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Thursday, September 18, 2014
Amsterdam, NY ,
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Thursday, July 31, 2014 - Updated: 9:26 AM

Drowning ruled as cause of death for Scotia boater

BALLSTON SPA -- An autopsy on the 67-year-old Scotia man who fell into the Great Sacandaga Lake Saturday has ruled drowning as the cause of death.

Richard Castle of the Saratoga County Sheriff's Office said the victim, Arthur T. Merchant, also had an extensive cardiac history and a pace maker. The pathologist who examined Merchant reported it is possible he had a heart attack and fell into the water, but said he did not die due to heart complications.

"You can have a non-fatal heart attack and be incapacitated for a certain amount of time," Castle said. "But he did not die from a heart attack."

Merchant fell into the water near Pine Tree Hollow Road around 8:30 p.m. Saturday, while trying to dock his pontoon boat.

Castle said Merchant dropped his family members off first and then moored the boat by himself.

He said none of Merchant's family members saw him fall into the lake.

His family reported hearing a "splash" and did not think anything of the noise at first.

"When they looked back he was gone," Castle said.

Castle said the investigation is open until the department receives a toxicology report. Currently, the department does not know if Merchant was under the influence at the time of the accident.

According to a press release, five local fire departments, the Edinburgh and Galway EMS, and Saratoga County sheriff's deputies all responded to the scene.

Rescue personnel located Merchant at 10:22 p.m. in approximately 20 feet of water near the pontoon.

Castle said the sheriff's department did not put any divers in the water. His body was located on the surface by a fire department boat crew about two hours after he fell in.

"A body going under water in the dark ... they don't usually stay where they go down; there is still a current," Castle said.

He said the incident marks the third drowning the department has responded to this summer. The last incident took place in Saratoga Lake and the time before in Kayaderosseras Creek.

He said the common denominator between the three is the absence of a life jacket.

Castle said the department stresses that boaters and swimmers wear a life jacket, especially if a person plans to go in the water alone.

"In this case, the man was not a young gentleman. Whether the life jacket would have made a difference, we don't know," Castle said.

-- Caroline Murray

City police issue warning for latest phone scam

The Amsterdam Police Department is warning residents to be wary of a scam making the rounds.

After a number of city residents reported calls from the IRS in the past two months, officers are advising residents that the IRS would never contact someone in that fashion.

"The IRS never calls someone," Detective Lt. Kurt Conroy said. "They always send a written notification in the mail, but these scammers are using pervasive telephone calls pretending to be the IRS and people need to be warned of this."

The scammers tell people they owe money and if they don't pay, their wages will be garnished or they're threatened with an arrest warrant, Conroy said.

On the IRS website there's a warning telling U.S. residents about the scam, which allegedly has circulated across the country. The website says the IRS does not call residents and never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the phone.

Conroy said scammers have been targeting the elderly and immigrants.

Victims are reportedly threatened with deportation, having their utilities shut off, or having their licenses revoked. Scammers tend to be rude or hostile over the phone, which scares their victims, the website says.

Victims are usually told they're entitled to refunds, or they owe money that must be paid to the IRS immediately.

Conroy said on July 9 a city resident reportedly sent money to an IRS agent after receiving a call. Unaware of the fraud, the resident sent the money "owed;" however, after doing so the resident received another phone call saying more money was owed to the IRS.

The resident grew suspicious and notified APD, who told her the call was a scam.

Another resident received a call July 23 but knew the call was fraudulent and reported it to APD immediately.

Conroy said the IRS scammers are convincing because they "spoof an IRS number" so that caller ID shows the IRS is calling.

"Residents should be advised because these callers almost seem legitimate but they're not," he said.

Conroy said if residents receive any fraudulent IRS calls they should report it to APD, or call the IRS and report the incident to the treasury inspector general for tax administration.

-- Casey Croucher

Golf panel reviews success of special offers

The Amsterdam Golf Commission passed a resolution Wednesday night for specials that will be running in August at the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course.

During Wednesday's meeting, commission member Pam Ritter analyzed the July specials the commission offered to non-members of the golf course.

They included Mondays where they offered free greens fees with full rental of one or two golf carts at $12 per person; nine holes for $20 per person or 18 holes for $25 per person with the cart rental fee included on Tuesdays; and $24 per twosome, $36 per threesome and $48 per foursome for nine holes after 2 p.m. on Sundays including the cart rental fee. On Tuesdays and Sundays the prices included lunch and a non-alcoholic beverage.

Ritter said the total income for July has been $44,687, compared to last year when it was around $41,000. She said of this month's total, $26,274 came from the July specials, while last year's July specials brought in $27,237.

"It's not a landslide of income with the specials but they drive people back to the course and as far as our memberships increasing that remains to be seen," she said.

Commission member Dustin Swanger said it's a mistake to only run golf course specials for one month; he said the commission "needs to give things time" and there should be specials for August.

Commission chairwoman Michele Russo agreed with Swanger but said the August offer should just include lower rates instead of "drastic" specials like free Mondays.

Ritter agreed with dropping free Mondays, "even though [she] drove by the course one Monday and saw cars parked farther than [she's] ever seen."

The commission voted to get rid of free Mondays in August, offer Tuesday's special on Thursdays instead, and keep Sunday the same.

The commission also passed a resolution Wednesday for mid-season membership fees for adults 25 years of age or older at $300, compared to $700 for the entire season, and $100 for golfers younger than 25. The mid-season special will run from Aug. 1 until the course closes in November.

For members who sign up mid-season and want to bring their own golf cart to store at the course, the cost will be $180 for gas-powered carts and $198 for electric carts for the rest of the season.

The commission also designated Aug. 27 from 5 to 9 p.m. as the date and time for its planning meeting.

Members of the commission will meet at the course to discuss plans for the Muni's future, including job descriptions, rules and other ideas to improve the course.

The meeting will be open to the public

"I'm not sure if we'll get all the planning done in four hours but it'll be the start of the plan," Swanger said.

-- Casey Croucher

     

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