Friday, February 04, 2011

Sounding Greene

      Movie-goers who attend “The Social Network” get treated to a sound track emanating from the Swarmatron, which is related to the Alphatron, the Hymnotron, the Melody Gin, and the Automatic Drone machine, as well as to the parental Dewantron.  Those electronic instruments are the creations of GreeneLand’s Brian Dewan, along with his cousin Leon, of New Rochelle.  The Swarmatron, and the Dewans, received a nice write-up in the January 24th New Yorker.  Characteristic of this analog synthesizer is the expressing of any note in eight different tones.  “The sound of eight voices straining toward but not quite achieving a unity of pitch, the dissonance stretching like taffy,” says author Nick Baumgartner, “seems perfectly suited to these attenuated times.” (To learn more, Google “swarmatron” and http://dewanatron ) 

      RESIGNED. In the wake of findings that he sought and received, improper travel reimbursements, to the extent of some $2000, a Greene County legislator has resigned.
          As reported in The Daily Mail and The Daily Freeman, Sean Frey of Durham said that while his claims for mileage payments were consistent with “usual and customary practices” of the legislators, he chose to spare his family and the citizenry the ordeal of a “lengthy and perhaps costly public process.”  He also tendered a check for $2000.
          His resignation, as of Monday (1/31/11) followed a State police investigation that District Attorney Terry Wilhelm instigated in response to a suspicion, prompted by the County Treasurer’s office, of “irregularities” in Mr Frey’s reimbursement claims.  The investigation, said Mr Wilhelm, yielded evidence that Mr Frey did not take some trips on county-related business for which he made reimbursement claims, and that some trips were made in an expense-paid employer’s car belonging to Ulster-Greene ARC.
          The $2000 reimbursement was about equal to what Mr Frey received improperly, Mr Wilhelm said, and no further legal action is contemplated.
          Mr Frey won election to the legislature in 2007, was re-elected in 2009, and had been the Democratic minority contingent’s elected leader.  He was succeeded in the latter position last week by the Cairo representative, Harry Lennon.
         A replacement for Mr Frey will be chosen by a vote of the remaining 13 legislators, to serve for the remainder of this year.  The post will then be subject to filling in November by popular election.
       JAILED.  A Cairo resident has been jailed on suspicion of taking advantage of a comatose friend.  Tammy Lacitignola, 34, of 332 Foster Road, faces a cluster of felony and misdemeanor charges, in Columbia as well as in Greene County, all having to do with stealing the identity of the friend (not named in published reports) for whom she ostensibly was caring.  She allegedly opened credit card and cellular telephone accounts in the name of that friend, forged her unconscious friend’s signature on checks, and thereby stole more than $10,000 from her friend.
     CHARGED.  A Coxsackie Correctional Facility manager has been suspended pending the hearing of charges that he often went to his part-time outside job while pretending to be doing his prison work.  According to the report of an investigation by State Inspector General’s staff, Edward Pebler, assistant maintenance supervisor, criminally filed false instruments, claiming to to be on the job at the prison while actually working as the town of Coxsackie’s building code enforcement officer.  He had held the latter job since 2001 and, according to town supervisor Alex Betke, did it well. On one occasion, the investigators say, Mr Pebler did code enforcement chores while claiming to put in a full day at the prison (at $69,000 per year, plus benefits) along with five hours of overtime.  
     CHARGED.  Another Coxsackie Correctional Facility employee was charged in early December with  defrauding the State’s taxpayers out of about $34,000.  According to reports in the local Press, Kevin Schwebke, 26, started work in 2005 as a correctional officer, injured his ankle on the job in 2009, started collecting workman’s compensation, but continued to do his part-time job as a police officer for the town of Cairo.  Following an investigation by the State’s insurance department and its workmen’s compensation board, he was suspended without pay from both jobs. 

       Are boys catching up?  Latest score on High Honors in 12th grade at Catskill High School shows a gender division of eight boys and 11 girls.  That represents a gain on the masculine side, a climb toward equality of academic achievement.  And in 11th grade, the gender division at High Honors level was even: six boys, six girls.  (BTW: special congratulations are due to Buliches: High Honors for five kids in four grades).
        At Cairo-Durham High School, meanwhile, the beat goes on.  Among High Honors students in Grade 12, girls out-numbered boys by a 3-2 margin: 18 to 12.  Similarly, at Hunter-Tannersville HS, for the first term of the school year, four of the seven seniors who achieved “Superintendent’s Honor” rating are girls.  To be more comprehensive: 18 seniors achieved grade averages of 90 or better, and 11 are girls.
         The pattern of male under-achievement is not peculiar to GreeneLand.  At Saugerties HS, 69 seniors achieved High Honors in the first quarter; only 26 are boys.  And down in Rondout Valley, 25 female 12th graders achieved High Honors, while only 12 males did so.  Again, at Kingston HS  15 boys won Highest Honors among 12th graders, while girls achieving the same distinction (grade average of 95 or better) numbered 26.

     PARK.  Just announced by GreeneLand’s Industrial Development Agency is a “commitment” to develop a new business and residential park on the 100-acre Coxsackie site that once was touted as future home of a Fernlea Flowers nursery.  Now contemplated is a mixed-use development, Fountain Flats Park, that would blend commercial operations with “intergenerational affordable housing.”  The site on Route 9W at Brook Mill Road would contain “shovel-ready” sites for distribution centers, offices and retail operations, along with sites for 73 residential units of one, two and three bedrooms.  Twenty-four would be reserved for seniors (residents over 55 years of age), including frail elderly residents; and others would be affordable for prospective members of the business park’s work force.
      MART.  According to a Daily Mail report (D T Antrim, 1/29), the Hannaford supermarket chain has announced the purchase of Ellsworth “Unk” Slater’s Great American Plaza in Cairo.  The announcement speaks of plans to demolish the present Great American market in favor of a new 35,000 square foot outlet, including a pharmacy.  The reporter notes, however, that the listed Hannaford spokesman would not comment on the matter, and neither would Mr Slater.  The company’s web site ( makes no reference to the project.  Anyhow, it does say that the Hannaford chain (born in 1893, in the form of a one-horse produce cart) includes 173 stores and 27,000 employees located in Maine (the origin), Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont as well as New York.  Since 1999 it has been a subsidiary of Belgian Delhaise Group, and part of the fifth largest supermarket chain in the United States.
       BANK.  GreeneLand’s foremost bank continues to flourish.  Net income of Greene County Bancorp, parent of the Bank of Greene County, grew during the final quarter of 2010 by 11.2 per cent, to $1.4 million.  That gain was preceded by another buoyant quarter, bringing net income for the latter half of 2010 of $2.676 million.  Mainly contributing to these record earnings, said President Donald Gibson in the company’s report, was “net interest income,” or the spread between what borrowers paid the bank relative to what the bank paid—mostly to depositors—in order to acquire the loanable funds.        
        Some passages in the company’s report offer cautionary notes.  Commercial loans, which are generally classed as riskier than residential loans, increased fractionally as a proportion of all loans.  Provision for loan losses increased along with the volume of loans.  So did the value of assets that were classed as “non-performing” (with payments being in arrears); the end-of year figure was $6.2 million.  Those troubled assets (loans and other valuables) were just 1.16% of total assets, which grew by fully $36.1 million, or 7.3%, in the final half of 2010.
        Deposits at the bank also grew substantially, by $44.2 million.  Among sources of that growth were deposits at the new branch in Germantown, in Columbia County.
      REVENUES.  The bank’s gains can be viewed plausibly as a reflection of general improvement in local economic conditions.  And further evidence of that improvement is provided by an increase during 2010 over the 2009 score on county sales tax revenues. Total inflow to county coffers was reported to be $25,282,642, which is about one per cent higher than in 2009 and about $400,000 better than what had been projected for the purpose of budget framing.  Neighboring counties also incurred gains in sales tax revenues.
        JOBS.  Coinciding with those small gains have been small gains in employment.  According to the State Department of Labor’s figures, the unemployment rate in Greene County in December 2010 was fractionally better, by a tenth of one per cent, than the December 2009 rate.  In the State as a whole, and indeed the nation, fractional improvements have been recorded.  Curiously enough, the sector in which job losses have continued most heavily is not construction or manufacturing; it is government.  Meanwhile, the expanding (or most substantially recovering) sectors are various services (education, health, professional, business) and leisure and hospitality. 
        DEPARTURES.  Gone from Main Street in Catskill, and sorely missed by friends, is the MOD Cafe. Dana and Mary have moved to Hudson, near the Amtrak station, where they will be serving dinner as well as breakfast and lunch, and thus have renamed their establishment as MOD Restaurant. Also gone from Catskill, from a Daily Mail desk, is reporter Susan Campriello, who took with her, to The Poughkeepsie Journal, a tiny frame and a locally rare talent: literacy.  
        MERCHANTS.  GreeneLand’s chamber of commerce evidently has acquired a heart, a voice box, and self-governance powers.  This metaphysical marvel is revealed in a news release saying “The Greene County Chamber of Commerce is pleased [sic] to announce [sic] the appointment [sic] of a new slate of officers for the coming year.”  The slate includes a “Chair” (Kathleen McQuaid), first and second “Vice Chairs” (Perry Lasher; Tom Fucito), a Treasurer (Ed Gower) and a Secretary (Karl Heck). 

            This Spring’s village elections in GreeneLand promise to be extraordinarily uneventful.  In Catskill, in Coxsackie and in Athens, evidently, there will be no contests.  In Catskill, incumbent trustee Joseph Koslowski was re-nominated at the caucus of his fellow Democrats, and then was cross-endorsed at the Republican caucus.  In Coxsackie, members of the Republican caucus nominated Mayor Mark Evans for re-election, along with incumbent trustee Stephen Hanse, and they endorsed Paul Sutton as replacement for the retiring Greg Backus.  The Democrats found no challengers.  In Athens, at the official Democratic caucus, Mayor Andrea Smallwood was endorsed for re-election along with incumbent trustee Robert June, while Anthony Paski was nominated as prospective successor to the retiring Tom Sopris.  So far, no Republican or independent candidates have appeared. 
            In Tannersville, however, some contestation can be expected.  The Democrats’ caucus on January 25th produced a kind of insurrection.  A majority of the 15 participants proceeded to NOT renominate the three incumbent Democratic trustees—Mayor Lee McGunigle, Gregory Landers, Anthony Lucido--whose terms are about to expire.  Instead, they nominated Jason Dugo for mayor and Jeremiah Dixon and Christopher Hackgetting for trustees. According to The Daily Mail, the blindsided Mr McGunigle resolves to run as an Independent, and hopes to be joined by Mr Landers.  
             As one of the most vocal members of his party, fellow Democrats have expressed their regret over Frey’s departure.
            That sentence is classified by cognoscenti as a case of dangling construction.  Its opening phrase is a modifier which can’t find a subject in the main clause on which to land. 

            The governors of Greene County, Pennsylvania, voted to change the name of that political entity, temporarily, to “Black & Gold County.”  They were keen to show Super Bowl solidarity with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are about to clash with the, uh, Green Bay Packers.


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