A fire destroyed the historic Hubbard Hall in Elizabethtown on the morning of Jan. 11, 2011. The current property owners are looking for input as to what local business owners are seeking for office space.
There was a lot that happened in 2011 throughout the region, from flooding and tropical storms to stories of compassion and lending a helping hand.
•Elizabethtown Community Hospital ushered in the 21st century with fiber-optic technology. The hospital was equipped with the high-speed technology through Westelcom.
“They have been talking about this for a long time,” said Jane Hooper, ECH director of community relations. “It is now time for us to realize the dream. For such a small facility, it is pretty wires in and pretty connected and it is quite impressive and it makes it great because we can be a little faster and better increase our services.”
•Thanks to that porject, fiber optic technology also came to business owners in Elizabethtown.
“This is a big thing for the town,” said Elizabethtown supervisor Noel Merrihew. “To be able to get involved with something like this is a tremendous benefit not only for the hospital, but for the town as well.”
•The early morning sunrise of Jan. 11 was blacked out by deep plumes of grey smoke as crews battled a blaze that completely enveloped historic Hubbard Hall on Elizabethtown’s Main Street.
The fire began at approximately 6:50 a.m. and was being fought by firemen from the Elizabethtown, Lewis, Whallonsburg, Wadhams, Westport and Keeseville Volunteer Fire Departments, along with standby assistance from the Mineville, Willsboro and Reber Volunteer Fire Companies.
Frigid temperatures hampered the efforts of firefighters as the mercury dipped to near zero. Water turned almost immediately to ice, which caked to the walls of the structure as the persistent flames raged on inside.
•It was not the usual gathering at Lakewood Apartments in Willsboro, however, because this gathering was taking place at the Willsboro Volunteer Fire Department, and not by choice.
The 12 residents of Lakewood Apartments, along with several other local properties, were evacuated from the area around 8 a.m. Friday, Jan. 6, when a pipe that supplied the senior housing complex with propane was found to be leaking.
Some of the residents were up for the day when members of the Willsboro Volunteer Fire Department started the evacuation procedure, while some had to be woken up.
“I was on my couch asleep, snoozing away,” Betty Sayward, a resident at Lakewood, said. “Then I heard that someone was there knocking at my door. I opened it and there was the fireman who told me that I had to get out of the place.”
“I had a neighbor knocking on my door and asking me if I had heard about what was going on,” Betty’s daughter-in-law, Janet, said. “I came down to the fire station and came in to find her and there they all were having doughnuts and coffee.”
•In Keene, a grassroots effort successfully established high-speed internet access without the help of federal dollars – and the project could serve as a model for other communities in the Adirondacks.
Two of the men behind the effort presented their project to the Adirondack Park Agency Board of Commissioners Thursday morning.
David Mason and Jim Herman are the co-directors of the Keene New York Town-Wide Broadband Internet Project. The duo started out four years ago to bring universal broadband internet service to their community.
Herman says the goal was to make broadband internet available to approximately 1,000 homes and businesses in Keene and Keene Valley and they wouldn’t back down from their goal of making high-speed internet readily available for all students. Herman says good internet access is a critical tool for students in rural areas.
•When the coach calls your name for the first time, it can be a thrilling and exciting experience, especially if it’s the first time in two years that you’ve heard that name come from the coach’s mouth during a game.
For Westport Central School District senior Molly Rascoe, that time came during a Jan. 21 girls varsity basketball game against Crown Point, as she entered her first game since kidney disease and the subsequent transplant surgery.
“I was very excited, I was not nervous at all,” Rascoe said about the moment she got to check into the game against the Lady Panthers. “I was cleared the Friday before that to just shoot around and stuff like that, but then I asked my other doctor and she said that I could go ahead and play in the game.”
Those in the stands quickly realized what was happening and welcomed Rascoe back to the Lady Eagles’ basketball court with a warm ovation. Rascoe not only got the chance to play but also scored two points.
“I drove to the basket and I lost it,” Rascoe said about the beginning of the play, then recounting each person that touched the ball until it was in the hands of Willa McKinley. “Willa passed it to me and I just went to the basket and I just made it,” Rascoe said.
•Not only has the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) clinic moved into an expanded new area in Westport, they are also bringing their services to a new satellite office in Saranac Lake.
“It was a long process to get to where we are now,” Peter Potter, with Veterans Services for the state of New York. “You want to make sure that you have done everything that you absolutely can do to provide the best care for the veterans.”
The VA clinic, which was located at the Elizabethtown Community Hospital, has recently opened its doors at the Elizabethtown Community Based Outpatient Clinic at 7426 NYS Rte 9N, the site of the former New York State Police barracks. Later, it opened a satellite office in Saranac Lake.
•Just over 30 years after June (Hopkins) Collard went missing, her husband finally told the family what they had always suspected.
He killed her.
Collard plead guilty to first-degree manslaughter in Essex County Court on Thursday, Feb. 3, ending a 30-plus year old cold case which was re-opened over the past year thanks to a confession by Collard in July to police in Alabama.
“I was headed into trial mode and to hear this was a pleasant surprise,” Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague said about receiving the news that Collard would agree to a plea deal. “A trial wasn’t really what the family wanted because they did not want to relive this and they wanted to get the remains back as soon as possible so they could care for them properly.”
•For the Pierce family, it was the beginning of a once-in-a-lifetime trip to an exotic land.
But while the family knew that there was tension, it wasn’t until after their plane had taken off that things really started to get exciting in the country they were headed for.
The family, consisting of parents Kevin and Yvonne, siblings Derrick and Lucas, and Derrick’s then soon-to-be fiance, Jennifer, did not know that the U.S. State Department had issued a travel warning to the country on the brink of revolution until they touched down in Cairo.
“I didn’t ever see a lot of animosity towards tourists,” Lucas Pierce said. “I was able to talk to a few of the guides and the people at the hotel and, a lot of times, they would apologize for what was going on and that they were sorry that they had ruined our trip.”
Pierce said that while they felt bad for the band of tourists, they were committed to the cause they were fighting for.
“They would all explain about what had happened to them and that they felt that they really needed change in their country,” Pierce said. “It was pretty intense at points.”
•As the proposed Adirondack Club & Resort enters its final permitting phase, some opponents are questioning the project’s economic viability.
Interested parties are gearing up for the upcoming adjudicatory hearings, scheduled to begin in April. Once those hearings are finished, the state Adirondack Park Agency Board of Commissioners has 60 days to decide whether or not to grant developer Michael Foxman a permit.
Earlier this week, members of two regional environmental organizations exchanged salvos with a pair of Tupper Lake organizations that support the ACR project.
Members of ARISE and the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce said Protect the Adirondacks and the Adirondack Council should excuse themselves from the upcoming hearings.
The green groups fired back, saying they have every right to participate in the public process.
•Willsboro Supervisor Edward Hatch said officials of the state Department of Transportation have dropped the ball in saying they will not be doing any more roadwork on the eight-mile stretch of New York State Route 22 between the hamlet and Interstate 87.
Hatch said this response from the state is not new.
“For many years, Route 22 has been slated to be part of the NYS Capital Road Improvement Program,” Hatch said. “Each year, the section from Willsboro to I-87 has been eliminated from the Improvement Program resulting in only minor repairs to the road surface.”
Hatch said the time for putting off the repairs are over, and that the situation has become a matter of safety.
•As soon as the curtain closed on a successful joint effort to keep the Winter Empire State Games alive, organizers were already talking about plans for the coming year and expansion.
“We are going to continue the commitment that we had to these games for a long time to come,” Jim McKenna, Convention and Visitors Bureau president, said. “We are on the road for next year, and we hope to double our fundraising and expand the games.”
McKenna said that he was pleased to see the response in three areas.
“The way that we were able to turn this around in a matter of hours and said that we can make this work was one of the most impressive things to me,” Jim McKenna said. “What was also great was the reaction of the youth athletes who were just thankful that they were able to be a part of something that they had been looking forward to. The third was the coalition that we were able to pull together. It was great to see the partners that recognized the value of youth sport and the games and reached out to help.”
•When they got off the bus at the Essex Inn, the five students who recently arrived from Hawaii and had spent the day at Ticonderoga High School only wanted to do one thing.
Play in the snow.
“We had snowball fights and built a snowman and everything,” said Ese Segi, a student from Sanford Ballard Dole middle School in Oahu, Hawaii.
“The snow was great,” said Dylan Merry.
The students, who also included Gigi Supapo, Lisabel Asuncion and Caroline Laki-Stowers, were joined by CFES Leadership coordinator Viva Inouye and teacher and CFES advisor Karlene Kauleinamoku.
“It has been an exciting, real adventure for these students,” Inouye said. “They have had a lot of fun throwing the snow around. They love it. We have to work to keep them out of the snow. When we got off the bus at the school, one of the kids headed straight for it.”
•Questions over visual simulations were raised during the first round of adjudicatory hearings for the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort on Thursday, March 24, with the scheduled four-day hearing wrapping up after only one.
During the March 24 hearing, much of talk focused around simulation images created by landscape architect Harry Dobson from Ashfield, Mass. The designs were created to show visual impacts of the ACR project during winter and nighttime hours of the proposed housing structures near or on Mount Morris.
“It only takes a small glimpse of a roofline, a glance at a new road heading up a steep hill, house lights glowing from a formerly dark hillside or a new home seen through winter trees to fundamentally change the visual character of a place as visually fragile as the undeveloped Adirondack Landscape,” Dobson said in pre-filed testimony, which all sides agreed had made the process more effective by offering witnesses the chance to give their testimony before taking the stand in a hearing environment.
Dobson’s findings were questioned by attorney Thomas Ulasewicz, who represented Preserve Associates, the project developer.
•The Essex County Board of Ethics has officially been formed.
At the April 4 meeting of the county Board of Supervisors, the five board members and one alternate were introduced to the board.
“This is something that we have been working toward since I was first sworn in as the county chairman,” Jay supervisor Randy Douglas said. “It was not as cut and dry as I thought it was going to be, but this shows that we are transparent as a county and that we are trying to do the right things.”
•June Marion Hopkins Collard was taken away from her two daughters and son in 1980 when her husband, Thomas A. Collard, said she left the family.
On March 31, Mr. Collard was sentenced under a plea agreement to an indeterminate amount of prison time between eight and 24 years for the self-confessed murder of his wife.
Collard previously had pled guilty to a count of first-degree manslaughter.
In a packed Essex County courtroom, Collard entered, in chains, at around 3:15 p.m., looking down as District Attorney Kristy L. Sprague announced that Vanderwerker wished to address the court.
During her remarks, Collard mostly looked down, often making facial expressions with his mouth.
“He buried her body right outside our bathroom window,” Vanderwerker said. “That is quite sickening if you ask me.”
•As Essex County officially recognized April as National Donating Life Month at the April 4 meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Provoncha was joined by organ donation recipients Molly Rascoe (kidney transplant) of Westport and Brock Marvin (heart transplant) of Elizabethtown, along with Rascoe’s kidney donor, Ben Sudduth of Westport.
“Essex County has been very fortunate and we have seen many success stories when it comes to giving life and organ donation,” Provoncha said. “These are just two of them.”
•An appeal to the New York State Department of Transportation has not gone unheard.
But it will go unresolved, for now.
In a letter to the town of Willsboro, DOT Regional Director Mary Ivey told town officials that there concerns over the driving conditions on Willsboro Mountain would not be resolved any time soon.
“I appreciate your candor and must agree that this section of Route 22 is in need of extensive repairs,” Ivey stated. “Unfortunately, the situation you describe is not uncommon. There are many unmet needs ... due to the current fiscal constraints on both a federal and state level.”
•After Gov. Andrew Cuomo landed in a helicopter at the Moriah Central School April 29, he declared a State Disaster Emergency in Essex County in the wake of a storm that left roadways and homes flooded throughout the region.
Cuomo gave a press conference in the town of Moriah, one of the hardest hit areas, at the site of the Moriah Broad Street Bridge, which collapsed after a flash flood on April 27. The bridge is located on one of the busiest roads in the county, County Route 4 between the hamlet of Moriah and the village of Port Henry on Lake Champlain.
Cuomo said this would mean state funds, equipment and resources could be used on local roads and facilities, as opposed to simply state roads and facilities. He said he would continue to deploy the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the state Department of Transportation. He said he would also be taking an assessment of damages across the state; if New York qualifies he will apply for federal disaster emergency help.
In Keene, Route 73, by Marcy Field, was closed and flood waters had reached the doors of a number of houses in the town of Keene April 28, according to Town Supervisor William Ferebee.
The Keene and Keene Valley fire departments helped shuttle seniors living by themselves in low-lying areas to safety. Ferebee was helping before his vehicle stalled.
“Right now my Jeep is siting in a lady’s driveway up to the hood in water,” he said.