Village plans to replace VAAS

— Photo from the VAAS website

“Keep us in mind if you need a used ambulance,” Ray Ginter, a member of the Voorheesville Area Ambulance Service, said to Voorheesville’s village board at a contentious meeting where the board indicated, after months of controversy, it plans to replace the squad’s emergency medical services with re-trained village firefighters.

VOORHEESVILLE — A month after signing a contentious and late contract with the village, Voorheesville Area Ambulance Service members attended the village board meeting Tuesday to confirm with the board its plan to replace the squad’s emergency medical services with re-trained village firefighters. Village board members traded barbs with VAAS representatives, and the two parties attested that their time together is limited.

Also, residents of Claremont Estates learned of a scaled-down construction proposal for Claremont II, and the Committee for a Quiet Zone in Voorheesville shared correspondence from CSX and an independent engineer that suggested a lower cost for quadrant gating at village railroad crossings.

Denise Garrah of the VAAS asked the board to have the minutes of the meeting read back, as she and her co-volunteers showed up 10 minutes late due to their own board meeting beginning at the same time; since 1952, the VAAS membership has met on Tuesday evening, she said.

The village board’s agenda, with board member liaison duties listed next to each name, caused confusion for the VAAS members. Village Trustee Jack Stevens is the board’s liaison with the VAAS. Because the ambulance squad was listed after Stevens’s name, the VAAS thought it was on the village’s agenda, Garrah said.

In his brief trustee report, Stevens said that he was continuing discussions with the Voorheesville Fire Department so that EMS could be “handled by the fire department in-house.”

After the minutes were read back for the VAAS, Stevens repeated, “We’re looking at using the Voorheesville Fire Department as an EMS.”

“You don’t want to use us as a vendor?” asked one VAAS member.

“We are exploring the possibility of using another service,” said Mayor Robert Conway.

Deputy Clerk-Treasurer Karen Finnessy told Garrah that the agenda had been explained to her before.

Garrah and Trustee David Cardona exchanged words, with Cardona telling Garrah that she was being rude.

The public arguments mirrored the meeting between the board and the VAAS last month when the board reluctantly signed the ambulance contract.

“Our hope” Garrah said last month, “is, to lessen your burden, let us go and let the town take care of us” as other towns’ ambulance services are administered.

VAAS members asked how they should stay informed about the board’s decisions, and board members suggested that they attend the board’s workshops held twice a month and earlier in the evening than the regular board meeting.

VAAS member Ray Ginter distributed a list with ambulance volunteers’ contact information to board members. Ginter asked the board, again, to verify that it is planning on having EMS services provided for the village by the fire department “and putting us out of the picture?”

“Yes,” trustees answered.

“Keep us in mind if you need a used ambulance,” Ginter said.

Claremont II changes

Katherine Froman’s engineer Daniel Hershberg, of Hershberg & Hershberg in Albany, asked the board to approve four water taps in Claremont II. Froman owns Trinity Properties, which developed the neighborhood in the 1990s.

The request represented a revision of the proposal that originally asked for taps on 15 lots. The board withheld its approval until it can discuss drainage solutions for flooding in the adjacent Claremont Estates.

Froman’s neighbors, residents from the first phase of the housing development, called Claremont Estates, stormed recent town board and village board meetings to slow or halt the proposed second phase of development that would proceed through the development’s two streets.

Residents complained of increased construction and residential traffic and asked the village board to use water access as a tool to force Froman to change her plans. Residents also noted street and home flooding in the neighborhood that would be exacerbated by construction. They asked the boards to seek relief from Froman by making road improvements conditional on any approvals.

“By cutting down to four, there’s no roadway recommendations…there’s no major storm-management system [required],” Hershberg told the village board. He said that he misspoke at a town board meeting when asked how long construction could take. Referring to the length of time to sell lots and fully develop them, Hershberg said earlier that full development could take up to eight years. The length of time upset residents, he said.

Installation of major infrastructure and construction-worthy roadways would take only six weeks, Hershberg said this week. Any house construction would then proceed as slowly as lot sales, he said.

With the new proposal of four lots, he said, plots would probably be noted as having no further subdivision allowed. Under the revised proposal, two lots would be four acres, one would be almost five acres, and the last would be over 15 acres.

“She makes just as much money. It makes sense,” said Cardona at the village workshop earlier. “It works for her; it works for the neighbors. I love it.”

One Claremont Estates resident asked if the plan included a green buffer zone between the new lots and the current neighborhood.

“You don’t have a no-cut buffer between you and your neighbors. This is just another [house],” Hershberg said.

Another resident asked if the developer would fix the flooding. Hershberg said that, with 15 lots, a $60,000 solution for the roadway would have cost each new homeowner $4,000. With only four lots, the cost cannot be reasonably divided, he said.

Hershberg said that Froman probably would not fix roads and easements that are now owned by the village of Voorheesville.

Asked by Conway for a solution that would not cost $60,000, Hershberg said, “To do it halfway, I don’t know what we would do. The storm water does go down [into the ground]…but it’s not handling a design storm.”

Designs take into account differing storm strengths, including common storms and 100-year storms. Hershberg noted that the region has experienced several stronger-than-expected storms in the last few years.

“I’m not prepared to point my finger. Is it maintenance or poor design, or a matter of age?” Hershberg said about the neighborhood roads that flood.

The plan calls for two shared driveways off a main neighborhood road that currently terminates in a cul-de-sac. The original project called for the removal of the cul-de-sac once phase II was built. Village board members, residents, and Hershberg agreed that the cul-de-sac should remain as a means for slowing traffic and as a space for emergency vehicles or buses to turn around.

Darrell Duncan, commissioner for the Albany County Department of Public Works and town resident, asked about placing the four driveways on the cul-de-sac.

“We could, but it wouldn’t be safe,” Hershberg said.

Quiet Zone revisited

Steven Schreiber, who chairs the Quiet Zone committee, told the board that a senior project official at CSX Railroad had sent employees to the Voorheesville railroad crossings to evaluate their equipment and see what could be done about installing a quadrant gate system. Albany County DPW approved the gate system as the only one it would allow as some village residents seek relief from constant train whistles.

Schreiber and the committee’s consulting engineer, Vinny Valetutti, corresponded with Leslie Scherr, the CSX project manager for public projects in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and the Canadian Provinces, Schreiber said.

“Based upon an assessment of the equipment already in place at the two Voorheesville railroad crossings,” Schreiber wrote in a letter to the village board, “Mr. Scherr has estimated a total cost of less than $200,000 for installing four-quadrant gates at both crossings. He notes that his estimates could be revised based upon the results of an engineering design that CSX would do. The design he has proposed would cost approximately $27,000 and would produce the final cost figures.”

At the meeting, Conway said, “I was a little surprised at the cost estimate that was proposed based on our own [CSX estimate]. We need to see that CSX is on the same page internally so we know what we’re dealing with.” He noted that the village’s discussion with CSX about costs occurred over a year ago.

At that time, Village Engineer Rich Straut, of Barton & Loguidice, concluded that gate installation would cost the village between $800,000 and $1.1 million. Straut said Tuesday that the higher proposal included estimated costs from other, similar, projects.

Conway said that $27,000 for a study was a “formidable amount of money.”

“I don’t have any immediate idea of how we would pay for it,” he said, adding that the money is not in the village budget.

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