Can you hear me now?

ANCRAM–Some town residents say they have a backlog of cell phone rollover minutes.

   Why? Because their cell phones don’t work in the southeast corner of Columbia County, so they can’t use up the minutes they have accrued.

   But thanks to the efforts of Ancram’s cell phone committee of one–Bob Roth–that will soon change. Mr. Roth has been working on improving cell phone service locally for about two years and was finally able to make significant progress with help from former Congresswoman, now Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

   Greeley Ford, a network sales support manager with AT&T, came to the May Town Board meeting to assure residents he is working on the problem and Mr. Roth made it happen. But it won’t happen overnight.

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Jail inmates put down roots

GREENPORT–Tomatoes, peppers, squash, broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, yellow and green beans, rosemary, parsley, basil and a variety of lettuces are among the crops now being planted across the region by backyard gardeners, vegetable farmers and inmates at the Columbia County Jail.

   That’s right–inmates.

   So far, 11 with green thumb prints have enlisted in the new Inmate Horticulture Program, which Sheriff David W. Harrison Jr. introduced at a recent press conference.

   In a corner behind the jail, next to a newly started compost pile and a couple of impounded vehicles, within the fenced-in perimeter of the County Public Safety Building compound, a 50- by-200-foot area of what used to be lawn has been stripped of its top layer of sod.

   Three-yards of composted cow manure was trucked in from Gro Max in Claverack and spread across the 1,000-square-foot plot. Then a Rototiller, donated for a day by Air Compressor Plus in Ghent, was used to work the manure into the soil.

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Swine flu case confirmed in county


HUDSON—Tests have confirmed the first known case of H1N1 swine flu in Columbia County, according to a release issued by the county Department of Health Saturday afternoon, May 30. Officials say case is a mild case and the patient is expected to make a full recovery.

   The health department has been using a previously established emergency preparedness plan since public health agencies nationwide began to track the spread of the virus several weeks ago. The plan includes increased surveillance, additional protocols to reduce the possibility for transmission of the virus in health care facilities, and education and awareness in conjunction with the state Health Department, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

   Last week Columbia Memorial Hospital treated a patient from Greene County who also tested positive for the illness. That patient was also expected to recover completely, and health personnel suggested that the patient may have contracted the illness in New York City, not locally.

   The health department did not release details on the latest case.

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Husband and wife dead in murder/suicide

KINDERHOOK—Timothy L. Conway, 58, shot and killed his wife Sarah Witham-Conway, 50, with a 12-gauge shotgun, then turned the gun on himself in the early morning hours of Wednesday, May 27, Columbia County Sheriff David Harrison Jr. reported in a press release late today.
    Autopsies on the two bodies found at the 101 Rabbit Lane home were performed at the Albany Medical Center Thursday by Dr. Michael Sikirica, a forensic pathologist.
   The examination confirmed that both died instantly of gunshot wounds. The gun was recovered at the scene.
   The couple has two children, Katherine Conway, 20, and Spencer Conway, 16; neither was home at the time of the shootings.
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Forester, photographer speaks Saturday

VALATIE–Tom Zetterstrom, founder of Elm Watch, will speak at The First Presbyterian Church, 2313 Church Street, at 3 p.m.Saturday, May 30. His subject is, “The Right Tree in the Right Place, Restoring and Sustaining the Community Forest” This event is free and the public is invited.

     In 1999, Mr. Zetterstrom founded Elm Watch, an organization dedicated to preserving and restoring the American elm to the community forest.  Elm Watch ( encourages stewardship of community forests and the proper siting and planting of disease-resistant elms and other appropriate species in public spaces, according to a release.
Mr. Zetterstrom is also a critically acclaimed photographer whose “Portraits of Trees” series has been widely exhibited.  He will apply his celebrated aesthetic to analyzing the local historic and existing treescape and will recommend appropriate species and best planting practices. 
     Mr. Zetterstrom has inspired numerous towns to re-invest in their green infrastructure and design sustainable community forests. He will discuss strategies to raise local awareness and to help restore the Kinderhook and Valatie treescapes, recently ravaged by storm damage, neglect and intensive pruning.
    KNGG and the Garden Club of Kinderhook are sponsoring Mr. Zetterstrom’s illustrated talk. The groups expressed thanks in the release fo k Maple Lane Nursery and Diwelski’s Tree Planting for donating gift certificates toward the purchase and planting of new, appropriate trees. Audience members will have raffled chances to win these certificates. 
    Kinderhook Neighbors for Good Growth (KNGG) is a 501 (c) (3) organization dedicated to preserving the character, economy and quality of life of the Town of Kinderhook through responsible land use and development that results in benefits for all Town residents, supporting sound development planning that includes preservation of open spaces, protection of the natural environment and promotion of appropriate, sustainable economic growth.