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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 6, 2006

Galley pleads guilty for drinking while driving

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — Guilderland Police stopped Keith A. Galley, 29, and Sean P. Ingles, 27, on March 29, after police observed Galley speeding along Carman Road, according to arrest reports.

Galley, who is a weather broadcaster for Fox Channel 23 News, pleaded guilty on Monday in Guilderland Town Court to driving while ability impaired on Monday, and was sentenced to pay a $300 fine, an $80 court surcharge, and attend both a drinking and driving course and a victims’ impact panel.

Ingles’s case has been scheduled for April 28 at Guilderland Town Court. He is listed on the arrest report as "unemployed."

Galley of 666 Madison Ave., apartment 3, Albany, was arrested for criminal possession of a controlled substance, a felony, and for driving while intoxicated, first offense, operating a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol content of .08 percent or greater, both misdemeanors, and for speeding, an infraction.

Guilderland Police say, he was driving north on Carman Road in a 2003 black Hyundai, was stopped near the Rotterdam town line for speeding, and, when interviewed by police, had glassy eyes, slurred speech, and smelled or alcohol. He admitted he drank three beers, the report says. Police administered a field-sobriety test, which Galley failed, and took him into custody without incident, according to the arrest report.

Upon opening the passenger-side door, a green pill bottle was observed in plain view in the side pocket of the door, the report says. The pill bottle contained powder cocaine, police say. Ingles said the cocaine belong to both him and Galley, according to Guilderland Police. The report also says Ingles, of 407 Root Ave., Scotia, had a glass pipe containing cocaine residue.

A chemical test revealed Galley’s blood-alcohol content was .14 percent, the arrest report says. The two men were remanded to Albany County’s jail, the report says. The Guilderland court clerk told The Enterprise that Galley was released from jail the next day on $5,000 bail, and that Ingles’s current status is unknown.

Peeping Tom arrested

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — Caught in the act, a peeping Tom was arrested by the Guilderland Police last week at the Cumberland Farms on 1870 Western Ave. Jason Hunt pleaded guilty on Monday to harassment.

An 18-year-old woman reported to Guilderland Police that she saw a pair of eyeglasses peering at her through a hole in the wall of the gas-station restroom. Guilderland Police Chief James Murley said police responded and began to take statements and investigate Hunt, a 24-year-old employee at the store.

"Several young ladies went to the establishment. One of them had to use a restroom and when she did, she noticed someone looking at her," Murley told The Enterprise.

The woman then called 911 and her call was given to Guilderland Police, Murley said.

Since Hunt did not use a mechanical device to monitor the woman, he could only be charged with second-degree harassment, a violation, and far too lenient of a penalty, according to Murley.

"The law is lacking in that respect"Clearly it needs to be included," Murley said about current New York State laws on voyeurism. The Guilderland Police chief has been in contact with both Assemblyman John McEnemy and state Senator Neil Breslin about bills currently proposed in the New York State Legislature that would stiffen penalties for intentional unlawful viewing. Murley hopes to see tougher laws on the books for police to crack down on these types of crimes.

Hunt was looking through several ragged holes in the bathroom walls that were only about 30 inches above the floor. The holes were taped over with a piece of paper when police arrived, and police say Hunt first told them the holes have always been covered. Eventually Hunt admitted to watching the woman in the restroom, according to Guilderland Police.

Dr. Rudy Nydegger told The Enterprise in 2003 that "a voyeur is someone who is sexually aroused, not necessarily gratified, by observing others." Nydegger, who at the time was chief of psychology at Ellis Hospital and President of the New York State Psychological Association, said voyeurism is a type of paraphilia, which is inappropriate or dysfunctional behavior that falls outside the range of normal sexual behavior — a disorder.

Sadomasochism and exhibitionism are other types of paraphilia, according to Nydegger.

When asked if this type of crime is committed often in Guilderland, Murley said, "We might get a couple a year." There have been several peeping Tom’s caught in the area over the years, said Murley as he recalled one particular case about an "upskirting" incident that took place at Crossgates Mall, where a man was using a hidden camera to film under woman’s skirts.

Crossgates Mall does have security cameras in its stores to help combat shoplifting, but does not use them in dressing rooms, Murley told The Enterprise.

Hunt appeared before Judge Denise Randall at Guilderland Town Court on Monday, pleaded guilty to second-degree harassment, and was fined $300.

Petition asks for zoning changes

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — Town board members are considering rezoning sections of Route 20 after residents brought their concerns to Supervisor Kenneth Runion.

Runion was given a petition signed by over 40 residents asking the town board to consider a zoning change after a controversial Italian restaurant was granted two zoning variances and allowed to set up shop in their neighborhood at 2026 Western Ave. (See related letters to the editor.)

The board is also considering a zoning change for lands within the Normanskill Flood Plain, part of which is included in a proposed 75-lot subdivision tentatively named Normanskill Preserve.

The new restaurant will be on the site of the old Phebe’s Flower Shop.

The zoning change, if passed, would change 2026 and 2028 Western Ave. from local business, which can include restaurants, to business non-retail professional, which would prevent further large-scale commercial development of the area.

BNRP zones are for non-retail service-oriented areas, like doctor’s offices, daycare, or funeral homes, that are easily accessible to neighborhoods.

Any zoning change that does take place will not affect the new restaurant or it’s owners Connie and Mitch Ware, because it will be grandfathered in, according to Runion.

"The Wares wouldn’t be impacted on the use of the property," Runion told The Enterprise.

During Tuesday’s town board meeting, Runion’s proposal to hold a public hearing on the possible zoning changes were unanimously approved. The public hearing will be held on May 16 and broken into two separate hearings. The first hearing for 2026 Western Ave. will start at 7:30 p.m. and the 2028 hearing will be at 8 p.m.

Also on May 16, at 8:30 p.m., the town board will hold a public hearing on rezoning lands within the flood plain from RO-40, a residential zone with a minimum size of 40,0000 square feet, to rural agriculture 3, a zone which is meant to promote low-impact development patterns to conserve natural resources.

"Just because the town board is holding a public hearing does not mean there is definitely going to be a zoning change," Runion said.

What will happen is that the town board will take public comment and will listen to everyone’s input, even if it takes additional meetings, Runion said. Then an environmental review would be given to make sure the change would not have a negative impact on the area. If the property is within 500 feet of a state or county road then the Albany County Planning Board would also review the area. A vote could either be taken that night or at a later date, according to Runion.

"Until we hear the public comments, it’s hard to tell if we will vote that evening," Runion said.

One of Runion’s main concerns is the traffic impact on the neighborhood near the new restaurant, in particular the parking situation. Half of the restaurant’s parking lots are across Cornell Avenue at a neighboring business. Mrs. Ware told the zoning board during the application process that she made arrangements with the other business owner to allow parking for her customers after 5 a.m.

"The lot is extremely small for that business-type use," Runion told The Enterprise. "If people don’t abide by the valet parking, it could cause some real issues in the neighborhood. That is a concern of mine."

Runion, who said he has not spoken to the Wares, has been contacted by several neighbors in the area who were upset by the zoning board’s decision and concerned about the restaurant’s impact on their homes. Along with the petition, Runion has received several letters from local residents.

When asked about the frequency of rezoning in Guilderland, Runion said, "It happens every now and then. Things change."

Under the restaurant’s approved variances, it will be open from 5 to 11 p.m., six days a week, and a 500-square-foot addition will be added to the existing business.

Other business
In other business, the town board also unanimously approved:

— Adopting a resolution to allow the supervisor to sign the certificate of compliance with the Section 8 Housing Plan. The program, administered by the federal Housing and Urban Development Department helps low-income families and individuals.

"I think the program’s been a great benefit for the town and its residents," Runion told The Enterprise. "It helps people buy affordable housing;"

— Appointed Gregory Amyot to the position of fire inspector from the Albany County Civil Service list. Amyot was the number-one candidate on the list and was referred to the town by chief fire inspector, Donald Albright;

— Appointed Christine Ritmo as deputy court clerk from the Albany County Civil Service list. Ritmo who was previously employed by the town in the position of deputy court clerk, took a job with the state, but is now coming back to the position;

— Authorized the supervisor to sign a lease agreement with Cellco Partnership for locating wireless equipment at the Fort Hunter water tower; and

— Accepting the deed from Woodland by Mitchell, LTD for green space along the Normanskill located within such subdivisions.

No smokes at SPARC

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — On Monday, smoking stopped for both patients and staff at St. Peter’s Addiction Recovery Center. SPARC is the first of 14 other Capital Region chemical dependency agencies banning tobacco throughout all of their treatment centers by Feb. 14, 2007.

The SPARC inpatient rehabilitation program is located on Mercycare Lane just behind the Guilderland Public Library on Route 20.

Outpatient clinics in Albany, Ballston Spa, Cohoes, Latham, and Rotterdam will all follow the tobacco-free trend on May 1.

"Tobacco kills more than all of the other drugs combined," said Janice Prichett, director of SPARC outpatient services and chair of the Tobacco Recovery Coalition of the Capital District. "We are doing this for the quality of life for our patients."

Previously, SPARC patients and staff were allowed to smoke on-premise if they were outdoors. On Monday, all tobacco use was prohibited inside and out.

Patients and staff at chemical-dependency treatment agencies around New York State have been prohibited from smoking indoors since the statewide Clear Air Act took effect in 2003.

"We’ve been preparing for this for a long time," Prichett told The Enterprise, and added, "We will probably have some difficulty at first."

All of the SPARC patients are voluntarily receiving treatment, either as part of a plea-bargain through the court system or admitted on their own recognizance.

When asked if a smoking ban would deter volunteers from continuing treatment, Prichett said she expects enrollment to drop initially, but, after the first month or so, enrollment will return to normal, and maybe even increase.

"Sometimes there is a slight dip"Recent data shows only a short drop in enrollment," said Prichett.

Dr. Howard Henry, a former treatment clinician who is currently a professor in the Health and Wellness Department at Buffalo State College, says the Stutzman Addiction Treatment Center, where he worked for 30 years, initiated a similar ban several years ago. The tobacco ban was the first in the area, said Henry, and he saw no significant drop in enrollment as a result.

According to a study done by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the average smoking rate of the general population in the United States is around 25 percent, and the average in those who are chemically dependent is 80 to 95 percent.

In another study done by Dr. J. Taylor Hays, associate medical director of the nicotine dependency center at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., Hayes and his colleagues reported that 58-percent of their subjects smoked in order to "cope with urges to drink alcohol."

"In terms of addictions, most users have a drug of choice"So when people continue to smoke cigarettes, it is a substitute that keeps the craving alive," Henry said.

"Experience and understanding of recent years makes it no longer possible to tolerate or support smoking in any fashion as a responsible health care provider," said Robert Doherty, executive director of SPARC, in a statement.

The initiative was announced at a press conference last month, at the Guilderland SPARC, and was coordinated by the Tobacco Recovery Coalition of the Capital District, which was formed in 2004.

"It’s just a good idea," said Richard Chady from St. Peter’s Corporate Communications office. "Nicotine addition is a very serious problem in our society."

"Certainly there’s a connection between alcohol and cigarettes," said Henry, who explained that neurotransmitters like dopamine and endorphins in the brain are stimulated by alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes, which in return stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain and helps drive addiction.

"When alcohol is broken down in the body, one of the first byproducts is acetaldehyde"There is this acetaldehyde in the cigarette smoke," added Henry. Acetaldehyde is the first toxin created by alcohol metabolism or alcohol breakdown in the body. It is a carcinogen also found in cigarette smoke, car exhaust, and embalming fluid.

Workers affected

The ban will not only affect the clients seeking recovery, but the employees as well.

One worker at St. Peter’s Hospital, told The Enterprise that the ban is unfair to workers.

"We work long hours and smoke only on our breaks. Now we have to walk even further away and have less time for our breaks," she said, adding that she’s worked at the hospital for over 10 years and may start looking for a new job.

"What about our rights" I know the risks of smoking and already pay outrageous prices for [cigarettes]. Now I can’t even smoke on my own break," she added. "Fifteen minutes isn’t enough time to walk out here and make it back inside on time; I’m already stressed enough at work."

Henry agrees that the transition will be hard for rehab workers who he said work very long hours and are subject to great amounts of stress throughout their day. He also said agencies should establish wellness programs for employees, which in return would make workers more productive, and use fewer sick days.

"For employees who are smokers, the agency should offer an assistance program to help them quit. It shouldn’t be left up to them," said Henry. "Not everyone can stop smoking; it is a terrible addiction."

"Tobacco use is the greatest cause of disease and death in our county, responsible for more than 430,000 deaths in the United States each year," the Tobacco Recovery Coalition said in a release. "Studies indicate that up to 92 percent of people with chemical dependencies smoke compared with to the average smoking rate"of about 22 percent."

Henry agrees with rehabilitation center’s decision to ban smoking and commended efforts for local centers to band together, saying, when his addiction center banned tobacco, it was the only one in the area to do so.

"To do away with all of it is the most sensible," Henry said about tobacco bans during rehabilitation and recovery. "It’s hard to give up any addiction. Nicotine patches could be used to wean them down."

The Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services has recently offered draft regulations that would require all licensed treatment providers around the state to become tobacco-free, but has not yet set an effective date.

The local agencies pledging to have smoke-free treatment centers include: Albany County Substance Abuse; 820 River Street, Inc.; Conifer Park; Hudson-Mohawk Recovery; SPARC; Albany Citizens Council on Alcoholism and Other Chemical Dependencies, Inc.; Homer Perkins Center; PAHL House; Pearl Street Counseling Center; Whitney M. Young Jr. Health Center Substance Abuse FACTS & MMTP Programs; Seton Addiction Services; Senior Hope; Equinox; Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Council of Schenectady County; and Twin County Recovery.

Heath-insurance changes
School board hires new broker, sets up business-proactices committee

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — After months of discussing and debating health-insurance coverage for district workers and the school board’s role in deciding on their coverage, the board last week voted to make two changes.

The board unanimously, and without public discussion, approved the superintendent’s recommendation to appoint the firm of Amsure Associates as the sole broker for the district’s health-maintenance organization plans, effective March 29.

"This is the board taking action on an issue that has been on the public’s mind to benefit the community," said board member John Dornbush.

Secondly, in a split vote, 6 to 3, the board approved forming a committee to review business practices "for the purpose of keeping abreast of developments and innovations in areas that include, but are not limited to, insurance (all types), transportation, energy, buildings and grounds, and technology."

"It’s unfortunate...the way this has evolved," said board Vice President Linda Bakst, who proposed the motion, stating it was not her intention to change the school board’s relationship with the district’s health-insurance committee.

Bakst first presented the motion March 14, in the wake of criticism, initially raised by board member Peter Golden, of the current system where a committee made up of representatives from the district’s bargaining units proposes plans for heath-care coverage.

Health-care costs for Guilderland, which have doubled in the last five years to $8.2 million, have come under board scrutiny this year.

Guilderland, since the early 1980’s, has paid just 80 percent of health coverage; its employees make up the other 20 percent.

Guilderland offers health insurance — covering medical, dental, and prescription drug costs — to hourly employees who work at least 20 hours a week and to salaried employees who work half-time or more.

Retirees can continue the district’s group health insurance plan if they have worked for the district for at least 10 years. Most of the bargaining units offer benefits for surviving spouses.

Although workers are eligible for coverage, participation is optional and the district does not offer buy-outs for workers who choose not to use the benefit.

"Perceived conflict of interest"

Currently the district offers four different health-insurance plans with four different providers — two are health-maintenance organizations and two are experience rated:

— Capital District Physicians Health Plan, a health-maintenance organization, which files for rate increases with the state, is used by 59 percent of Guilderland employees;

— Blue Shield Preferred Provider Organization, an experience-rated plan, meaning that premium rate increases are influenced by the cost of claims incurred, is used by 22 percent;

— Blue Shield Health Plus, another experienced-rated plan, is used by 12 percent; and

— Mohawk Valley Plan, a health-maintenance organization plan, is used by 7 percent.

Amsure Associates is now the broker for the CDPH and MVP plans and will advise the district’s health committee on those plans. Rose and Kiernan will continue as the consultant with the two Blue Shield plans. Both will advise the district’s health-insurance committee.

The district purchases the two experience-related plans as part of the Capital Area Schools Health Consortium, which it joined in 1996; the consortium now has 15 members.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders told The Enterprise this week that 180 days are needed to terminate those plans and the district does not plan to do so at this point.

For the two health-maintenance organizations, Sanders told The Enterprise earlier, commissions are part of the rate, which is set by the state’s Department of Health.

"Whether we have a broker or not, we pay the same premiums," said Sanders.

For the two experience-rated plans, he said, negotiations occur and are "imbedded in the consortium."

Also, Sanders said, for the two experience-rated plans, the fee for the consultant is based on enrollment so it doesn’t increase in the same proportions as the premiums.

In November, the school board heard a presentation on the district’s health-care benefits from a Rose and Kiernan consultant which led Golden, and later other board members, to question whether there might be a conflict of interest.

Sanders told The Enterprise this week that, by appointing Amsure, the district was reacting to the concerns about "a perceived conflict of interest."

"When you’re using one broker, representing all your plans, the question could be: Is the broker working in the best interest of the consortium plans, building membership, or"is it working in the best interest of the district""

The board met in executive session before last Tuesday’s meeting to review health-insurance brokers and Sanders told The Enterprise, "It wasn’t an easy decision."

The district received four responses from its request for proposals, he said. "We got very good responses from very qualified firms," Sanders said.

Amsure was chosen, he said, because of its "experience in the school sector and also with health-insurance committees."

Although Guilderland’s committee was rare when it was set up 35 years ago, such committees are becoming more popular, Sanders said, and Amsure "has set some up."

"They’re innovative with their approach," he concluded.

Preventing scattershot or micro-managing"

Board members Dornbush, Catherine Barber, and Richard Weisz voted against Bakst’s motion to form a business-practices committee, and members Barbara Fraterrigo, Colleen O’Connell, Thomas Nachod, Golden, President Gene Danese and Bakst herself voted for it.

Bakst began by saying the board needs to improve its business oversight in the district. "We’ve been very scattershot," she said.

She also said, "This is not meant to step on anyone’s toes."

Nachod said it was "important to emphasize this is not another health committee."

He said there was a lot of confusion among the public and stressed again that the board’s subcommittee would not be a health-insurance committee but, rather, "a business-practices committee."

"I guess I share the community’s confusion," said Weisz. If the board wants to be educated, he said, the superintendent and assistant superintendent for business could make presentations to the board as a whole.

"We don’t need a subcommittee to become experts in micro-managing," said Weisz.

Bakst said she envisioned the subcommittee — made up of no more than four board members, fewer than a quorum — meeting a couple of times a year, and being proactive rather than reactive.

"This just seems too amorphous without any focus," said Dornbush.

Fraterrigo said that many boards have similar committees. "It educates us, allows to have more of a leadership role," she said.

Danese said he had mixed feelings but that the board did need to be more educated.

"No one is usurping anyone’s authority; no one is micro-managing," he said.

It was agreed the subcommittee will be formed after the new board members take office in the beginning of July.

Other business
In other business, the board:

— Accepted the donation of a wheelchair from Marie C. Eoff, to be used in the health office at Westmere Elementary School.

"Unlike many others," Sanders said of donations, "we hope we don’t get a lot of use out of this one";

— Accepted a bid from Ricoh Corporation, the lowest of four bidders by several thousand dollars, for $16,732.80 for 840 cases of dual-purpose copy paper;

— Accepted a $59,600 bid, the lowest of three, from Rainbow Lawn Sprinklers for irrigating the Farnsworth Middle School football field;

— Learned from Nancy Andress, assistant superintendent for instruction, that Charles Peltz of the New England Conservatory in Boston, will offer music clinics in Guilderland on May 22, 23, and 24 for all orchestra students in grades six through 12. He will participate in a dress rehearsal and 8 p.m. performance on May 24 in the Guilderland High School gym;

— Heard congratulations for Katherine Wells, an eighth-grader at Farnsworth Middle School, because her essay, "What I Feel When I Look Up at The American Flag," has been chosen as a winner in the Guilderland Elks essay contest.

"I feel overjoyed to be part of this wonderful country, where people can wear and do what they want and pursue their dreams," wrote Wells. "Most importantly, though, where you can dare to be different....";

— Heard that petitions for seats on the school board, which can be picked up from the district clerk, are due back April 17. At least 81 signatures from school-district residents are required.

Three seats on the unpaid nine-member board are to be decided upon in the May 16 election. Incumbent Weisz is seeking re-election; President Danese and Vice President Bakst are retiring from the board;

— Unanimously passed a resolution, drafted by Bakst, urging state legislators to reject Governor George Pataki’s proposal to create an education tax-credit program.

The resolution states that such programs "would deprive the state of needed tax revenue." It also says the board "affirms its support for public education," and it concludes, "At a time when school districts are faced with unprecedented fiscal pressures, we cannot diminish the revenue source available to the State to fund public education by offering a tuition tax credit to families whose children attend non-public schools"; and

— Met in executive session to discuss a collective-bargaining issue.

Mahoney teaches kids the art of being an author

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Daniel J. Mahoney is an accidental author.

Since he was a boy, he loved drawing, he says. Drawings filled up his notebooks in school; many of them were of his dog and other favorite animals.

When he first showed his portfolio to a publisher, he was asked to provide a story to go along with the pictures.

"When I brought it back, they said, ‘Keep going,’" recalled Mahoney. He did.

That became his first book, The Saturday Escape, published by Clarion Books in 2002.

The book tells the story of three friends — a bear named Jack, a rabbit named Angie, and a mouse named Melden — who skip their Saturday chores, sneaking out to their library’s story hour instead. Conscience overcomes them and they leave the library to help each other complete their chores, ending with their own story hour.

Mahoney’s illustrations have the refreshing naiveté of primitive paintings. The animal characters are two-dimensional and are painted with a whimsical, child-like spontaneity. The illustrations amplify the text in unexpected and fun ways.

For example, when Angie feels guilty at the story hour because she’s not practicing the piano, she recalls her recital. "Her dad had been so proud of her that night," the text says, "and he’d gone to a lot of trouble to tape her performance."

The picture fleshes this out as it depicts Angie’s dad, hiding in a bush on stage, holding out a microphone while the spotlight shines on Angie at the grand piano.

While Mahoney’s books may carry a moral message, they are not preachy.

"I wasn’t planning on being an author," says Mahoney with a shrug.

Tuesday morning, bright and early, Mahoney was standing in front of a class of kindergartners at Guilderland Elementary School, holding that first book and encouraging them to become authors.

On the wall behind Mahoney was posted a giant sheet of paper, asking, "What should I have on my paper"" The answer: A picture should be on top, with words below.

"I know you guys like to start stories with pictures," said Mahoney to the three dozen upturned faces.

One by one, the kids told him of some of the things they had drawn — a horse, after taking a riding lesson; a sleeping turtle, after seeing one in a pond; a skateboard, after boarding at a friend’s house.

Mahoney encouraged them, "It can be a very small, little thing that happens in your life and you can write a big story about it."

He also asked, "Who has written about something that never happened, that you made up"" And he encouraged them, "You might try drawing pictures of what pops into your head and then write a story about those pictures."

Every student an author

The school is holding its two-week-long annual Young Authors’ Celebration, a tradition for nearly 20 years. Each student, from the youngest in kindergarten to the oldest in fifth-grade, is encouraged as an author.

Two published visiting authors — Mahoney this week and Ralph Fletcher, a nationally recognized writer and educator, next week — are part of this year’s celebration.

"It’s nice for the kids to see a local author," said second-grade teacher Beth Scott. "It’s graspable and close to home."

Mahoney is a favorite of hers. "He’s an x-ray technician at Albany Medical Center and one of our student’s mother works with him....He is so relaxed and friendly with the kids. They get him," she said.

Although the two-week celebration highlights kids as authors, Scott said, the focus is on writing all year long.

"In Guilderland, we have them writing every day," said Scott. "We try to teach kids skills and strategies and genres. But they pick their own topics. They take ownership.

"To be an author, they have to write for a reason, for an audience....it can be parents or peers," she said.

Writing is structured along a reliable pattern, starting with kids’ collecting ideas, said Scott. The older students keep notebooks with these ideas, she said.

"They choose an idea and spend time trying it out in different ways," said Scott. "We call it nurturing." After a first draft, there is editing, revising, rewriting, and finally publishing, she said.

Trudy Warner, a first-grade teacher at Guilderland, graciously sought to include a visiting reporter into the writing lesson, introducing her as if she were a hero, so that the kids squirmed in their seats, raising their hands for the honor of escorting "the writer" to another classroom.

The two chosen escorts — Emily Williams and Zachary Berrada — were each eager to talk about what they had written.

"I wrote about building a teepee out of sticks," said Berrada.

"I wrote about going to a friend’s house," said Williams, with shining eyes. She said she likes to be an author "because you get to tell your own stories about the people you know."

"The kids get it"

Between sessions on Tuesday, Mahoney told The Enterprise that, while being an x-ray technician pays the bills, what he really relishes is staying at home with his two-year-old son, Ryan, and working on his books.

"He has favorites he keeps asking me to read that aren’t mine," Mahoney said with a laugh.

Mahoney has "a million picture books in the house," he said and limits his son’s television viewing to an hour a day — of Sesame Street.

"My mother used the TV as a baby sitter," he said, calling that "an easy way out."

He prefers promoting the individual thinking that comes with book-reading.

During his school presentations, Mahoney said, "I try to foster individual thinking and to have kids use their imagination."

Talking to other groups, he reported, kids would tell him they had written stories or drawn pictures of Sponge Bob or Ninja Turtles. "I tell them, ‘Take something that happened in your life.’"

Mahoney said the tack he was taking with Guilderland classes this week was different than his usual presentations.

"Mrs. Warner told me the students here do a lot of writing. She asked me to suit it to the program...The kids give me so much to bounce off of," he said. "Kids that age are so proud of the things they do."

Mahoney said that, when he creates a book, he tries to get across a lesson "without being too didactic." With his second book, The Perfect Clubhouse, for example, a story in which the characters have different priorities, "They learn it can be all of their ideas; they learn cooperation on their own," said Mahoney.

With his third book, A Really Good Snowman, Jack’s tag-along little sister, Nancy, wants to help as Jack and Angie and Melden build a snowman for a contest.

"The little sister makes a mess; the big brother realizes she’s still his little sister and the loyalty becomes what is important, not the contest," says Mahoney.

Guilderland Elementary librarian, Meg Seinberg-Hughes, who helped to organize the event, said she likes Mahoney’s books because they "have a nice simple message but they don’t hammer you over the head, so the kids get it."

Mahoney’s audience on Tuesday morning was made up not only of rapt listeners but appreciative readers. Referring to his second book, Mahoney asked, "Have you heard of The Perfect Clubhouse"" He was answered with a chorus of, "Yes! Yes! I love it! Yes!"

"That really happened to me when I was seven or eight years old," Mahoney tells his eager audience. "Our clubhouse was a refrigerator box." He and his friends had fun in his backyard, making the box into a clubhouse, but they differed on what its purpose should be.

"I wanted it to be an artist’s studio," Mahoney told the kids. One of the girls wanted it to be a sports clubhouse, he said, and another girl liked science. "She wanted to bring her magnifying glass and look at bugs," he said.

"Do you still have the clubhouse"" asked a kindergartner.

"It collapsed in the rain," answered Mahoney. "But I wish I still had it."

At the end of the session, the kids called out requests for Mahoney to draw.

"Draw the bunny!" one girl requested with urgency.

Mahoney obliged, explaining as he drew, "I got the name Angie from this woman that lived behind me...She was older than me but we had the same birthday. Every March 5th, she would give me Rice Krispie Treats and I’d give her a rock or a drawing."

For Mahoney’s final drawing, the kindergarten kids set up a shout for a roller-skating hamster. After Mahoney thought he had completed the drawing, a girl told him solemnly, "He needs a helmet."

"I completely forgot about the helmet; I’m so sorry," said Mahoney, as he quickly added the polka-dotted topper.

The final comment was made by a kindergarten boy. "I like all your books and you’re very nice," he said.

The author broke into a wide smile as the kids clustered about him for high fives.

"I have to save my hand for drawing," said Mahoney as he enthusiastically slapped hands with the kindergartners.

Settled: Trumplers agree to sell 5 acres to village

By Matt Cook

ALTAMONT — The village has reached a settlement in a lawsuit with Guilderland landowners who questioned the validity of contract they had signed to sell five acres to Altamont for a new well for the water system.

For $225,000, Michael and Nancy Trumpler have agreed to sell the village the original five acres for the well, plus 32 adjacent acres to be preserved for Michael Trumpler’s lifetime. The Trumplers had objected to Altamont’s plans to give water to a developer outside the village—a moratorium had been in place—and also had procedural concerns.

After an executive session at the village board meeting Tuesday night, the board authorized the mayor to sign the settlement.

Altamont Mayor James Gaughan said the village is "pleased with the amicable agreement."

"I’m looking forward to moving forward and putting this behind us," Gaughan said.

Looking to expand its overtaxed water system, Altamont, in March of 2004, agreed to a purchase option with the Trumplers for five acres of their land on Brandle Road, just outside the village. Several months earlier, the village’s engineers had identified the area along Brandle Road as the best source of water. Then-mayor Paul DeSarbo signed a contract with the Trumplers stating the village could buy the piece of land, not to exceed five acres, for $25,000—roughly $5,000 an acre. The new agreement is for roughly $6,000 an acre.

In April of 2005, however, the Trumplers filed papers in Albany County Supreme court, seeking to get out of the contract and asking for a judge to rule on its validity. The Trumplers objected to Altamont’s plans to give water to developer Jeff Thomas, outside the village. The amount of water available to the village’s own residents is insufficient, the Trumplers argued, and their intent had been for the water to go to the village.

Thomas has proposed a 72-unit senior-housing complex, also on Brandle Road, to draw water from the village.

The Trumplers didn’t sue for any money.

The village responded by filing counterclaims against the Trumplers for tens of thousands of dollars, citing litigation costs, among other expenses. Thomas, in June, sued the Trumplers for $17 million, claiming interference.

Thomas told The Enterprise Wednesday that, with the village’s settlement, he’s reached a settlement of his own with the Trumplers. He’s dropping the suit.

"With none of the obstacles there, we can discontinue our lawsuit," Thomas said. "We’ll be provided water as soon as the well is on-line."

The Trumplers’ lawyer, Michael Englert, was not available for comment Wednesday.

The settlement

According to the settlement, the village will hold a 20-foot permanent easement on the Trumplers’ property, from Brandle Road to Route 146 for "maintaining and repairing underground Village utilities."

The additional 32 acres, Gaughan said, was offered by the Trumplers. It was accepted by the village because it will protect the water source, Gaughan said.

"This, in effect, now provides for a large buffer zone for us," he said.

The settlement forbids the development or subdivision of the 32 acres during Mr. Trumpler’s lifetime.

"The life estate shall be restricted so as to preserve the property as open space in its natural state," the settlement reads.

"Once the life estate is completed, this is something we could use for purposes not yet thought out," Gaughan said.

In the meantime, the Trumplers are allowed to continue farming the land, the settlement says. They currently live on the acreage.

Once the village closes on the Trumplers’ property on April 25, Gaughan said, the village can go ahead with the project to expand its water system.

"We’re going to move very forward, very fast," Gaughan said.

Other business
In other business at its April 4 meeting, the Altamont Village Board:

—Held a public hearing on and unanimously approved a $1.09 million budget for the next year. It’s a slight increase over last year’s $1.087 million budget.

"We are on target to keep taxes level with no increases," Gaughan said. The village is still calculating the estimated effect the budget will have on property taxes, Gaughan said.

Money budgeted for salaries for village employees went up 2 percent.

No residents commented on the budget during the public hearing;

—Announced that the comprehensive planning committee is circulating surveys throughout town and on the village’s website. About 900 have already been distributed by Boy Scouts, said Trustee Dean Whalen, committee chair.

"We really want everyone to have the opportunity to take part in this survey," Whalen said.

The committee is holding the first community-wide planning workshop on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to noon in Village Hall; and

—Held the yearly reorganizational meeting. Among the appointments, Kate Provencher was reappointed to the zoning board and Elaine Van De Carr was reappointed to the planning board. Each will serve until 2011.

Key Bank was named the official bank and The Altamont Enterprise was named the official newspaper.

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