Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sued, Honored, Challenged

SUED. A Catskill resident has commenced a lawsuit against Peckham Industries and the State Department of Environmental Conservation. Plaintiff Lee Anne Morgan accuses Peckham, the road-building materials company, of conducting “unreasonable,” dangerous, loud, “outrageous,” and illegal activities at its former limestone quarry site near her home on Fyke Road.

Although that site no longer yields limestone, it is used by Peckham, says Ms Morgan, for crushing imported rocks, for dumping and burning tires, and for storing and distributing explosives materials—all without proper DEC permits. Activities at the site allegedly generate an inordinate, invasive, dangerous volume of truck traffic--day and night, to the extent of more than 100 comings and goings in 24 hours. This occurs on “an unusually narrow, hilly” road on which there “blind curves” and which is devoid of sidewalks even where it “passes through a residential neighborhood.” The plaintiff and her neighbors accordingly are exposed by Peckham’s activities “to grave danger and substantial risk of serious bodily harm.”

According to the complaint, filed on January 22nd by attorney Edward Kaplan of Hunter, Ms Morgan asks the State Supreme Court’s Greene County judge to order Peckham to stop assembling explosives at and distributing them from its Fyke Road site, to limit company-related truck traffic on Fyke Road to daylight hours, and to commence legally required reclamation work.

Peckham Industries is a privately owned company based in White Plains. In GreeneLand, in addition to its 90-acre Fyke Road site, Peckham operates a terminal for asphalt supplies in Athens and another plant, for crushed stone and hot mix asphalt, on Route 9W South in Catskill.

[Another Fyke Road resident, after reading the foregoing story, said "It's not that bad."]

OLDEN DAYS. Catskill is “not what it was” days past, says retiring Town Supervisor Joe Izzo. “It’s better.” Better than it was in the 1920’s, he specified, when local Klansmen burned a cross here. Better than it was in the 1950’s, when white folks and colored folks occupied separate sections of the Community Theater. It has become a better place, he added, thanks to the kind of people who, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Movement’s luncheon on Saturday (2/10), in the Catskill High School cafeteria, were cited for service. Eighteen individuals were named in the program as honorees, along with the collective rescuers of the Community Center. Then the organizers sprang a surprise, conferring additional awards on Richard Muggeo, the recently retired history teacher who, with colleague Patricia Lewis, instigated recognition of the Martin Luther King legacy 20 years ago; Donna Davis, civic activist; and Kathleen Farrell, superintendent of Catskill schools. Those honorees received applause aplenty from the 250 participants who filled the cafeteria. So did the other speakers, as they recalled the King legacy of “freedom for all,” his insistence that people be judged “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” and his affirmation that “where there is unity, there is power, and where there is unity and power there is love.” Dr King, said the Rev. Richard Turpin, was“a good Samaritan and”—referring to the honorees—“there are some good Samaritans in this room.” The day’s honorees incoluded Madeline Behrmann, Dante Marshall Butler, Jewell Jenkins Chestnut, Patricia Dushane, C. Mae Jacocks, Tom June, Alyssa O’Neil, Wayne Neal, Daniel Pneuman, Chris Quinn, Joseph Rothrock II, Greg Sager, Rebecca Shields, Danielle Ashley Valenchis, Kiona Walter and Tyrone Lamont Whitted.

CHALLENGED. On Monday, Sheriff Richard Hussey was subjected, at a meeting in the County building in Catskill, to sharp questioning by GreeneLand legislators. On Tuesday, he got confirmation that one of his lieutenants will be running for the office, notwithstanding hints that incumbent would like to serve another term. Meanwhile, his trial on a drunk driving charge remains to be conducted.

Monday’s grilling from the legislators related mostly to budget-busting payments made last year for over-time work by sheriff’s office employees. Those extras came to $190,000 for deputies and $148,000 for jail correctional officers. While complaining that he was given unduly short and indirect notice that he was “going to be on the carpet” and thus did not have time to prepare a systematic explanation, Sheriff Hussey referred to increases in the jail population and attendant State-mandated services. There were 838 inmates in 2006, he reported, as compared with 730 in 2005 and about the same numbers in the previous two years. More inmates than ever had to be “boarded out”—transported by van to jails in neighboring counties, each one escorted by two deputies each way. Moreover, several inmates required prolonged hospitalization; each one, as prescribed by State regulations, had to have a private hospital room and a 24-hour guard (meaning three successive eight-hour shifts).

The interchanges between Sheriff Hussey and the legislators were illuminated further by these sentences from The Daily Mail:

*With [the sheriff] were four deputies out of uniform, whom both he and lawmakers attested to excellent service and work ethic.

*Questions over how the sheriff went about having a boat for the department, which in recent years was borrowed from the state Dept of Environmental Conservation and private and governmental entities.”

*Frequently up to 90 percent capacity, the sheriff said that the jail, with the medical needs of inmates and state regulations, corrections officers have to be there no matter what, which means frequent overtime.

On Tuesday, Sheriff Hussey received a courtesy visit from Lt Gregory Seeley, who confirmed recent gossip that he, Seeley, will seek the Republican nomination for sheriff at the November election. This intention was announced at the same time by e-mail to local news media.

The would-be successor brings to the task a 22-year career in the sheriff’s office plus long stints on the Town Council and the Republican Committee of Greenville.

In telephone interview yesterday (2/14) Lieutenant Seeley confirmed his announcement, saying the office of sheriff has been a goal of his almost from the start of his rise through the ranks. He said he plans to “campaign hard” at all sorts of gatherings—church functions, firehouse breakfasts, picnics—where he will listen carefully so as to learn and then serve, “the needs and concerns” of GreeneLanders. With regard to management of the office, he voiced special determination to ensure “equal treatment” for everybody (“no favoritism”) along with “strict accountability” of the sheriff and his officers for their conduct, off duty as well as on. Thus, any employee who is guilty of drunk driving would be “fired immediately.”

In addition to confirming his own candidacy, Lieutenant Seeley confirmed rumors that Sgt. Steve Worth, another deputy sheriff who also is an Athens Town Councilman, will support his campaign and will be Seeley’s preferred appointee as under-sheriff. (Although they have the same last name, Greg Seeley and Vincent Seeley, who is president of the board of trustees of the Village of Catskill, are cousins by marriage rather than by blood).

Among avowed supporters of Lieutenant Seeley’s candidacy is Sheriff Hussey’s predecessor, John Kiebart. Although he has himself been talked about as a prospective candidate—as have Catskill Police Chief Dave Darling (a Republican) and veteran lawman Harry Sacco (a Democrat)-- Mr Kiebart told Seeing Greene that he will not run against Greg Seeley. He voiced the hope that Lieutenant Seeley would win the Republican nomination and the election, because in experience and in character he is the “most deserving” of possible candidates; “he’d be good for everybody regardless of their political affiliation or stature in life.”

Whoever wins the November election for sheriff, Mr Kiebart added, will take up a “difficult position,” what with an overcrowded, obsolete jail plus “the condition of the sheriff’s office,” which has “deteriorated professionally as well as integrity-wise.”

1 comment:

Upstate Gal said...

Greg Seeley for Sheriff!!!!