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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 21, 2006

DEC says pool is in marsh preserve

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – An above-ground swimming pool owned by Raymond Engel is raising liability concerns with the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. Engel was informed of the violation five years ago, but has not removed the pool, according to the DEC.

Engel’s circular pool is partially within the state-owned Black Creek Marsh Wildlife Management Area, which straddles the towns of Guilderland and New Scotland, the DEC says.

A survey done in 2001, on a portion of the Black Creek Marsh located near Engel’s North Grandview Terrace property, revealed that his swimming pool was encroaching on state land, the DEC says.

In a letter addressed to Engel dated Dec. 3, 2001, Forest Ranger Karen Glesmann informed Engel of what the survey found. "This is in violation of The New York Codes of Rules and Regulations," Glesmann’s letter said. Glesmann set a one-month time frame for Engel to remove his pool.

A subsequent letter was sent in January of 2002 by Regional Director Steven Schassler, granting Engel an extension until May. A memo dated Dec. 8, 2005, written by Natural Resources Supervisor Peter Innes said, "The pool remains."

The Enterprise obtained these documents by filing a Freedom of Information Law request with the DEC.

Engel could not be reached for comment.

Rick Georgeson, the spokesperson for Region IV of the DEC, said this week that the DEC is "continuing to pursue enforcement."

The swimming pool does not pose any specific environmental concerns, Georgeson said, but it could be a potential liability issue.

If someone drowned or was injured in the pool, the state could be held liable, because it is located on state land, he said.

Building codes for New York State mandate that above-ground swimming pools have a wall surrounding the pool that is at least 48 inches tall. It appears, from DEC photographs, that the sides of Engel’s pool are at least 48 inches tall.

The law further states that, "Where an aboveground pool structure is used as a barrier"and the means of access is a ladder or steps, then the ladder or steps either shall be capable of being secured, locked, or removed to prevent access, or the ladder or steps shall be surrounded by a barrier which meets the requirements."

In photographs of Engel’s pool taken by the DEC, it is unclear whether the ladder was removable.

Paul Cantlin, building inspector for New Scotland, said the town could not possibly enforce the proper use of pool ladders within the entire town. It basically works on the honor system, he said.

Georgeson could not discuss specific actions the DEC will take, because the case is still under investigation, he said. He did, however, explain the series of enforcement steps that the DEC follows when violations occur.

Violations can involve encroachment on state land that include a shed, a deck, a pool, or a garden, he said.

"Even mowing the grass isn’t permitted," he added.

The first step of enforcement is sending letters. This is the only action the DEC has taken thus far in Engel’s case, Georgeson said.

The next step is to issue a document prepared by legal staff of the DEC. It is an agreement between the DEC and the alleged violator, and a fine is usually associated with this step, he said.

The third step is to issue a notice of hearing and complaint. A proceeding heard in front of an administrative law judge follows the notice.

The final action is to refer the case to the state Attorney General’s Office, Georgeson said.

Region IV of the DEC encompasses all the state-owned land in nine counties, he said. Thousands of properties are adjacent to state lands.

Infringements upon state land are fairly rare, Georgeson said. "It’s a fairly small percentage, but there’s a lot of property owners"and it happens."

"We’d like to see the structure taken down as soon as possible," Georgeson said about Engel’s swimming pool.

Rural residents want cable and internet service

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – The peace and quiet of rural living can often mean limited access to high-speed cable and Internet services.

Local residents hoping for cable and Internet services left last Wednesday night’s town board meeting disappointed.

Time Warner Cable, the company with which New Scotland has had a franchise agreement since 1980, requires 20 homes per mile to run a cable.

John Mucha, a Time Warner representative, attended the public hearing before the Dec. 13 meeting to discuss renewing the franchise agreement for another 15 years. The board will likely decide at its next meeting, on Jan. 10, whether or not to renew the franchise.

In areas that meet the company’s requirements, there is no cost to the consumers other than basic installation fees. Residents who live in areas with fewer than 20 homes per mile must pay the cable line installation costs, to gain access to the service.

The cost is determined by the number of homes that would potentially use the service. The cost decreases as the number of homes increases. Residents at last week’s meeting were given estimates nearing a few thousand dollars to install the underground cable.

Mucha said that, during the 12 years he has worked in the cable business, the requirement has been 20 homes per mile.

Sharon Boehlke estimates there are five or six homes per mile where she lives on New Scotland South Road. She told the board that she pays nearly $200 per month for her Dish Network cable. She said she is frustrated that she cannot get the same benefits as others in town.

"Fifteen years is a long time"I could be dead by then," Boehlke said, adding that, if the board were to pass the renewal agreement, she would not be eligible for cable for15 more years.

Councilwoman Peg Neri, who has negotiated with Time Warner on behalf of the town, wants to reduce the length of the agreement to 10 years, as it was in the past.

Franchise tax

Customers in the town of New Scotland who buy cable service from Time Warner are charged a franchise tax. The tax rate is set by the municipality, and can be as much as 5 percent.

New Scotland’s rate is 3 percent. L. Michel Mackey, the attorney for the town, explained to the board that the tax applies only to the cable portion of the customer’s bill. Customers who purchase various services from Time Warner get charged the franchise tax for cable costs only, he said.

The revenue goes to the town, but some of it is used to pay Time Warner’s town taxes.

People with cable essentially pay Time Warner’s property taxes, said Supervisor Ed Clark. Any additional revenue generated from the franchise tax beyond the cost of the town taxes, goes directly to the town.

"It exceeds it significantly," Clark said, citing the total franchise tax revenues at about $20,000 and just under $2,000 for Time Warner town taxes, leaving surplus of $18,000.

The money goes into the general fund, and "helps pay the bills," Clark said.

Councilwoman Deborah Baron proposed that the town raise the franchise tax, and use the revenue generated from the tax to help get cable access for the people in town who want it, but live in areas with too few houses.

Clark said that he doesn’t see any reason to do that.

We can’t use the tax revenues of some individuals in town to help others, he told The Enterprise.

"In the end, it becomes an economic question, and the cable company is reluctant to absorb the cost," Clark said.

He told the concerned residents that he would be happy to look into services offered by Verizon.

Other business

In other business, the town board at its December meeting:

– Announced that the annual re-organizational meeting will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 3, at 6:30 p.m.;

– Approved payment to Todd Crouse in the amount of $55 per month for his website services. Crouse also gave a brief presentation on his plans for updating the town’s website and making it more user-friendly;

– Re-appointed Supervisor Clark as marriage officer for four years;

– Adopted local laws #9, #10, and #11. Local Law #9 provides administration and enforcement of the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code.

Local Law #10 grants a partial tax exemption on property owned by people with disabilities with limited incomes.

Local Law #11 grants a partial tax exemption on property owned by senior citizens with limited incomes;

– Approved the 2007 agreement with the city of Albany for use of the Rapp Road Landfill facility at a charge of $52 per ton of municipal solid waste;

– Approved a one-year managed-service agreement with Technical Business Solutions;

– Renewed contracts with four local fire and ambulance services: New Salem Fire Department, Voorheesville Ambulance Service, Onesquethaw Fire, and Onesquethaw Ambulance;

– Announced that the New Scotland Historical Association’s spring show will be titled: From the Homefront to the Front Lines – New Scotland in WWI and WWII; and

– Announced that the seniors will be having their December banquet at Crossgates Restaurant on Dec. 27. The cost will be $10 per person.

Grocer Kevin Smith looks for community support as he buys Nichols’

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — Kevin Smith, the grocer who is buying Nichols’ Market, Voorheesville’s independent grocery store, grew up in Maine.

He was raised "way north," he said, about 10 miles from the Canadian border, the son of a farmer.

"That’s why you have such a good work ethic," said Elaine Nichols, who has run the Voorheesville store with her son, Jaret, since her husband died in 2002.

She was introducing Smith to the local press on Thursday morning.

Smith started working at a Hannaford Market, bagging groceries, when he was a college student at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. He majored in criminal justice, but, he said, "The career in retail was more promising."

The Hannaford supermarket chain was founded in Portland, Maine in 1883 when Arthur Hannaford opened a small produce store on the waterfront. He was then joined by his brothers, and the company became a leading wholesaler for produce in northern New England.

Retail outlets followed and, by 1971, earnings for Hannaford Bros. topped $1 million. Expansion continued and, by 1987, sales hit $1 billion. The Hannaford name took over for Shop ’n’ Save on private labels in 1996 and in 2000 Delhaize America, part of the Belgian Delhaize Group, bought Hannaford.

Smith worked his way up at Hannaford. "That sounds just like Jim," said Nichols of her husband, who opened the Voorheesville store on Maple Avenue in 1995, filling a long-vacant building.

"If you work hard, you always move up," said Jaret Nichols.

Elaine Nichols had told The Enterprise last week that the transition will take place at the end of January and she will stay on for six months or more to ease the way. It is time, now, she said, for her son Jaret to follow his own dreams.

Jaret said Thursday he does not know yet what he will pursue.

"He did the right thing for the family," said Elaine Nichols, noting Jaret stepped up after the death of her husband. Jim Nichols died while on a Cayman Island vacation with his wife; he was snorkeling.

Smith is himself a family man. He and his wife, Cheryl, who live in Ballston Spa, have a daughter, Lindsey, 19, and son, Kyle, 21. Smith said his son may "possibly" have an interest in the grocery business. "It changes," he said with a shrug and a smile.

Asked how the sale of Nichols’ market came about, Smith said that he had known Elaine and Jaret Nichols "for several years," and he went on, "It just came about in casual conversation."

Both Smith and Nichols declined to name the selling price.

"Hard to fill their shoes"

Smith moved to the Capital Region because he was looking for a challenge.

"I was bored after I became a store manager," he said. So, in 1988, he moved his family to Albany to help with Hannaford’s expansion here, overseeing the opening of several area stores. The chain has over 1,500 stores on the east coast.

In 1999, after 23 years of working for Hannaford, Smith made the plunge to buy his own store — Miller’s in West Sand Lake. He kept the name "Miller’s" just as he will keep the name "Nichols’" and added Shop ’n’ Save.

Since then, Smith has added two other Shop ’n’ Save stores; Nichols’ Shop ’n’ Save will be his fourth and final, Smith said.

When The Enterprise asked if he would expand beyond the four stores, Smith gave an immediate and emphatic, "No."

"It’s like after you’ve had a new baby," said Elaine Nichols, "and people ask if you have plans for another."

Hannaford supplies independently owned and operated franchises in the Northeast with Shop ’n’ Save merchandise. Those stores are usually in smaller markets.

"The ones I have are the only ones in New York," said Smith. The price structure for the Shop ’n’ Save stores is set by Hannaford and the ad program for Nichols’ will be Hannaford’s, said Smith.

"We have a store manager for each store," said Smith. He is keeping the current Nichols’ Market staff members, who number just under 100.

"Good staff is hard to find," he said.

Smith anticipates the store management at Nichols’ will continue to be active with community projects.

"I look for the store management to get involved," he said.

Smith concluded of the larger Voorheesville community, "I hope they give us the support they have to the Nichols family. It will be hard to fill their shoes."

Benefits extended to all active volunteers

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — All 54 of the active volunteer firefighters here will now be able to take part in the Length of Service Award Program.

In a unanimous vote, the village board on Tuesday decided to change the number of slots available for LOSAP awards from 50 to 60, to accommodate all of the active members of the Voorheesville Volunteer Fire Department. The other part of the resolution states that the administrative fees associated with receiving the benefits will be paid by the recipients.

The state-approved program provides benefits for volunteers when they turn 62 based on the number of years that they have served. In Voorheesville, the fire department provides $480 per year, which is paid for with village taxes. Most fire departments and ambulance services in the area provide $700 per year to their volunteers, a $220 raise approved by voters in 2005.

The Voorheesville fire department was the only service company in New Scotland that did not request an increase last year because it was planning a $1.2 million renovation project for the firehouse.

When volunteers turn 62, they can choose whether to take the money that they’ve earned in one lump sum or receive a portion of it every year for five years. For each option, there is a $75 fee initially, said William Berger, a village trustee and president of the fire department. With the five-year plan, there is an additional cost of $50 per year after the first year. All of those fees are to be paid for by the recipient, he told The Enterprise.

Asked if the service awards had helped the department, Berger said it’s hard to tell. The idea behind the program is that it will attract new volunteers to increasingly under-staffed service companies and encourage existing volunteers to be more active, since they must accumulate a certain number of points that are given for various activities throughout the year in order to be eligible for benefits. In Voorheesville, they’ve had some active members become more active after LOSAP was introduced, Berger said.

"These volunteers put in a lot of hours," he said. "It’s a nice thing to give them a little something."

Other business

In other business at the Dec. 19 meeting, the board:

— Heard from Gerald Gordinier, the village’s part-time building inspector, that there will be a bakery opening in the village. It is slated to go in the former pizza shop building on South Main Street, Berger told The Enterprise on Wednesday; and

— Heard from Mayor Robert Conway that the village received a letter from the New Salem Fire Department asking for a waiver of water fees from June of 2006 to May of 2007. Berger said on Wednesday that there is a $70 yearly fee in the village and a $140 yearly fee outside of the village. The board was advised by the village attorney that the village cannot waive fees like that, Berger said.

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