hill country observerThe independent newspaper of eastern New York, southwestern Vermont and the Berkshires





Disaster waiting to happen?

When a huge fire broke out last summer at an industrial waste processing plant in Columbia County, firefighters at first tried to quell the blaze with water. But water turned out to be the wrong substance to use, as the TCI of New York plant contained more than a dozen 55-gallon drums of highly reactive sodium, which can explode on contact with water. Monitoring the hazardous materials at plants like TCI was supposed to be the job of a county emergency planning committee, but the committee was virtually inactive in recent years -- a situation that is not uncommon in the counties of eastern New York. read more



Gun shows draw protests—and crowds

In the aftermath of a school shooting in Connecticut that killed 26 people, a gun show held several times a year at the Saratoga Springs City Center quickly became a focal point for protest. Three different groups staged demonstrations outside the January show, calling for tougher gun-control laws. But gun enthusiasts organized a counter-demonstration, and turnout for the show broke records. read more



Panel backs licenses for undocumented workers

Vermont’s debate over providing driver’s licenses to undocumented foreign workers appears to be shifting from the question of whether to issue licences to the question of what kind to provide. read more



Helsinki takes center stage in Hudsonʼs music scene

When Club Helsinki closed its intimate, eclectic performance space in
Great Barrington, Mass., and moved west to Hudson, N.Y., a few years ago,
its owners hoped to play a role in the ongoing revitalization of their new
hometown. Today, nearly three years after Helsinki Hudson opened, the
club is at the center of a busy music scene that’s taking Hudson’s creative
economy to a new level.read more



Accessible expression: Works by artists with disabilities

A pair of exhibits that opened this month at the Bennington Museum focus on contemporary and historical artists with disabilities.read more



Growing greens, all winter long

Unlike many crop farmers in New England, Lisa MacDougall doesn’t hibernate. Even when the weather turned bitterly cold for a week in January, she was still busy picking spinach and kale for her community-supported-agriculture program and for farmers markets in Dorset and Bennington. read more