Savino Reappointed as Clarkstown Tax Attorney
Bronx Republican party chairman, Jay Savino, has been rehired to handle Clarkstown tax certioraris. The Clarkstown Town Board voted unanimously, though not all residents are on board with the appointment. Savino was hired in January in a 4-1 vote by the board. The work he was hired to do was previously done by the deputy town attorney, Marsha Coopersmith, who lost her position as the Rockland County Independence Party chairwoman in 2010. Debra Ortutay replaced her as chairwoman, but resigned in December 2011 after pleading guilty to charges of perjury and forgery. Because he served as Ortutay’s attorney, Savino’s appointment by the town was seen by many as political patronage. The town has denied this, as well as other charges of political patronage in their hiring practices throughout the years. One town board member, Stephanie Hausner, voted against Savino in January. Her reason for doing so was listed as “baggage.” Now, however, her feelings have changed. She is confident in the work he is able to do, saying he has shown he is a good attorney. In addition to rehiring him, the town has raised Savino’s salary from $87,000 to $88,740. A lot of the criticism comes from blogs, which state Savino was part of an FBI investigation into his former boss, Guy Velella, who was accused of taking a bribe. Savino denies that he was ever investigated or that he had anything to do with the bribery charges. All of the town board members are confident in Savino’s abilities, and say the town saved money by hiring him.
TV Personality Bill O’Reilly Donates $5,000 to St. Peter’s School
Two Catholic schools in Rockland County, one of which is St. Peter’s School, have made the Archdiocese’s list of New York schools that may be closed due to deficits. Principal Margaret Hamilton still has hope, though. She and the rest of the community are doing all they can to meet the requirement of finding a way to raise $500,000 per year for the next three years. A plan must be submitted by January 3. Hamilton and Rev. Thomas Madden must then make a presentation on January 9 to the Rockland Regional Catholic School Board. The board will then make its recommendations to the Archdiocese. The school is asking for large donations, as well as coming up with alternative plans. One such plan is to match each student with a donor who will give $1,500 a year over the next three years. This would raise $492,000 per year, just short of the $500,000 requirement. St. Peter’s is asking members of the community and the surrounding area to step forth and donate. TV personality Bill O’Reilly has already given $5,000 to the school.
Haverstraw Town Expressing Concern Over Stony Point Project
The town of Haverstraw has raised concern over plans for a gasification plant being made by Stony Point, citing environmental as well as safety issues. They also do not believe the town is properly handling the application process. The Stony Point Waste to Energy Project, proposed by MBC Contractors Inc. to be located on Holt Drive at the site of the former Insl-x paint plant, is being reviewed by the Stony Point Planning Board. The location of the plant is just north of the Haverstraw-Stony Point border, just 500 feet away from Haverstraw town. Trucks heading to the plant would have to travel through the town’s streets to reach it. The gasification process involves converting biomass waste rich in carbon into a synthetic gas, used for electrical energy and renewable fuel production. The synthetic gas is reportedly made up of carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide, though the town code has a provision banning industries that produce chemicals such as hydrogen. Also, according to Stony Point zoning code, the site of the former plant is not permitted for use without a use variance. Letters have been submitted to Stony Point by an attorney for Haverstraw, Haverstraw’s planning consultant, and the town’s engineering firm listing the issues they have found with the creation of the gasification plant. The Planning Board has received these letters and says they are being reviewed.
Additional Outreach by Mental Health Services
Following the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. mental health service agencies are looking to provide a broader outreach to those in need of their services. By holding community workshops and discussions, Rockland County Department of Mental Health Commissioner Mary Ann Walsh-Tozer hopes to find out what further services may be offered to help those at risk of violent behavior. A spokesperson for Jawonio, an organization located in Rockland that provides services for those who are developmentally disabled, mentally ill, or chronically ill, says the group looks forward to working with the county Mental Health Department, Mental Health Association of Rockland County, BOCES, and more. Following the shooting, Jawonio is offering in-house counseling to their clients and employees, United Hospice of Rockland is providing grief counseling, and school districts have provided grief counselors for students and staff.
Russia One Step Closer to Banning US Adoption
The lower house of Russian Parliament approved a proposed ban on Friday that would prevent United States citizens from adopting Russian children. Many are urging Russia to set politics aside in the best interest of the children. American ambassador Michael A. McFaul is asking Russian officials to consider a bilateral agreement that was ratified earlier in the year and took effect on November 1. This agreement was prompted by concern over cases of abuse of adopted Russian children and called for adoptions to be overseen more carefully. The most recent proposal, aimed at stopping U.S. adoptions from Russia altogether, is in response to a new U.S. law that does not allow Russians who have violated human rights to visit the U.S., or own real estate or maintain financial assets here. Many Russians, including President Vladimir Putin, call this move hypocritical, accusing Americans of human rights violations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay. Putin has not firmly stated his opinion on the ban, but has been working on reducing the influence of the United States and the West on Russia’s activities. He has the power to veto the bill or demand that changes be made to it. There is a split amongst Russian politicians, though the overwhelming majority voted in favor of the ban. In the lower house of Parliament, the vote was 420 to 7, with 1 abstention. The upper chamber will consider the bill next week and it is expected to be easily passed.
First Responders Shot While Fighting Fire in Webster
Two firefighters were killed and three first responders injured by a 62-year-old gunman, who shot them as they worked to put out a fire he had set in Webster on Christmas Eve. William Spengler, the accused gunman and arsonist, killed himself after exchanging gunfire with police officers at the scene. He allegedly set fire to the home he shared with his sister, Cheryl Spengler, and waited in a position of cover for first responders to arrive. His sister, whom he despised according to a former neighbor, could not be found in the hours following the tragedy. The incident occurred at 191 Lake Road at around 5:45 a.m. and led to the destruction of four houses. Four other homes were damaged. Both of the fallen victims were volunteer firefighters from the area. Michael Chiapperini, 43, was a lieutenant at the Webster police department, and Tomasz Kaczowka, 19, was a Monroe County 911 dispatcher. Spengler killed his 92-year-old grandmother in 1980, served time in jail until 1998, and was released from his parole in 2006. The motives behind both the murder of his grandmother and the attack on the first responders are unknown, though any potential psychological issues are being investigated. Joseph Hofsetter, Theodore Scardino, and John Ritter are the three injured first responders. They are expected to survive their injuries. Members of the community are banding together to remember the two fallen volunteer firefighters and to pray for the other three injured victims. Three others were injured in the attack. Joseph Hofetter suffered a gunshot wound to the pelvis, and Theodore Scardino was shot in the shoulder and the knee. Both are in serious condition, but are alert and awake. They are being kept in guarded condition at Strong Memorial Hospital. Jon Ritter, an off-duty police officer from nearby Greece, was struck by shrapnel after attempting to assist in fighting the fire. After being hit, he exited the area and kept other motorists or first responders from entering the area of danger. Chiapperini was named firefighter of the year just two weeks ago.
Battle Over Buses in Rockland
There has been an ongoing battle over buses in Rockland County and who will be in charge of the county’s transit system. Though Brega Transport had a contract set up – albeit one plagued with legal issues – the drama is far from over. Shortly after Brega was given the deal with the county, one of the other bidders, a Dallas firm known as MV Transportation, claimed that proper bidding procedures were not followed. They filed a protest with County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef. Vanderhoef agreed and ordered the contract with Brega be cancelled. In response, Brega has filed an Article 78 petition – used to reverse a judgment – against Vanderhoef for the third time in two years. Documents for this proceeding were filed earlier this month and a decision may come by the end of the year.
Special-Ed Violations in East Ramapo School District
The East Ramapo school district received their third formal notice from state officials on Wednesday, stating that the district’s special-education programs violate state and federal laws. A lawsuit filed by parents in the district claims that the majority of the board – Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish members – have been using their power to illegally give public money to religious institutions. These charges have been denied multiple times. The state is expecting an answer to the issue of special-ed violations as well as the $8 million budget gap, which the district was reminded of in a letter sent on Friday. Their deadline for an answer to the growing budget problem is January 2. One issue mentioned by state officials in the letter sent on Wednesday is that the district places students in bilingual Yiddish special-education programs, without offering proof that the students need those services. $7 million has been allotted in the 2012-13 school budget for special needs services received from private religious schools and out of district programs. A plan must be submitted by the board by May 31, involving the creation of programs within the district to meet the needs of students currently in Yiddish programs. Corrective action has been ordered twice before regarding the special-education programs in East Ramapo, in April 2010 and February 2012.
Sullivan Voted Stony Point Fire Commissioner
An election was held on Tuesday to decide the chairman of the Stony Point Fire District Board of Commissioners, and the chairman for the last six years was voted out. Bruce MacRae, 66, served as chairman for the Board of Commissioners for the past six years and served as a commissioner for a decade before that. He is a former chief of the Wayne Hose Company No. 1. His successor, Brian Sullivan, 44, is also a former chief of the Wayne Hose fire company. He received 141 votes, while MacRae received 113. He has served with the Stony Point Fire Department for 26 years and decided to help the community in a different way. Though he has no experience with the administrative side of the fire department, he is ready to learn. Sullivan will take his place as chairman on January 1.
MTA Fare Hikes Beginning in March
Another fare hike has been approved by the MTA board on Wednesday, though it will not take effect until March 1, 2013. The increase in fares affects the Long Island Rail Road, as well as New York City buses and subways. These increases are supposed to help close the agency’s budget gaps, earning them an additional $450 million per year. Depending on ticket type and zone, the fare increases average up to nine percent. Discounts will be available for active duty military personnel, and the Family Fare discount will be extended to the evening peak period.
Obama Administration Casts Blame Over Benghazi
Four Americans were killed at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on September 11, and the Obama administration claims in a recently released brief that lapses in security are to blame. Three State Department officials have resigned from their positions as a result. One of the officials was not identified, but reportedly worked for the Bureau of Near East Affairs. The other two officials were Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, and Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary in charge of embassy security. An issued report revealed that “systematic failures” were responsible for a lack of protection at the building, and that no protest came before the attack, as was initially reported to the public. No disciplinary action was suggested in the report, though it did list 29 ways the department could be improved. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others lost their lives in the attack. Obama’s announcement did not quell speculation over how the security breakdown really occurred and whether other agendas were at work.
Multi-National Space Launch to ISS
Men from three different countries began their two-day journey to the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday. Canadian Chris Hadfield, American Tom Mashburn, and Russian Roman Romanenko blasted off in a Russian-built Soyuz TMA-07M at 12:12 GMT. The space craft left from Kazakhstan, at Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome. The crew will be joining American Kevin Ford and Russians Oleg Novitsky and Yevgeny Tarelkin, who have been there since October. The ISS is a $100-billion, 15-nation research station.