Altamont board hears complaints about Route 146 railroad crossing, sidewalk on Grand Street; gets new trustee

The Enterprise — Sean Mulkerrin
Witnessing damage: A car drives over the railroad crossing on Route 146, in Altamont. At the September village board meeting, a resident, Robert Rabbin, said that the tracks have been a problem for three months. Repairs are expected by the end of the month.

ALTAMONT — On Sept. 5, Robert Rabbin, a Main Street resident, complained to the village board about gaps in the pavement on his street — the state’s Route 146 — at the railroad crossing next to library.

The asphalt has deteriorated, exposing more of the rail, he said, which for three months has been giving drivers — and their cars — a lot of problems.

By the end of September, a spokesman from the state’s Department of Transportation told The Enterprise this week, it will be fixed.

Rabbin asked the board what the village’s repair schedule was or, if it is not allowed to fix the road, when the road would be repaired by the appropriate party.

Mayor Kerry Dineen said that the village is not allowed to touch the road, adding that the board was aware of the problem.

On Aug. 8, Stephen A. Allocco, a New York State Department of Transportation spokesman, had emailed The Enterprise, “We are aware of the pavement conditions at the Route 146 railroad crossing and are developing an improvement plan.”

The Enterprise followed up by asking:

— Will you be doing any work on Route 146, in Altamont, in the next six months?

— Do you have a timeline on the improvement plan?

— What is included in the plan?

The email response from Alloco said: “At this time we are still working up the scope of work and timetable. I do know it will include addressing the pavement issues.”

On Sept. 11, Bryan Viggiani, a spokesman for the DOT, in an emailed statement to The Enterprise wrote: “Pavement repairs there are expected to occur by the end of the month.”

The perennial problem is solved every few years with new pavement but then reoccurs.

New trustee

The Altamont Board of Trustees at its September meeting welcomed a new member, Michelle Ganance, after Madeline La Mountain stepped down.

La Mountain, Mayor Kerry Dineen said, had chosen to change her path and is going to school, and doing “a whole 180.”

Ganance had been on the zoning board of appeals before her appointment; she was replaced on the zoning by Isaiah Swart, who had been the board’s alternate. Swart’s term will end on March 31, 2023.

Ganance has lived in Altamont for for 14 years; she is a lifelong Guilderland resident. She’s married and has two children, and works as a computer programmer. Ganance and her husband, Vince, chose to live in Altamont, she said, because the community is “so quiet and sweet, and old-fashioned — it’s a great place to raise kids.”

She accepted the appointment, she told The Enterprise, because her children are older now, in high school, and, she was interested in getting more involved with the community. She said she is going to become more familiar with the issues that face the village, and “would like to help foster change in the community.”

La Mountain was appointed to the village board in July 2016 by then-Mayor james Gaughan. She filled the seat left vacant by Christine Marshall who had died of cancer in April 2016, having served on the village board since 2007.

When appointing LaMountain, who was then 27, Gaughan had said he was looking for “the next generation to lead the village.” La Mountain, who was raised in altamont, was responsible for inaugurating the village’s fall festival.

She could not be reached for comment before press time.

Sidewalk scrape

A few residents, upset with the way a sidewalk project on Grand Street has been handled by the village, came to the Sept. 5 meeting to voice their displeasure.

Dineen began the meeting with a presentation to correct what, she said, was “some misinformation out in the public, and some absolutely wrong information about the Grand Street sidewalk project.”

The south side of Grand Street has a modern concrete sidewalk that was left alone. The north side had a historic walk largely made of slabs of bluestone, some of which had become uneven over time, and would not accommodate a wheelchair.

 

The Enterprise — Sean Mulkerrin
After: The new five-foot wide concrete sidewalk along Grand Street.

 

Dineen said that the existing sidewalk was not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act since it was not wide enough and there were tripping hazards. She also said that the sidewalk was not wide enough for the village Department of Public Works to snow blow it in the winter.

Drainage issues had caused problems, the mayor said, and some tree roots had grown so large that they had broken the sidewalk.

The village, Dineen said, had to modify a federal grant in order to do a project in the village. “It turned out that the Grand Street sidewalk was the project that qualified,” Dineen said, adding that it would make one of the most traveled streets in the village wider and safer for children walking to school or congregants going to church.

“It’s not: ‘You should have done Lark [Street].’ We would like to do Lark and we will do Lark,” Dineen said of a nearby street with no sidewalks. “Lark is a bigger project … We have major drainage issues on that road … It was more than we had for this time, said Dineen. “We are trying to match the funds we were given with the projects that we need to do.”

A letter to the Enterprise editor written by Jerry Oliver, in August, said that the residents of Grand Street had not been given advance notice of the project. The editor called Dineen before publishing the letter to ask if she wanted to comment; she declined.

Oliver was correct: Residents were not given any notice, but the village, according to the mayor, was under no obligation to do so.

“No,” Dineen replied during the Sept. 5 meeting to Rabbin’s question about notification; residents did not get a letter “telling them we would be working in our easements, out front.”

Dineen said that the project had been discussed at past village board meetings, but the process was not to notify a homeowner unless the village was working on his property — as opposed to the village’s right-of-way — and the department of public works followed that process in this instance.

Going forward, Dineen said, the village will notify residents if it is working on property where the village has easements.

Rabbin said that it’s important that everybody know about the project, and not expect that everyone attends village meetings, and, now, the village has taken care of that.

The project is about half complete, the mayor said, but qualified her statement by adding that grass and plants also have to be installed.

John Sands, of Grand Street, was more pointed in his criticism of the notification process. “There was little to no information given,” he said. “Certainly not to the village residents who live on Grand Street.”

“Literally, no one knew about this,” Sands said.

“You may have talked amongst yourselves about it,” he said, referring to the board.

“Sometimes, when you get free money,” Sands said, everybody pays for it; sometimes, it’s better to say no rather than kick up a hornet’s nest.

A decade ago, Sands went before the village board to say that, since he had lived on Grand Street, the village had cut 19 trees; he then issued the board a challenge to create a tree-preservation plan.

Sands wanted the village to focus on prudent pruning and replacing old and or dying trees that must come down instead of just removing them. Gaughan, who was the mayor at the time and has since retired, committed then to replacing trees on Altamont’s side streets.

At the Sept. 5 meeting, Sands said that the village has now cut down 24 trees on Grand Street.   

Two people on the current board, Sands said, have known him for a long time, and know that trees and sidewalks — village aesthetics — are very important to him. He was a little surprised, he said, that no one knocked on his door, or picked up the phone, to notify him that trees were going to be taken down. Three trees have been taken down during the new sidewalk project.

The board, Sands said, should have known better; it knows that “the process says everything.”

It’s a pain in the neck, he said, of properly notifying residents. As a landscape architect, he knows the process and has to deal with it a lot, he said. “You are much better off to keep people informed, than not,” Sands said. “At least you've done your due diligence.”

Over the years, Sands said, he has given the village a great deal of services and has never asked for a dime. “It’s not really my thing,” he said.

During the Christmas season, Sands places holiday sprays on utility poles throughout the village. He does it, he said, to set an example for his kids and family, to be part of the community, and to be a good citizen. Over the past three decades, Sands estimated, Altamont had received $100,000 in free services from him.

“As my mother used to say, ‘People don’t appreciate what they don’t pay for.’ And I guess she was right,” Sands said. “Because if they did appreciate it, they would have at least knocked on my front door and said, ‘This is what I'm doing.’”

A couple of the board members, Sands said, should be ashamed of themselves because the process did not work very well.

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