By Jo E. Prout
ALTAMONT — The village here sought revenue and safety in 2012 by allowing zoning changes for business growth, agreeing to increase water production for outside sales, and planning for a pedestrian bridge near the elementary school.
Village residents also saw their post office change hands, their streets used for high-speed police chases, and their village board and fire department sued for causing a home’s oil spill.
The village board adopted a $1.058 million budget in 2012, raising the tax rate 11 cents to $2.68 per $1,000 of assessed value. The board moved $16,000 from its reserve fund to balance the budget, Mayor James Gaughan said in April.
“We all love Altamont. We’re a mile square. We don’t have a lot of building going on. I think we get a good deal,” Gaughan said.
By the end of the year, the board voted to increase water production from its wells on Gun Club and Brandle roads to 25,000 gallons per day. The board agreed, with a split vote, to allow a third of that, or 8,000 gallons per day, to be sold outside the village. Trustee Christine Marshall voted against the increase and the sale of water outside the village.
“We should safeguard our resources,” Marshall said.
A 52-acre, 10-lot subdivision may soon be built just outside Altamont on Bozenkill Road, and water from the increased production could be sold there.
“It’s a win-win for people who may build there, and it’s a win for us,” said Trustee Kerry Dineen.
Connections for up to 60 homes, with the 25,000-gallon production, could bring in half-a-million dollars, village engineer Richard Straut told the board in November. With outside water users paying double the village water rate, Altamont could also see up to $40,000 per year in increased revenue, he said.
Around the village
The United States Postal Service said it would remain open in the village this year, even though the building it rents on Park Street was listed for sale. The building had been for sale for several years, but a new realty group placed large signs outside the post office, worrying local residents.
“There has been so much in the media about post offices closing, they see the sign and they think that we’re next on the list,” said Altamont Postmaster Theresa Loehner. “Altamont was never on the list, and operations will continue as usual.”
The building soon sold to local developer Jeff Thomas, who said he might modify the outside of the 1950’s-era building to look Victorian, and add more landscaping. The building was listed for sale at $215,000.
The village board passed, with a split vote, a local law to identify a new land use in its zoning code, which now includes a medical/dental/optical laboratory use. Dineen cast the lone opposing vote.
The code change stemmed from a request by Mountain Prosthetics owner Dennis Cyr to change the allowable uses on Maple Avenue. After the vote, Cyr and his wife, Darci, purchased a vacant building in the general business use area on Maple Avenue. The Cyrs said that they requested a zoning change instead of a special-use permit, for which they might have been denied under the previous code.
The village board applied for a grant to connect Sand Street to the Altamont Elementary School grounds. If approved, the federal grant could reimburse the village the total amount of a $140,000 sidewalk and pedestrian bridge. The grant could also be used to pay for the cost of a crossing guard for two years.
The village’s police department warned residents about speeding and drunk drivers, after two car chases this year that topped out at speeds over 100 miles per hour. Both chases resulted in the arrests of the drivers.
Officer Gerardo Conti said that the police department will initiate a chase when a driver will not stop.
“After we reach a certain speed that isn’t safe, we stop,” he said. Using plate readers in the police car to check vehicle registration, the Altamont Police Department tracked one of the high-speed drivers to his mother’s home in Cobleskill. The other driver eventually crashed into a fence, hid in a nearby barn, and was apprehended.
“My main thing,” Conti said, “is people don’t understand the dangers. They don’t know about the drivers who are speeding or the person who’s driving drunk. They don’t see the danger going through their village.”
Local residents Adam and Josephine Reinemann, of Prospect Terrace, sued the Altamont Fire Department and the village for $1 million in damages, when a 200-gallon oil spill occurred in their family’s basement, following a fire department volunteer’s investigation and manipulation of an oil valve on the home’s furnace.
“The village intends to oppose that,” said Village Attorney Michael Moore, of Young, Sommer, LLC. He said that the claim was filed too late for the village to investigate the matter for itself.
According to the notice of claim, the $1 million total covered past, present, and future medical bills; property damage; loss of future earning capacity; pain and suffering; and loss of enjoyment or quality of life.
The village court saw a rare criminal case when one of the contractors, Jacob Peru, who helped clean the Reinemann’s basement was charged and found guilty of breaking two state Department of Environmental Conservation laws for failing to get a permit to remove and transport what the DEC said was contaminated soil from the Reinemann home.
Village Justice Neil Taber interrupted testimony several times, and said, “This is going on way too long. I’ll give you another five minutes, and then I’ve heard enough.”
The DEC used an affidavit to show Peru’s wrongdoing, but Peru’s attorney, Adam Parisi, was told to stop referring to the document during his defense.
“That’s my ruling,” Taber said, when Parisi questioned him. “I don’t want to sit here any longer.”
“I’m going to move for a mistrial,” Parisi said more than once.
“Your motion is denied, again,” Taber said. “I’ll allow you five minutes more, then I’m shutting you down.”
Peru received fines less than those offered as a DEC plea bargain.
Ralph Ambrosio, attorney for the Reinemanns, would not state if the $1 million claim against the village were still pending.