamie Purinton at the Town Board’s January 21 meeting.

The nine-member, all volunteer CAC is made up of landscape and plant experts, farmers, writers, environmental scientists, planners, researchers, teachers, doctors and a zoo director. That’s a lot of brain power packed into one group all aimed at “the preservation and ecological well-being of the town’s flora and fauna.”

In fact, Ancram’s Conservation Advisory Council serves as a model for towns around the county interested in establishing the same kind of human resource in their communities. Read more…

Volkmann pleads guilty to pension double-dips, defrauding village

CHATHAM – Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka announced Thursday, February 11, that Peter Volkmann, 57, of Stuyvesant, formerly the chief of the Village of Chatham Police Department, pleaded guilty to grand larceny and official misconduct before County Court Judge Richard Koweek.

The DA stated that the conviction was the result of a two-year investigation that began shortly before State Police executed a search warrant issued by County Court Judge Jonathan Nichols on January 8, 2019.

Mr. Volkmann pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the fourth degree for circumventing the state’s post-retirement income restrictions and cheating the New York State and Local Retirement System out of $74,222, according a press release from State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s office. Mr. Volkmann hid public-source income from 19 municipalities and school districts in excess of the statutory limit by funneling the earnings through a private business, PF Volkmann & Associates. Read more…

Chatham village bids court goodbye

CHATHAM—The board voted unanimously to pass a local law eliminating the Village Court and the position of village judge at their online meeting February 8. Court will remain open until early April, when the term of current Village Judge James Borgia-Forster is up.

Currently the court has suspended in-person meetings due to the pandemic. Most issues are being handled online. Normally the court meets in the Tracy Memorial Village Hall twice a month.

The Village Board held a public hearing on the local law, also online, before the board’s regular meeting. One resident, Lael Locke, a former village trustee, asked why the board planned to close the court and whether it was for financial reasons. Read more…

Now this is a shovel-ready site

The county as well as much of the eastern part of the state got two days of snow Monday and Tuesday. Seen above at Omi’s sculpture park Tuesday afternoon, dog friends Cider, an Australian shepherd, Emilia, a dog of light color and indeterminate pedigree, and Toby, the intense but friendly pit bull, loved the snow in this part of Ghent, as their minders Dani Purkey (l) and Noah Rosenstein tried to keep up. Dogs are welcome at the Sculpture Park but they must be kept on leash from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The park, at 1405 County Route 22, is open daily from dawn until dusk. There are new Covid-19 related guidelines for visiting; they can be found at artomi.org/visit. Photo by David Lee