Granville Sentinel 2021 year in review

This year’s “Year in Review” is sponsored by:


Staff from the Granville Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation received their first doses of vaccine in January 2021.

Pandemic worries continue

With the roll-out of vaccines against novel coronavirus from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson beginning early in the year, county residents, like staff from Granville Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation pictured above, hoped that a quick jab in the arm might pave the way for a return to life as normal.

But with troubling variants developing throughout the year – most recently the highly transmissible Omicron variant – coupled with vaccine hesitancy and growing fatigue with taking precautions, like wearing masks, life is still anything but normal.

In September, the Sentinel reported Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics was offering a $500 incentive for all employees who were or became fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Even with efforts like these, in late November, the Washington County Department of Public Safety announced that the county was ranked first in New York State for highest percentage of COVID-19-positive cases across a seven-day average.

Earlier that month, Granville mayor Paul Labas tested positive for the virus, even though he was fully vaccinated and anticipated receiving his booster.

“You’ve seen everybody’s tests go up,” Washington County COVID-19 spokesman Roger Wickes said. “This thing does not recognize borders . . . You’ve got to stay vigilant. You have to assume when you’re out there, the other person is positive.”

The solution for now? Wickes continues to advise county residents to  stay persistent with the guidance and practices that have been repeated for close to two years.

“There’s definitely COVID-19 fatigue,” Wickes said. “You can’t give up.”


Telescope’s iconic water tower (Photo by Jeff Foley)

100 years in Granville

A century. Ten decades. One hundred years.

No matter how you phrase it, that’s how long Telescope Casual Furniture — a family-owned, multimillion-dollar, outdoor-patio-furniture company with 277 employees — has been in business in Granville.

Henry Joseph William Vanderminden Sr. founded the company as the Telescope Cot Bed & Novelty Co. in 1903 in New York City and moved it to Granville in 1921. Vanderminden, his descendants and their colleagues have helped the company become the largest private employer in Granville.

Since its inception, Telescope has introduced, among other things, its famous Director Chair, an iconic water tower, and a wood heating system for green energy in its American-focused factory — all 1 million square feet of it at 82 Church St.

And the future of the venerable company?

“Limitless,” said CEO Kathy Juckett.

NYVTmedia celebrated the company’s 100th anniversary with a special tribute, available at nyvtmedia.com/telescope-casual-100-years/


Finally, a football merger

Revived in February and called off in May after Whitehall coaches determined there would be enough players at the school to develop a varsity football program, the long talked-about proposed merger between the Whitehall and Granville football teams gained traction again late in the year, after a possible merger between Granville and Corinth/Hadley-Luzerne was rejected.

At its Dec. 13 meeting, the Granville Board of Education formally and unanimously approved a football merger with Whitehall Central School District for the 2022-2023 school year.

One week later at its Dec. 20 board of education meeting, Whitehall followed suit. Whitehall superintendent Patrick Dee said, “Both athletic committees, as well as our student athletes, feel this is the best thing to do to move forward with our football program.”


Charlie King posing with one of the tribute banners.

New banners for Main Street

Spearheaded by Charlie King of the Robert M. King Funeral Home, the American Legion Post 323 and VFW Post 1653 and installed by the Village of Granville department of public works, Slate Valley Military Tribute Banners took Granville and the surrounding area by storm.

Honoring active-duty servicemen and women and living and deceased veterans of all military branches, the banners debuted in Granville in time for Memorial Day.

King said the initial goal with the banner project was anywhere from 20 to 25 banners. That goal was shattered, with 140 total orders made and 127 going up by Memorial Day 2021.


WashConnect identifies areas to improve broadband accessibility

An effort to locate, identify and assist households in Washington County struggling with broadband accessibility aimed to target “the last mile.”

With COVID-19 continuing to affect all aspects of life and work, having a fast and reliable broadband connection is the goal of WashConnect. A survey undertaken during the summer aimed to identify clusters of target areas deprived of broadband access.

Now it is the goal of broadband internet providers to fill those gaps.

As of late 2021, wires are being strung and plans are being finalized to roll out fast internet to residents of rural Washington County.


Granville Community Foundation formed

In December 2020, Granville natives Paula and Michael Freed of Grand Rapids, Michigan, donated $250,000 to create the Granville Community Foundation and committed to matching 50% of every donation made during 2021, up to an additional $250,000, with a goal of reaching $1 million in donations by the end of 2021.

The goal of the foundation is to “evaluate local needs and opportunities and will look to fund projects that address broad areas of community development, education, art and culture, environment, health or social needs.”

Fundraising continued apace through the year, and in partnership with the Granville Lions Club and the Village of Granville, the GCF planned a celebration of Telescope Casual Furniture’s 100 years of commitment to Granville for September.

The event sold out within a month but had to be postponed to Sept. 9-10 of 2022 because of rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in Washington County.

Regardless, as reported in the Sentinel’s Dec. 30 issue, the foundation was knocking on the door of the $1 million mark: “We’re at $937,000, trying to get to $1 million,” Freed wrote.


Town says nay, village yea to cannabis sales

The New York State Legislature approved the consumption and possession of cannabis on March 30, leaving it up to individual municipalities to either “opt in” or “opt out” to allow licensed individuals to have a dispensary or on-site consumption establishment.

After two public hearings, the Town of Granville voted unanimously in October to not allow cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption establishments to operate within the town.

However, in December, the Village Board voted unanimously to take no action on the question, meaning that the state law would allow cannabis establishments to operate with proper licenses and certifications.

Granville mayor Paul Labas said: “I want to make this very clear that this law states that this (cannabis) will not be sold to teens. This will be sold to adults 21 and over, very much similar to liquor.”


Police issues a concern

With the resignation of four Granville police officers within a span of two months, the Granville Police Department was down to one full-time officer and a handful of part-time officers by the beginning of November.

Nevertheless, Granville mayor Paul Labas says the village has no intention of closing the police department and that depth of coverage is an issue that is actively being pursued for resolution.

“If anything major broke out . . . it wouldn’t just be the Granville Police Department only responding. The State Police and Washington County Sheriff’s (deputies) would be there too,” Labas said.


Members of Publicolor traveled to Granville to help repaint the schoolhouse this summer.

Historic Slyboro schoolhouse reborn

The Slyboro schoolhouse on the grounds of Hicks Orchard is on the road to being renovated, thanks to efforts by Hicks Orchard business development manager David Garvoille.

From its beginning as a school in the early-to-mid 20th century for students just outside the reach of Granville and Middle Granville, the schoolhouse became a meeting place for Alcoholics Anonymous until a tree collapsed on it in the 1970s.

Fast forward to 2021 and Garvoille’s dedication to renovating the historic structure for use as a community function space by school groups, AA and other organizations. After a spaghetti dinner benefit in May honoring two former students, the schoolhouse has undergone some structural work and a colorful paint job by members of Publicolor, a stay-in-school youth development group (pictured above), and Lehman College alums.

The building was stable enough to hold an AA meeting on Aug. 7.


The rebuilt Church Street bridge reopened in December.

Church Street bridge rebuilt

Delayed in 2020 because of “utility conflicts and design considerations” and again in June 2021 because of ongoing utility conflicts with Verizon, the replacement of the Church Street bridge finally began in August when the bridge was closed for demolition and reconstruction.

After 116 days, construction was completed, and the bridge opened to traffic on Dec. 23. Additional work on the sidewalks will be completed in the spring of 2022.