Cold pushing heating bills higher, Sheehan says Albany budget gap could larger than expected, century-old gravestones damaged

The cold continues, though the high temp forecasted for Saturday is a tropical 27 degrees. Wholesale prices for natural gas and electricity are both up significantly because of demand. And the long string of "Code Blue" nights is straining resources at the Capital City Rescue Mission in Albany. [NWS] [Troy Record] [TU]

Transportation safety agencies in both the US and Canada are recommending new safety rules for the rail shipment of crude oil, following fiery crashes in both countries during the past year. The Port of Albany has become a major node in the distribution of crude oil from North Dakota to refineries on the East Coast. [AP/TU]

Cecilia Tkaczyk is co-sponsoring a bill in the state Senate that would add an element of local influence to the casino siting process -- it would require the passage of a local law or resolution in support of casino by both the host municipality and county. Tkaczyk said the bill would "ensure that the casinos are good neighbors and sited only in those municipalities that want them" -- "I think it's really important to have that local community buy in." A spokesperson for Andrew Cuomo said the governor's administration opposes the bill, and said it isn't necessary because the siting process will take into account local support. (Question: What is the mechanism for gauging local support or opposition?) [NY Open Senate] [TU] [Daily Gazette] [Gannett Albany] Earlier: Focusing on support for a possible Capital Region casino, town by town

Topics from Kathy Sheehan's first state of the city address: the budget gap, which could be bigger than expected; and bringing a customer service approach to city hall. [TU] [TWCN]

Members of both parties in the state Senate urged state ed commission John King to delay the roll out of the Common Core standards (one actually talked about hitting a "delay" button) -- or else they'd resort to a "legislative solution." King said the department is looking at making adjustments. [TU] [YNN] [Daily Gazette]

A state comptroller's office audit of the Albany Leadership Charter High School for Girls questions the high school's relationship with the Brighter Choice Foundation, which has backed/supported/facilitated many of the charter schools in the city. It's the second such audit of an Albany charter school in three months. [NYS OSC] [TU]

State records detail an incident at Albany nursing home last year in which a resident's arm was broken during a confrontation with the facility's safe -- one of the staff members has pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a vulnerable elderly person. [TU]

Schenectady police called in officers from Niskayuna, Scotia, Glenville, and Rotterdam to help control a large fight Thursday night in Hamilton Hill (map). [Daily Gazette]

Troy police are looking into damage done to more than a hundred century-old grave stones in Oakwood Cemetery. [News10]

The owner of the Skylane Motel in Colonie pleaded not guilty to hundreds of alleged code violations. A town attorney said "we're not looking to cut breaks" on the alleged violations. (Colonie has been trying to crack down on what it considers problem motels along Central Ave.) [TU] [TWCN]

A state appeals court has upheld a ruling that an Albany City Court judge can't force the Albany County DA's office to pursue the prosecution of four Occupy Albany protestors who were arrested in 2012. [TU]

Eighty-two city of Schenectady employees made $100k or more in 2013. The city's list of high-earning employees is dominated by police officers, though the department has been trying to cut down on overtime. [TU] [Daily Gazette]

Goal for some members of the Albany Common Council: cutting down on the number of resolutions taken up by the body, especially on issues for which the city has no control. [TU]

The EPA says its tests of treated groundwater from near the Dewey Loeffel landfill in Rensselaer County didn't find detectable levels of PCBs. (Local officials have been pushing for further health studies of the area.) [TU]

Albany County says four-day work weeks for TU Center staff this past summer allowed a savings of $100,000 on air conditioning and other utilities. [TU]

The state Department of Transportation says the proposed new Rexford Bridge and other corridor changes through Niskayuna and Clifton Park could result in travel times just a third of what they currently are. [Daily Gazette]

Schenectady's Historic District Commission is opposing a plan by the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady to change the size of the reflecting pools outside the congregation's Edward Durell Stone building (streetview). [Daily Gazette]

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