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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 24, 2005

Father arrested for sex abuse

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — After an 18-month investigation, police on Friday arrested a father and his girlfriend for having sex with the man’s young daughters in his Guilderland apartment.

Timothy Johnson, 32, of 104B Covent Garden — near the intersection of routes 155 and 20 — was arrested Friday for abusing his daughters, ages six and four, when he had visitation. They live most of the time in Connecticut with their mother. Johnson’s live-in girlfriend, Jessica Bruno, 29, was arrested, too, for sexual abuse.

Johnson’s four-year-old child told her mother that Johnson had abused her, Guilderland Police Officer Roger Ginder told The Enterprise.

The mother called police in Connecticut who contacted the Guilderland department; a lengthy investigation began here, said Ginder.

Police found that, while the children visited Johnson over several months, he had intercourse with them, Ginder said. Bruno also engaged in sexual acts with the children, Ginder said.

"The four-year-old came forward because it wasn’t right," Ginder said. "Dealing with children that age, we had to handle it delicately."

Later, the six-year-old daughter admitted to being abused, Ginder said, and a second investigation began.

On Friday, an Albany County grand jury handed up a sealed indictment. Bruno was then arrested at her apartment and Johnson later turned himself in, Ginder said.

Johnson was charged with two counts of first-degree sexual conduct against a child, felonies, for having intercourse with his daughters, police say. He was also charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, misdemeanors.

Bruno was charged with second-degree sexual conduct against a child, a felony, for engaging in two or more acts of sexual conduct with a child younger than 11, police say. She was also arrested for one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.

They were remanded to Albany County’s jail without bail.

Johnson, an organic chemist, was arrested in another state, Ginder said, but not for any sex crimes. Bruno, who had a job in data entry, has never been arrested before, he said.

If convicted, Johnson faces up to 25 years in prison and Bruno could be imprisoned for seven years.

It’s rare to have a male and female involved together in sex crimes, Ginder said. "The whole situation is unusual for our town," he said.

In 2002 and 2003, The Enterprise wrote several stories about a teenage girl in New Scotland who said she was sodomized by her father; that case was never prosecuted.

Experts said then that statistics on incest are difficult to compile, not because the crime is uncommon, but because it is rarely reported. The Johnson arrest is the only reported case of incest in Guilderland in recent years.

In the past two years, however, Guilderland Police arrested four men for sexual abuse. In March of 2004, a man, 53, was arrested for abusing a 14-year-old that he met on the Internet.

In July of 2004, a maintenance man at the Guilderland YMCA was arrested for sexually abusing a teenage worker at the facility.

In August of this year, a 48-year-old was arrested for "inappropriately touching" a five-year-old boy in a bathroom at Crossgates Mall.

And, in September, a man, 28, was arrested for raping his 14-year-old neighbor in his Church Road trailer.

Of Friday’s arrests of Johnson and Bruno, Ginder said, "I’m relieved, but not as much as the mother and kids."

The children are being counseled, he said.

Hunter, conservator talks turkey

By Nicole Fay Barr

After a half-century of studying and hunting the bird most celebrated at Thanksgiving, Brian Van Wormer could be called a turkey expert.

But, he doesn’t see himself that way. He’s just a man who loves the sport of hunting, whose mission is to educate others about conserving the turkey population.

Van Wormer, using a couple of live turkeys, spoke at Indian Ladder Farms last weekend about everything from a turkey’s biology to its behavior and he demonstrated how to call turkeys, leading a group into the woods to track some birds.

Van Wormer, who has hunted turkeys all over the world, told The Enterprise this week about his love for the bird and the difficulties of both hunting and preservation.

The art of calling

"I’ve been a hunter since I was a kid," said Van Wormer, now 62. He grew up in Rensselaer in a family of hunters. His father, uncles, cousins, and friends all hunted.

While he’s hunted for waterfowl and big game, Van Wormer’s love is the Eastern wild turkey.

When asked why, he said because hunting turkeys is difficult.

"It’s not like any other game where you can sit and wait for them to walk past you," he said. The key to hunting turkeys is in the calling, he said.

Turkeys have 23 different calls, Van Wormer said. Each means something different, such as: a young bird is lost; a hen is looking for another hen; a hen is looking for a tom; a turkey is content; and a turkey is flying up or down.

"If you’re in the field and you’re an experienced turkey hunter, you know what each call means," he said.

Van Wormer listens and, if he hears turkeys making a certain sound, he mimics it with a call.

If he hears nothing, he might try a coyote call. Turkeys will feel threatened, thinking a coyote is in the area, and do "shock gobbling," Van Wormer said.

He also uses a crow call for the same thing. Turkeys roost in trees, but lay eggs on the ground, Van Wormer said. Crows eat turkey eggs, he said, so, if a hen hears a crow sound, she’ll cry out.

"Once you hear a gobbler, you sit down and keep calling," Van Wormer said. Turkeys can see 300 times better than humans, he said, so the hunter must be very still.

"They can see a fly on a leaf at 100 yards," he said. Some hunters aren’t successful in shooting turkeys because they don’t have the patience to sit perfectly still for long periods, he said.

Van Wormer makes turkey calls, box calls, and slate calls. He collects them — hunting celebrities have signed his calls at yearly conventions — gives them as gifts, and sells them.

Most of the calls are made of hard wood, he said. Mouth calls are constructed with latex, he said, and the tops of some friction calls are made of glass, slate, copper, or aluminum.

"Everyone in the world is making calls now," Van Wormer said. "It’s a multi-million dollar industry."

Hunters wear vests with many pockets so they can carry at least eight to 10 different calls, he said.

Van Wormer learned much about calling by discreetly videotaping turkeys, he said.

"You see how they call and get responses," he said. "You learn what their calls are and how they sound."

Also, he said, "You watch them scratch and look for food and bugs."

A turkey’s primary food is insects, Van Wormer said; the bird will turn over leaves and rocks, looking for a meal.

"They also eat black walnuts and pecans; they swallow the whole shell and all," he said. "The first time I saw a turkey do that, I thought he was going to choke."

International hunter

Van Wormer hunts all over the country and the world; he takes six to eight trips each year, he said.

"Every state is different because of the topography," Van Wormer said. "Some are very flat; some have rolling hills or mountains."

And, he said, each state has its own rules that hunters must follow. When traveling out of the country, Van Wormer said, he has to be aware of what’s allowed, as far as bringing rifles and weapons into that country. He shoots turkeys either with a shotgun or a bow and arrow.

"In most countries, the people welcome Americans because they know that hunting increases the economy and the economy helps preservation and conservation," he said. "Without hunting, you can’t have conservation."

He’s hunted in countries such as Argentina, Greece, and Italy. He’s also hunted in Mexico and every Canadian providence except the Yukon.

In Hawaii and New Zealand, turkeys are easier to hunt because there are so many, Van Wormer said. In those areas, humans are a turkey’s only predator.

While two turkeys are a hunter’s limit during a season in New York, three are allowed in Hawaii and 10 can be bagged in New Zealand.

In North America, there are six species of wild turkey, Van Wormer said.

Killing four is called a slam; five is called a royal slam; and all six is a world slam, he said.

"I’ve harvested in 20-some states," he said.

Van Wormer is a past president of the National Wild Turkey Federation. The organization started small, with three hunters — from Florida, Virginia, and South Carolina, Van Wormer said.

At the turn of the 20th Century, the turkey population was at an all-time low. The three hunters started the federation because they wanted to rejuvenate the turkey population.

Turkeys were a delicacy and one bird could feed a whole family, Van Wormer said, explaining why the population declined.

"The main aim is the conservation and proliferation of wild turkey," he said of the federation.

Little by little, the organization grew as did the number of turkeys in America, Van Wormer said.

Federation members, like Van Wormer, trapped and transported turkeys from state to state, he said. The group also trapped bighorn sheep and traded the animals to Mexico for turkeys, he said.

"The population grew by hunters taking time and energy to trap and transport," Van Wormer said.

When he began hunting, there were no turkeys in the Capital Region, Van Wormer said. He traveled to the southwest part of New York to hunt, he said.

Working with the National Wild Turkey Federation, Van Wormer transported turkeys from Pennsylvania, which had many birds, to New York.

A century ago, the United States had fewer than 100,000 turkeys, he said. Now, New York alone has over 400,000 turkeys.

A guide and teacher

Van Wormer worked as a salesman for years and then owned his own landscaping company and an excavating and trucking business.

He’s retired now, he said, "to hunt and fish."

Van Wormer’s wife and daughter shoot, but only his son hunts with him. However, he has four young grandchildren that may grow up to love the sport.

Of course, Van Wormer said, he eats turkey often. "I have different recipes," he said. "I deep fry it. I make jerky, pepperoni....Like wild meat, wild turkey is very lean. It has almost no calories or fat."

He’s been a licensed guide in New York, four other states, and Canada for over 30 years, he said.

Some hunters have only bagged two or three turkeys in 10 or 15 years, he said, because the bird is difficult to hunt.

"I have a pretty good track record," said Van Wormer, when asked. "Some years I get eight birds."

Lately, however, he’s been guiding two or three young boys or girls during hunting season.

"I give them the opportunity to shoot," he said. "Then, I only get about a week to hunt on my own. But, it’s my turn to pass it on to the youth."

For beginners, he said, "There’s no hard and fast rule about what you have to do first. You have to hunt where turkeys are — and they’re all over."

Water worries encumber church proposal

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — Marantha Ministries wants to build a church on Curry Road, but much work needs to be done before the zoning board will consider approving the project.

Several neighbors of the property, which is near the Guilderland and Colonie border at 2787 Curry Road, said they were concerned about added traffic and about their wells. The area does not have public water and some residents worried that the church would decrease the amount of water in their wells.

Last Wednesday, after hearing preliminary plans from the proposed church’s minister, the zoning board appointed a town-designated engineer to study the proposal.

Pastor Richard Frank, on behalf of Marantha Ministries, is asking for a special-use permit to construct a 9,900-square-foot church on a 9.5-acre parcel. The church will be accessed by Curry Road Extension.

Marantha Ministries was founded in 1994. The religion’s main objectives are "to bring people to Christ, proclaim His second coming, and uphold the word of God," according to its website.

Because the church’s purchase of the property is contingent on building approval, Frank said, his engineer began by creating a preliminary draft of the project plans. The engineer will add more detail as the board requests it, Frank said.

"We’re going to try to walk the tight rope between what’s good and what’s convenient for the neighbors," he said.

The church will be used twice a week — on Sunday mornings for one service and on Wednesday nights for a one-hour Christian education class, Frank said.

He will have an office in the church, but will primarily work from home, Frank said. He may build a parsonage on the property later, he said.

The planning board reviewed the proposal earlier this year. At first it was against recommending it, but then gave it conceptual approval with conditions.

As a result of planning-board suggestions, Frank said he agreed to move the building 300 feet off of the road and to add more trees and landscaping between the church’s and neighbors’ properties.

He also agreed to install "downcasting" light poles, so that neighbors won’t be disturbed by bright lights at night.

Some neighbors had earlier complained about the church’s parking lot being close to their homes.

Zoning Chairman Bryan Clenahan asked if the parking lot could be moved anywhere else.

The parking lot could be moved to the right of the church, rather than the left, Frank said. But, he said, this would make the parking spaces further away from the building.

"It’s not impossible," Frank said and added, laughing, "I guess we could make the young people park the furthest away."

With the lot on the left, he said, it would be 60 feet from the nearest property line. An ample buffer of trees will be planted, he said.

Later, Fred Thompson, of Hembold Drive, said he encourages moving the lot to the right.

"It would give us a bigger buffer..." he said. "They have so much property on the other side."

According to the town’s zoning law, a church is required to have one parking space for every three seats or eight feet of bench length in the main sanctuary. One parking space is also required for each member of clergy.

Frank is proposing 84 parking spaces for his church.

Other concerns

Bill Kanas, chief of the Fort Hunter Fire Department, said he has many water concerns. There are no fire hydrants in the area, he said, and he’s concerned about how the department would fight a fire at the church.

A nearby school installed an underground water tank for the fire department, Kanas said. Perhaps the church can do this, he said.

"There’ll be a significant amount of people in this building," Kanas said. If there was a fire, he said, the Fort Hunter department would have to call tankers in from the South Schenectady and Pine Grove fire departments. It could take these departments 20 or more minutes to respond, he said.

"I appreciate the concern," Frank said. The building will be constructed of metal, he said, which may alleviate some of the fire department’s concerns.

Clenahan asked Frank if he’d be willing to consider installing an underground water tank and he said he would.

Thompson and three other neighbors said they, too, have water concerns, but of a different nature.

"Our wells are at risk and that’s all we have," said Carol Seeley, of Curry Road Extension.

Thompson encouraged the board to be vigilant about getting a stormwater-management plan. In the spring, he said, a puddle of water lies on the property. His daughter used to ice skate there, he said.

"Runoff from the parking lot is going to be carrying oil, antifreeze. It’ll affect our water and it’s our only source of water," Thompson said.

Two neighbors said they have fought soccer fields and shopping centers that were proposed for the site. Worse things than a church can go there, they said, and, although they have concerns about water, they aren’t against the project.

Thompson also said that a detailed traffic study should be created. Much traffic, including trucks and school buses, come down Curry Road, he said; at times, residents have trouble getting out of their driveways.

"It is wild out there," Seeley said. "Everyone goes down Curry Road but Amtrak."

While she’s not against the proposal, she said, the area is not conducive to more traffic.

The zoning board then appointed Spectra Engineering to examine issues such as water and septic, stormwater management and drainage, landscaping, lighting, and traffic.

Clenahan asked Frank to contact the Pine Bush Commission for its opinion, since the property is on the border of the Pine Bush study area. He also asked for a final landscaping plan and Frank said that his engineer is creating one.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Granted a variance to Terry Way, of 6003 Johnston Road, to construct a 14-by-24 foot, two-story addition to the side of his house;

— Continued the request of Robert Muscanell, of 3481 Carman Road, to build a 40-by-40-foot storage structure in his yard, to house a motor home, a boat, and several other things.

The board thought Muscanell’s request, to have a three-foot variance for the height, could be achievable by other means. It asked that Muscanell meet with Donald Cropsey Jr., the town’s chief building inspector and zoning administrator, to discuss other alternatives, such as building the shed with a differently-pitched roof, so that a 12-foot high motor home could still fit inside; and

— Granted a special-use permit to Nick St. Louis use 1,000 square feet of vacant space, attached to a Japanese restaurant at 2027 Western Ave., for a retail cellular phone store.

Brandle Meadows gets zoning permit

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — Almost a year-and-a-half after Jeff Thomas told the town board he needed land re-zoned immediately so he could build a senior-housing complex on Brandle Road, the town’s zoning board approved the project.

As many elderly Altamont residents continue to wait for a home in the complex known as Brandle Meadows, the zoning board said its special-use permit is only good when Thomas and the village work out legal and water issues.

The project is proposed to be built in Guilderland, just over the Altamont border.

Thomas faced a hurdle with the project when, earlier this year, lawsuits were filed between the village of Altamont — which promised him water — and Michael and Nancy Trumpler, the couple that agreed to sell their land, with wells, to the village.

On Nov. 10, an acting Supreme Court judge dismissed a summary judgement filed by the Trumplers over village water. (See related story.)

Re-zone history

In August, it appeared that the Guilderland Town Board might revisit its earlier decision to re-zone land for Thomas.

Last July, the town board re-zoned the Brandle Road parcel from Agricultural to Multi-Family Residential for Thomas to build a senior housing complex.

Thomas’s plans at the time — to develop 14.6 acres with 80 housing units — represented a tenfold density increase over what would have been allowed in an agricultural district. The town board approved the re-zone at the same meeting it also approved a moratorium on building in the rural western part of Guilderland.

Councilman Bruce Sherwin voted against the re-zone because, he said then, it was interfering with the town’s planning process. He also told The Enterprise then that he was hesitant to approve Thomas’s re-zone because it wasn’t clear that there would be enough water for the complex.

At the Aug. 23 town board meeting, Sherwin suggested the board revisit its re-zone decision.

Supervisor Kenneth Runion was open to a discussion, while Councilman David Bosworth was apprehensive about looking at an issue in the middle of litigation. Councilman Michael Ricard said he was against revisiting the board’s original decision and Councilwoman Patricia Slavick remained silent.

Still, the board agreed to ask the village of Altamont for an opinion before its Sept. 6 meeting.

The Wednesday evening after the Tuesday board meeting, however, Runion called The Enterprise to say he had thought it over and reconsidered. As part of the normal zoning process, the village would give an opinion on the senior housing, Runion said.

Discussion of the re-zone for Thomas came after the town board created a law requiring that certain planning and zoning decisions in the town first get an opinion from Altamont, an incorporated village with its own elected government, located within the town of Guilderland.

Any proposals for land in Guilderland that is within 1,200 feet of Altamont’s border or its infrastructure would first be reviewed by a village committee.

Last month, the committee, headed by Mayor James Gaughan, said water should be granted to the senior-housing project only after the village water supply is proven adequate.

In January, an earlier administration had granted water to the project with no conditions attached.

Project plans

The senior-housing complex will be on 14.6 acres on rural Brandle Road, near the Altamont fairgrounds and Altamont Elementary School. Thomas purchased the land from the Altamont Fair for $250,000.

Francis Bossolini, Thomas’s civil engineer, told the zoning board earlier that Brandle Meadows will have 72 living units in eight buildings, the maximum allowed by the zoning law. The buildings will be designed to have a "Victorian feel," Bossolini said.

The project will include several detached garage buildings with 72 parking spaces. It will have another 72 parking spaces outside the garage area.

The complex will have a gathering center, a swimming pool, walking trails, and a community garden area. For guests, there will be five more parking spaces.

Asked last Wednesday if this is enough parking, Bossolini said he anticipates that many of the residences will use one parking space, rather than the two that each unit is allotted. A total of 108 parking spaces are required and the project will have 149.

Over 60 percent of the area will be kept as green space, Bossolini said. This undeveloped land will be owned by a homeowners’ association and kept "forever wild," Bossolini said earlier.

The homeowners’ association will also take care of the roads in the complex and hire someone for snow removal, he said last Wednesday.

The board had raised concerns earlier about residents of the complex having easy access to Altamont. The board asked that sidewalks be placed on Brandle Road, to connect the development to Main Street.

Bossolini said last Wednesday that, after examining the access issue at great length, it is "physically impossible," to put sidewalks on Brandle Road. The street has a 33-foot right-of-way, he said.

However, Bossolini said, he found a couple routes the residents can take, through the Altamont fairgrounds or across the elementary school playing fields, to get to the center of Altamont.

Bossolini met with Lindsay Childs, of the Guilderland Pathways Committee, who had village access concerns. Bossolini reported that, after long meetings and walking the area together, Childs seemed satisfied with the alternate routes.

Addressing other worries that the development would ruin the aesthetics of Brandle Road, Bossolini said trees and shrubs will be planted to shield the buildings from the road.

"We feel we’ve addressed all the issues that have been brought before us," Bossolini said.

Rob Osterhaut, of town-designated Boswell Engineering, told the board he agreed. He asked Bossolini to make minor clarifications for areas like stormwater management, he said, but he feels comfortable with the project.

But, Osterhaut said, the larger issue is interface with the village. This, however, is out of the domain of his review. The village has an engineer who is reviewing the water issue, he said.

"Public verses private ownership of the utilities has to be worked out with the village," Osterhaut said.

Ed Breitenbach, an elderly resident who has spoken in favor of Thomas’s project before, told the board last Wednesday the project is long overdue.

He has had friends who lived in Altamont their whole lives, but were "forced to move out," because no senior housing was available, Breitenbach said.

"This is a good and tremendous project," he said. "Please do the right thing and approve it tonight."

"There is a tremendous need for it," Greg Goutos, of Community Caregivers, said of the project.

Thomas had earlier promised the not-for-profit organization a large office in his housing complex. Community Caregivers recruits volunteers who, among other good deeds, assist elderly residents with such chores as shopping, cleaning, and going to medical appointments.

Since Community Caregivers can’t wait any longer for a new home, Thomas is now purchasing property on Gun Club Road for the group, said Paul Wein, Thomas’s lawyer who is on the Caregivers board.

"Jeff is true to his word," Wein said.

The zoning board then unanimously approved the project. Alternate Tom Remmert voted in place of Patricia Aikens, who was absent.

Calabro acquitted of sexual harassment

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — Joe Calabro, known by many in town as the long-time owner of Joe’s Service Station on Western Avenue, was acquitted last week of sexual-harassment.

After a two-day trial before Judge John Bailey in Guilderland Town Court, a jury found Calabro innocent.

"We’re very happy. He’s very relieved," Joseph Gardner, Calabro’s attorney, told The Enterprise.

The complainant’s name is being withheld by police.

The elderly Calabro was arrested in March of 2004, at the business he’s run for over half a century. He was charged by State Police with forcible touching, a misdemeanor.

New York State Trooper Steve Koveleskie told The Enterprise then that a woman called police and reported that Calabro had harassed her. The complaint resulted in Calabro’s arrest, Koveleskie said.

William Conboy III, an assistant district attorney for Albany County who could not be reached for comment, called three witnesses in the trial — the arresting officer, the complainant, and her mother, Gardner said.

The complainant told her story and the officer reported what she told him a year-and-a-half ago, Gardner said. The complainant’s mother testified that her daughter was upset on the day of the alleged incident, Gardner said.

"Our defense was: He didn’t do it," Gardner said; the complainant had no witnesses.

Asked why this woman would accuse Calabro of something he didn’t do, Gardner said, "The complainant has a civil lawsuit pending against him, so that may be part of the reason."

The civil suit is for payment relating to the sexual-harassment charge, Gardner said. It is in the discovery phase now, he said, and he anticipates a trial later.

In 2003 and 2004, The Enterprise received several letters to the editor complaining about Calabro’s towing fees, contending that Calabro had charged higher than the other towing businesses in town. Guilderland uses a rotational towing list for accidents or arrests that call for a tow.

Several Enterprise stories and an editorial led the town to form a towing contract with its companies. Now businesses can charge a maximum of $125 for towing, unless there are special circumstances.

School budget: Board mulls topics, reviews format

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — As the school board gears up to review next year’s district budget proposal, the superintendent provided a list of discussion topics.

The list, which Superintendent Gregory Aidala said is "somewhat streamlined," is based on recommendations made last month by board members and citizens.

At last Tuesday’s school-board meeting, the superintendent also outlined some changes in the way budget-review sessions will be run. Citizen volunteers attend a half-dozen televised meetings where they have, in recent years, listened to administrators make presentations on the budget, asked questions, and, in the final session, offered their opinions on the proposed spending plan.

Aidala proposed, instead, allowing 45 to 60 minutes for questions by limiting presentations to 30 minutes. He will act as a facilitator for each presentation. In reviewing spending, presenters are to discuss 5 percent of the total that is "not absolutely essential." The superintendent’s list notes that 5 percent of an $80 million budget is $4 million.

Other topics on the superintendent’s list include class size, health-insurance costs, transportation efficiency, and administrative structure.

It also says the district will "seek staff input to identify potential areas of savings" and will determine the cost of federal No Child Left Behind legislation.

Alternative revenue

Finally, the memo states, "If there is consensus of the board," a committee will be established to review alternative funding sources. These are sources besides taxes that can include foundations, in-school advertising, and pouring rights. For years, the Guilderland School Board has been divided on the issue.

Board member Richard Weisz, long a proponent of studying the matter, once again recommended making a motion to appoint a committee of district stakeholders to review alternative sources.

Vice President Linda Bakst, long an opponent of using alternative revenue sources, said, if the board were to go forward with appointing such a committee, it should be absolutely certain to include representatives of the PTA and booster clubs, which are often in competition with fund-raising.

"One of my problems with this is a lot of it ends up going to bells and whistles...not to critical educational process," said Bakst. She suggested earmarking the funds for tax abatement.

"I’d be much happier if it reduced the burden for needy people," said Bakst. "If that’s the concern, why not put our money where our mouth is""

Weisz said he thinks it would be possible to get a "progress report" from a committee before the budget review process begins in three months, not that it would affect next year’s budget.

He concluded that, based on current inflation rates for school districts, "I don’t think the suburban district as we know it will survive...The taxpayers just can’t shoulder the burden."

Budget-review sessions

Board member Cathy Barber worried that a few citizens would dominate the longer budget-discussion periods.

"How would you hear from all the people rather than just a couple"" she asked.

"I’m going to take a more active role in the presentation," said Aidala, noting he would act as a moderator and facilitator to address that.

Board member Peter Golden said people should be able to go on a bit as it lessens anxiety.

"There has to be a code of civility," said board member Colleen O’Connell. "The level of respect shown for the speaker and, in particular, for the superintendent was appalling."

At the close of Tuesday’s meeting, Golden read a statement saying the most distressing part of serving on the board is contemplating ways to control the budget.

"What distresses me as I go through the budget," he said, "is knowing that attached to many of those line items are people, and that, as the board considers expenditures, these hard-working, dedicated people will understandably grow concerned about their own well-being."

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Appointed four teachers to tenure — Dana Cale and Kelly Giagni, both elementary teachers; Maria MacEntee in family and consumer science; and Dawn Farrell, in secondary social studies.

Superintendent Aidala said the teachers had joined the Guilderland faculty mid-year three years ago and he was "very impressed with the strong learning environment" in their classrooms.

"Each of these dedicated professionals is making a difference with students," he said, as the teachers were applauded;

— Accepted delinquent tax rolls and the composite tax-collection report.

The uncollected taxes for 2005-06 total $1.3 million out of a levy of $48.3 million.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders pointed out that the collection rate of 97.3 percent is consistent with the last few years.

He also said the district is reimbursed for the delinquent taxes. "We are held harmless," said Sanders;

— Heard from Aidala that veterans of the Vietnam War are now eligible to receive high-school diplomas as part of the state's Operation Recognition. The program began by recognizing veterans of World War II who were unable to complete high school because of military service and then expanded to veterans of the Korean conflict.

"Our next step will be to put out a call," said Aidala. If veterans come forward, he said, a ceremony will be planned in their honor, similar to the earlier ceremonies for World War II and Korean conflict veterans;

— Approved a bid from Ricoh Corporation of $15,808.80, the lowest of four, for dual-purpose copy paper;

— Approved a bid from Facilities Equipment & Service, Inc., the only response, of $60,600 for additional lockers at Farnsworth Middle School.

The 263 full-height lockers will be placed in Seneca House, the new fourth house at Farnsworth. The locker space in the new house is less than in the three original houses, said Sanders, and replacing the smaller, already-installed lockers would be "cost prohibitive."

Fortunately, he said, there’s enough wall space to accommodate the new lockers. The already-installed half-height lockers will be assigned to students in pairs, one above the other, with the same combination, he said;

— Heard from Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Nancy Andress that Guilderland High School has been selected as a Grammy Signature School finalist and will submit recordings of performance ensembles, repertoire lists, and programs to try to qualify as one of the 40 public high schools in the country to be named a Grammy Signature School.

Six will become Gold Recipients of $5,000 and one will be named the National Grammy Signature School for $25,000. All signature schools receive grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000;

— Learned that Gregory Piculell, a Guilderland senior, has been accepted into the apprentice program of Albany Pro Musica.

He was also recently elected president of the school’s Music Council Choir Division. A member of The Guilderland Players since 2002, he played Chris Keller in All My Sons and Mortimer Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace;

— Heard that five students — Beth Schaffer, Jack Qian, Peter Zhu, Wang Sheng, and Devang Bhoiwala — organized as a team to participate in the annual I-Test on-line, a national Internet math contest. They ranked second in the state and 22nd in the nation;

— Learned that Jon Mapstone, a high school social studies teacher, is traveling to Saudi Arabia this month for a 10-day study tour focusing on education, industry, culture, and Saudi-United States relations. The tour is funded by the Aramco Educators, under the auspices of the Institute of International Education, a not-for-profit worldwide organization founded in 1919;

— Heard that Westmere Elementary School fifth-graders are creating a window display for Little Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza to promote First Night in Albany;

— Applauded Andress, who was selected by Channel 13 as an Educator of the Week.

Aidala quoted from nine letters of support for her candidacy calling her, among other accolades, "a mentor," "never too busy to listen," "the consummate professional," and "a treasured asset to the Guilderland school community";

— Heard from President Gene Danese, Vice President Bakst, and board member Barbara Fraterrigo who attended the New York State School Boards convention in Rochester;

— Reviewed a policy on staff complaints and grievances, which affects "eight people not in a collective-bargaining agreement," said Fraterrigo, who chairs the board’s policy committee; and

— Went into executive session to discuss administrative personnel reviews, the superintendent’s contract, and negotiations with the technology and communications personnel unit.

Denied: Trumplers plan to proceed against village

By Melissa Hale-Spencer and Nicole Fay Barr

ALTAMONT — Nancy and Michael Trumpler are staying the course, pursuing legal action against the village after a Nov. 10 Supreme Court decision denying their motion for summary judgment, said their lawyer, Michael Englert.

"It is going forward unless it is resolved among the parties," said Englert yesterday. "We have no choice but to proceed with the lawsuit, which entails discovery and presumably a trial."

The Trumplers, who had sought no money, face a $17 million lawsuit from developer Jeff Thomas who claims "interference" with a proposed senior housing development and they face counterclaims of millions of dollars from the village of Altamont.

Asked if the Trumplers were disappointed in the judge’s Nov. 10 ruling, Englert said, "You’re hopeful you can end the litigation....Nobody wants to go through a year-and-a-half or two years of litigation."

The Nov. 10 decision, handed down by Acting Supreme Court Justice Cathryn M. Doyle almost eight months after the Trumplers started legal action, offers no resolution for the water-strapped village, the eager developer, or the property owners who maintain the law was not followed.

A motion for summary judgment is a request for the judge to rule on a case with no further evidence because the law and the facts are so clear; it is an expedited decision without trial.

If Doyle had granted a summary judgment, the case could have been resolved without trial.

"The impact of a denial is basically none," said Englert.

He had believed the law was clear, he said. "This just simply means the lawsuit goes forward. None of our claims have been denied or thrown out...They are still viable," he said. "Judges usually err on the side of giving people their day in court."

Altamont’s mayor, James Gaughan, sees the denial of a summary motion differently. He said Tuesday that he is respectful of the Trumplers’ right to seek a decision. But, he said, "Now it’s time to say, ‘Hey folks, you tried. That’s it.’....I assume they’ve spent a lot of money already."

Gaughan went on, "We’re pleased with the judge’s decision."

He said, "The Trumplers took their best shot and they came up short. It’s very unlikely there’s any other facts to help them go forward....It’s up to them, but I hope this decision brings a sense of reality."

"The ball is in their court," Gaughan said of the Trumplers.

If the Trumplers continue their case, Gaughan said, the village is prepared to defend itself; he’s confident the village will win.

However, Gaughan said, he hopes the Trumplers won’t continue the case. "All that will happen is lawyers will get more money and that’s really sad. It’s time for us to sit down and try to work on this," he said.

The village has so far spent about $20,000 for the litigation costs associated with the Trumplers’ lawsuit, Gaughan said. Village attorney E. Guy Roemer is being paid $125 per hour to defend the village against the Trumplers’ suit.

Asked about the village’s trying to recoup legal fees from the Trumplers and what the village would do if the Trumplers drop their case, Gaughan said he didn’t want to talk about negotiations in the newspaper.

"We’re not there yet," he said.

When The Enterprise asked Englert about the possibility of a negotiated settlement, he said, "As a lawyer, you always hope for the parties to get together to get an amicable solution." He declined comment on what would make the Trumplers settle.

Paul Wein, Thomas’s lawyer, told The Enterprise earlier that the $17 million suit wasn’t about money and, if the Trumplers dropped their suit, Thomas would drop his.

Thomas’s lawsuit against the Trumplers is still pending, Wein said Tuesday.

His only comment on Doyle’s decision was, "We’re pleased and not surprised."

Doyle’s decision

In March, the Trumplers, who own property on Brandle Road outside the village, where Altamont drilled wells, started legal action to see if their agreement with the village was valid.

They had agreed to let the village look for water on their property as the public water supply is limited.

In March of 2004, then-Mayor Paul DeSarbo signed a contract with the Trumplers stating the village could buy a piece of land, not to exceed five acres, at $25,000.

The Trumplers, who have said they wanted the water to go to village residents, balked when they learned Thomas had been promised village water by DeSarbo for a senior housing complex on Brandle Road, just over the village line.

In an eight-page decision, Judge Doyle outlines the background of the Trumplers’ action and addresses each of the four reasons they claim the agreement with the village is invalid and unenforceable. Mostly, she says, evidence is needed.

The Trumplers’ first assertion is that the Altamont Board of Trustees never authorized the option agreement.

Doyle said that, while the village board did not specifically authorize the contract with the Trumplers, as required by law, since the village is maintaining approval was granted through a series of resolutions, more evidence is needed.

"The village board never approved the contract," said Englert. "Most the resolutions cited by the village don’t pertain at all. To me, there’s no factual question. It’s all a matter of public record."

The Trumplers’ second assertion is that the agreement is illegal and unenforceable under state law since the village would be procuring and distributing water for the benefit of a multi-unit housing development constructed outside the village while the supply of water for villagers is insufficient.

Doyle cites village law that says the board "shall not sell nor permit use" of water if the supply for the village is insufficient. She notes, though, that "the record fails to contain a determination by the defendant [the village] that the supply of water for its inhabitants is insufficient...."

Accordingly, she says, a question of fact exists as to whether the village was authorized to sell water to an outside party.

The Trumplers’ third assertion is that the option agreement "fails to contain all essential and material terms to constitute an enforceable contract."

The Trumplers allege that the agreement provides no description or methodology to determine which acreage would be sold.

The judge cites a description from the agreement, which includes a relevant tax map parcel, and she concludes, "Accordingly, the property description contained in the option agreement is sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment and an evidentiary hearing is required to determine this issue..."

Finally, the Trumplers’ fourth assertion is that the village is in breach of the agreement "for failing to provide the consideration cited in the option agreement."

The Trumplers maintain that residential wells drilled on their property for their use as part of the agreement "are unusable for any purpose."

They had brought pictures to The Enterprise earlier showing brown water in their sink and bathtub.

Doyle cites an affidavit for the village from Tim McIntyre, Altamont’s superintendent of public works, stating that two wells were drilled and completed on the Trumplers’ property in 2004 and that the quality of the water was tested and approved by the Albany County Department of Health.

"Accordingly," Doyle concludes, "the plaintiffs have failed to establish their entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. The issue of whether the two residential wells comply with the option agreement is a question of fact, requiring resolution by a trier of fact following an evidentiary hearing."

Feck’s art keeps the beat of big-name and garage bands

By Matt Cook

ALTAMONT—Jim Feck has sold drumheads to some big-name bands—like The Dead and Better Than Ezra—but it’s the garage bands that give him the most satisfaction.

"You don’t get the same reaction with the big names," Feck said. "Those guys are more accustomed to getting exactly what they want."

When a garage-band member or a weekend musician receives his drumhead from Feck’s company, DrumART.com, "Bar none, they’re always blown away," Feck said. "They can barely believe it."

Feck runs DrumART.com out of his home on the outskirts of Altamont. It’s one of the few companies in America that manufactures and sells custom bass drum heads, printed with full-color graphics.

Image is everything in rock ’n’ roll, and Feck has perfected the art of putting the highest-quality image possible on a bass drum.

"People don’t quite grasp how capable printing is now," he said. "We can do some really amazing stuff."

Feck is himself a garage-band drummer. Currently, he plays for two local bands: Greatdayforup and Whisper to Apocalypse. He’s been a drummer since he was a student at Voorheesville.

"I remember when I made the school band," said Feck, who is 34. "I remember the day."

His first drum, a snare his parents gave him, sits in the corner of his home office, drumsticks crossed over the top. Feck still practices on the instrument.

In the basement, Feck stores his newer drums, kits colored in fiery red and orange. And, on the bass drums, graphics custom-made to match the colors. Feck acts as his own advertisement when out on a gig.

Graphics and names on bass drums are nothing new. During the swing era, Feck said, drummers Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich had their initials and a shield logo on their drums. Seven years ago, Feck said, he "just got the idea" for making his own logo after years of looking at bland drum kits, sporting only the logo of the manufacturer. At the time, Feck was a member of a band called The Houseguests.

"It always seemed like, looking at a drum set, the bass drum head is just this big space of nothing," Feck said. "So, why not use it""

He customized his first drumhead with the help of a local sign shop. Though no match for the drumheads he makes now, "It was kind of cool," Feck said.

High-tech evolution

The process is relatively simple. A thin piece of adhesive vinyl is cut to match the drum’s circular shape, and then carefully applied so as not to create bubbles.

The vinyl is so thin, Feck said, it doesn’t noticeably affect the sound of the drum. Just in case, though, DrumART.com posts a disclaimer that the company is not responsible for any change in tone.

"Drummers are nuts. They’re very particular," Feck said.

At first, the bulk of the task was cutting vinyl, but as Feck and a partner developed the idea into a business, it became more high-tech. Blurry, pixelated images have become ultra-sharp as digital technology has improved exponentially in the past few years.

In his office, Feck has a huge inkjet printer, five or six feet long, that prints the logos. The special ink embeds itself in the vinyl.

"It’s really been an evolution," Feck said.

Besides running his own business, playing in bands, and raising two children with his wife, Melissa, Feck works full-time designing the Union College website. He’s put his computer skills to use on the drumheads. Every image printed on the drums is digital, and the business is run wholly over the Internet.

"That’s the reason I can run it out of my home," Feck said. "It’s completely on the web. I don’t need a storefront. The web is my storefront."

At the beginning, Feck and his partner got between two and four orders a month. The business has grown. Now, Feck owns the business on his own and gets between 40 and 60 orders a month, from as far away as Australia.

"It keeps me busy," he said. "It keeps all of us busy." Feck’s wife and father help out with the business.

Generally, drummers provide their own image. Sometimes, Feck said, the image, taken from a website, isn’t high-resolution enough for printing large. In those cases, he has a couple of local artists help out.

Once the image is set on the computer, it’s printed out, cut, and applied to the drumhead.

"The process is like, 50, percent virtual and 50 percent physical," Feck said.

Once on the drumhead, the basic logos are permanent. But, for drummers like Feck, with more bands than bass drums, DrumART makes a removable logo, patent pending.

The removable logos use water as an adhesive, a concept Feck remembered from high school.

"My chemistry teacher would be proud," Feck said of his invention.

As for his famous customers, Feck said he rarely deals with the drummers themselves. Mostly, he works with roadies and band managers.

Friends through music

However, through his contacts in the music business, he was able to organize an inventive fund-raiser for those affected by Hurricane Katrina. He’s auctioning off, over eBay, drumheads used by his celebrity customers. Some of them are autographed, like ones from The Dead, Better Than Ezra, and the popular metal band, Seether.

The Dead’s drumhead was passed around at a Greatful Dead tribute concert in California. It’s autographed by most of the surviving members of the band, along with other famous Deadheads, like Phish’s Trey Anastasio and basketball star Bill Walton.

The proceeds from the auction are going to the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, which will buy instruments for schools that lost theirs in the hurricane or that need instruments for new children who were displaced by the hurricane. Music, Feck said, will help these children fit in at their new schools.

"Given what a collective things music is," Feck said, "it’s the one thing that can help people meet and get to know each other."

The collective nature of music is one of the things Feck loves about it. He’ll be playing in bands for the rest of his life, no matter how busy he is, he said.

"You’re getting together with guys that you like," Feck said. "It’s such a great creative outlet to make and keep friendships...The thing that I find I really appreciate about this business is it allows us to really give something back in a lot of ways."

For that reason, he charges only $90 for his drumheads, $30 below his cheapest competitor. It makes his products affordable for the garage bands, Feck said.

"I felt that that was a particular thing we could do for people," he said. "It really does add something—a really cool drumhead."

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