Guilderland spends more of its $3.5M in American Rescue funds

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Jay Tyler, left, director of Guilderland’s Emergency Medical Services, explains to Congressman Paul Tonko how new equipment is being used while Supervisor Peter Barber, at right, looks on.

GUILDERLAND — Guilderland, which, in the wake of the pandemic, was allocated about $3.5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, showed this past week how some of that federal money is being spent.

On Tuesday, Oct. 18, the town board approved recommendations from Guilderland’s police chief and parks director on the latest spending of the federal funds. A microwave radio network will be the biggest expense for the roughly $357,000 now going to the police department. A splash pad at the town pool will use the majority of the $242,000 going to the parks department.

Then on Thursday, Oct. 20, Congressman Paul Tonko toured the headquarters for Guilderland’s emergency medical services to see how $862,794 in American Rescue Plan funds were being spent for EMS: The town bought three dispatch consoles for $485,000, replacing its entire dispatch system; an ambulance for $222,350; monitoring devices for $73,444; a paramedic response vehicle for $50,000; five chair stairs to lift patients for $18,000; and replaced its heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system for $14,000.

Supervisor Peter Barber told The Enterprise this week that, while the spending of the American Rescue Plan funds are to be pandemic related, “You can make up any lost revenue, and provide government services.”

Originally, the town had planned to build a new EMS station, near Guilderland’s golf course, using Rescue Plan funds to construct the shell of the station but that is now going to be funded out of the town’s operating expenses, Barber said on Monday.

Barber listed some of Guilderland’s expenditures of federal funds, in rough numbers, so far for The Enterprise. The funds must be obligated by Dec. 31, 2024, Barber said.

Guilderland has already increased security at the town hall and EMS buildings, adding cameras for about $90,000, and has purchased a mobile presentation system for $6,000, and upgraded its media equipment for $17,000.

Guilderland spent $250,000 on a new highway sweeper since, Barber said, the state’s Department of Conservation requires roads to be regularly cleared of refuse to keep stormwater systems working well.

Guilderland will also spend federal funds on updating its comprehensive plan and might upgrade the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system at the town hall. The town also plans to spend $30,000 to upgrade its fire-training center in Guilderland Center, within the Northeastern Industrial Park.

Finally, Guilderland has purchased light-emitting diodes and may spend federal funds to convert its current lights to LEDs. Barber explained that Guilderland is working with other towns on this as part of a coalition and can only “move as fast as the slowest entity.”



The Guilderland Police Department is spending the biggest chunk of its funds — $265,000 — on a microwave radio network to connect Guilderland directly to Albany County’s radio core. The department had prior approval for the three new radio consoles.

The plan is for Albany County to ultimately have a county-wide communication system. Currently, the only other agencies on the core are the police departments in Colonie and Albany and the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, according to Guilderland Police Captain Eric Batchelder.

“Being on the core has a bunch of different positives to it …,” Batchelder told the town board. “It allows us to dispatch for any other agency on that core …. The statewide initiative is to have multiple shared cores.” The plan is to have Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady counties “able to communicate via the same system,” he said.

Batchelder went on, “If another agency’s dispatch center went down, they could actually dispatch from our dispatch center.” Guilderland could do the same if its system failed.

While microwave technology is not brand new, it is “a lot more reliable than a fiber connection,” Batchelder said, adding that a microwave system is less expensive in the long run “because of the recurring cost of fiber.”

The police department always has two consoles in use, he said, and often three in the afternoon. “The entire project is probably eight months to completion,” Batchelder said.

The second largest use of federal funds by the Guilderland Police Department is for 40 body-worn cameras and 14 in-car cameras for a total cost of $63,744.96.

The cameras currently worn by officers are six years old, said Chief Daniel McNally, describing them as “end of life.” The department is having trouble getting repairs done, he said.

“We were one of the first agencies to have those,” McNally said of the body-worn cameras. “We found them to be very positive for both the officers and the community.”

The new system is a leasing system, meaning the department will be paying roughly $64,000 every year to use the cameras.

One of the biggest parts of criminal-justice reform was for officers to wear cameras, said McNally, concluding, “We were ahead of the curve.”

The department is also buying a variable message sign for $15,075 and four radar speed signs for $13,000.

McNally said the department gets a lot of complaints about speeding and the signs are “very effective” because “not only do they display the speed so the driver gets a visual confirmation of what they’re doing possibly wrong but it also tracks volume of traffic … so we can look at a street and determine whether to deploy patrols.”

The four signs will be mounted but can be moved, McNally said, depending on where speeding is most prevalent. The department has now assigned an officer specifically to traffic issues, he said.

“They bounce around,” the chief said, based on need, and the department hopes to see fewer complaints now and better enforcement.



A splash pad will be installed this fall near the Tawasentha Park pool, said Colin J. Gallup, director of Parks and Recreation.

“The idea came from residents,” he said, who were looking for more activities for youth.

In a memo to Barber, Gallup wrote, “Through Covid-19 the pool has been deemed by our EMS staff as one of the safest environments and activities the public can participate in, due to being outside and taking place in a chlorinated environment.”

The splash pad, at a cost of  $158,657.70, will be installed in place of the current wading pool, which has not been used since the start of the pandemic because of the dense concentration of kids when it is used, Gallup said.

Also, he said, the wading pool’s walls are cracking and its tiles are crumbling. Further, the wading pool requires a lifeguard — which is hard to find and costs money — while the splash pad does not require a lifeguard, said Gallup.

Also, the splash pad doesn’t need chlorination or circulating pumps like the wading pool, he said, because the water drains to waste. 

The parks department will also buy a wide-area mower for $69,455.51. The current wide-area mower is almost 20 years old, Gallup said.

The new mower will be used primarily at DiCaprio Park, he said, while the old mower will be used less frequently in some of the town’s other parks.

He said the new mower “will take some time to get here” so won’t be used until 2023.

Finally, the town plans to spend $14,365.00 to fence in a new dog park at EMS Station 1 this fall.

Gallup said this will be smaller than the town’s dog park on Knott Road, which is about 2 acres. The new park will be about 7,000 square feet with the possibility of expanding it into a vacant lot next door owned by National Grid, he said.

Councilwoman Christine Napierski, who said she enjoys taking her dogs to the Nott Road Park, said a lot of people have smaller dogs that are scared of big dogs at the park.

Barber suggested the new smaller park might be designated for use by small dogs and their owners.

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