Orange County News Roundup, January 20

By Yvonne Marcotte
Yvonne Marcotte
Yvonne Marcotte
January 20, 2016 Updated: January 20, 2016

Habitat Volunteers Endure Cold to Work on Affordable Housing

Dozens volunteering for Habitat for Humanity sustained cold weather and wind to help tear apart rundown residential structures, reported the MidHudsonNews. Cathy Collins, Habitat’s Executive Director in Greater Newburgh, said the buildings are being readied for future affordable housing. “We had a fantastic turnout,” Collins said. “There’s about 65 people here on South Miller.  There’s been about another ten that are back at our headquarters working on various things.  And then, there’s also some kids who have been building birdhouses.  So all told, we have about 85 people.” The 24 South Miller Street property is one of several on that block that are being revived. Collins said, “In very short order, this whole block will become a very vibrant and healthy neighborhood that will contribute to the building of community in this City of Newburgh.” Collins said it is a partnership with the city, the Land Bank, and RUPCO, the Kingston-based provider of, and advocate for, quality, affordable housing.

West Point Cadet Court Martialed

The general court-martial for West Point Cadet Lukas M. Saul, I Company, 4th Regiment, Class of 2015, started on Jan. 20 and is expected to continue until Jan. 22. Saul is charged with one violation of Article 120 Uniform Code of Military Justice (Aggravated Sexual Assault), one violation of Article 120 (Sexual Assault), and one violation of Article 125 (Sodomy). The charges allege that Saul engaged in inappropriate contact with a female cadet without her consent on three separate occasions both on and off West Point property between March and December 2012. Saul has been on administrative leave since August 17th, 2015. The charges carry a maximum punishment of dismissal from the Army, total forfeiture of pay, and allowances and confinement for life. Cadets, like other members of the military, are subject to military law contained in the UCMJ, a federal statute. The charges are only accusations—Cadet Saul is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Burke High School Recognizes Students for Being Kind

John S. Burke High School in Goshen honored nine students for their regular acts of kindness throughout the year, reported the Pike Dispatch. At the end of the first semester, an awards ceremony celebrated students nominated by faculty, family members, and classmates. Many students were acknowledged for being respectful, holding a door, standing up for a friend or including someone new in an activity. Some wrote letters of gratitude to American soldiers. The following students were recognized for the “Random Act of Kindness” award: Jeanette Dick, Patrick Gunn, Cory Lee, Juliet Gaba, Veronica Gilman, Elizabeth Digorgio, Madelyn Garcia, Gregory DiPaul, and Alberto Gilman.

Man Saves Stranger from Drowning in Icy Pond

A Middletown resident jumped into ice cold water to save a stranger after witnessing a car crash on Jan. 12. The victim, 45-year-old Claudio Gonzalez, was trapped and drowning inside his submerged SUV in Mount Hope, reported John Kientopp used his bare hands to punch and pry open the driver’s side window, rescuing Gonzalez. Gonzalez skidded on black ice Tuesday night in Mount Hope and plummeted sideways into the icy pond. His car quickly filled with water, which kept his window and door from opening. “One minute later, I would have died in there,” said Gonzalez. Both men are doing well, despite their ordeal.

Racetrack Owner Proposes New Deal for Riverside Park

John Fernandez, owner of racetrack program RC World, appeared before the Port Jervis city council on Jan. 11 to propose a new RC youth program. The Pike Dispatch reported that Councilman Stan Siegel advised Fernandez last fall that the program could go forward only with qualified people to run the program, clean-up addressed, and financials provided to the city. Siegel said the RC program is an excellent concept and that the city youth would benefit from a well-run and supervised program. Mayor Decker asked Fernandez to submit a request for proposal to evaluate. Norman Coard attended the hearing with Fernandez and directs a Bronx youth program called Neighborhood Sports Plus.

Neversink Bridge Rehab Passes State Hurdle

The state DOT approved the final design for the Neversink Bridge and Main Street corridor replacement project on Dec. 15. Jack Farr, director Port Jervis Public Works said final plans will start, reported the Times Herald-Record. “We put the final documents in a couple of times,” said Farr. In addition to scrutinizing the construction area for mussels, bats, eagles, and artifacts, typographical errors and wording changes also resulted in documents being sent back and forth between Port Jervis engineers and DOT engineers, said Farr. Engineers’ fees have now reached $1.5 million, according to Port Jervis City Clerk-Treasurer Robin Waizenegger.

Bonacic Secures Grants for Goshen Government Buildings

State Senator John Bonacic secured a $75,000 grant for Goshen Town Hall improvements and a $50,000 for the Village of Goshen Police headquarters. The funding comes through the State Municipal Grant Program, reported the MidHudsonNews. The grant will help pay for a new drainage system and catch basin at town hall and complete some 20,000 square feet of asphalt resurfacing. The village grant will be used for the exterior of the police station. “This funding for our police station will help preserve the historic building’s integrity and improve the aesthetic of the downtown,” said Mayor Kyle Roddey. “This work aligns with our continued goals of our Goshen 2020 vision to revitalize the downtown and improve our infrastructure.”

Reward Doubled for Speights Murder

The NYS Corrections Officers and Police Benevolent Association has contributed another $10,000 to the effort to find those responsible for the stabbing death of Silver Lake Firefighter Justin Speights, reported the MidHudsonNews. Speights tried to break up a fight at a New Year’s Eve Party in Crawford when he was murdered. Hudson Valley union leader Michael Mazzella said that many of their members are volunteer firefighters and they want to support their fellow public servants. Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler urged anyone from the public who has information about the murder to step forward and go to the police.  The DA said anyone who might have filmed the fight, saw any part of it, or knows anything about who killed Speights should reach out to the authorities. The State Police are working with the DA’s Office, Crawford and Wallkill town police, and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Private Concerns Lobby to Influence Education Policy

Private interests are contributing nearly $34 million in political spending, outspending education unions and their allies by about $17 million, reported the Photo News. Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, spoke at a panel discussion attended by about 200 on Jan. 5 Monroe-Woodbury High School on how big money is driving education policy in the state. Lerner’s report, “Polishing the Apple: Examining Political Spending in New York to Influence Education Policy” examines a controversial teacher evaluation system, Common Core, standardized tests, charter schools, and voucher programs. Sparrow Tobin, a Washingtonville schools social studies teacher and representative from New York State United Teachers, said the American Legislative Exchange Council “is to underfund schools, as we’ve seen in other states. They mandate tests to label schools and teachers as failures. They create crisis and use it to push for charter schools and scholarships for them.”

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