114th Assembly District candidate Dan Stec listens during the Ban K2 Rally at the Essex County Government Center in Elizabethtown April 30. Stec was at the Ways and Means Committee meeting earlier that day.
Over the past year, a lot has happened in Essex County.
From the sale of the county-owned nursing home to the gift of life for several local families to the killing of a now-famous moose, there have been plenty of stories that have had people talking.
Now, the staff of the Valley News and Denton Publications has come up with a list of the top 10 stories of the year. This week, we will go through the list of honorable mentions. In the Dec. 15 edition, we will go over the stories that finished as the sixth through 10th best stories as voted on by staff.
In the Dec. 22 edition, we will review the stories that ranked second through fifth, based not only on staff voting but online voting by Valley News readers. Go to valleynewsadk.com, and look up polls under the opinion header. The poll link will also be posted on the Valley News’ Facebook and Twitter sites. We are also asking readers to submit comments as they cast their votes for these stories that can be used online and in print.
Finally, in the Dec. 29 edition, we will unveil the story that was voted number one. The choices for the top five are as follows (in random order):
•Essex County sells Horace Nye •Single father murdered in Keeseville •Connor Marvin receives heart transplant •Synthetic marijuana/K-2 ban •Overdose claims life of Lewis teen
Voting will be open from Friday, Dec. 7 through Friday, Dec. 14.
The 114th Assembly District race
The year started off with the Valley News asking Jay Supervisor and Chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors Randy Douglas if he would ever consider a run for state office. He responded that the only way that he would was if state Sen. Betty Little or Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward were to retire.
Sayward, the former Willsboro Supervisor and Essex County chairwoman, did just that in March, announcing that she would not seek re-election in what was about to become the 114th Assembly District after the legislative map was re-drawn. Douglas’ name was immediately at the top of everyone’s short list of candidates, but he surprised his Democratic Party and the region, announcing that he felt he needed to stay in Jay and help the community recover from Tropical Storm Irene.
While the Republicans had already picked Warren County Chairman Dan Stec as their candidate to replace fellow GOP member Sayward, the Dems were left to scramble, eventually coming together to back Glens Falls lawyer Dennis Tarantino. Stec, backed by Sayward, ended up winning the election.
Sandy Lewis v. Town of Essex
The battle over property taxes between the Lewis Family Farm and the town of Essex headed to court this year as Salim “Sandy” Lewis filed suit in Essex County Court against the town, claiming his assessment was unfair and too high.
Lewis and his legal counsel, Martina Baillie, had previously filed a pair of grievances in the town about the 2010 assessments on the two parcels: a field crops parcel of 1,111 acres assessed at $6,033,190; and a 5.2-acre family residence assessed at $412,900. Lewis said that the property had been appraised by Richard Edmunds and Don Fisher, who were jointly agreed to by both himself and the town, and they came up with an assessment figure of $2.3 million for the parcels, which he also felt was too high.
Lewis then filed grievances over his 2011 assessments. However, the town did not have an active Assessment Board of Review to hear the complaint, which moved it to the county and a committee made up of County Chairman Randy Douglas, Clerk to the Board Deborah Palmer and County Treasurer Michael Diskin.
Beer tent at fairgrounds
Perhaps the most debated issue following the county’s decision to sell the Horace Nye Nursing Home came over the Essex County Agricultural Society’s decision to re-open a beer tent during the annual Essex County Fair.
After Westport Supervisor Dan Connell brought the matter before the board, debate started over whether or not alcohol should be present on the county-owned fairgrounds. Those supporting the move saw it as a money-making opportunity for the fair and a decision that was to be made by the agricultural society, not the county board. Those against argued that alcohol could lead to an increase in spending on the part of the county in providing more Sheriff’s deputies and in potential liability. In the end, the county board voted that they did have a say in the matter and that they would not allow alcohol to be sold at the fair.
County budget talks
The Essex County budget started out with a 26.8 percent tax levy increase before county board members trimmed that number down to a 2.6 percent increase. However, debate of the use of funding from FEMA and fund balance led to the retirement of County Manager Daniel Palmer, along with his wife, Deborah, who serves as clerk to the Board.
The county will continue to discuss the budget Dec. 10, with a public hearing followed by a regular board meeting where they anticipate finalizing the 2013 county spending plan.