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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 8, 2007

Elementary school eligible for historic register

By Rachel Dutil

VOORHEESVILLE – History is an important aspect of education, and, for students at Voorheesville Elementary School, it is all around them.

The school was built in 1930, with additions in 1949 and 1963, and is eligible for the National Historic Register, according to Superintendent Linda Langevin, but is thus far not part of it.

"We want this building to last a long time," said Assistant Superintendent for Business Sarita Winchell.

The building is in need of repairs, and, beginning this summer, renovations will begin in a $5.8 million bond project endorsed by voters last fall.

The State Historical Preservation Office reviewed the proposed design and construction plans for the elementary school, and the district could not get a building permit without SHPO’s approval, said project architect Michael Fanning.

SHPO wanted to be sure the historical aspect of the building would be maintained. "It’s a very handsome building," Fanning said.

The school has not been renovated since 1989, Winchell said. "Airflow and ventilation really needed to be addressed."

The project received State Education Department approval on Monday. The next step is going out to bid, Fanning explained. The project has five different contracts – general construction, plumbing, heating and ventilation, electrical, and asbestos abatement.

"We might easily get 30 bids on the five contracts," he said. The district will receive bids on March 29. "The lowest qualified bidder is accepted," Fanning said.

On Sept. 19, district residents voted in favor of the $5.8 million bond project. Renovations at the elementary school, worth $2.28 million, will make up 89 percent of the project. Renovations at the high school will make up 9.4 percent, and 1.6 percent will be used for improvements to the bus garage.

The elementary school portion will involve the installation of updated, more efficient unit ventilators, replacing valves, and putting in place an energy-management system and exhaust systems to help manage airflow in the building.

The project will also increase the access for people with disabilities through the secondary entrance in the school’s courtyard, and also in the upper-floor bathrooms, Fanning said.

Construction plans

The project will start this summer in the top two floors in the oldest section of the elementary school building. It will continue into the 2007-08 school year, with work happening on the second shift, starting at 4 p.m. after the school day ends, Fanning said.

The entire project is expected to be completed by the end of the summer of 2008.

Classrooms renovated during the school year will be done two at a time, Fanning explained. While the work is being done, the classes that use the rooms will be relocated to "swing classrooms," he said. Sixteen classrooms in total will be renovated at the elementary school.

The high school portion of the project, costing $558,000, includes rebuilding the tennis courts, renovating restrooms that were not renovated in the 2001 project, installing a new ceiling in the old gymnasium, adding a water-softening system, and replacing removable wall partitions.

The $91,000 bus garage improvements include installing brighter, more efficient lights, relocating the vehicle-exhaust system farther from the building, replacing the non-functioning parts of the heating system, and filling in and sealing a flooded underground holding tank.

The project is a "preservation of a community asset," said school board vice-president C. James Coffin at a school-board meeting preceding the September vote.

The newest wing of the elementary school is 44 years old, Winchell told The Enterprise. The age of the building and its interior heating and ventilation systems was one of the major factors driving the project, she said.

"The real need is there, and the timing is good," Winchell said. The $7.9 million bond issue from 1989 will be retiring at the same time that taxpayers will begin paying on the new bond issue.

Winchell said the district saw "the window of opportunity, to phase in work without impacting the taxpayer."

The project will be funded through several means – $500,000 from the existing capital reserve fund; $31,000 from interest on the capital reserve; $409,000 from the state’s Expanding our Children’s Education and Learning (EXCEL) aid; and $4.88 million from the bond issue.

The repayment schedule will be over a 15-year period.

The initial planning for the project began before the EXCEL aid was available, Winchell told The Enterprise. The availability of the aid, she said, "made the project more attractive."

The project, Langevin said, "is an investment in the future."

Digeser seeks approval
Vertical windmill is for the birds

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – Vertical axis wind turbines are "recommended by birds," Henry Digeser told the zoning board of appeals. He is hoping to erect one of the bird-friendly devices on his Copeland Hill Road property.

The design for the uni-directional, vertical windmill "has been around for a while," Digeser told The Enterprise, but, "it’s a new system on the market."

Digeser is hoping to be granted a temporary-use permit to construct the turbine, which will be 40 feet tall, about 10 feet in diameter, weigh 400 pounds, and sit on a cement base about 500 feet away from his house.

The turbine itself sits on a pole and has three blades situated vertically that rotate in a circle. The blades themselves are about nine feet long.

Digeser’s turbine is significantly smaller than the 140-foot standard propeller-style windmill he originally proposed a few months ago.

The smaller windmill has fewer moving parts and is more efficient at producing power at lower wind speeds than the larger models. Digeser’s property gets an average wind speed of 15 miles per hour, but the turbine only needs about four miles per hour to generate power, he said.

Digeser, and his wife, Nancy, have lived in New Scotland for two years. Their 100-acre property falls in a residential-forestry (RF) district, where windmills are not allowed as a permitted or a special use. The temporary-use permit would allow the windmill for one year, which could then be extended another year.

Digeser is expecting that, by the time his permit expires, the town will have adjusted its zoning laws to allow his windmill to become a permanent fixture. "I think the town is excited about it," he said.

Thus far, Digeser has presented his plan to both the zoning and planning boards, with positive reactions from both, and a public hearing will be held on the application at the zoning board’s March 27 meeting.

"Right way to go"

"With the ongoing oil crisis, we were looking for a way for renewable energy," Digeser said of his and his wife’s motivation for applying for the permit.

Digeser is a project engineer at Gould Erectors in Glenmont, a construction company that has a dealership with a windmill company, Digeser explained. Gould Erectors purchases and installs windmills. "We just started it," he said.

The company plans on displaying one of the vertical axis wind turbines in the shop as "a demo-model," Digeser said.

The basic unit costs about $25,000, Digeser said; a foundation and tower are also needed. The cost "will vary from job site to job site," he said.

Installing a windmill, Digeser said, "is not economical" without the federal and state tax incentives, and the financial assistance provided by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

NYSERDA will pay for 40 percent of the cost for residential windmills, up to 60 percent for agricultural use, and 80 percent of the cost for educational use, Digeser told The Enterprise.

"Without the incentives, it’s a long-term return on your investment," Digeser said. "Payback is 20 or 30 years."

With the incentives, the payback can be three or four years, depending on power use, he said.

The power produced by the wind turbine will be fed into the Niagara Mohawk power grid, Digeser said. Any power that is produced, which he does not use, he will be credited for from the power company, he said.

The whole process is "a learning experience," Digeser said, adding, "I’m curious to see how things will work out.

"I think the more we’re independent from oil, the better off we’ll be," Digeser said. Wind energy "is the right way to go," he concluded.

Other business

In other business, at recent zoning and planning board meetings:

– The zoning board adjourned a public hearing on an application for a use variance submitted by Sherman Coonradt to allow for a proposed subdivison of two pre-existing, non-conforming lots owned by Catherine and Walter Vivenzio on Fielding Way, to create a new residential lot. The new lot, however, would lack the required road frontage. Zoning law requires that lots have a minimum of 15 feet of road frontage, providing access to a public road in order to be granted a building permit. The public hearing will be held on March 27;

– The zoning board granted an area variance to the First Assembly of God Church to erect a five by three-and-a-half foot sign in front of its establishment on Mariana Lane. The zoning board also granted a use variance allowing the church to illuminate the sign, with the stipulations that the sign must be lit from the ground with wattage of 150 or less, and the lights must be shut off by 10 p.m.;

– The zoning board granted an area variance and a use variance to Karen Spinelli for a three-lot subdivision proposed for her property located on Krum Kill Road. One of the lots would contain a pre-existing barn, which is not allowed.

The property lies within the residential conservation (R2) and medium-density residential (MDR) districts, where a secondary structure – which the barn is considered to be – is not permitted without a primary structure.

The use variance will allow her to restore the barn and transform it into a residential dwelling. The board added the stipulation that the barn must be converted within 24 months. The area variance granted her 16 feet of relief to the lot width of one of the parcels;

– The zoning board granted an area variance to Peter Schaming for the subdivision of a 90-acre landlocked parcel owned by Katherine Barber. The subdivision would create a 35-acre and a 55-acre parcel. Schaming intends to purchase the 35-acre parcel that is adjacent to his 5.6-acre property. The variance granted relief to the 50 feet of road frontage required on newly-created lots;

– The zoning board granted an area variance to Stephen and Rada Jones, allowing them to subdivide their property on Indian Fields Road into four lots. The residential zone the property is in requires a 70-foot front setback on a state road. A 237-year-old house sits 66 feet from the road, and a 25-year-old accessory structure sits 50 feet form the road. The variance granted four feet of relief for the dwelling, and 20 feet of relief for the accessory structure;

– The planning board approved a special-use permit, submitted by Frank DelGallo and James Bradshaw, allowing them to construct a pond on their property at the end of Ryder Lane. The pond will be rectangular in shape, about 70 feet long, by 30 feet wide, and six feet deep, if possible. The pond will provide water for fire protection. The board added the stipulations that construction should be done during the summer months, an aquatic bench must be installed if the pond is deeper than four feet, and the soil should be stabilized; and

– The planning board moved an area variance submitted by Bernard Rathke to the zoning board with a favorable recommendation. The variance would allow 17.7 feet of relief to the side setback of 25 feet, allowing a garage to be constructed coming within 7.3 feet of the side-yard property line. A public hearing will be held at the zoning board’s March 27 meeting.

Privacy for ‘sensitive issues’

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – The town’s assessing department has overstuffed its space.

The department was given a green light by the town board to move ahead with office renovations to provide more privacy and accessibility for the two assessors.

The office, located in town hall, "was created to be a single office," said Julie Nooney, the town assessor. She shares the space with the assessing clerk, Donna McGinnis. Nooney has been the town assessor since 2002, and McGinnis has been the full-time clerk for about a year.

"We talk about sensitive issues," Nooney said of the assessing department. "It definitely makes it difficult when we are both meeting with someone or talking on the phone at the same time."

The office, once it is remodeled, will separate the assessor and clerk so that each has her own space. The main reason for the change, Nooney said, is privacy.

"Any time you share an office, there is stuff going on that’s not part of your work day," she said.

As you enter the office, McGinnis’s desk is to the right of the door, and Nooney’s desk is located in a setback area behind where the door opens.

"When Donna is out, nobody knows I’m here," Nooney told The Enterprise.

The proposal to renovate the office was came about because the carpeting is being replaced in town hall. Nooney said that she was trying to come up with a way to reconfigure the office so that both she and McGinnis were visible from the doorway. Because of the office space and dimensions, "It was impossible," she said.

The plan re-structures the office by tearing down one wall and putting up another, maintaining the same amount of overall space, and giving Nooney and McGinnis their own space to do their jobs.

The work – estimated to cost less than $2,500 – will be done by town employees, Nooney said. She expects to be working in her new office by the end of the month. "We certainly hope by Grievance Day," she laughed, referring to the state-designated day in May when citizens contest their assessments.

McGinnis’s office will be located where Nooney’s desk now sits, in a space about nine feet by 10 feet; Nooney’s office will be about 16 feet by nine-and-a-half feet.

The new arrangement will "help ease a lot of uncomfortable meetings," Nooney said. The idea is to make the space more user-friendly for everybody, she added.

"It will absolutely make my job easier," McGinnis told The Enterprise.

"People can come and talk to me without meandering down the hall, not knowing where they are going," Nooney said.

Extended moratorium"

The board at its February meeting reached no decision on updating the comprehensive land-use plan and extending the moratorium on building in the northeast quadrant of town.

The town was awarded a $22,400 grant, and has yet to decide what the money will be used for. Updating the town’s 13-year-old comprehensive land-use plan had been the objective of the grant application.

A committee was appointed last year to study the current plan and zoning regulations to see if a new plan is needed; it concluded that some updating, in some capacity, should be done on the comprehensive plan, LaGrange told The Enterprise earlier.

Councilman Richard Reilly suggested that the town use the money "in a more targeted fashion and make some zoning changes."

Reilly initially proposed the moratorium, which will expire in mid-March, to review the zoning in the area. "Our problem is not a comprehensive plan issue, it’s an implementation issue," he said at the Feb. 21 meeting.

"One of the most difficult things that a public official has to do, is look at what seems like a good idea, study it, and say no," Reilly said.

The board scheduled a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. preceding the March 14 meeting to discuss extending the moratorium for another six months.

Other business

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

– Appointed John Keenan to represent the town in animal-control cases;

– Adopted a 2007 Engineering Services Agreement with Vollmer Associates;

– Heard from R. Mark Dempf, town engineer, about an extension of a water district on Mason Lane. The homeowners on Mason Lane installed a water line along the road and to their residences at their own expense, drawing water from Bethlehem, but, somehow, never officially became part of a water district, Dempf explained.

They will become incorporated into the Heldervale water district, and the sewer district, Supervisor Ed Clark told The Enterprise.

"This has to be cleaned up," Dempf advised the board;

– Authorized the purchase of tables for the Wyman Osterhout Community Center; and the purchase of a BJ’s Wholesale Club card, with a $45 annual fee; and granted permission for the town to go out to bid for highway materials on March 9 at 10 a.m.;

– Approved spending not more than $400 for the purchase of a new vacuum for Town Hall; and

– Announced that a new security system has been installed in the museum portion of the community center.

Cardona, Hotaling run in uncontested village race

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — The village hasn’t seen a contested election since 1994, and this year continues the trend as two incumbent trustees run unopposed to keep their seats.

Trustees William Hotaling and David Cardona are both up for re-election and neither will be challenged in the March 20 election.

"Any time you have an election, contested is the way to go," Hotaling said, but serving on the board is time-consuming and a lo Digeser seeks approval

Vertical windmill is for the birds
t of people don’t have time to do it. Often, he said, it takes a big issue to get people to run; the village hasn’t had one in a while.

Voorheesville has 2,705 residents according to the 2000 census, but only a fraction of them vote — 82 people voted last year and 45 the election before that. Both candidates say that they’re running because they care about the village.

Hotaling, who serves as deputy mayor, has been on the board for eight years; he’s running for his third four-year term this month. "The reason I run goes back a ways," he said. "The village is in my blood."

Born and raised in Voorheesville, Hotaling served as the superintendent of public works for 29 years and then took a seat on the village board when he retired. The biggest issue he sees facing the village in the years to come involves the budget, he said.

"Money doesn’t go as far as it used to," he said, and then listed a number of services that the village provides to residents, including trash pick-up, snow removal, park upkeep, and recreation programs.

Cardona, who has been on the board since he was appointed in 2004, called the services provided by the village to residents tremendous for the amount they pay in taxes. He’d like to maintain those services over the next four years, he said.

Selling municipal water to people outside the village, at double the rate, was mentioned by both candidates as a good source of revenue for the village, providing that it doesn’t hurt the service to residents.

Senior housing was another item that both candidates support. Local developer Troy Miller plans to build a senior-housing complex in the village, which both Hotaling and Cardona hailed as necessary, though inadequate. Miller plans to build nine condominiums at a cost that could range from $165,000 to $180,000. Years ago, Omni had proposed a 48-unit senior-housing complex on property owned by St. Matthew’s church on Mountainview Road but it hasn’t followed through.

"Troy is on the right track, there’s no doubt about it," said Cardona, but, in order for the village to keep its senior population, it will need more housing.

Where the two diverged was on the idea of a master plan for the village. Cardona said he thought coming up with a comprehensive land-use plan would be a good idea while Hotaling doesn’t see a need. "As people come to us with ideas, we look at them," he said, explaining that the village handles things on a case-by-case basis, and therefore doesn’t need a master plan.

The election will be held on March 20 in the village hall.

More fines for speeding, parking, and barking

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — Fines have gone up in the village for speeding and parking. And a new restrictions in the dog law fine owners of barking dogs and fine them if they don’t pick up their dog’s feces.

An amendment to the village’s dog law, which it has had since 1970, adds a noise restriction, a pooper-scooper ordinance, and increased fines to the already-existing law. The fine had been no more than $25; now the law states that a first offense warrants a fine of no less than $50 plus prosecution fees and, for subsequent offenses, not less than $100.

The fine is not less than $250 for violations of the noise law, which reads: "It shall be unlawful for any owner of or any person harboring any dog to permit or allow such dog to" to engage in habitual loud howling or barking or to conduct itself in such manner so as to habitually annoy any person other than the owner or person harboring such a dog. Any unreasonable or unnecessary noise by continued barking, howling, or other animal noises is considered to be continuous after fifteen (15) minutes."

The board passed the amendments unanimously during a public hearing held during a workshop meeting before the monthly village board meeting on Feb. 27.

During the meeting that followed, the board unanimously passed increased fines for speeding and parking in the village. In discussion at the workshop meeting, Trustee Jack Stevens and Deputy Mayor William Hotaling expressed trepidation about raising the fines.

"It’s a small area," Anne-Jo McTague, the village’s attorney, said of Voorheesville. "Wait until you get past the circle, then speed," she said, referring to the roundabout linking Route 155 to Route 85A.

The fine for speeding within the village limits is now not less than $150, rather than the old fine, which had been not more than $100. For parking violations, which include parking on any street from midnight to 6 a.m., from Nov. 15 to April 15, parking in certain designated areas, or stopping at some intersections, the new fine is to be not less than $50 for a first offense, not less than $100 for a second, and $200 plus the cost of towing and storage for a third offense. The fines had been not more than $10 for a first offense, not less than $10 for a second, and not more than $100 for a third offense.

Other business

In other business at recent meetings, the board:

— Agreed unanimously to write a letter of support to Michael Breslin, Albany County executive, and Charles Houghtaling, chairman of the Albany County Legislature, in response to a letter that they sent to the village requesting re-authorization to collect an additional 1-percent sales tax. According to the letter, Albany County has been collecting the tax since 1992 and the village of Voorheesville brought in $215,101 from the tax in 2006;

— Heard from Trustee Hotaling that the zoning board of appeals granted developer Troy Miller a setback and that Miller has gotten an application for demolition of the house at the corner of Stonington Hill Road and Maple Avenue, which is now empty, but the village hasn’t approved it yet. Miller plans to put a senior-housing complex on that property; and

— Heard from Dominick Campana that he has gotten a committee together for looking into building a skate park for village kids. The proposal that he gave the board carries an estimated cost of $40,000. He said to the board, "I know the budget is going to be the biggest hurdle."

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