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Niskayuna firefighters get donation in honor of fire victim

Wednesday, February 27, 2013
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— Money raised in memory of the Niskayuna teenager killed in a fire last month will go toward preventing future fires, Niskayuna’s District 1 fire chief said Tuesday.

In all, nearly $2,000 has been donated in the memory of 14-year-old Grace Kline, Fire Chief Dale Lingenfelter said.

More than $1,200 of that was officially presented at Tuesday night’s Town Board meeting. That money was part of more than $3,000 raised in a January memorial 5K run organized by a group of Niskayuna mothers in response to the December mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., as well as Kline’s death.

The Fire Department received the donations at the request of Kline’s father, who suggested the donation as a way to remember Kline.

The fire company voted unanimously to put the money toward the department’s fire prevention programs, Lingenfelter said. The programs help teach fire safety to children, including the danger of matches, how to respond to a fire, and even not being scared of firefighters.

“That’s probably one of the most important things we do as a fire department is fire prevention,” Lingenfelter said, “stopping fires before they start.

“This is a way we felt we could honor her life and keep it as a reminder for us going forward getting out that fire prevention message.”

Kline, a seventh-grader at Van Antwerp Middle School, died Jan. 4 in a fire at her family’s Niskayuna Drive home. The cause of the blaze is officially undetermined, Lingenfelter said later, though they’ve ruled out electrical and intentional causes. The fire started in the kitchen.

Van Antwerp’s PTO was the recipient of a similar donation from the memorial 5K, to go toward their best buddies program, a program Kline loved to be in.

The program pairs up students with special needs with other students who don’t, giving them a friend and someone to spend class and lunch time with, Town Board member Denise Murphy McGraw said.

The January memorial 5K was put together by a group of Niskayuna mothers in less than two weeks. It started as a way to honor the six adults and 20 children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut Dec. 14.

Organizers of the main Newtown event asked people in other communities to hold similar events and raise money for worthy causes. The Niskayuna event made donations to the Fire Department, PTO and the Newtown memorial fund.

Niskayuna organizers Tina Lee and Kelly Anderson, with Niskayuna Moms on the Run, were on hand Tuesday night at the board meeting.

“All the pieces fell together,” Lee said.

Also Tuesday night, the Town Board approved a new four-year contract with the town highway and parks department union, which covers 32 employees. The deal calls for 1.5 percent annual raises, an increase in copays for doctor visits, and new hires will contribute to dental and vision plans, town Supervisor Joe Landry said.

Both Landry and union president Pete Rakvica praised the other side.

Landry said they were able to work within town resources and remain consistent with other contracts. Rakvica said the union is also pleased with the outcome.

The contract is retroactive to Jan. 1.

The Town Board also honored long time Town Clerk Alice Wagner with a new street to be named after her.

Wagner, now 98, retired at the close of 1990 after nearly 40 years with the town, 30 years as town clerk. The new street, to be named Alice Wagner Way, is to be built later this year as part of an apartment development off Hillside Avenue.

Wagner and several family members were on hand for the naming and a ceremonial resolution honoring her. Along with the resolution, she was presented with a street sign with the new street’s name.

 
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