Wednesday, March 28, 2012

One popular cat 3/28

I’ve been trying to reach out to Saratoga County Animal Shelter Supervisor Dan Butler all day to do a follow-up on the roughly 135 cats that were seized from a single trailer at a Halfmoon mobile home park on Monday. Click here in case you missed it.

I haven’t been able to get him on the phone, but I did talk to an employee there who filled me in on something that I thought you guys might appreciate. The employee, who didn’t want to identify himself, said the shelter has gotten over 100 calls today. That’s more than he can ever remember the shelter getting.

 “Every time I pick up the phone it’s something about the cats,” he said, but the overwhelming majority of those adoption inquiries are about the Siamese cat that was on the front page of Wednesday’s Saratogian. The employee said the cat seems to be the only one that people want. I can certainly see why.

There was something exceptionally sassy, for lack of a better word, about that one. You can see it in the “Are you for real?” expression it’s giving in the great picture Erica Miller took that I've attached above. It's the cat on the right, for the record.

That cat, ironically, was also on the front page of another local paper and featured prominently in a local television station’s report about the animal shelter. It'll have no problem finding a home.

The shelter, though, has plenty of other cats – and dogs – available for adoption. I saw a guinea pig and rat when I was there Tuesday. The rats were $5. That's unbeatable. Some are available now, but the cats that were taken Halfmoon won’t be available until some paperwork is cleared up. The cats all need to be spayed, neutered and vaccinated, too. Butler said yesterday.

If you're interested in adopting, call the shelter at 885-4113. They're also looking to expand their network of foster homes, where some cats are placed until they're mature enough to be adopted.

 One other update: Butler told me yesterday that the cats were taken from a woman, so I wrote the story that way. I’ve since gotten calls telling me the cats were taken from a man. State Police, in a release announcing the removal, said they were taken from an owner. The police didn’t specify a gender.

When I talked to Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III yesterday, I specifically asked about the woman hoarding cats in Halfmoon. Going back through my notes, he didn’t correct me, but he also never explicitly told me it was a woman. OK, then. I reached out to him Wednesday for a follow-up.

He said it “looks like (there are) three targets of the investigation at this point,” but he wouldn’t give me anything about gender. I know the owner(s) hasn’t been charged, but that lack of disclosure seems very odd to me. Based on Murphy’s statement, though, the cats could have been taken from any combination of males and females.

State Police said charges are anticipated and could come as soon as this weekend.

UPDATE, 10:15 a.m. Thursday: We just received an e-mail from The Daily Mail asking us if they could use some of our photos for a story they are doing on the cats. Looks like it's gone international.

I Google'd "130 cats" just to see what kind of other media attention this story is getting and came across the following video. It's not the inside of the Halfmoon trailer, but I think it gives you a pretty good idea of what it probably looked like.

Until next time,

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Another Bracket Challenge Update 3/25

The Kansas Jayhawks became the fourth – and final – team to punch their ticket to New Orleans on Sunday afternoon, turning on the afterburners to pull away from North Carolina in the game's waning moments. They'll join Kentucky, Ohio State and Louisville in Saturday's National Semifinals.

That being said, it's time to update the inaugural Saratoga County Supervisors Bracket Challenge. There's been some shuffling, so here's where we started a week and a half ago and here's the update from earlier this week before the Sweet Sixteen.

Five supervisors – Thomas N. Wood III, Alan Grattidge, Phil Barrett, Matthew Veitch and Jean Raymond – have no teams left in the fight, so they're not moving up. Grattidge, Barrett, Veitch and Raymond are locked in spots nine through 12, respectively, and Wood may get bumped down from No. 6 depending on how things shape up.

I broke the rest of it down so you can see how things might change in the next round. Here we go:

Scoring: 1st Round = 1 point; 2nd Round = 2 points; Sweet 16 = 4 points; Elite Eight = 8 points; Final Four = 16 points; National Championship = 32 points; Red = Previously eliminated.

1. Michael Cignoli, The Saratogian
Score: 90 (First round 22, Second round 10, Sweet Sixteen 6, Elite Eight 3)
Maximum Possible Score: 154
Picks remaining: Kentucky over Marquette, Kansas over Ohio State, Kansas 

2. Art Johnson, Wilton
Score: 77 (21, 10, 4, 1)
Maximum Possible Score: 93
Picks remaining: Kentucky over Marquette, North Carolina over Ohio State, North Carolina.

3. Jack Lawler, Waterford
Score: 69 (17, 10, 4, 1)
Maximum Possible Score: 85
Picks remaining: UCONN over Louisville Kansas over Wisconsin, UCONN

4. Mary Ann Johnson, Day
Score: 67 (19, 10, 5, 1)
Maximum Possible Score: 115
Picks remaining: Kentucky over Missouri, Syracuse over North Carolina, Kentucky

5. Spencer Hellwig, County Administrator
Score: 66 (20, 9, 3, 2)
Maximum Possible Score: 130 
Picks remaining: Kentucky over Missouri, Kansas over Florida State, Kentucky

6. Thomas N. Wood III, Saratoga
Score: 62 (20, 13, 4, 0)
Maximum Possible Score: 62 
Picks remaining: Duke over No selection*, Syracuse over Ohio, Syracuse

7. Anita Daly, Clifton Park
Score: 58 (16, 9, 4, 2)
Maximum Possible Score: 106
Picks remaining: Kentucky over Missouri, Syracuse over Kansas, Kentucky

8. Paul Sausville, Malta
Score: 55 (17, 5, 3, 2)
Maximum Possible Score: 103 
Picks remaining: Kentucky over Missouri, Syracuse over North Carolina, Kentucky

9. Alan Grattidge, Charlton
Score: 51 (21, 9, 3, 0)
Maximum Possible Score: 51 
Picks remaining: Duke and Missouri, North Carolina over Syracuse, Syracuse**

10. Phil Barrett, Clifton Park
Score: 44 (20, 8, 2, 0)
Maximum Possible Score: 44
Picks remaining: Duke over Michigan State, North Carolina over Florida State, Duke

11. Matthew Veitch, Saratoga Springs
Score: 39 (19, 6, 2, 0)
Maximum Possible Score: 39
Picks remaining: UCONN over Marquette, Syracuse over Purdue, Syracuse

12. Jean Raymond, Edinburg
Score: 35 (19, 6, 1, 0)
Maximum Possible Score: 35
Picks remaining: Duke and Florida, Alabama over Texas, Texas***

* Wood, inexplicably, left one of his Final Four selections blank. He had the correct match – Louisville vs. Florida – but he left one of the picks blank. He'd be doing better if he picked Louisville.
** Grattidge picked a National Championship match-up that couldn't actually happen. Those two teams would have met in the Final Four. As fate would have it, they both lost in the Elite Eight.
*** Raymond did the same thing as Grattidge, except her teams lost in the Round of 64. That really hurt.

How are your brackets shaping up? Leave a comment and let me know.

Until next time,

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bracket Challenge Update 3/21

Scroll down, or click here, if you missed my last post about asking Saratoga County supervisors to fill out a bracket for the NCAA basketball tournament. With the Sweet Sixteen set to tip off March 22, it's time for an update.

I thought it'd be a fun way to foster some friendly competition, but this undertaking is proving to be significantly more difficult than I anticipated.

Keeping track of a dozen brackets is challenging in itself, but it's even more challenging when the brackets just aren't filled out properly. I'll give you some examples.

One supervisor said the winner of the Round of 64 UNLV/Colorado game would be Baylor, which played South Darkota in the first round. That same supervisor picked South Dakota over Baylor, but then marked Baylor as beating South Dakota to advance into the Round of 32.

Another supervisor left some of his first round choices blank. One's Final Four contains three teams. Two picked National Championship match-ups that were impossible, as the teams that they picked for the championship game were on the same side of the bracket.

The most egregious error was a supervisor circling the names of the teams in the first round, then filling out the bracket one round in advance. I basically had to guess what that supervisor was trying to do.

Malta Supervisor Paul Sausville admitted that he'd never filled out a bracket prior to last week, but I'm slowly beginning to think that he's not the only one.

Those errors aside, some of the supervisors are actually doing quite well. After the jump, the complete list of standings, plus some highlights from each of bracket.

Read more »

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

NCAA Tournament Brackets 3/14

UPDATE, 6:30 p.m. – I received five more submissions. I've included them in the list.


I've asked Malta Supervisor Paul Sausville a lot of tough questions over the past few months, so I figured asking him to fill out a NCAA tournament bracket would be comparatively easy.

Turns out, it may have been the toughest question I'll ever ask him.

Let me preface this a little bit. Remember when I asked the Saratoga Springs City Council members to give me their Super Bowl predictions? That wound up being a pretty popular post. Supervisors had some time to kill between their agenda meeting and the community forum, so I figured I'd hand them each a blank bracket and see what happened.

When I asked Sausville if he'd do one, he legitimately had no idea what I was talking about. I asked him if he had ever done a bracket before. He honestly said he hadn't. I find that unbelievable.

I have no idea how old Sausville is — he left it out of the candidate questionnaire we sent him when he ran for re-election last November and when I called and asked him about it, he said it was irrelevant — but in all his years he'd never filled out one bracket? Not even for curiosity's sake?

Props to him for being a good sport about it, though, and filling one out on the spot. Five other supervisors did the same, others said they'd fax theirs in Thursday morning.

I'm going to go ahead and post the ones that I have here and let you guys analyze them. I'll update them as I receive them. Keep in mind, there's no cash involved here. It's simply for bragging rights.

The supervisors will get one point for a correct pick in the first round and those values with double through the championship, which is worth 24 points.

Click the supervisor's name to see his or her full bracket.

Alan Grattidge, Charlton
Final Four: Duke, Missouri, Syracuse, North Carolina
National Champion: Syracuse def. North Carolina*

Phil Barrett, Clifton Park
Final Four: Duke, Michigan State, Florida State, North Carolina
National Champion: Duke def. North Carolina

Anita Daly, Clifton Park
Final Four: Kentucky Michigan State, Syracuse, North Carolina
National Champion: Kentucky def. Syracuse

Mary Ann Johnson, Day
Final Four: Kentucky, Missouri, Syracuse, North Carolina
National Champion: Kentucky def. Syracuse

Jean Raymond, Edinburg
Final Four: Duke, Florida, Texas, Alabama
National Champion: Texas def. Alabama**

Paul Sausville, Malta
Final Four: Kentucky, Missouri, Syracuse, Kansas
National Champion: Kentucky def. Syracuse

Tom Wood, Saratoga
Final Four: Duke, ???, Syracuse, Ohio***
National Champion: Duke def. Syracuse

Matthew Veitch, Saratoga Springs
Final Four: Connecticut, Marquette, Syracuse, Purdue
National Champion: Syracuse def. Connecticut

Jack Lawler, Waterford
Final Four: Connecticut, Louisville, Wisconsin, Kansas
National Champion: Connecticut def. Kansas****

Art Johnson, Wilton
Final Four: Kentucky, Marquette, Ohio State, North Carolina
National Champion: North Carolina def. Kentucky

Spencer Hellwig, County Administrator
Final Four: Kentucky, Missouri, Florida State, Kansas
National Champion: Kentucky def. Kansas

And, as a benchmark, my selections:
Final Four: Kentucky, Marquette, Ohio State, Kansas
National Champion: Kansas def. Kentucky

My immediate supervisor, Betsy DeMars, is a Kansas State grad, so she's probably not going to like that too much. Oh, well. Rock chalk Jayhawk.

*Grattidge's championship match-up is actually impossible, since those two teams would meet in the Final Four. Now, watch him win the whole thing.
** Same deal.
*** Wood, inexplicably, had Louisville and Florida in an Elite Eight match-up, but didn't pick the winner of the game.
**** As a Connecticut native, I admire Lawler's choice, but I think it's a terrible selection. Lawler, though thinks the Huskies have a legitimate chance now that Syracuse's Fab Melo is out. I don't see them getting past the second round.

Until next time,

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Monday, March 12, 2012

County Property Auctions 3/12

Tuesday evening, Saratoga County is auctioning off 55 properties that they’ve seized after the parcels’ previous owners failed to pay taxes on their land for three consecutive years.

That number is probably outdated by the time you’re reading this, as parcels are constantly getting pulled off the auction block.

The county started with a delinquent list of 98 parcels, Edinburg Supervisor Jean Raymond told me, but that number has been basically halved as supervisors either pull parcels off the block or their owners come through with last-minute tender offers to buy their land back from the county.

The Equalization and Assessment Committee, which Raymond chairs, will hold a special meeting at 4:30 p.m. this afternoon, which is the last chance to reclaim rights.

Registration for tonight’s auction begins at 5 in the Saratoga County Facilities Building at 40 West High Street in Ballston Spa.

“The important thing is buyer beware,” Raymond said of parcels being auctioned off beginning at 6 p.m. tonight. “Do your research. At the very least, drive by and look at it.”

I thought that was a very peculiar thing to say, so I asked her and Charlton Supervisor Alan Grattidge, who chairs the county Law and Finance Committee, about the auction. Turns out, the county has auctioned off some bizarre properties over the years.

Raymond said one individual was the high bidder for a five-acre property on U.S. Route 9. At face value, that seems like an attractive investment, so Raymond was puzzled when the buyer never followed up on the purchase. Come to find out, Raymond said, “it was a swamp.”

Grattidge took it a step further.

“We had the bottom of Lake Desolation on the tax rolls once,” he said with a laugh. “Some guy owns the bottom of Lake Desolation.”

Sure enough, that guy is Middle Grove’s Roy Simonds, who acquired the deeds to the properties in 2009. According to county records, he owns both the Greenfield and Providence portions of the lake and his property is assessed at $9,400. I’d love to know the circumstances surrounding its acquisition.

Does anyone know Mr. Simonds? Tell him to give me a call.

The properties on Tuesday's block range in size from a .04 acre parcel on Albany Avenue in Round Lake to a 24.41 acre parcel on Male Road in Clifton Park. Most will for less than $100, Raymond said, but it’s important for people to know what they’re buying before they start bidding.

You can find the list of available properties online at and use the county’s online GIS map at to search by the parcel’s print key. Make sure to include the dots and dashes, or it won’t work.

Most of the interesting stuff has already been pulled from the auction block. In some radical cases, Grattidge said, you’ll find that the parcel is a drainage ditch that has been leftover from a subdivision.

 “Some of these are landlocked,” Raymond said. “You can’t even get there without a helicopter.”

The county’s top priority in these auctions, Raymond said, is to get the properties back on tax rolls. The county isn’t paying taxes on the land, but the person who buys the parcels will at the county property tax rate $2.23 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Raymond said the ideal way – and these are her words, not mine – to get the properties back on the tax rolls is through patching the marriage between the original owner and his or her land, but the next best thing is “a clean and clear divorce” that allows someone else to pick up the property.

Divorces? Those can be tough. But there’s plenty of fish in the sea.

Or, in Saratoga County’s case, at the bottom of Lake Desolation.

Finally, it’s been a while since my last blog post, so I wanted to share this anecdote.

 There was a 40-minute gap between committee meetings today, meaning I had a chance to start scribbling some notes on how I wanted my stories to look. I’m sitting in the committee meeting room and some observers from the League of Women Voters come in and sit to my left.

While one guy is flipping through the pages of one of our free Life publications, which he picked up outside the meeting hall, he took a swipe at The Saratogian, saying something along the lines of – and I’m slightly paraphrasing here – the price is too expensive for the content of the stories.

Then the woman sitting next to him said – I distinctly remember this one – “You shouldn’t say that when Lucian is sitting right there.”

Until next time,

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