[Return to Home Page] [Subscriptions] [Newsstands] [Contact Us] [Archives]

Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 20, 2006

Daytime robbery at Crossgates

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — In broad daylight, three men armed with a handgun stole $1,000 in cash and a cell phone from a man parked in a Crossgates Mall parking lot, according to Guilderland Police.

The robbery occurred at 1:10 p.m. on Friday outside of Best Buy, police say.

"The victim was sitting in his car, talking on his cell phone, when two black males approached, and one put a gun to his head," said Guilderland Police investigator John Tashjian. Continuing, he told The Enterprise that the third suspect was apparently the get-away driver.

The cash was in the glove compartment of the victim’s car, said Tashjian, and his cell phone was also taken during the robbery. Guilderland Police were called to the scene.

Soon after the incident, the Albany Police Department apprehended 19-year-old Wykiem Anderson of Albany within city limits. Anderson was alone when taken into custody, and a gun was not found, according to Tashjian.

The two other suspects are unidentified.

The mall’s security cameras did not capture the incident and the investigation is currently ongoing, according to police.

Anderson was originally charged with third-degree robbery, a felony, but Tashjian told The Enterprise yesterday that more charges are pending. Tashjian said the police department filed at Guilderland Town Court to add armed-robbery and grand larceny charges, both felonies.

Anderson has been remanded to Albany County’s jail.

School board ponders
Any catch to a Kaffeeklatsch"

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — In an effort to improve communication with the public, school board member Barbara Fraterrigo has proposed "sort of a coffee klatsch" — sessions for community dialogue before some board meetings, with suggested topics as a draw.

Currently, board members listen to comments from the public during set periods in their meeting but generally do not respond.

Fraterrigo said at last Tuesday’s board meeting that she wants to overcome the public’s idea that "they’re talking to deadheads that aren’t going to respond to them."

Board Vice President John Dornbush called the recommendation "problematic," stating that each board member doesn’t represent the board.

Board member Peter Golden said people are intelligent enough to recognize individual opinions.

Board member Colleen O’Connell cited a school district downstate that had won an award from the National School Boards Association for having its board members meet with the public in community venues at scheduled times.

She suggested pairs of board members go to a diner in Guilderland like Mike’s or going to "that cute place in Altamont, the Home Front Café," to talk with residents.

Board member Hy Dubowsky said he favored taking the board to football games or to concerts at Tawasentha Park

Board member Cathy Barber said board members could attend neighborhood association meetings to answer questions.

Denise Eisele, at her first board meeting, said she had heard people say they felt like the board was unresponsive, and she supported board members responding, for instance, "Yes, I hear what you’re saying."

Dornbush recommended that the board’s communication committee come up with a proposal.

Fraterrigo made two other suggestions for improving communication, which met with less favorable reactions.

Fraterrigo suggested board members post more information about themselves on the district’s website, but several were wary of this, although they did agree e-mail addresses could be posted.

Currrently, the district’s website lists just the name, office, and length of term for board members. Fraterrigo pointed out that the town of Guilderland website posts pictures of elected officials.

Superintendent Gregory Aidala said the district’s website had a link, so that board members could be reached through the district clerk.

"People who have contacted the board"will tend to go to a board member they think is sympathetic," said Dornbush.

Aidala said he would "investigate" the matter further and report back to the board in August, warning, "You need to check your e-mails on a regular basis."

Fraterrigo also suggested letting the public have the last comment at board meetings.

Now, time is allotted for public comment at the beginning of board meetings and towards the end, just before board discussion.

Dornbush called the point "kind of moot" since, he said, the second public comment period had only been used once.

"It’s our meeting, held in public," said board member Thomas Nachod. "I hate to give the public, well-intentioned as they are, the last word."

Raises for subs

The board approved raises, effective July 1, for workers not represented by negotiating units.

"These are substitutes," said Susan Tangorre, the district’s human resources officer. "We try to be competitive with other districts."

Substitute teachers will now make $83 per day, $93 per day following 40 days of work in the district, and $150 per day for 15 days of consecutive substituting for the same teacher.

Substitute bus drivers’ pay ranges from $11.75 per hour for up to six months, to $15.50 per hours after 30 months and a minimum of 500 hours.

Pay for substitute nurses ranges from $16.25 per hour up to 25 days, to $20 per hour after two years.

Tutor rates are $22 per hour up to four years and $30 per hour after four years.

Test scorers make $100 a day and time keepers earn $30 per hour.

The pay rates for monitors and teaching assistants remains unchanged , ranging from $7.50 to $8.50 per hour.

Golden questioned Tangorre closely about the rates, asking if they were comparable to other districts’.

"Absolutely," she said.

Some of the rates hadn’t been raised in a very long time, said Tangorre. "You try to guess-timate at a fair and reasonable cost," she said.

Eisele asked why the pay for aides and monitors was so low.

Tangorre said comparisons are made with the current contract and rates are also based on supply and demand; it is hard to find substitute bus drivers and custodians, she said.

Nachod asked if Guilderland is on the high end for paying bus drivers.

Tangorre said many districts are offering more.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders said the district was trying other incentives to attract bus drivers.

"I’m happy for the bus drivers," said Eisele. But, she went on to say that the aids and monitors have direct contact with the students and she would like to see more attention to that.

Alternative funding

After receiving a report last month from a committee that reviewed alternative funding, the board discussed the next step.

Aidala said he had asked Sanders to put together a report over the summer on revenues generated by the district’s vending machines.

He also suggested details of the report be discussed by the board’s newly-formed business practices committee. The board members serving on the committee are: Dubowsky, Golden, Nachod, and O’Connell.

Aidala also said he had given a copy of the report, which included the option of forming a school and community foundation, to Guilderland’s town supervisor, Kenneth Runion; to Altamont’s mayor, James Gaughan; and to the director of Guilderland’s chamber of commerce, Jane Schramm.

Eisele, who served on the committee, said the concern had been expressed that it "will just fall into a black void."

Aidala suggested forming a focus group to "help us move forward."

Board President Richard Weisz, who pushed to have the committee formed in the first place, said someone to initiate a foundation could be encouraged.

"See if we can nominate likely suspects," said Weisz.

Other business

In other business at its July 11 meeting, the school board:

— Approved renting classrooms and providing ancillary services to the Board Of Cooperative Educational Services for next year.

The district will rent out 14 classrooms, at $12,000 each, for a total of $168,000. BOCES will also pay Guilderland $279,000 for ancillary services. Special-needs students participate in classes in their host school for art, music, and physical education and they have access to the library.

Weisz said that the rental rates aren’t rising. Aidala cited supply and demand and called the rates "favorable."

"Other districts are ready to step in," he said, adding that the rates were good compared to others state-wide.

Raising the rates, said Aidala, would raise the risk of losing the rentals to other schools; he said Guilderland’s central location helps in continuing to attract BOCES classes for special-needs students;

— Heard from Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Nancy Andress about the professional development sessions that staff members are attending over the summer;

— Heard congratulations for Farnsworth Middle School teacher Alan Fiero who has received a $1,000 Greater Capital Region Teacher Grant to improve academic intervention in middle-school science;

— Reviewed a list of recommended summer reading for Guilderland students, which is sent to local libraries and book stores, and is posted on the district’s website, in its newsletter, and on Channel 16;

— Heard from Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders 45 cellular telephones are issued district-wide, mostly to administrators, maintenance staff, computer technicians, and for emergency use. The total cost for the use of these phones is about $735 monthly, Sanders said.

Weisz commented that telephone records for school district phones are not private;

— Appointed Jeff Pitkin to the audit committee to replace Barry Hughes;

— Heard a request from Golden for copies of contracts with the district’s bargaining units. Aidala replied that contracts are public information;

— Heard a request from O’Connell that board members attend the Guilderland graduation ceremony.

"It’s really part of our celebration for these kids," she said.

Eisele agreed;

— Heard a suggestion from Weisz that the board "re-visit" how it spends its meeting time.

He asked board members to give "their written wish lists" to Adiala.

"I’m looking for ways of directing the school district," he said.

Mill Hill site plan OK’d

By Jo E. Prout

GUILDERLAND — The planning board laid down more stipulations and offered suggestions for the proposed Mill Hill development on Route 155 last week, but the developer held back on promises to wholly comply. Even so, the board approved the Mill Hill site plan.

Town Planner Jan Weston said that a traffic study is needed; it could lead to a traffic signal due to reduced sight distance and pedestrian traffic at the site.

"Let us look at that in a holistic way," said Mill Hill representative Terresa Bakner, of Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna in Albany.

Weston also noted that the proposal showed no recreation area for residents, or room for the Guilderland Ballet, which already established on the site, a condition of a previous agreement.

Mill Hill is seeking a revision to the planned unit development plan approved in 1993. The plan was to be built in stages: Phase one was a 100-bed senior residence that has already been built. The current phases include 88 multi-family units, 24 townhouses, and a Stewart’s convenience store. Phase four includes a 12,000-square-foot office building and nursing home.

"The ballet school is on a piece of that, and it will be transferred to the town," Bakner said. "We have no one interested in phase four." The planning board said that the footprints for these potential buildings need to be shown on plans submitted.

"This site is next to the town park, and the residents can’t get there without driving a mile," said board member Lindsay Childs, who is also a member of the town’s pathways committee.

Bakner said that the developer wants to have flexibility about where to put sidewalk paths. She said that they will re-evaluate where to put a recreation area.

"We’re not seeing anything; you say it’s going to come," Weston said.

Bakner said that Mill Hill will put what it wants to do regarding sidewalks and recreation areas on materials it presents at its "next level of approach to the town."

"Maybe there’ll be a community garden"" Bakner speculated. "We’re going to look at a whole range of things."

Bakner and her associates brought more than a half-dozen drawings, maps, and renderings, but the planning board members said that they were not at the level of engineering detail needed to see where storm water, paths, or recreation areas could be. Aerial photos of the area seem to show swamp land, the board said at its agenda review.

Stewart’s at Mill Hill

A similar problem plagued Mill Hill the night before at the town board meeting, when a sketch of a proposed Stewart’s convenience store could not be produced.

Bakner and Stewart’s representative, Tom Lewis, brought one to the planning board. The building, designed to fit in with the homes and townhouses, faces Mill Hill Court, with its side toward Route 155.

"We’ve been very shy of hiring outside architects. We really do like our roof"it’s like signage," Lewis said. He said that Stewart’s builds its usual red-bricked buildings in towns that are "less discerning" than Guilderland.

"We want access on [Route] 155. We’re not going to get access, no point in asking," Lewis said. Because the building will not be recognized as a sign, he said, Stewart’s will ask for a sign.

"I don’t think it’ll take long for the news to spread," said board member Terry Coburn.

Childs asked Lewis to provide a sketch of the angle of the canopy over the gas pumps. The only sketch available last week was of the front of the proposed building.

Planning board Chairman Stephen Feeney said that the town wants a visually-appealing structure.

"It sounds to me like we’ll get there," he said.

Concerned neighbors

One resident said that his backyard is next to the proposed store.

"We’ll be looking at Stewart’s. We’re counting on you. We’re concerned about landscaping, and our view"and lighting and noise pollution," he said.

Feeney explained that the application needs a special-use permit, and that it must go before the zoning board of appeals and the town board, where those issues would be addressed.

"We’ll certainly work with Jan [Weston] and whoever you want us to work with," Bakner said earlier.

Deed restrictions

The board gave final approval for the application of Mark Schafer, who wants to divide a 33.7-acre parcel on Settles Hill Road into two lots. The properties, 20 acres and almost 14 acres, will be deed-restricted for no further subdivision.

"I don’t believe in putting a deed restriction on a property forever. I don’t agree with that principle," Schafer told the board. "You’re asking me to decide something for 50 years from now."

Board member Thomas Robert considered Schafer’s viewpoint. He asked the board if the deed restriction would hurt a parent’s plans to build a home for a child on a property.

"You start locking yourself in, at some point," Feeney said. He said that, if the properties were ever sold to one person, then "everything is back on the table."

The property division must reflect the new RA-3 zoning, with a minimal three-acre lot size on subdivisions, in place for that part of town.

Schafer’s property already has a private driveway that will be shared between the lots. The drive has a greater slope than the 10-percent grade requested by the town, but it flattens out as it approaches the road. Robert said that, when he visited the site, the slope was not problematic.

Other business

In other business, the planning board recently:

— Gave concept approval to Maurice McCormick for a two-lot subdivision of 53.7 acres on Depot Road. One parcel, with 12.8 acres, has a house and barn that McCormick plans to sell. The other 41-acre lot has a high-pressure gas line running through it. McCormick said that public water is accessible at the road.

Howling success to continue under kennel’s new ownership

By Jarrett Carroll

ALTAMONT — The new owner of Altamont Country Kennels said he was inspired to buy the business by his dogs.

Carl and Mary Felix will continue to offer the same services — boarding and grooming — provided by former owner Ed Ledermann.

"I knew they would do good. I’m very pleased," said Ledermann. "Carl is a trained and experienced groomer""

Ledermann owned the business for about six years and said he left in order to spend more time with his young children, aged five and three.

A reception was held last Thursday, where the Filexes’ had a "meet and greet" with about 75 customers of the kennel.

"So far it’s been phenomenal," said Mr. Felix. "This, right now, is really the busy season"It’s hard work, but it’s fun. We love dogs and we love the kennel."

This is the Felix’s first business; Mr. Felix previously worked as a computer programmer and part-time groomer. Mrs. Felix runs the office, feeds the dogs, and administers medication, according to her husband. Mr. Felix told The Enterprise that he went to grooming school and has worked as a dog groomer for the past several years.

Ledermann and his wife have bought a house "just up the road" in Guilderland.

[Return to Home Page]