What was stored at TCI, the PCB waste handler whose building went up in flames earlier this month? And what was the company supposed to be storing?
An engineering report was released recently by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), disclosing what TCI has pieced together so far about materials present in its Ghent facility at the time of its massive August 1st inferno.
That inventory appears to run up against other public statements by the company and official sources, and against the past expections of the Town of Ghent. Such conflicting information in turn points to key questions about about what TCI was permitted to store onsite in the first place. In several cases, it appears that the company obtained materials handling and transport permits from State or Federal agencies, without updating the Town or local firefighting companies about new activities.
To come to grips with these seeming contradictions requires a brief trip back in time, as well as a review of more recent information which has come to light. (Regular readers will have to bear with any repetitions below.) These questions may prove central to the question of whether TCI will be able to rebuild, and how residents can be protected from similar disasters in the future, whether involving this company or others like it.
This site has previously noted the discovery of documents sent by Town of Ghent attorney Ted Guterman to the Town’s Planning Board chairman on behalf of the Town Board in 1989. Guterman attached to his cover letter what he called “a Position Statement that the Town of Ghent has issued in connection with to [sic] TCI, Inc.”
This letter came several years after TCI received a building permit, and was in response to a proposed incinerator the company sought to add to its Falls Industrial Road site. That incinerator never came to be. But the Town’s Position Statement contained many eye-opening statements about the genesis of the facility—statements which are especially relevant today, since the company has had two fires in eight months, and says it intends to rebuild.
Among many other things, the Town’s two-page letter stated that:
• “The Town of Ghent has always been and continues to be concerned wth any possible environmental impact evolving out of the operations of TCI, Inc.”
• “When TCI initially applied for a use permit in 1986... [i]t was specifically indicated that the process would not include nor would TCI accept any material that has been manufactured as PCB equipment.”
• “It was further indicated that any oil filled electrical equipment would be tested and drained prior to be received at the premises in order to insure that there were no PCBs.”
• “The Town is further concerned that the process, if approved by ENCON, will not result in any toxic waste generated or disposed of on the property or through the air, including PCBs.”
• “[T]he Town of Ghent Zoning Ordinance contains a provision specifically prohibiting storage collection, retention or utilization of toxic waste products or by-products or other similar toxic chemicals in any district within the Town of Ghent.”
Got that? No PCB equipment, no PCBs, no disposal of PCBs or other waste through the air and no storage of toxic waste products or by-products or other similar toxic chemicals in any district. Information which slowly has come to light in the aftermath of the TCI suggest that at least some of the activities the Town had deemed unwelcome were in fact occurring at the facility.
Again, all of the direct quotes above come from Ghent Town Board’s own 1989 statement, as conveyed by its lawyer. And as we’ve seen previously, those sentiments were echoed at the time in a Times-Union article which quoted attorney Jason Shaw, who was then representing the nearby Gallagher Stud farm, as stating:
“TCI was not forthcoming about the presence of PCBs when it applied three years ago to open its operation. I don’t think TCI was up-front about the fact that there would be toxic substances at the facility... They did not clarify the definition they used in an attempt to muddy the issue.”
The T-U also wrote at the time that “Town attorney Theodore Guterman said he remembers [TCI chief David] Laskin telling the Planning Board there would be no PCBs on the property.”
Now, compare this 1980s background concerning what was planned to be stored on the TCI site with the inventory reported in a memoradum by Hudson-based engineering firm Crawford & Associates Engineers, and posted recently on the DEC’s website.
In the Crawford memorandum, the firm’s vice president Brandee Nelso states that though TCI’s records were destroyed in its massive August 1st fire, the company has been attempting to reconstruct its storage from discussions with clients. Nelson states that “according to the eecords TCI has obtained, quantities of regulated and non-regulated materials at TCI are estimated as
• 750,000 to 1,000,000 pounds of non-regulated materials consisting primarily of electrical
• Non-regulated mineral oil – approximately 125,000 gallons
Diesel fuel – approximately 500 gallons
• (3) 6,800 pound transformers, each with an estimated 255 gallons of dielectric fluid (mineral oil)
with PCB concentrations of 930 ppm, 1,300 ppm and 1,600 ppm, respectively.
• 9 drums of PCB Debris, which it typically soil or absorbent materials, with a total weight of
approximately 1,779 kilograms
• 6 bushings, each with 15 gallons of 50-499 ppm PCB, having a total weight of 1,304 kilograms
• 2 Oil & Water Drums, used for floor washdown and assumed to have PCBs, totaling 100 gallons
and having a weight of approximately 462 kilograms.
In a telephone interview on August 7th, this site asked Kenneth Bogdan, Ph.D of the State Department of Health’s Bureau of Toxic Substance Assessment whether his State agency had any firm idea of what was stored at TCI. Bogdan indicated that while it was unclear at the time, he believed there was only one drum of PCBs onsite—a statement that mirrored other official reassurances on the Thursday afternoon the fire.
Similarly, John Mason of Hudson-Catskill Newspapershad reported on August 10th that company co-owner Brian Hemlock and former controller Fran Vecellio “have said there were likely to be very few PCBs in the building at the time of the fire.” Hemlock was further quoted as saying that:
“Only equipment testing less than 50 ppm are accepted and processed at TCI of NY, LLC.”
Yet the Crawford inventory shows that TCI now believes it had not one but eleven drums onsite which contained an unspecified concentration of PCBs, and 90 gallons of bushings containing PCBs in the hazardous 50-499 ppm (parts per million) concentration, plus three transformers containing 765 gallons of fluid with a whopping 930-1,600 ppm of PCBs.
Indeed, a DEC “investigation has determined that three transformers located inside the facility at the time of the fire contained levels of PCBs between 1,000 and 2,000 ppm,” far in excess of both the company’s original stated intent, and more recent statements.
Oddly, the Crawford inventory of storage at TCI does not mention sodium. Sodium is known to cause violent explosions when it comes in contact with water and other substance, and has been repeatedly cited as a principal firefighting concern on the night of the inferno. Sodium would be a likely cause of the 10-15 fireballs witnessed by first responders and neighbors on the night of the catastrophe.
“[T]he building housed mineral oil tanks, tractor trailers containing fuel oil, propane tanks, and other hazardous substances, including sodium that came from transformers disposed of at TCI.”
State records indicate another limited liability company, KMOJ Acquisitions LLC, which like TCI is incorporated in Delaware and appears closely related to TCI, stores petroleum in bulk on the site.
A consent order just signed with DEC (which allows TCI and KMOJ to move stormwater into the nearby Widow’s Creek) indicates a number of permits the State has on file for the company that may not have been known to local officials. DEC notes for example, permitting for the site as a “registered petroleum bulk storage facility” and as a hauler of “non-hazardous industrial/commercial, hazardous industrial/commercial, and waste oil.”
Mason has also reported that the West Ghent fire company had been unaware that a TCI subcontractor, Power Substation Services incorporated in Florida,“had brought sodium on the site for use in recycling transformer oil.” Mason quoted West Ghent chief James Cesternino as saying “The fire company never received any haz-mat inventories from PSS nor was the sodium ever mentioned to us at our last building tour.”
According to The Columbia Paper, PSS “stored materials within the building” as follows:
16 - 55-gallon drums of sodium metal
3 cylinders of gas/liquid mix of sodium and oil
2 - 150 gallon diesel tanks
Several nitrogen tanks
Fatalities among firefighters were narrowly averted only because at the last minute, a TCI employee saw first responders “setting up the hose lines and informed [them] that there was sodium in the building and it reacts violently with water. It becomes explosive and produces hydrogen gas.” As firefighter Nathan Chess has written:
“It is only based on sheer luck that a serious loss of life was avoided. It was only based on basic ‘off the cuff’ comment by the company’s ‘keyholder’ that the responding units were advised that there was a substantial amount of solid sodium stored in the plant. This chemical is used as part of alternative treatment of low level PCB (< than 50ppm). But when exposed it creates an exothermic reaction and produces hydrogen gas...”
Dr. Mitchell L. Gaynor, who previously discussed his concerns about the TCI fire based on his extensive expertise in environmental carcinogenesis, has also noted that the material safety guidelines from companies like Sargent Welch recommend that sodium metal be stored in “red storage... away from any strong oxidizers,” for example in a “dedicated flammables cabinet,” in a “cool, dry, well ventilated, locked storeroom away from incompatible materials,” as well as keeping it immersed in mineral oil.
Gaynor then asks:
“Why would TCI and PSS store a mix of highly explosive chemicals in close proximity in their warehouse, which also contained highly toxic PCBs, which when incinerated at high heat create the most potent carcinogens known to man?
“Chemical storage guidelines from the CDC state that nitrogen and sodium metal are incompatible chemicals and should not be stored nor used near each other as they might cause explosive reactions if mixed. What industrial purpose would be served by storing 16 55-gallon drums of sodium metal near nitrogen tanks, diesel and oil, as was done at the PSS/TCI facility the night of August 1, 2012?
“Given the highly flammable and explosive nature of these chemicals, was West Ghent apprised of this, and what contingency and evacuation plans were in place for the town and surrounding counties?”
All of this again raises questions not just about what TCI (and PSS) had stored on the night of August 1st, but what it had been permitted to store locally, what it had been reporting to various local, County, State and Federal oversight agencies, and what its commitment has been to keeping these materials stored safely.
Taken in both its historical and its recent context, the Crawford inventory of TCI’s storage thus points to at least three central issues for further investigation:
Given the Town’s stated expectations in 1986-1989 that “no PCBs”—or at best that only very low concentrations of PCBs—would be present at TCI, how does this square with the current inventory?
How does this inventory (and the apparent presence of other substances such as sodium) square with the Town’s 1989 reference to zoning prohibitions against storage of certain types of materials “in any district” of Ghent?
What was stipulated, if anything, in any use permit issued to TCI when it was first built, and was that local permit ever modified or enforced?
Reviews thus far in local records leave vast gaps in even rudimentary permitting information for TCI’s operation.
It is not even clear at this point whether any formal application was submitted in 1986, beyond the company’s brief letter of introduction; or whether any special use or other ordinary permit was issued along with TCI’s building permit; or whether any SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) process was performed for the facility; or whether any local permit modifications were ever requested, apart from the failed attempt to build an incinerator, for all the other materials brought onsite.
Until such documents come to light—and they may never materialize, much like the company’s untraceable PCBs—concerned observers are left to wonder whether there were major omissions in the process, major misunderstandings, or outright violations that are going uninvestigated.
As has been said before: If any ordinary Columbia County resident took all the cans of paint, turpentine, gasoline, bleach or even ordinary garbage from his or her garage or basement, and burned it in a barrel in the backyards, that ordinary resident almost surely would wind up in trouble.
Likewise, if any of ordinary resident had two big fires in the same year at his or her home, neighbors understandably might begin to wonder about how committed that person was to basic safety.
And if, as a result of a community fighting and cleaning up from fires, that ordinary resident was discovered to be to storing unexpectedly large quantities of unusual equipment and fuel—let alone PCB wastes—someone surely would ask to see that person’s papers.
Yet to date, no public mention has been made of any potential fines or enforcement actions against TCI by local, County, State or Federal agencies. And there is little paper trail to explain how these activities and storage came to be accepted in the context of the Town of Ghent’s zoning code.
If there are good answers, it’s incumbent upon elected and appointed officials, as well as the company—which still has not responded after several weeks to this site’s request for an interview—to take the lead in providing them.
This building stood by the Hudson River on North Front Street, along the railroad tracks, just south of the Furgary Boat Club but was demolished in just the past few years. Dated 1913, the letterhead is from a private collection in Hudson (NY).
Ghent resident Patti Matheney reports that as anticipated, the resolution to establish a reverse 911 service for Columbia County was passed by the Board of Supervisors at their special meeting tonight.
Before TCI moved to Ghent, it was known variously as Trans-Cycle Industries and TCI Incorporated. Documents from the early 1980s show the company was dogged by residents reporting fires at and emissions from its Newburgh location. The company initially tried to move to Athens (NY), but ran into a buzzsaw of community opposition.
The opposition of Athens’ first responders was particularly instrumental to TCI’s defeat there. The 1980s document above (found in a large archive of legal papers held by a Ghent resident’s attorneys) reveals what the firefighters of the Town and Village of Athens thought about the project. The Athens firefighters opposed it based on their assessment that that:
the “hazardous materials” handled by TCI “could pose health hazards during a fire”;
fighting such a fire would require extensive “public infrastructure”;
“a fire in this industry has implications for the public health”;
“an inadequate response” to such a fire could have implications “beyond property damage”;
these implications could include “the issue of toxic fumes... if a fire cannot be contained satisfactorily”;
“water used to put out the fire” could be “contaminated” and “run into the ground.”
Abandoning the idea of moving from Newburgh to Athens, TCI set its sights on Ghent, securing permission in 1986-87 from the Town to build a structure on land owned by David Rivenburgh.
No similar objections appear to have been raised, except for the Town Planning Board chair briefly quizzing the company in a short letter about the potential presence of PCBs onsite. The same archive referenced above contains a 1988 letter from TCI of NY President David Laskin to a lawfirm in New York City, which purports to memorialize a visit to TCI by West Ghent fire chief Tom Rivenburg—a different spelling of the name, and no known relation to David:
Here, Laskin claims that Rivenburg said that “I don’t see any problem” with the facility’s arrangements. The letter also claims that “the fire department has been supplied with the same SPCC [Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure] Plan that has been supplied to the DEC and all pertinent Material Safety Data Sheets,” and that this had also been forwarded to the Columbia County Emergency Management office.
The letter further invited “the entire fire department” to tour TCI’s newly-built plant, which Laskins says has “an open-door policy to enable concerned citizens to view our operations.”
Today, multiple reports indicate that the remains of the TCI facility is under 24-hour armed guard while it is being demolished and, the public has been told, remediated of any pollutants. A stormwater plan for the site was recently agreed to by TCI and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, but not before almost a foot of rain has fallen on the site since the time of the catastrophic fire.
These signs—posted when the Bells’ Pond Hannaford first opened, then removed due to complaints from green-eyed gas guzzlers—have returned to the supermarket’s parking lot—this time in shades of fern instead of fire engine red.
Omitted so far from the media coverage of the TCI of NY inferno this month has been the most disturbing chapter in the company’s 26-year local history: namely, the 1989 death of 21-year-old Ghent resident Lawrence Smith, known as Roger.
“On February 28, 1989, Employee #1 entered an enclosed vessel 11 ft 6 in. long, 6 ft 4 in. wide, and 10 ft high. The container was open on the top. Employee #1 was cleaning the vessel with trichlorotrifluoroethane, Freon 113. He was in the vessel for approximately 15 minutes then left for approximately 15 to 30 minutes. Upon entering the vessel for a second time, Employee #1 became poisoned and collapsed. He had been in the vessel the second time for less than 5 minutes. The vessel had no mechanical ventilation.”
Smith collapsed and died of asphyxiation by freon gas, according to a Times-Unionreport at the time. A more detailed narrative of the tragedy and OSHA’s evaluation of TCI’s safety procedures can be read here.
Residents who knew Smith claim that a seal on his protective gear was broken. The horrific news hit his family especially hard, with his 46-year-old father also dying two weeks later, of a
heart attack two weeks while driving to help fight a fire on Route
66. His teenaged sister also suffered a non-fatal car crash shortly after
OSHA listed the event as a “fatality” from “poisoning (systemic).”
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Freon 113 “is a colorless, nonflammable liquid” which “does not occur naturally,” and whose production was restricted starting in 1995. The agency states that “Freon 113 enters the body when breathed in with contaminated air or when consumed with contaminated food or water” and “it can also be absorbed through skin contact.”
EPA warns that “breathing large amounts of freon 113 for short periods of time adversely affects the human nervous system,” with effects ranging “from dizziness to incoordination and irregular heart beat.” The agency’s factsheet notes that “The largest users of freon 113 are companies that use the chemical to clean metal surfaces.”
A follow-up piece in the T-U reported that “unsafe conditions existed at [TCI] last February when a worker came in contact with a toxic
solvent and died.” Catherine Clabby’s article stated:
“In a four-part citation issued against TCI Inc., the Occupational Safety
and Health Administration faults the company generally for failing to
provide conditions needed to keep workers safe while working with a
hazardous material in a confined space. Specifically it faults the
company's respiratory protection program, the means by which it chose
respiratory equipment, the absence of a written description of how it
educates workers about hazards and a failure to inform workers of the
effects of contact with some materials.”
OSHA records indicate that the agency initially fined TCI $3,300 for workplace violations which led to the death. Company president David Laskin told the T-U: “We’re basically surprised about the alleged violations. We certaintly are going to take steps to defend ourselves.” While promising that TCI would “suspend” the use of Freon at its plant, Laskin speculated: “I don't know if it was the mask or a pre-existing condition or what.”
Either way, the company challenged the fines and they were reduced to $2,013. (Those who remember Roger Smith believe that the family eventually made a settlement with TCI was out of court, but this is unconfirmed.)
Remarkably, less than six months after this fatal incident, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued the company a go-ahead to conduct a 20-day test burn for a proposed PCB and electronic waste incinerator. The news fired up neighbors and local government, which blocked the plan in spite of DEC’s indulgence of the company. A DEC spokesperson said of the incinerator proposal at the time:
“We feel that at the levels prescribed by TCI, the burn plant poses no significant health risk.”
Today, officials at DEC and the New York State Department of Health are at the forefront of reassuring the public that the massive conflagration at TCI was safe, and no further testing for dioxins should be done.
At the Tuesday meeting of the Columbia County Board Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee, a top emergency management official stated that “Based on last week's meeting [in West Ghent] I believe the State is reevaluating that decision” not to do further testing for dioxins and furans.
However, that now appears to be off the table again—as far as the State goes.
Two separate residents of Ghent have each received a version of the following email from a NYS Department of Health official, in response to their questions about whether the State was indeed re-evaluating its decision:
From: Joseph P. Crua <email@example.com> Cc: Keith Goertz <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Thank you for your inquiry regarding the TCI fire in the Town of Ghent, Columbia County. As we stated previously, because all of the tests determined that PCBs and other contaminants are not present or present at low levels, no testing for dioxins or furans is necessary. Detectable levels of PCBs form the basis to determine the need to conduct additional tests for other potentially hazardous substances. Also, site information indicates the fire involved primarily containers of petroleum-based oil. Most of the material that burned appears to have contained no or low levels of PCBs, as confirmed by the absence of detectable levels of PCBs in 32 soot wipe samples collected near the fire and in the surrounding community. Therefore, the formation of extensive or high levels of dioxins and furans is unlikely. Any dioxins and furans formed by this fire are likely to be at the levels that would be found in many kinds of fires and do not warrant additional testing.
Joseph P. Crua, MPH Public Health Specialist IV Chief, Metro Section Bureau of Environmental Exposure Investigation New York State Department of Health 547 River Street, Room 300 Troy, New York 12180-2216 Phone: (518) 402-7880
As noted here before, on the Thursday afternoon when the TCI inferno was only just dying down, officials stated that dioxin testing was expected back in “24 hours.”
Late on Friday, it was announced that those tests had not even begun—but would start on Monday... after an anticipated downpour. But on that Monday night, it was announced that the tests were called off and had been deemed unnecessary.
Late ’80s paperwork obtained by this website raises questions about when and how TCI of NY became a processor of PCBs. Company letters, official Town of Ghent correspondence, and media reports dating from 1986-1989 indicate that either TCI’s plans changed, or Town officials were mistaken about the company’s real intentions.
On September 3rd, 1986, David Rivenburgh of Falls Road Industrial Park, Inc. applied for two building permits related to land his corporation was acquiring from William Wiegelt. Rivenburgh indicated that one of the buildings planned for the site would be bought by TCI Incorporated of Hudson. Accompanied by a $50 check, his application didn’t mention the use of PCBs, but alluded to handling “electronic transmission and distribution equipment.”
Plainly, this language set off alarm bells with Ghent Planning Board chairman John Winkler. He wrote back on September 15th asking Rivenburgh to produce a letter from TCI Inc. The letter, Winkler said, should explain among other things “what waste products are produced,” “how is waste matter disposed,” and whether the company deals with “any toxic materials, particularly PCB’s.”
Within four days, David Laskin of TCI Incorporated wrote to Winkler, affirming that:
“We will not accept any material that has been manufactured as Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) equipment.
Laskin then goes onto reassure the Town:
“Any oil-filled electrical equipment we will handle will be tested and drained prior to being received at our operation. The testing is to insure that there is no more than trace amounts (.05% maximum) of Plycholorianted Biphenyls that may have entered this equipment through servicing or repair through the years.” [emphases added]
Later correspondence and official comments suggests that either Laskin was not adequately clear in that last sentence, or the Town failed to grasp a nod-and-a-wink message buried within the letter’s technical language.
Laskin also wrote to the Planning Board chair that its “proposed building is large enough that we do not anticipate a need for any outside storage.” Photographs of the site, as well as published accounts, show that materials were stored outside the building. Indeed, some have suggested that the impact of the fire might have been worse had more transformers and other materials been stored inside instead of out.
Indications that the Town of Ghent was starting to feel a bit bamboozled emerge from documents and news reports from 1988-89, when TCI applied to the State to add an incinerator to its Ghent facility. That incinerator plan was opposed by neighbors such as Marlene and Jerry Brody of Gallagher’s Stud, as well as by the Town. Legal wrangling dragged into the early ’90s, but the incinerator never came to pass.
The Town of Ghent’s legal correspondence firmly reiterates that TCI’s original application for a local use permit did not include the handling of “PCB equipment,” and that any other equipment would be drained “to insure there were no PCBs. On September 22nd, 1989, Town attorney Ted Guterman, (who is still serving in that capacity today) forwarded the Town’s Position Statement on the project to Planning Board chair Winkler:
“When TCI initially applied for a use permit in 1986... It was specifically indicated that the process would not include nor would TCI accept any material that has been manufactured as PCB equipment. It was further indicated that any oil filled electrical equipment would be tested and drained prior to being received at the premises in order to insure that there were no PCBs.”
Guterman’s understanding was echoed in a December 13th, 1989 article in the T-U, which quoted Brody attorney Jason Shaw as saying that “TCI was not forthcoming about the presence of PCBs when it applied three years ago to open its operation.” He added that “I don't think TCI was up-front about the fact that there would be toxic
substances at the facility... They did not clarify the
definition they used in an attempt to muddy the issue.”
In the same article, Guterman recalled “Laskin telling the Planning Board there would be no PCBs on the property.” Laskin countered that the Board “ knew we'd be handling the material and the amount would be miniscule... I can't remember how many hours we spent going over this.”
The Position Statement forwarded by Guterman also flagged the Town’s concern that TCI’s activities
“not result in any toxic waste generated or disposed of on the
property or through the air, including PCBs. It should be noted that the
Town of Ghent Zoning Ordinance contains a provision specifically
prohibiting storage collection, retention or utilization of toxic waste
or by-products or other similar toxic chemicals in any district.”
23 years later, the Town experienced what many residents now view as an uncontrolled incineration of materials which may never be authoritatively inventoried.
Whoever one chooses to believe as to TCI’s original intent, clearly PCBs at some point began passing through the facility in both lower and higher concentrations than 50 parts per million.
For example, as reported previously at this site,
a March 2012 TCI manifest shows roughly 2,000 pounds (901 kilos) of
liquid PCBs with a concentration of 50-499 ppm (parts per million),
along with 350 pounds of solid PCB debris, was shipped from TCI in Ghent
to their sister company in Alabama. The Albany Times-Union for its part has obtained records “that showed some 50,000 pounds of PCB-containing materials and oils moving from the Ghent complex this year.”
It remains to be seen if, when and how TCI modified its original
application materials to secure permission for such use—or if the Town
let this unintended use slide. With TCI saying it plans to rebuild, and
many residents calling for a full site plan review if it really does, it
becomes all the more essential to determine what precisely the company
has been permitted to do locally.
Over at The Gossips of Rivertown, Carole Osterink reported a widespread rumor that “Carmine Pierro, longtime aide to Rick Scalera in and out of the mayor's office and now an alderman from the Fifth Ward” may move out of Hudson, having recently purchased a house in Taghkanic.
Public records in the Columbia County Real Property Department office demonstrate the truth of at least the second half of that rumor.
As previously discussed here, the County keeps public files of RP-5217 forms, which are one-page documents filed whenever a piece of property changes hands. Such documents record basic info on real estate transactions including the buyer, seller, the prices paid, the attorney of record, and the like—and are available to anyone to inspect.
And sure enough, an RP-5217 turned up in the file which shows that Cappy Pierro and his wife purchased a house in Taghkanic on the 6th of July for $450,000. Pierro’s attorney for the sale was Jack Connor, who also is one of the City of Hudson’s lawyers.
For now, the couple appears to still own two houses in Hudson’s 5th Ward—one in their own names which is assessed at 1/3 that price ($151,000), the other via a charitable trust in their names ($167,000). Both properties had their assessments reduced slightly in 2012 (by $2,000 and $6,000, respectively).
Pierro continues to serve as a Hudson Alderman, chairing a Common Council meeting this week in Don Moore’s absence. Other sources claim that the couple is in the process of selling their Parkwood properties, and may have already found buyers for both... However, the County’s records show no sales having closed yet on either, and neither appears in the Columbia County MLS listings. (Note: There are a few realtors in the County who don’t belong to the MLS.)
Or maybe the Pierros just want to scent some country air—though at more than twice the price of both of their existing houses combined, that’d be some pricey air.
Pierro could in theory continue to represent the 5th Ward even if he did not have his primary residence there—he has several relatives in the Ward, who presumably might agree to maintain a room for him, even if he sold his local properties. In the past, various Aldermen, such as former 4th Ward Council member Alan Keith, managed to retain their position well after moving out of town; and there have been periodic claims that current 4th Ward Supervisor Bill Hughes does not bunk down in Hudson all that often.
Any flagrant falsification of residence might in theory result in legal action, or even invalidation of votes taken by the Council if an Alderman’s weighted vote was improperly cast. But ultimately such matters are usually taken care of by voters, who tend to want their representatives to be bona fide residents.