Thawing the Pipes

Elsa has been on a rampage in Upstate New York this winter. Or is it Anna? I get those two confused. Either way, things have been freeeeeeeezing over the past few months.

Before you start torturing me by singing, “Let it Go,” I am encouraged that this frozen nightmare seems to be thawing out. And not a moment too soon, especially for some folks in Troy, NY who have been dealing with frozen water lines for the past few weeks.

Sadly, many of these people were without water for far too long. As I understand it, the frozen portion of their pipes were in city-owned sections of their water supply lines. Yet, the city, and in particular the mayor, said that it was not the city’s responsibility to thaw these pipes.

If my recollection is correct, it seemed there were a number of reasons that the city refused to directly help the homeowners. For example, city officials claimed the homeowners were to blame because they didn’t leave a trickle of water running. (This was disputed by some of the homeowners.) I also read that city officials called the frozen pipes an “act of nature,” negating the city’s responsibility. Other reports say the city claimed it could not act according to the city charter, in particular because the situations did not rise to the level of an emergency.

Clearly, the whole situation has been poorly handled by city officials. Even if the frozen pipes are entirely the responsibility of the homeowners, the city is coming across as being unresponsive.

Frankly, I’m still waiting to read the news report that declares the blocked pipes were caused not by ice, but by fish stuck in the pipes. Should that happen, Troy could call it an “Act of Cod.”

(Have I ever mentioned that I love puns?)

Seriously, though, there was one particular case that was especially troubling, and in the end – encouraging. One woman who had been without water for nearly two weeks is undergoing chemotherapy. Her son had been trying to navigate the difficulties with the city, while taking care of his mother.

Enter the plumber. After an exhortation from his mother, he donated his abilities and time to help out this family, free of charge. He did not wait for the city to come to a resolution, or for – please tell me it’s gonna be here soon – spring to arrive.

He fixed the problem. He thawed the pipes. Water flowed once more.

His example is one that I admire: while the city fiddled… he fixed the problem.

It’s another great reminder to listen to your mother!

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Stolen Copper

Far too often, we hear of thieves breaking into an older building and wrecking the place. But they’re not after electronics or jewelry. Instead, they rip out copper piping to sell as scrap.

That very thing happened in Troy, New York last week at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church. Reports say that 100 feet of copper piping was stolen, leaving behind a mess and an inability to operate the heating and plumbing systems within the building.

While no one has been arrested as of the date I write this post, I still question the intellectual capacity of the thieves. Certainly, I would not be hacking away at a water-filled copper pipe to steal from a church.

After all, copper is a great conductor. It’s the kind of thing a lightning bolt would really love to travel along. Just saying…

Seriously, though, I was especially saddened to hear about this theft.

You see, my wife and I were married at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church more than a decade ago. It was the church we attended while we were in college. The church family provided us with a home away from home. The pastor, his wife, and their kids demonstrated hospitality every week. They picked us up at college, and they shared a wonderful home-cooked meal with us every Sunday after church.

Outside Sixth Avenue Baptist Church on our wedding day.

Outside Sixth Avenue Baptist Church on our wedding day.

Without a doubt, the church family played a huge role in helping both of us face the academic and social challenges of life at college.

It was why we chose to say our vows at the church.

Sixth Avenue Baptist Church is located in an area of Troy that has seen better days. It is a century-old, large brick building. Beautiful stained glass windows adorn the large sanctuary.

It was our church, and I know I’m just a tad biased, but I it was the site of the best wedding I’ve ever attended.

Not everything associated with our wedding day is still around. The bakery that made our cake: closed. The Hudson River boat that hosted our reception: replaced with a newer model. But the church building has continued to provide space for groups ministering to that area of Troy. It’s not the same pastor or congregation these days, but I’m confident the ministry remains especially important for the area.

So, when another church in the region, Victory Christian Church, stepped up to provide financial help, I was very grateful. I suspect, though, that there is still a large need to replace and fix what these thieves have stolen.

So, my wife and I will be putting a check into the mail. It’s not anything big, but I’m convinced that ordinary folks can make a difference for a church like this. I have faith that it will be used for important things in the local community.

Anybody else want to help out?

The other armpit… Troy Edumacation

Sheesh.  It’s just been over a month, and I already have the counterpoint example to my recent snide Schenectady, NY vs. Troy, NY comment:

…one armpit telling the other armpit, ‘you stink.’

The comment comes from a blog post titled “Schenectady Edumacation.” In that post I lambasted the Schenectady School District over recent disturbing news coming from the district.  You might even conclude that Troy is looking pretty good in comparison.  Nope.

Thanks to Al Roney’s talk radio show on Talk 1300, I heard about a minor *ahem* mistake made by the Troy School District.  Without Al’s discussion, I probably would have overlooked it.  To my knowledge, it hasn’t been widely reported, at least not yet.

Here’s the gist of the story:  the Troy school district hired Freddie Smith to be their interim director of pupil personnel services.  Turns out that Smith wasn’t quite all he claimed to be.  An August 3rd article by Noreen O’Donnell for The Journal News said that Smith had his doctorate revoked by the University of Virginia.  O’Donnell also provided details about an investigation of Smith’s dissertation that revealed significant plagiarism. Follow that with an August 9th article by Scott Waldman in the Times Union. It’s no surprise to me, as reported in the TU article, that the Troy School District fired Smith.

But that’s no biggie right?  The school district and superintendent Fadhilika Atiba-Weza just had the wool pulled over their eyes, right?  Happens all the time.  Many people claim to have qualifications that later turn out to be false.

Not so fast.  Here’s the part that makes me want to bang my head on my desk, or at least would if I was a Troy taxpayer.  Waldman wrote the following:

Superintendent Fadhilika Atiba-Weza said the district was aware that Smith had been accused of plagiarizing part of his dissertation when he was hired. He said Smith, who has an extensive background as a schools administrator, interviewed very well for the job and seemed to be a good fit.

When Troy school officials discovered the allegations against Smith, he claimed to have documentation from the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education that he had been cleared, Atiba-Weza said.

Ok, still not too bad.  If I’m in the superintendent’s shoes, the alarm bells would be ringing, but maybe not too loudly.  I would ask for documentation and at least do some follow-up with Smith’s alma mater.  Not quite what happened.  Here’s where you need to hold onto your head with both hands to keep it from spinning.  Waldman continued:

“He [Smith] said ‘I have a letter here’ and read it,” Atiba-Weza said. “I didn’t think anything of it.”

Atiba-Weza said Smith only read from the letter over the phone and that he never submitted it. He said Smith had earned his degree in 2003 and that district officials figured it would have been withdrawn if there was a problem.

Pardon me?  That’s the extent of interviewing that goes on in Troy?  Wow! I had a more thorough interview process and background check a few years back when I got a job as a substitute teacher in Elmira, NY.  Smith’s job paid just a wee bit more than substitute teaching, apparently $400 a day.  According to my calculations, that’s the equivalent of a $104,000 salary.  Based on what I’ve read, I am guessing that Smith was paid on a per-diem basis, not salaried.  Either way, I’d qualify it as a high-paying job.

And this is in a school district with major budget problems.  Like good ol’ Schenectady, Troy is facing a contingency budget.  According to a report by YNN, Troy didn’t even bother to hold a second vote on the budget, opting instead to go straight to a contingency budget.  I’m thinking there were possibilties for more budget cuts… maybe in some of them six-figure jobs in the district.

If I was a Troy taxpayer, I’d be furious.

Just a further reminder to keep a close eye on your school district folks! Even if you don’t have kids in the district, you sure do have dollars there.

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