Altamont looks for resident input on multi-million-dollar grant program

— From Google Earth

The view along Main Street in Altamont looking toward Guilderland. The village is soliciting resident feedback for ideas on how it can spend millions of dollars on projects that would improve Altamont’s main drag. 

ALTAMONT — The village is asking residents to weigh-in on a grant program from the state that could see Altamont dispersing as much as $4.5 million on local projects.

At July’s board of trustees meeting, the board authorized Mayor Kerry Dineen to sign and submit a letter of intent to apply for a New York Forward grant program.

Trustee Nicholas Fahrenkopf explained during the Sept. 6 meeting that the program is a targeted effort to invest in rural and smaller communities, and is an offshoot of the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), which has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into New York’s downtown neighborhoods.

Through the first five rounds of DRI disbursements, 59 municipalities around the state have received a total of $600 million in awards. Locally, the cities of Schenectady and Troy each received $10 million for their downtown revitalization efforts. 

Round six of the DRI will be funded at $100 million; as will the first round of the New York Forward Program.

“The way it works is, there are 10 Regional Economic Development Councils for New York State,” Fahrenkopf told the board on Sept. 6. “And each council will be awarding two to three winners, I guess, in their areas.”

The Capital Region Economic Development Council is made up of eight counties: Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren, and Washington.

The New York Forward grant program allows up to three awards per Economic Development Council region — either two $4.5 million awards, or one $4.5 million award and two $2.25 million awards. 

“One of the key components is to get public feedback,” Fahrenkopf said.

During the Sept. 6 meeting, no one spoke on the matter. 

Dineen said the village had received “some emails,” and residents had filled out the online survey.

The village is up against a tight deadline. 

Its application is due Sept. 24. 

But in the meantime, more surveys and nixle alerts will be sent out, and Fahrenkopf encouraged residents to visit the village’s site to offer their opinions:

“We’re trying to get more feedback that way, because feedback from the community is a big component of the grant application,” he said. It’s got to be “something that the community wants, so it is important for us to hear from people.”


No plan

There is no formal plan yet; however, the village has determined the physical scope of the project to be along Main Street from Gun Club Road to Altamont Boulevard.

“That’s kind of what we chose to define our downtown,” Fahrenkopf said.

The reasoning behind choosing to define Main Street between Gun Club and Altamont Boulevard as the village’s downtown, Fahrenkopf said, was because it included the Altamont Free Library, Angel and Orsini parks, a number of historical homes, Village Hall, and the area that was once the Crounse House. 

Dineen said the grant can’t be used for infrastructure.

While saying he’d have to double-check, Fahrenkopf told The Enterprise on Sept. 9 he had thought the mayor meant improvements to the village wastewater treatment plan or paving roads when she said infrastructure. 

But the money can be used for smaller projects like “a pedestrian bridge or enhanced pedestrian safety measures, you know, things like that,” as well as signs and bike racks, Dineen said. 

Fahrenkopf said on Sept. 6 the overall project is to be guided by a vision statement.

“So whatever this vision statement is,” he said, each of the individual “projects are supposed to support what that vision statement is.” For the New York Forward grant, he used the vision statement from the village’s 2006 comprehensive plan

“The Village of Altamont’s vision for the future foresees a captivating community distinguished by a strong sense of place and identity, and a high quality of life. Nestled below the Heldeberg Escarpment, people are drawn to Altamont’s uniqueness and charm. The community retains its significant country village design and character, and strives to protect its beautiful natural and built setting. Altamont recognizes the important role its history and significant period architecture play in the community’s character.

“Altamont takes pride in a wide diversity of housing for all ages and incomes, and its homes, commercial, and public structures and properties are well maintained. The Village takes advantage of its unique characteristics to attract and retain a variety of thriving shops, service businesses, and restaurants that cater to both residents and visitors. The architecturally cohesive business district along with the central Village Park, serve as the hub for the community’s commercial, social and recreational activities. Altamont cherishes its heritage while taking full advantage of new technologies and innovations.

“Altamont links public and municipal spaces such as tree-lined streets, parks, gardens and sidewalks together in a way that promotes a safe, pedestrian-friendly atmosphere. The local government continues to welcome partnerships with multiple community organizations and proactive citizens, and is open and responsive to the needs of residents and businesses. Community infrastructure is modern, well maintained, and managed according to plans and standards that reinforce established community values and goals, and long-term fiscal prudence.” 


Village Hall in need of upgrades

In a Friday interview with The Enterprise, Fahrenkopf  said the state is expecting the village to come up with $3 to $5 million worth of projects that would revitalize the area that the submission committee has identified as the Main Street corridor.

As for what the money could be used for, he said it could go toward improving Orsini Park. “We could rebuild or rehabilitate the gazebo,” Fahrenkopf said, or a sound system could be installed for events like movie night or when bands play, or permanent bathrooms could be built on the grounds. 

“But the goal is supposed to be for public benefit,” he said. “We’re not looking to rehabilitate private businesses, unless it somehow has a public service.”

For example, if a business were looking to spruce up its exterior, Fahrenkopf said, that “beautification is something that you could argue that adds to the revitalization of the area.”

Fahrenkopf said he and Mayor Dineen heard from state-hired consultants who told them that, if the village did receive the funds, then it would have the ability to set up a community grant or small loan program for beautification.

And the program wouldn’t be just for businesses, he said; homeowners along Main Street who were looking for some help in beautifying the exterior of their homes could use the program as well. 

Village Hall is seen as an anchor project, Fahrenkopf said.

He views the work currently being done on the building as immediate safety improvements — the village awarded the $106,000 contract to AJS Masonry out of Clifton Park in January.

A few years ago, bids for the work came in four and five times above the engineer’s estimated cost of $120,000 to $135,000. The village then rebid the project and got the same results. After hiring a new engineering firm, the village narrowed the scope of the project, targeting only the worst parts of the brick veneer instead of upgrading the entire front facade as well as to the side the entrance of Village Hall, while also redoing a part of the apparatus floor that bows under the weight of an Altamont Fire Department truck. 

“We know that to rebuild the front of that building properly was going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Fahrenkopf said. “So that would be a major project out of that three to $5 million.”

And it’s not just the front of the building, Fahrenkopf said, adding, “I don’t think there’s any part of the Village Hall that doesn’t need help.” The roof needs work, the fire department offices don’t have air-conditioning, village staff don’t have adequate workspace, and the courtroom is too small — something made painfully apparent during the pandemic.

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