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Big stories topped the news in 2022

MILLERTON — The big stories in eastern Dutchess County in 2022 were spawned by the actions of governments and politicians, and by business impacts, along with the growing and positive influence of nonprofits and volunteers in the community.

Last year, the front pages of this newspaper chronicled more than 250 stories about life in this diverse and vibrant region, recounting news that ranged from amazing life-saving rescues to showcasing the life-affirming moments of everyday life.

Saving lives

Millerton resident Frank Duncan is the kind of person who would run into a burning building to save someone’s life. In this case, that is exactly what he did without hesitation on a chilly November morning in 2021. In January 2022, the Dutchess County Legislature presented him with an award for his bravery, and for saving the life of Millerton resident Amy Yang when her house burned down.

In September, the Legislature also honored father-and-son volunteers with the Millerton Fire Company (MFC) for saving an infant’s life in August. Jason Watson and his son Shane Watson were recognized for the life-saving resuscitation of an infant in distress in the Town of North East.

Local Ukraine aid

As the year was barely underway, Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, and Polish-born André Wlodar, who, with his wife, splits time between New York City and Dutchess County, launched a fundraising effort. Fundraisers were held at RE Institute art gallery in Millerton and at Troutbeck in Amenia.

As Wlodar expanded the aid effort, many businesses offered support, including   Hammertown Barn, Silamar Farm, Herrington’s, Oblong Books & Music, Montage Antiques,  Harney’s Fine Teas, North East Ford, LaBonne’s Market, Associated Lightning Rod, Robin Hood Radio and many others.

By May, Wlodar and his wife, Kim, had raised several hundred thousand dollars and, with Garage Galleri owner Svend Lindbaek at 2 Main St., had set up a temporary fundraising headquarters.

Lindbaek donated the space to the Wlodars’ United with Ukraine, selling lawn signs, posters, T-shirts, stickers and tote bags to raise funds for the nonprofit Sunflower of Peace to help victims of the war. Wlodar traveled to Poland and western Ukraine over the summer and again in September, delivering essential supplies to Ukrainian troops.

By year’s end, the communal effort raised in excess of $500,000.

Pulver elected again

For the fifth consecutive year, Dutchess County Legislator Gregg Pulver (R-19) of Pine Plains was elected by his colleagues to lead the Legislature as its chairman. For years he has worked closely by County Executive Marc Molinaro’s side.

On Aug. 23, a special election was held solely to fill the vacant seat left behind when former U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-19) was named lieutenant governor by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul in May.

Many expected Molinaro to beat his Democratic counterpart, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, with ease, but it was Ryan who came out on top. In September, Pulver announced that he would run for the county executive position to be vacated on Jan. 1, 2023, by Molinaro, who, in November, won a congressional seat in the 19th District.

Serino defeated

In the November general election, State Senator Sue Serino (R,C,I) lost her 41st Senate District race to Michelle Hinchey (D, WF). Serino will take a position in the county Office of Aging in January.

In the race for Dutchess County sheriff, Kirk Imperati (R) won over Jillian Hanlon (D, WF), and the race was notable as it was the first time since 1999 that there was an election for sheriff; since that time, Sheriff Adrian “Butch” Anderson had run unopposed. Imperati replaced Anderson after his sudden death in 2021.

School capital spending

With the $12.5 million capital project spending referendum for Webutuck schools approved on Dec. 6, the long process leading to meeting the school district’s infrastructure needs can begin.

The work will include roofs on schools with  overextended warranties;  HVAC system updating, both for ventilation to improve indoor air in the age of pandemics and for air conditioning at Webutuck Elementary School; and an age-appropriate playground at Eugene Brooks Intermediate School (EBIS). Currently, students in grades four through eight have no dedicated space for outdoor activity.

Millerton PD

After months of wrangling over the future of the Millerton Police Department, in July, the Town of North East signed a one-year contract for police services to be provided by the MPD. The decision, following a year of public debate whether the MPD should exist at all, puts the issue on a back burner.

Two local laws have already been presented to abolish the MPD. The first, Local Law A, proposed in April, went through an entire review process, including a public hearing. The issue became so contentious, though, that Mayor Jenn Najdek and her trustees opted to take more time to deliberate.

A very similar Local Law B is now on the table, calling for abolishing the MPD and contracting with the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO). The board hasn’t passed a resolution for it yet nor held a public hearing.

Najdek began instituting procedural changes within the MPD during the winter of 2021. The MPD objected, saying the daytime shifts — added to assist local businesses, drivers dealing with heavy traffic and parking, Harlem Valley Rail Trail users and others vising the village — would leave the village and town vulnerable during night time hours when call volume was highest.

Climate Smart gets bronze

After years of hard and constant work, the joint Climate Smart Task Force of North East and Millerton achieved bronze certification from New York state in July.

“[It gave us] bragging rights,” Task Force coordinator Kathy Chow said at the time. “But tangibly, we also get to be a part of the program, which is designed to help us take real steps toward climate resiliency and mitigation.”

The bronze certification from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will enable the town to score points with the state when applying for grant dollars, added Chow.

The DEC also announced that the town of Ancram achieved bronze-level certification in part by installing solar panels and an electric vehicle charging station at Town Hall, and increasing access to renewable energy for residents and local businesses by streamlining the permitting process for rooftop solar and running a community solar campaign.

Cary Institute gift

A $2 million gift received by the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook in January supported renovations already in process at the world-renowned science institute. The makeover is transforming the Cary’s headquarters, updating its facilities and adding much-needed space for the many researchers and scientists to conduct their work.

Dubbed a “leadership grant,” the money was donated by husband and wife Jim and Zibby Tozer, longtime supporters of the Cary Institute.

In April, after several years of planning and building, the Cary Institute welcomed visitors and guests to view its newly renovated Tozer Ecosystem Science Building.

Another Dover project

Concerned Citizens of Dover (CCD) invited neighbors, including specifically Millbrook and Millerton/North East, to attend a Town of Dover Planning Board meeting on Nov. 21 to hear about NY Transco’s Dover Project, the building of an energy substation in the town. The public hearing recalled the furor residents expressed over the Cricket Valley Energy Center (CVEC) a few years ago. CVEC operates not far from where the new station would be located, at Routes 22 and 26. CVEC uses natural gas to produce electricity.

The Dover Station Project, as proposed, is described as a network upgrade electric substation, needed as New York state evolves to clean, efficient and resilient energy.

Out of the many comments from those attending, only one citizen said she was in favor of the substation.

Rodeo returns to Amenia

In September, the second annual Hudson Valley Rodeo was held at Keane Stud farm in Amenia. Hosted by the Amenia Wassaic Community Organization, a philanthropic foundation created by Silo Ridge, the all-day fundraising festival celebrated equestrian sports.

Riders from New York and from across the country showed off their skills in events like bronco bustin’, barrel racing, calf roping and bull riding.

Children and adults competed in the all-day event.

Eddie Collins Park opens

On Oct. 1, the reopening of Eddie Collins Memorial Park in Millerton drew hundreds of people to mark the completion of the first phase of the revitalization of the park that has served as the recreational center for the region for decades. A party atmosphere was fueled by rock music that filled the air, and food booths that served tacos and other traditional fare.

The park is named after Eddie Collins, who played major league baseball from 1906 to 1930 for the Philadelphia Athletics and the Chicago White Sox.

There was news of a state and municipal grant of $125,000 toward making the Little League field accessible to those in wheelchairs (the walkway and a set of bleachers to be installed in the spring).  More than 30 community partners teamed up to help with the day’s festivities. Fundraising had raised $2 million for the park.

NECC child care program

In June, the North East Community Center (NECC) fulfilled a long-awaited dream to open an early learning program at the former Astor Head Start at 11 Park St. in Millerton. Supporters of the nonprofit community center attended the ribbon-cutting, some of them hoping to enroll their children in the preschool program once it opened.

As of Oct. 17, when its state license became effective, North East  Community Center’s early learning program was up and running. The new program is taking the place of the both the Astor and NECC children’s programs.

Pine Plains food and fun

Peck’s Market celebrated its 100th anniversary on April 1, and the third-generation grocery store located at 2991 East Church St. (Route 199) has grown as a landmark business in the community as well as a household name among town residents. The historic Stissing House, which closed in 2021, relaunched in 2022 under the loving care of a well-versed New York chef, Clare de Boer, who opened its doors to customers on March 10.

Pine Plains also inaugurated Pine Plains Community Day on Sept. 10, providing a celebratory atmosphere and a multitude of free activities, food, music and history — great practice for this year’s celebration. On the weekend of June 25-26, the town inaugurated a Pride Month celebration, making the LGBTQ+ community now officially part of Pine Plains traditions by inviting residents and visitors to its inaugural  celebration, which commenced with a Pride Kickoff Dinner at Lia’s Mountain View Restaurant.

As a center for diversity, culture, and civic life, the Stissing Center appointed Brett Bernardini as its new executive director in December as part of its mission to support local economic revitalization and job creation in Pine Plains and the surrounding region.

Held in some form or another for decades, the Pine Plains FFA Agriculture Fair, hosted in October at Stissing Mountain Junior/Senior High School,  was a another success. The two-day event featured agriculture-themed activities, from antique tractor and horse pulling competitions, to dairy showmanship contests, to a delicious chicken BBQ.

Lo Nan Farms sponsored the fourth and fifth grade dairy showmanship contest. In another story involving Lo Nan Farms, in November, Ethan Arsenault, a “cow man” from Pine Plains, in partnership with Lloyd and Amy Vaill of Lo Nan Farms, purchased 300 cows at Freund’s Farm in East Canaan, Connecticut, and leased the barn to continue the Freund dairy tradition.

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