Alleged mischief in H.F.

Monday March 25, 2013

HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. -- Police reports of criminal mischief at the Hoosick Falls armory implicate a top town official although the matter is not expected to result in charges.

Incident reports on file with Hoosick Falls police describe two separate instances in February and March in which an interior lock at the armory was forced open to gain access to the basement during off-hours. In the latter incident, police reported the vandalism occurred March 11 between 8 and 9 p.m. -- directly following this month's town board meeting. Keith Cipperly, Hoosick's town supervisor, is listed as the suspect in each report.

Cipperly did not return calls for comment.

Town Councilman Mark Surdam said that after the March meeting, members of the town board wanted to look at the extent of ongoing renovations in the basement. They "decided to go down and see what work was being done." Surdam said he decided to leave. "They were heading downstairs."

Speaking by telephone Sunday, Surdam said he was unaware of the earlier incident report from February.

Remaining members of the town board were either unavailable or declined to comment.

Reports filed but no charges expected

The first incident was reported to police March 7 and occurred sometime between Feb. 16 at 3:23 p.m. and the following day, Feb. 17, at 3:11 p.m. The second incident was reported March 14.

Police Chief Robert Ashe said no charges were expected and that the matter was being handled between the two parties. Aelish Nealon, executive director of the Hoosick Armory Youth Center & Community Coalition (HAYC3), the nonprofit that owns the armory, is listed as the complainant on each report.

Each incident is described as fourth-degree criminal mischief, a class A misdemeanor. Those charges are warranted under New York Penal Law when a person intentionally damages property worth less than $250 when they have no right to do so nor reasonable ground to. The estimated value of the damaged locks is listed as $10 and $15. Ashe said the lock barred entry through a trapdoor leading to the basement.

While records show the investigation closed, Ashe said police would "monitor the situation" and "hope all the parties can work together." He declined further comment.

The first report's brief narrative describes a "small dispute" between the town of Hoosick and HAYC3 regarding how the initial lock was damaged, resulting in a request for an official report to be filed.

Nealon declined to comment but in a prepared statement wrote that her organization "remains invested in working with the town on our continued efforts to sign their lease."

The town offices have remained at the armory since the nonprofit acquired the building last August. Previously, the town rented its space from New York State. A lease agreement between HAYC3 and the town has not been finalized and no rent has been paid to date.

In the emailed statement sent this past Friday, Nealon said "payment of rent and our agreed upon $10,000 for five years will be forthcoming. We are told we can expect all back rent payments to be made current any day now."

Since the acquisition, the nonprofit has hosted a myriad of events at the armory. The town occupies some office space on the first and second floors, as well as the first floor courtroom where town board meetings are held.

Village building inspector Ed Holland said handicap accessibility and emergency access were some outstanding code issues at the armory but that renovations were moving forward and the village was willing to work with the new owners. Holland said there were "three-way guidelines" steering the work, including village and state building code and requirements resulting from the armory's historical designation.

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