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Galway supervisor's death highlights dangers of farming

Galway supervisor's death highlights dangers of farming

Lent had a passion for draft horses
Galway supervisor's death highlights dangers of farming
Paul E. Lent
Photographer: Provided

Galway -- Galway Town Supervisor Paul E. Lent, who was killed when a tractor overturned on him Friday, is being widely mourned in Saratoga County's public safety community.

But another big part of his identity was as co-owner of Misty Hill Farm, located on an unpaved road on the Galway-Charlton town line, where he and his wife, Sue, have kept Percherons, a breed of large draft horses.

The 37-acre farm, which the couple owned since 2002, was an important part of Lent's life, as was the Saratoga County Fair in Ballston Spa, where he organized the draft horse shows.

"If you knew Paul, he was very organized, and he was very knowledgeable about how to get things done," said William Schwerd, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Saratoga County and long-time director of the fair. "People come from Canada and from Virginia to show horses, coming for a small fair, and at lot of that was due to Paul."

State police said Lent, 65, died about 4 p.m. Friday afternoon when his tractor overturned on him while he was clearing sloped land. "It was on a steep slope. He was brushhogging on the embankment," said state police Troop G spokesman Trooper Mark Cepiel.

An autopsy conducted Sunday by Dr. Michael Sikarica ruled the death was accidental.

It's the kind of accident that happens all too often on farms, said agricultural safety experts, who note that farming is regularly listed among the 10 most dangerous occupations in the United States, based on injuries and deaths.

"Rollovers are the leading cause of death on a farm," said Steve Ammerman, a spokesman for the New York Farm Bureau, which advocates for farm safety programs and this year obtained $250,000 in the state budget to help pay for retrofitting older tractors with seat belts, roll cages and other safety devices.

That money goes to the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health in Cooperstown, which administers the program. It's intended for owners of older tractors. Given the economic struggles of many farmers, it's common for farmers to be using old tractors without modern safety devices.

"The need is there. We know it saves lives," Ammerman said.

The Roll Over Protection System Rebate Program, which is in the process of being expanded nationwide, says that nationally, side- and rear-rollover accidents cause an average of 96 farm deaths per year, and that 80 percent of those who are killed in farm rollovers are experienced farmers. The program estimates half of all tractors don't have rollover safety devices; Lent's did not.

"All the time we're beating the drum that safety has to be a priority, you have to have education and you have to have it all the time," Ammerman said. "Accidents do happen to experienced farmers."

Lent had been the Galway town supervisor and a member of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors since 2013. Originally from Corinth, he previously served as a Galway town councilman and deputy supervisor from 2011-2013, and was chairman of the town Planning Board from 2005-2008.

In 2013, Lent retired after serving a total of 20 years, in two different stints, as the county's director of emergency services. He was director from 1977 to 1990, and again from 2006 until his election as town supervisor in 2012.

Able to talk easily about the technical details of microwave communications links, he oversaw the installation and launch of the county's first 911 emergency phone system in the 1980s, and then upgrades to the county's emergency communications system in the late 2000s. In between, Lent worked as a private emergency radio and cellular communications equipment consultant.

He was also a Saratoga County deputy sheriff in his earlier career, along with writing about sports for the Glens Falls Post-Star.

Most recently, Lent was chairman of Saratoga County's Public Safety Committee, overseeing the plans -- now moving toward fruitition -- to build a public safety building on a site adjoining the County Jail in Milton.

At the time of his death, Lent was a member of the board of directors of the Saratoga County Agricultural Society, which runs the annual county fair, and he was superintendent of its open draft horse show. He was also the Board of Supervisors' representative on the Cooperative Extension board.

"It's a great loss to Saratoga County, to his family, and to all of us," Schwerd said. "He was a great voice of reasonableness in difficult times."

In rural Galway, which has about 3,500 residents, Town Board member and Deputy Supervisor Fred Arnold is expected to step up for the time being to perform the supervisor's duties.

Calling hours for Lent will be from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Galway fire station on West Street, with a service at 6 p.m. Burial will be at St. Mary's Cemetery in Corinth at the convenience of the family.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.


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