Crawford is ‘ready to go to work’ as councilman

Enterprise file photo — Melissa Hale-Spencer
Jacob Crawford, shown here on July 25 accepting the Democrats’ nomination to be on the November ballot for Guilderland councilman, said this week, “If the town board is ready to make an appointment, I’m ready to go to work.”

GUILDERLAND — On Aug. 16, the four remaining members of the Guilderland Town Board — the seat vacated by Laurel Bohl last month hadn’t been filled — heard from a resident concerned about waste dumped on a pasture, continued the town’s membership in a stormwater coalition, and moved ahead with a culvert repair in Altamont.

Bohl surprised the board when she resigned on July 12 without completing her inaugural term as a councilwoman.

Both major parties in town then scrambled to meet the July 28 deadline set by State Election Law to get a candidate on the November ballot. The Democrats chose Jacob Crawford but the GOP missed the mark when the candidate they chose backed out with no time to find a substitute.

“Are we going to fill the remaining term or just wait for the election?” Councilwoman Christine Napierski asked toward the end of the Aug. 16 meeting.

She noted there would be only one person on the ballot.

“I’ve not spoken to that person yet about whether they would like to be appointed by this board,” Supervisor Peter Barber replied without naming Crawford.

Crawford chairs both the Albany County Democratic Committee and the Guilderland Democratic Committee.

Barber went on, “There may be some other person who would be suitable for the remaining three months of the year. I think it’s best to get someone in before we start the budget process.”

“I would love to get appointed to work as a town councilman and work through whatever the issues are,” Crawford told The Enterprise on Tuesday, Aug. 23. “If the town board is ready to make an appointment, I’m ready to go to work.”

Explaining the reason he and Barber hadn’t communicated before the August board meeting, Crawford said, “Neither of us had the opportunity to meet with competing vacation schedules.

And then, although Crawford is both vaccinated and boosted, he came down with COVID-19; he said he’s better now.


Irked by dumped waste

Richard Gifford says that 5,000 cubic yards of tree waste from off-site locations was dumped on a pasture near his home at 2357 Old State Road.

“The dumping violated town ordinances,” he told the board on Aug. 16. “It also disrupted the natural drainage systems, covered wetlands identified on the national wetlands inventory, caused groundwater backup on our properties, created a fire hazard, and created an environment for rodent infestation.”

When this was brought to the town’s attention last November, the town was receptive at first, Gifford said, but then issued a directive telling Gifford and his neighbors that “our emails were taxing the town’s resources, that the town considered our concerns to have been addressed sufficiently, and that any further communication should go through the town attorney.”

The town didn’t dispute it was a code violation, Gifford said, but reported that the operator claimed the material was from clearing trees on the site. Gifford reiterated that it was an open pasture with no trees.

“The operator recently submitted an application for a special-use permit,” Gifford told the board. “This comes nine months after first being told to do so by the town and after being cited recently for operating without a permit back to Dec. 1, 2021. The town has allowed operation nonetheless.”


Public conduct

The board put off for another month adopting rules of public conduct and procedures for boards in town. The board had discussed this at length in June when most of the tension centered around the proposed rule that a board chairperson “may announce rules that prescribe the time to be allotted to each speaker and the number of times each speaker may speak.”

“I would be just as happy not to even have any rules because I think we’re doing quite well with this whole process,” said Barber, adding, “It’s a solution in search of a problem.”

He also said that “antagonistic” comments on social media “get carried over here” and “people get very passionate.”

Policy drives procedure, said Councilwoman Amanda Beedle, noting that the intent of the policy was to make meetings more civil so that everyone who comes to a meeting to speak feels they are being heard.

“Public engagement are where the greatest conversations happen,” said Beedle, adding, “We don’t want to hamstring chairs.”

Napierski said that “guidelines,” as opposed to a law, would give board chairpersons discretion, and “putting it on paper” would inform the public.

Barber agreed that a law would have sanctions, which he wouldn’t like.



The board agreed to continue the town’s membership in a stormwater coalition made up of most of the municipalities in Albany County as well as the county itself. “We benefit greatly from the resources the coalition provides,” said Barber, referring to it as an MS4: a municipal separate storm sewer system.

There are approximately 7,250 permitted MS4s nationwide, operating under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System MS4 permit, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Barber said the coalition shares resources including equipment and training as well as shared mapping and that the coalition has been in place for probably 20 years.

The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, he said, has updated its regulations fairly substantially so the agreement has to be updated accordingly.

“The importance for the town of Guilderland is to map its stormwater system … so you know where these systems are,” said Barber. “So, if you have a problem of a 100-year storm event, you know where the shut-off valves are, you know how to redirect water potentially, you know a lot more about your system that maybe somebody put in 20 or 30 years ago that we’ve forgotten about but  now that we’re mapped — we pretty much have mapped ow our entire stormwater system — gives a lot of information for engineers to then use.”

The town pays an annual fee to belong to the coalition, which for 2023 is $17,706, a drop from over $19,000 last year.


New culvert

The board agreed that Barber would sign an agreement with the state’s Department of Transportation to replace a culvert running under Grand Street in Altamont. The town received an $835,000 state grant to fully pay for the project.

Barber noted that the route is used to get to Altamont Elementary School and said there had been concerns about the school buses traveling over the bridge.

Joriohenen, a tributary of the Bozenkill, flows between St. Lucy’s Church, built in 1888, and Altamont Elementary School, built in 1953 on the site of the demolished Altamont High School. On the other side of Grand Street, Joriohenen flows between a Victorian home and a modern parish center.

“The new culvert’s parapet will be designed to complement the nearby historic district,” Barber said last December when the Bridge NY grant was announced.

“Over the years,” he said then, “the Town Highway Department has made periodic repairs to the culvert to keep it safe for use. The corrugated steel deck forms are corroding and exposing the underlying concrete.  It has required concrete patching.”

The new culvert, which he said should last 50 years or more, will be 10 to 15 feet longer than the current one and “will involve a precast concrete culvert, new concrete wing walls, vertical-faced parapet and highway box beam guide rail. It will also include new sidewalks and drainage.”

In the 1970s, the two streams that flow through Altamont were given names from the Mohawk language, honoring the native people who once lived in the area.

The names were based on research done by Tom Capuano who wrote a book-length narrative poem on the origins of the area. The poem is called “The Tale of Tekarionyoken.”

“Tekarionyoken” is Mohawk for “the land between two streams.” Capuano told The Enterprise earlier that, in writing his book, he consulted with a linguistics professor at the University at Albany, Marianne Mithun, who speaks fluent Mohawk.

The two Altamont streams are the “Ostenraky,” which means “the creek of shale bed,” and runs along Euclid Avenue, and “Joriohenen,” which means “the creek that falls from the cliff,” and runs under Grand Street by Altamont Elementary School.

Because of Capuano, Altamont’s creeks officially bear those Mohawk names. Capuano has a letter, dated April 12, 1979, from William Aylward, then the mayor of Altamont, thanking him for his “very constructive recommendation that the streams in the Village of Altamont be named ‘Ostenraky’ and ‘Joriohenen’.”


Other business

In other business at its Aug. 16 meeting, the Guilderland Town Board:

— Adopted a draft resolution to apply for funding from the state for a filtration system for Guilderland wells. The project cost is estimated at about $5 million and the town would contribute about $2 million.

The Watervliet Reservoir currently provides at least 80 percent of Guilderland’s potable water, according to a 2021 report from Delaware Engineering. The reservoir’s water quality is degraded by summertime algae blooms and weed growth, the report says, while runoff from residential and commercial development also affects water quality.

Guilderland owns three wells, which were historically a major source of water for the town but two of those wells were taken out of service as iron and manganese levels increased. The town plans to install a greensand filtration system for treatment of iron and manganese;

— Scheduled two public hearings for Oct. 18 — one at 7:30 p.m. on improvements to the Guilderland sewer district and the other at 7:45 p.m. for maintenance on the sewer district. “These hearings don’t last two minutes,” said Barber;

— Made five budget modifications;

—  Adopted “clean” audit reports on the three town justices for 2018. Napierski, who had been a town justice at that time, recused herself from voting on the audit of her accounts;

— Adopted a “no parking” restriction for Wood Street where a resident had difficulty getting in and out of her driveway when cars parked there.

The restriction runs along the southwest side of Wood Street 280 feet from its intersection with Gaskill Avenue. Barber comments that 280 feet was a long distance to help someone get out of her driveway.

Napierski responded, “I did visit the scene and thought it was a fair request.” She also said that no one on the town’s Traffic Safety Committee had any objections;

—  Awarded James H. Maloy Inc. a contract for an amphitheater retaining wall and entry road at Tawasentha Park.

Maloy’s bid at $383,000 ws far lower than the other two bids at $511,400 and $620,000;

— Waived a building permit fee because a tree fell on the house at 29 West Hite Court due to severe winter weather and also waived a building permit fee to repair fire damage at 126 Schoolhouse Road; and

— Canceled the board’s Sept. 6 meeting.

More Guilderland News

  • “Not only was the building condemned by the town but also the county engineer signed off on that,” said Supervisor Peter Barber at the Sept. 5 town board meeting. “So it’s my understanding that the building is going to have a red X if it doesn’t have one already.”

  • The Sept. 12 suit includes photographs of Gabriel neighborhood houses in disrepair, overgrown with brush. “The reason for the neglect is now obvious,” the suit argues. “Pyramid ceased maintenance of the neighborhood in order to now argue the area is blighted to support its bid for condemnation.”

  • “As they say, you can’t take things with you, but you can always leave them in a better state than you found them, so this is our way of doing that,” said Bryan Swift, explaining why he and his wife took the risk of buying the land along with neighbors, knowing full well they will not get back all of what they paid for it.

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.