2011 in Review: The first six months

A s it turned out, 2011 was a news-worthy year in Whitehall, and some stories – most notably the still-pending move of the Town Hall – provided news at least twice a month, sometimes more. Voters elected new political leadership in the village and town and residents saw the town’s most notable landmark – the armory, sold. They also  had to cope with a train derailment, then serious flooding. As the year came to an end, it seemed there was a crime story or two in every edition of the paper.

 

Jan. 6

 

First Baby

Misty and Mike DiResta of Whitehall gave birth to their second child, Kaidin at 1:55 a.m. on Jan. 1. Kaidin was the first baby born in 2011 in the capital region. The couple was interviewed by several media outlets and Kaidin received a knitted hat with his birthday stitched on it.

 

Town moves closer to fire house

In one of this year’s most reported news items, the town and village came to an agreement over what would happen if the town ever moved out of the Skenesborough Firehouse. Under the agreement the town would buy the building and the land for $20,000 a year or a total of $150,000. If the town moved, the property would revert to the village who would reimburse the town for any improvements they made to the building.

 

Jan. 13

 

The Armory in play

Just as it appeared the town and village were taking the final steps to allow the town to make the move to the firehouse, Supervisor Richard “Geezer” Gordon found there was renewed interest in moving the town offices in the Armory after it was learned the building could be purchased $1.

Around the same time, Whitehall Superintendent James Watson and businessman Richard Corsetti made separate requests to tour the venerable building.

Watson had interest in exploring possible uses of the garage facility behind the armory. Corsetti was interested in turning the building into a cultural community center.

After exploring their options, both ideas ultimately faded. However, the town continued to explore the Armory as the potential site for town offices for several months.

 

New Restaurant

Corsetti and Erin Perkins open Smokin’ On the Water on the first floor of the former Whitehall Times building. The restaurant offers authentic barbecue food and canalside dining. The restaurant proves to be popular but is closed several months later. It was recently reopened as an Italian Restaurant by the same name.

 

Jan. 20

 

The Whitehall School Board voted to move forward with preliminary plans for a possible $550,000 renovation of the auditorium, made its third set of budget cuts, including the elimination of 1.9 teaching positions and decided not to pursue use of the Whitehall Armory as a bus garage and additional gymnasium.

 

Jan. 27

 

Garden Time

The owners of the Garden Time Building on Route 4 reach out to Supervisor Gordon in an effort to gauge the town’s interest in renting or purchasing the building for use a new town hall. The owners offer the building for $215,000, more than what it would cost to move into the firehouse, but it’s believed at the time to be in better shape than the firehouse. Gordon said he will recommend the building to the board and says it was his “top choice all along.”

 

Mayoral race

It’s announced that Republican Ken Bartholomew, Democrat Peter Telisky and Independent Bill Rathbun will vie for the mayoral position. Bartholomew who served (and continues to do so) on the village board of trustees won his parties caucus over Rathbun. Telsiky, a former town Supervisor, ran unopposed for his parties’ candidacy. Marge Mohn, Daniel Welch, and Michael LaChapelle were all announced as candidates for two trustee position.

 

Lean Winter Festival

Organizers of the annual Winter Festival announce that the annual Winter Festival will be held in an abbreviated format because of a number of conflicting events. The event is moved to the United Methodist Church. Organizers promise the event will return in its traditional format  in 2012 and has been scheduled for Feb. 18.

 

Feb. 3

 

Train derails

A train derailed around 1:31 a.m. on Jan. 29 effectively blocking South Williams Street. The cars went off the track on the curve that leads to the trestle over Wood Creek and the crossing at South Williams Street. There were more than 50 cars in the train but only two engines and 11 box cars went off the tracks. The Amtrak Ethan Allen

Express that regularly runs from Rutland, Vt., to New York City was out of service on Saturday, but was able to run Sunday. The derailment also caused some power outages. No injuries were reported.

 

Students arrested for drugs

Four Whitehall Central School students were suspended for drug-related incidents on Jan. 25, and at least one was arrested after a fellow student witnessed the sale of drugs. Whitehall Principal Kelly McHugh describes the incident as “scary and sad.”

 

Youth League seeks funds

Youth League President John Hoagland schedules a meeting to gather input from the community on how to replace nearly $20,000 in funds the league normally makes off coin drops, which had been deemed illegal in fall of 2010. Hoagland says the league may require parents to help with fundraising events.

 

Feb. 10

 

Community reacts to death of teen

Family and friends react to the news that 2010 graduate Tommy Pollinger had passed away. A popular student and former athlete, Pollinger was remembered as a “wonderful kid.” His father, Steven, said his son had been struggling with a drug addiction resulting from his recovery from a 2009 automobile accident.

 

Reynolds to head Chamber

Bethe Reynolds, a highly successful real estate agent who said she was drawn to Whitehall because of its “quaint charm and natural beauty,” was elected president of the Whitehall Chamber of Commerce. One of her main agendas as president is “curb appeal” and she leads an effort to purchase, design and install a new “Welcome to Whitehall” sign on Route 4. She also leads an effective effort to increase membership and work with other organizations in promoting Whitehall.

 

Wrestlers win sectionals

Sophomore Al Aubin (112), sophomore John Diekel (119), junior Zach Diekel (189) and senior Grant Gebo (285) all captured Section II Class D championships inside the Whitehall gym. For Gebo, the title his is first in four chances. Former Whitehall state champions Jamie Huntington and Dan Bishop present award to the champions. Bishop, who was paralyzed in 2010 while wrestling at Buffalo but has since regained the ability to walk, provided inspiration to many of the wrestlers.

 

Feb. 17

 

School cuts positions

The Whitehall Board of Education announces that they will have to cut about 10 percent of districts faculty due to declining enrollment.  The cuts occur across all levels of the district but ultimately no one loses their jobs because of retirements and restructuring of positions.

 

Feb. 24

 

New Fire Truck

The Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company received approval from the village to purchase a new fire truck. The 2010 Pierce Saber, which was purchased in Florida, serves as the company’s response vehicle.

 

Back to the firehouse

Supervisor Gordon says he has shifted gears and is again focused on the Skenesborough firehouse after an engineer found some potential issues with Garden Time building. The engineer found that the floor supports were compromised. Gordon reiterates his long term goal is to move into the firehouse.

 

Road Closure

A popular shortcut between Whitehall and Granville is closed after crews discover a soccer ball sized hole in a small bridge on Upper Turnpike Road. Instead of pay to repair the bridge, it is closed and traffic rerouted.

 

March 3

 

Village, DPW agree to contract

The village and the union that represents seven Department of Public Works employees agreed on a contract, giving the union its first contract since 2007. The workers will receive two percent raises in each of the next three years and pick up an additional personal day each year. They will also receive $1,100 in a lump sum payment instead of getting

retroactive pay.

 

Whitehall line poorest in country

The Vermont transportation secretary started an investigation into the Vermont Rail Systems after a letter from Amtrak called the Rutland to Whitehall track owned by the company “the poorest performing line in the country.” The main issue with the poor on time performance of the Ethan Allen on Vermont Rail’s Clarendon and Pittsford (CLP) line, concerns “slow orders” issued by the rail company for safety reasons. The slow orders were issued because the rail ties were in poor condition and couldn’t sustain trains traveling at high speeds. Vermont Rail began a multi-million dollar effort to replace ties this year and is expected to replace rails next spring.

 

March 10

 

Another alumni death

Students at Whitehall High School suffered their second tragedy in as many months after 2007 graduate Cole Rocque passes away. An excellent student and a standout athlete, Rocque was a junior at RPI, where he played football.

 

Mayoral Debate

The three candidates running for mayor, Bartholomew, Telisky and Rathbun, squared off in a mayoral debate on March 10 at Whitehall High School. The candidates discussed a range of issues, including consolidation, the DEC mandated sewer project and Whitehall’s economy.

 

March 17

 

Telisky elected mayor

Telisky, a Democrat, won the mayor’s race with 246 votes and was joined on the board by fellow Democrats Michael LaChapelle and Marge Mohn. Republican candidate Ken Bartholomew got 133 votes, but returned to the board fill out his term as a village trustee.

 

Sewer work begins

The village began the first step in using the $400,000 Community Development Block Grant it received to finance part of the replacement of sanitary sewer laterals on the east side of the village. A number of homes were deemed eligible to receive the laterals. An engineering evaluation determined that the lateral connections and related storm water connections contribute to overflow at the wastewater treatment plant and need to be replaced.

 

March 24

 

Village makes sewer decision

The Village Board voted to stick with its gravity-fed sewer system instead of switching to a grinder pump system.

The decision to stay with the grinder system was estimated to save the village $6 million and came after a meeting with officials from DEC, Environmental Facilities Corporation and Water Resources Technology.

 

Rocque named Exalted Ruler

Martin Rocque was installed as Exalted Ruler of Whitehall Elks Lodge 1491 on March 26. He replaced past Exalted Ruler Kyle Gordon. Julie Eagan was installed as Esteemed Leading Knight, Robert Juckett as Esteemed Loyal Knight, Hillary Ward became Esteemed Lecturing Knight and Tammy Stevens became Lodge Esquire.

Thomas Abbott was appointed as the Lodge Chaplain.

 

March 31

 

Drama Club stages annual performance

The Whitehall Drama Club staged “Once Upon A Mattress” on April 1 and 2. More than 40 kids participate in the production and a number of people throughout the community volunteer their efforts in one form or another to make the production happen.

 

Bullying expert visits

Jodee Blanco, author of “Please Stop Laughing at Me” and “Please Stop Laughing at Us,” visited Whitehall High School in late March and delivered a powerful talk on her experience as a bullied youth and the impact bullying can have on students. Blanco held four different presentations over a period of 12 hours. The lecture was part of a continuing effort by Whitehall officials to combat bullying.

 

April 7

 

Coin Drop charges dismissed

Charges against three men from American Legion Post 83 who were arrested after they participated in an illegal coin drop on Route 4 in Nov. 2010 were dismissed. A lawyer for one of the men involved successfully argued that because the men were unaware they were breaking the law, the charges should be dismissed. Whitehall Police Chief Matt Dickinson says he will continue to enforce the ban on coin drops unless the village grants approval. For their part, the village has maintained they will not regulate coin drops.

 

Marina’s announce intent to open

After a winter of speculation, Ray Faville, owner of Lock 12 Marina and Robert Elmy, owner of the Champlain Harbor Marina both state they will reopen. The announcement comes several months after both said they were going to close because of poor economic conditions and competition from the mooring wall behind the Canal Corp Visitor’s Center. Richard Corsetti also announces his intention to reopen the Liberty Marina, but those plans have yet to come to fruition.

 

April 14

 

Tragic fire

An early morning fire on April 6 claimed the life a local man at his home on State Route 4, south of the village. Despite a timely response, fire fighters were unable to save Richard “Dick” Hannah. Investigators determined the fire to be electrical nature.

 

School approves budget

The Whitehall Board of Education approved a $13.4 million dollar budget, a 2.1 percent increase from the previous year. The budget increased the tax levy by 1.89 percent. Officials were forced to use $500,000 from their reserve fund after the district lost $1.2 million in total aid.

 

Village begins water main work

The village began work on a sewer line project along Broadway that is expected to improve water flow. The work takes approximately six months to complete.

 

April 21

 

Fire department to study dissolution

The Skenesborough Volunteer Fire Company met with the village Board of Trustees and announced their intention to study the possibility of dissolving the department. Company president James Putorti said declining membership and finances have left the department with little choice. “We’re not desolate, but we are desperate,” he said. The idea is floated that many of the company’s operations would be absorbed by the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company. Members said they expect it will take several months before they are ready to vote on the matter.

 

Officials tour Armory

Several local officials, including Mayor Telisky, Supervisor Gordon, Police Chief Matt Dickinson, village trustees Marge Mohn and Ken Bartholomew and planning board member Andre Hagadorn tour the Armory with Rich Whiting, who used to work at the historic building. The tour was exploratory in nature as officials continued to look at the possible uses of the building and what would need to be addressed if it were to be used as a possible community center.

 

Student collects pennies for Tsunami relief in Japan

Olivia Ruby, a third grade student at Whitehall Elementary school, feels compelled to help the people of Japan of watching a news report about the Tsunami that devastated the country. With the help of school librarian Sara Lestage, Ruby organizes penny wars, a competition in which each grade at the school tries to collect more pennies than their counterparts. In total, the students raise more than $2400 which is donated to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.  

 

April 28

 

Village approves budget

The village board unanimously approved its’ 2011-12 budget. The budget calls for a 4.4 percent increase in the tax rate. Officals recommended the increase to offset a decrease in revenue generated by assessments.

 

Past NCAAP president speaks with students

Kendall Jeter, a past president of the Glens Falls chapter of the NCAAP spoke to students at Whitehall High School about violence and tolerance. The presentation was part of Non-Violence Week, an annual effort by the school to combat racism and bigotry.

May 5

 

The flood

Water levels throughout Whitehall reached record flood levels after several days of persistent rainfall and snow melts caused streams, rivers and Lake Champlain to spill its banks. Despite efforts by the town, village and county, several roads had to be closed. Although no injuries were reported, a number of homes took on several feet of water and the flooding persisted for weeks.

 

Gordon eyes Armory

Supervisor Gordon said he was going to ask the Town Council to buy the Armory from the state for $1. Gordon says the building is an integral part of the community and eyes it as a potential location for a town hall and community center.

 

Top of their class

Whitehall High School announces that Kelsie Benjamin and Kaitlyn Fiorini are the valedictorian and salutatorian of the Class of 2011. Both girls are well rounded students involved in a number of extracurricular activities. Rounding out the top 10 are Megan Rozell, Aerial Ramey, Loren Martell, Troy Rollins Jr., Brianna Cook, Courtney Greenwood, Katherine Paddock and Cassie Steves.

 

May 12

 

Flood threat not receding

Despite a break in the rainy weather, flooding continues to be a problem for residents who live along Lake Champlain. More than a week after the flooding began, the biggest problem for residents isn’t rain, but winds that drives water south toward Whitehall. Washington County Public Safety director Bill Cook compared the lake to a bath tub. “When winds blow from the north, water in the tub spills out in the south,” he said. Kitty Arquette, who lives on North Williams Street said water levels had risen nearly 11 inches in a span of a few hours after winds picked up. The Red Cross set up a shelter at the Skenesborough EMS building for people who were displaced for their homes but it went unused.

 

School auditorium to undergo renovation

The Whitehall Board of Education unanimously approved two separate construction projects that will result in the complete reconstruction of the schools’ auditorium. The total cost of the project is expected to be about $625,000 and officials said it will not impact taxes because the money will come from the capital reserve fund. The first phase of the project includes the replacement of the roof and the second phase will involve the complete renovation and modernization of the auditorium itself.

 

May 19

 

Woman dies in Broadway fire

A local woman died and a man was seriously injured after a fire broke out in their Broadway apartment building on May 15. Tina Green, 45, perished in the blaze and a second victim, Albert Choppy, 47, suffered burns to 16 percent of his buddy but was saved by the heroic actions of several firefighters from the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company and the Skenesborough Volunteer Fire Company who entered the building without the aid of a hand line and pulled the man to a back porch where he received CPR until he could be transported to the hospital.

 

Town delays decision on Armory

A number of residents turned out to learn the fate of the Armory at town board meeting on May 11 but the board decided to table the decision until they could ascertain more information regarding the buildings conditions and the cost of moving to the building. Supervisor Gordon appoints a panel of local citizens to explore in more detail the costs of maintaining the building and the board agrees to come to a final decision after they have a chance to review the panel’s findings. 

 

 

 Public approves school budget

Voters in the Whitehall Central School District overwhelmingly passed the 2011-12 budget The final tally saw 175 residents of the school district vote in favor of the budget, while 58 residents voted against the spending plan that calls for a 1.89 percent increase in the tax levy. George Armstrong and Virginia Rivette are reelected to the Whitehall Board of Education. Both ran unopposed.

 

Flooding continues to be a problem

Water levels began to drop, but remained a problem for many residents along Lake Champlain. Water levels had dropped from their peak of 103 feet, but were still above 102 feet and the threat of winds continued to make problems worse. Village officials announce their intention to see if any assistance may be available from FEMA or HUD.

 

May 26

 

Mayor declares state of emergency

For the second time in less than a month, flooding caused local officials to declare a state of emergency. The order was made in advance of the opening of the New York State Canal System, which was scheduled to open for boat traffic the weekend of May 23. It was feared that the movement of vessels through the canal and Locke 12 could raise water levels even higher and create waves that would compound problems associated with the flooding in the village’s north end. Bill Cook also toured the community with FEMA officials to determine if the community meets the threshold for assistance, but reported preliminary estimates were well below that threshold.

 

Millett out as coach

Longtime Whitehall football coach John Millett met with Superintendent James Watson who told him his intention to recommend Justin Culligan be named the football coach in the upcoming season. The Board of Education will make the final say on the coaching decision at its next meeting.

 

June 2

 

Whitehall remembers toll of wars

The community of Whitehall held its Memorial Day parade with Col. Paul Somersall, a former commander of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion 105 Infantry regiment of the New York National Guard at the Whitehall Armory, serving as the keynote speaker. Somersall invoked the names of soldier he had served with who had lost their lives and paid homage to service men and women around the world. The community also honored Gold Star Mother Catherine Aiken whose son died in Vietnam.

 

Man killed in head on collision

Richard Stack, 64, of Rutland died after a vehicle he was driving was struck head on by another vehicle near the New York Vermont State line in Hampton. Police said Mary Baptie, 44, of Whitehall failed to stop as she drove southon Golf Course Road ending up in traffic in front of a vehicle driven by Troy Hull, who swerved into Stack’s path to avoid hitting Baptie. Toxicology results later revealed Baptie was the District Attorney launched an investigation into the accident.

 

Four athletes claim sectional titles

Jake Evans (long jump), Dave Rich (pole vault), Zach Diekel (shot put) and Kelsie Benjamin (shot put) all earned Class C Sectional Championships at Fort Plain. Benjamin would qualify for the State Meet the following week.

 

June 9

 

Police find missing girl

Whitehall police spent most of May 6 searching for a missing 15 year old girl. Police Chief Matt Dickinson made nearly 70 phone calls during the investigation and officers used “A Child is Missing” alert system, which the department had enrolled in several weeks prior, to find the girl who eventually located in Thurman. Joshua E. Kearsley, 25, and Cristy Woodard, 20, both of Schroon, were arrested a week later and charged with a misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child after they reportedly assisted the 15-year-old in running away from home. Kearsley was registered as a level 2 sex offender.

 

Man face felonies following burglary spree

Mark Bardin Jr., 21, faces three felony burglary and three felony grand larceny charges after he was accused of three burglaries, two in Granville and one in Whitehall, in early March. In Whitehall, Bardin is accused of taking tools worth more than $1,000 from a garage on Rozell Way. The items were all pawned and the money used to buy heroin, officials said. Bardin’s girlfriend, Ashley Hayes, 22, of Whitehall was also charged in the burglary cases.

 

Flooding help

The Bay Road Presbyterian Church Neighbor to Neighbor Mission Team encourages local residents who have been affected by the flood to contact them if they need any assistance in repairing damages to their homes caused by the flooding. A number of residents contact the group looking for assistance.

 

Developer discusses proposed power plant

Thomas Emero, managing director of development and operations for Beaver Wood Energy, spoke with members of the Whitehall Chamber of Commerce about a proposed wood-burning power plant in Fair Haven. He says the project could create about 200 jobs in the area, including 50 permanent positions. Although the plant would be in Fair Haven, the company has proposed building a pumping station in Whitehall. Although the company has the support of the Fair Haven community, the project is still in the process of obtaining all the necessary permits and approval from Vermont and if approved, would still be several years from completion.

 

June 16

 

Youth league remembers Pollinger, Rocque

The Whitehall Youth League held a special ceremony on June 9 to remember Cole Rocque and Tommy Pollinger. Players wore uniform that had the initials of the two young men embroidered on their sleeves and Kenra Rocque, Cole’s younger sister, was joined by other members of her family in throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. The family also received a plaque. John Hoagland, who organized the event, said he hoped the event raised awareness of the struggles teens face.

 

Armory Committee presents its findings

The committee charged with examining the costs of the town buying and renovating the Whitehall Amory presented its preliminary findings at a town board meeting on June 8. The committee told the board what it believed were the pros and cons of the building as well as some estimates of the cost of heating the building and making it handicap accessible.

 

June 23

 

Town says no to Armory

Supervisor Gordon says he no longer fills the town should move into the Armory after the committee appointed to study the possibility found the cost of such a move to be prohibitive. Instead, Gordon said he is again considering the Garden Time building as a future home for the town offices. He said he made an offer on the building, and if it was accepted, he would bring it before the town council for approval.

 

Millett officially replaced

The Whitehall Board of Educated officially voted to replace longtime football coach John Millett with assistant coach and social studies teacher Justin Culligan. The entire coaching staff, minus Millett, will return to lead the team in the fall. Millett finished his career with 195 wins.

 

Volunteers begin cleanup

Nearly 30 volunteers from Whitehall and beyond gathered On June 18 to being cleaning up homes and properties damaged from two months of flooding. The efforts were organized by the Bay Road Presbyterian Church Neighbor to Neighbor Mission Team, of Lake George. Several homes are gutted and debris is cleaned from a number of properties.

 

June 30

 

Class of 2011 graduate

52 students from the Class of 2011 graduated on June 25. Principal Kelly McHugh Commencement Speaker Brad Countermine, valedictorian Kelsie Benjamin and salutatorian Kaitlyn Fiorini all spoke during the ceremony. Of the 52 students, 42 received Regents diplomas, 15 with advanced designation and three of those with honors. A number also received certificates from various vocational programs.

 

State critical of town finances

The state comptroller’s office released its findings from an audit of the town finances and the findings were not positive. The report found lack of budgetary oversight and a failure to provide adequate training to its’ budget officer(s) and clerk(s) that resulted in mistakes and discrepancies in the town’s accounting records to go undetected. The report covered an 18 month period from Jan. 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010. The town has since taken measures to comply with recommendations in the report and have recently discussed the possibility of hiring someone to conduct annual audits.

 

Village demands action on messy properties

The village began efforts to compel local residents to clean up their properties and come in compliance with local laws. The board was seeking to clean up accumulated garbage and other junk within the village and force people to maintain their yards. The board says local residents will have 30 days to comply or will be subject to fines. The town cites several properties that are indicative of the problem, including 63 Champlain Avenue where dirty diapers and other garbage were strewn about the property. Compliance officer Garry Bennett says part of the problem stems from the fact that some of the laws on the books don’t have enough teeth. The village pledges to look into the problem and enact tougher legislation if needed. As a measure of good faith, they begin to take measures to clean up municipally owned property.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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