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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 19, 2007

Planning praised
Fairgrounds rock, village quiet

By Jarrett Carroll

ALTAMONT — Preparation paid off. Although there were over 25,000 people in Altamont on Saturday, villagers couldn’t tell.

This pleased many residents who were upset with rowdiness and congestion at last year’s Countryfest, but riled store owners whose businesses suffered.

Proper planning is being credited for alleviating traffic congestion and other problems like public urination and brawling, but the same plans which prevented the irritation of residents also prevented the profits of local businesses.

Fair officials were pleased with the event — such money-makers keep the fairgrounds viable, they said, adding that sponsor WGNA seemed pleased as well. Most police felt the event was well controlled, too.

Some store owners tell a different story.

Both the Altamont Sunoco in the village and the Stewart’s Shop on the corner of routes 20 and 146 said they did not benefit from the large crowds on Saturday.

Sunoco owner Mike Dingman said he actually lost money on the event.

"Oh, I did terrible; it wasn’t good," Dingman said of Saturday. "Last year they were sold out here, but this year they wouldn’t let anyone pass through. I thought the purpose of bringing these events into town was to help local business."

Police blockades on side roads and specific traffic flow plans were put in place after villagers complained of cars parked in residential areas and long traffic backups at last year’s Countryfest.

Dingman said he lost about $6,000 on Saturday. About half of it was because of overstocking, but, the other half he said, was because many local residents left for the weekend fearing a re-run of last year. His sales were $3,000 less than a typical Saturday.

Although village residents seemed pleased with the WGNA-sponsored event this year, Altamont Public Safety Commissioner Anthony Salerno said a meeting has been scheduled with the radio station concerning alcohol abuse and violence.

Altamont Police say that alcohol consumption is to blame for the more than dozen arrests and numerous fights inside of the fairgrounds.

"We’re in the process of assessing it because of some events that happened inside," Salerno said Tuesday about Countryfest. "People complained who attended the event about the amount of fighting."

The radio station WGNA did not return calls for comment to The Enterprise, and the station’s marketing director is on vacation this week. But fair officials said the radio station "seemed pleased" with the event.

Residents have written letters to The Enterprise editor this week, praising the event over last year’s. The Village of Altamont Neighborhood Association last month raised several concerns about Countryfest to the Guilderland Town Board, which granted a mass-gathering permit for the event.

The association’s vice president said this week he is pleased with the outcome.

"I really think the neighborhood association made an impact"I think we got the attention of some board members," Vice President Steve Reinmann said. "I realize the crowds were down"but I think they did a great job. I didn’t see any major backups."

The concerns were raised primarily over traffic backup, which in some cases last year lasted over an hour and caused emergency vehicles to be immobile, as well as a lack of portable toilets, garbage, and numerous accounts of public drunkenness around the village. There were over 250 portable toilets this year compared to last year’s 50.

The neighborhood association provided cold drinks to police officers stationed around the village, Reinmann said, adding that his association is new, but that "it’s only trying to do some good in the community."

The associations president, Norman Bauman, was originally vocal in his concerns over Countryfest, but declined comment to The Enterprise on Saturday’s event.

Another Altamont resident, Stephanie Carter, said that, even though she didn’t go to the event, it "was much better this year."

"I think the Altamont and Guilderland Police were right on top of it and patrolled the area very well," she said.

Police patrols

The Altamont Police Department patrolled the fairgrounds during Countryfest with the help of New York State Police, the Albany County Sheriff’s Department, and the Guilderland Police.

Lieutenant Curtis Cox of the Guilderland Police coordinated among the various agencies and said everyone involved worked hard and maintained a controlled environment throughout the event. Cox said he was "very pleased" with traffic control to and from the event.

"The traffic scenario played out very well"We did not have any traffic backups at all," Cox said. "Prior planning proved to be very effective. We are very satisfied with the results."

Salerno said that nine Altamont Police officers worked all day on Saturday.

Altamont Police made 12 arrests, which included disorderly conduct, underage drinking, resisting arrest, and assault, according to Salerno. Police arrested one drunk driver in Lot 6, Salerno said, after a man was found "doing doughnuts" in the parking lot.

Cox said State Police made three more arrests and that the Albany County Sheriff’s also made an arrest. Full arrest information on the event is not yet available, Cox said, but that it will be within the week.

"We didn’t have as many people in attendance this year, but we had more arrests," Salerno told The Enterprise. The crowd last year, which was the first time it was held in Altamont, was estimated at 30,000 to 35,000.

"Last year we only had two arrests," Salerno said.

Cox said he didn’t think it was "out of the ordinary" for such a large crowd to have arrests.

Fewer police last year may have resulted in fewer arrests.

"There were some people who were disorderly, but not everyone was arrested. Some people were simply asked to leave or escorted out," Cox said. "The private security hired did their jobs and the police only intervened a few times when needed."

No fire, few medical needs

No official estimates have been given on the size of the crowd, but the Altamont Fair’s manager, Marie McMillen, said estimates are around 25,000 people.

Donald Albright, Guilderland’s chief fire inspector, acted as the fire coordinator for Countryfest and had firefighters ready, Cox said. There were no fire emergencies during the event.

Cox told The Enterprise that between 10 and 12 people were transported to area hospitals for treatments, including sutures, fractures, concussions, and one heart attack. There were six different emergency medical service agencies; four medical doctors from Albany Medical Center Hospital; two registered nurses; four paramedics; and 25 emergency medical service workers on hand at Countryfest, according to Cox.

There were also nine ambulances, two "field hospitals," and a helicopter available, he added.

Salerno said parking lots were patrolled by WGNA’s private security staff, but that by mid-afternoon police had taken over the task because of reports of excess drinking there.

McMillen thought the event was a success but also said that "tailgating" was a problem at the event.

"Next year, we’re going to address the tailgating. I think that’s going to come to a halt," McMillen said. "I thought it went well"We had great weather and everyone did their jobs. There’s always room for improvement, we keep learning and will just get better for next year."

McMillen said she expects Countryfest to become a regular summer staple at the Altamont fairgrounds.

After 10 years, Schramm leaves chamber

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — She used to be in the business of businesses in town.

But now, after 10 years directing the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce, Jane Schramm has resigned to direct Senior Services of Albany, a not-for-profit organization which provides services to the city and the county, including the Albany County Meals on Wheels program.

Schramm has been described as "the heart and soul" of the town’s chamber of commerce by her colleagues and she says business trends have changed over the last decade.

"Technology has changed business," Schramm said. "I remember when people had those huge, heavy cell phones and no one had a computer at home, or at least it was rare. People didn’t communicate via computer."

Now, Schramm says, three-quarters of Guilderland Chamber of Commerce members use e-mail as a primary communication tool.

"People do business a lot faster now," Schramm told The Enterprise.

Technology has also helped foster a strong community of entrepreneurs, according to Schramm.

"I’ve seen a lot more entrepreneurs, a lot more," she said. "I know it’s a national trend, but it’s a big group of folks here in Guilderland."

Her 10-year anniversary with the chamber would have been next month, but, Schramm said, she had an opportunity she just couldn’t pass up.

"I had a new opportunity come my way that piqued my interest"It’s a very good move," said Schramm. "I’m a firm believer that everything you’ve done in your life shapes where you are now."

Schramm said she has a "varied past" and was previously the volunteer coordinator for the city of Albany and had worked for the Capital District YMCA.

"Symbiotic relationship"

Recalling when she first applied to the Guilderland chamber, Schramm said, "I was working for the city and heard the position was open. I thought I’d see if it would be a good fit." The chamber’s office is "right down the road" from her home, she said.

Schramm says Guilderland is a great place for business.

"We have a highly educated population here. Guilderland people are very loyal to their businesses and Guilderland businesses support their community," said Schramm. "It’s a nice symbiotic relationship."

Schramm said the businesses that belong to the chamber are "not just there to make a buck."

"What I really got a sense of working with the chamber was that people want to belong, they want a sense of community," she said. "Some people think that chambers of commerce are all business and have no heart, that they are ruled by the all-mighty buck. There are a lot of good business people in Guilderland."

Spearheading many community events over the years, Schramm helped create and promote last summer’s Pigtacular that spurred a host of fiberglass pigs around Guilderland, all auctioned off for charities.

Schramm saw the chamber grow from 300 businesses to 650 business members during her tenure.

"Everything from the webmaster working out of his basement to Albany Molecular Research"it’s a very diverse membership," Schramm said.

The chamber provides networking opportunities for local businesses and offers the benefits of referrals and workshop groups, like "Women in Business" and a group of sole proprietors called "The Lone Rangers," Schramm said.

"Chambers of commerce are the conduit to help businesses succeed and get advice from other local business owners"and people in the community are comfortable going to a chamber for recommendations."

"A real people person"

Staffers at the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce say they miss Schramm, but that they wish her the best of luck.

"I’m happy for her but we’ll really miss her here," said Cyndy Myers, the chamber’s member services coordinator. "Of all the bosses I’ve ever had, Jane is the nicest, hardest worker I’ve ever met. She makes you feel like an equal, not an employee."

Myers said the chamber has not named a new executive director, but applications are now being accepted and interviews are being conducted.

"If you know of any really good people like Jane, send them our way," Myers told The Enterprise.

Myers summed up Schramm by saying, "Jane is the best boss I’ve ever had"She’s a real people person. I can’t say enough good things about her."

Schramm says the feeling is mutual.

"I’ve met some great people along the way," she said. "I miss the chamber and everyone there, but I still live in Guilderland and still get to interact with everyone, but just in a different capacity."

Schramm’s last event for the chamber was a fund-raiser at the Appel Inn in Guilderland Center. The event raised $7,000 for the Liza’s Legacy Foundation.

The Guilderland Chamber of Commerce is honoring Schramm’s service by holding "An Evening with Jane Schramm" on Wednesday, July 25, at the Italian-American Community Center in Albany. The evening will feature dinner with a cash bar and will cost $20. Organizers will accept an additional $5 to contribute to a gift being presented to Schramm that evening.

Those interested get additional information or make reservations by calling 456-6611.

Board members raise questions
School leaders say staff developer "essential"

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Administrators passionately defended the need to provide staff with ongoing training as some school board members last week questioned the appointment of a new staff developer.

Ultimately, after an executive session, Nancy Brumer was appointed to the post for a year. A teacher at Altamont Elementary School since 2001, she replaces another elementary teacher, Kathy Oboyski-Butler, who left for another district. Brumer will earn $67,000 this year.

The subject was broached by board member Hy Dubowsky who said the departure of the former staff developer left "a blank spot" and a chance for re-examination.

"The only time in government you can get rid of someone is when there’s no one in the position," Dubowsky said.

While the school board president, Richard Weisz, pointed out that the district budget, approved by voters in May, included the post, board member Peter Golden, referring to Superintendent Gregory Aidala, said, "As Greg has said many times, the budget is just a spending plan."

Golden went on to question if staff development at Guilderland is "configured properly."

Two years ago, Golden started questioning the district’s means of providing health-insurance for employees, leading to eventual changes and significant savings. At last Tuesday’s meeting, he said money wasn’t saved on medical care until after "a roller-coaster ride."

He proposed an "overall" look at staff development programs.

"I just wonder if we’re multiplying layers here," said board member Barbara Fraterrigo. "I know we need somebody but I don’t want two people," she said, referring to an appointment the board also was making for the newly-created post of career and technology supervisor.

She went on, referring to the assistant superintendent for instruction, Nancy Andress, "I know in the old days, poor Nancy did everything."

Superintendent Aidala interrupted Fraterrigo to say the job of staff developer was not an administrative position. "This is a teacher who works with other teachers," he said. "It helps to insure success...It’s been one of the hallmarks of the district," he said of the professional development opportunities offered to teachers.

Aidala also said, "I think it would be a very serious drop...to not go forward with this position." And, he said, overextending the new technology supervisor would be "a recipe for failure."

"This would set us back a great deal," agreed Andress. Part of what attracts good teachers to the district, she said, is its reputation for professional development.

"It’s not poor Nancy," she responded to Fraterrigo. "The job I do has changed a lot in seven years," she said, referring to the added requirements for massive amounts of testing and analysis of data. "I don’t have as much time to coordinate and set up workshops," she said, which is work she still relishes.

Andress called the job of the staff developer "essential."

Other board members spoke in support of the post. The board’s newest member, Gloria Towle-Hilt, who just retired after a decades-long career of teaching at Guilderland, said the staff developer was "a very important position" and that the staff valued continual training.

Board member Colleen O’Connell, who won her bid for re-election teamed with Towle-Hilt, said it was practical to keep teacher turnover low and she called the training "an investment in those we hire."

She also said it had been vetted during the citizens’ budget review process. "This is not shared decision-making here," said O’Connell. "There was no hue and cry for this post to be removed."

Board member Cathy Barber said she didn’t see overlap between the technology supervisor’s job and the staff developer’s job. She called the staff developer "much more of a generalist."

Administrators’ philosophy

Everyone in the Guilderland School District is expected to be a learner — not just the students but the teachers and administrators as well, Aidala told The Enterprise this week.

For example, during the monthly meetings of the administrative council, Aidala said, time was set aside this year to discuss Whatever It Takes, with committee members presenting a chapter of the book at each meeting.

"As administrators, we’re focusing on what we can do to help students perform on a higher level, especially students with difficulties," said the superintendent.

Aidala, who is retiring from the district next fall after seven years at its helm, said one of the things that attracted him to Guilderland in the first place was its emphasis on professional development.

"When we talk about a community of learners, we mean it," he said.

Andress said the commitment has been there since the 1970s, beginning with summertime workshops for new teachers.

"When we work with children coming into kindergarten, they have visited the school several times and are excited about returning on opening day," said Aidala. "I would apply a similar description to new teachers. We do extensive work with them...This week, we are having reading and writing workshops."

"So many of these young teachers say, ‘We heard you have professional development that will support my learning or extend my learning,’" said Andress. "It’s important to us that it be coherent and sustained over time."

Comparing it to ongoing training in the medical profession, she said "You wouldn’t want to go to a doctor who hadn’t read journals and been to conferences."

The training comes with a price tag. Aidala estimated that it costs $800,000 annually. That includes the salaries for the staff developer and the data coordinator and part of Andress’s salary, he said. It also includes compensating teachers for their work and paying substitute teachers to cover their classes while they attend workshops. It covers, too, payment for conferences outside the district and for bringing experts in.

"Out of an $82 million budget, that’s less than 1 percent," said Aidala.

"We don’t do drive-by staff development," said Andress, describing the approach in some districts that offer a singe day of unrelated workshops.

"It has to be ongoing; it has to be sustained over time," she said of effective training.

The state requires 175 hours of training over five years for new teachers, which Guilderland teachers usually complete within two years, said Andress.

Asked if Guilderland teachers are required to do more training, Andress said, "If they do not attend, that would affect their evaluation."

Andress was inspired to develop Guilderland’s current model when she and other administrators visited the Durham School District outside of Toronto.

"I wanted to have two staff developers, one for elementary and one for secondary...I would love to see that," she said. "There is such power in skilled teachers working with other teachers."

Andress settled for one staff developer. The first was Jackie LaRosa, followed by Oboyski-Butler, and now Brumer. All three were highly-regarded elementary-school teachers hired from within the district.

"The role is to work directly with teachers, not in an evaluative sense," said Andress. "They can work on techniques like building community in a classroom or on anti-bullying techniques."

At the secondary level, Andress said, the staff developer might teach how to work as a team, for example, helping a cabinet learn to build consensus.

Besides working with teachers, the staff developer has also worked with groups at Guilderland as diverse as secretaries and bus drivers, said Andress.

Aidala described a workshop Kathy Oboyski-Butler put on for the Guilderland Teachers’ Association mentoring program last fall on parent conferences and open houses.

In one interactive part of the three-hour workshop, Aidala was paired with a new teacher, doing role playing as a parent in a conference.

"New teachers got to interact with veteran teachers and learned a lot," he said.

"It’s an investment in our teachers," Aidala concluded of professional development. "We feel very strongly...it makes them better teachers in a holistic way."

For three years
District office workers get 3.95-percent raises

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Completing the last of its contracts with the district’s 12 bargaining groups, the school board last week approved a three-year agreement with Guilderland’s smallest unit — the six members of the District Office Confidential Employees Unit.

The central office secretaries and clerks will receive an average raise of 3.95 percent for each of the three years of the contract, which begins in 2007-08 and runs through 2009-10.

Salaries in the first year of the contract range from $35,615 to $51,626 and in the third year range from $39,079 to $55,410, according to Superintendent Gregory Aidala.

"We are now on schedule as we start the new year; everyone has a contract in place for 2007-08," said Aidala.

The contract includes an "evaluation instrument" for the first time, said Aidala and it also features clearer, more understandable language.

The seven members of the school board present at last Tuesday’s meeting all approved the contract and, Aidala said, all six members of the unaffiliated unit ratified it as well.

He praised the group as "very dedicated and hard working" and said, "The district office is a busy place"We wouldn’t be able to make the progress we do without their excellent work."

Other business
In other business, the board:

— Appointed Dr. Catherine Perry to the newly-created post of career and technology supervisor. She will be paid $81,500 for the 12-month job, starting on Aug. 1;

— Abolished the 11-month position of administrative dean at the high school and, in its place, created the 12-month post of assistant principal. Lisa Patierne, who was the dean, was appointed to the new post. She will be paid $83,652 next year;

— Heard a complaint from board member Cathy Barber about a website launched in May by board member Peter Golden, in which he writes about the school board. (An article on the issue appeared in The Enterprise on June 28, "Silence is not Golden: Website riles school board," which can be read at ww.altamontenterprise.com, under "Archives.")

Barber said public comment is "vital to our meetings" and it is the practice of board members not to argue with citizens who address them. She said she was "shocked to see" a picture of Donald Csaposs on Golden’s website with a link to his place of work, Guilderland Town Hall. Csaposs had addressed the board, criticizing Golden and his website, and urging the board members to work together.

"This can have a chilling effect on people’s willingness to comment," said Barber. "I think this is wrong. This is not acceptable";

— Chose Oak Air, the lowest bidder to meet specifications among four companies, for $18,548.17, to supply filters for unit ventilators that provide heat and outside air to classrooms and offices;

— Chose Ricoh Corporation, the lowest of two bidders, at $20,764.80, for 840 cases of white paper;

— Approved the 2007-08 Academic Intervention Services Plan, required by the state, which outlines the means for helping struggling students. The plan has not changed significantly from last year, Aidala said;

— Appointed Eric Lawson as an impartial hearing officer in a special-education case;

— Heard the annual cellular telephone report from Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders. He said that the district has 42 users with monthly fees of $771.75. The bulk of the phones are used by maintenance workers, followed by computer technicians; several are used by administrators and for emergency communications, said Sanders;

— Heard from Aidala that a workshop in May produced some changes in the district’s priorities. A new category — global awareness — has been added, and a second area highlights the district’s commitment to technology education.

Other priorities include healthy choices, thinking and problem-solving, and professional growth.

Posters illustrating the priorities will be designed over the summer to be posted throughout the district;

— Heard an update on the search for a new superintendent. Aidala is retiring in the fall.

Weisz said two candidates have accepted superintendent jobs elsewhere and three remain;

— Heard from Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Nancy Andress that Guilderland High School science teachers Stacey Haas and Kristofer Gigante received Tech Valley Externships, to work with area businesses. Haas is helping with research on a new biological sensor and Gigante is being trained in state-of-the-art instrumentation;

— Heard congratulations for senior Beth Schaffer and junior Nan Shan for their accomplishments in the American Regions Math League.

Schaffer was on the Upstate New York "A" Team, which finished 12th in its division out of 118, competing with other American teams as well as teams from Taiwan, the Philippines, Canada, Turkey, and Colombia. She was High Scorer of the team awards.

Shan won High Scorer on the Upstate New York "B" team, based on the individual test;

— Learned that, for the third year in a row, the boys’ track team, coached by Pete Wachtel, placed first in the Spring Season Suburban Council Sportsmanship Awards.

Guilderland’s softball team, coached by Jen Ficara and Jess Allen, also placed first this year.

And, for the fourth year in a row, Guilderland’s athletic program was named the overall winner for the 2006-07 school year. Guilderland garnered 39 points, followed by Bethlehem and Niskayuna, each with 31 points.

The award is voted on by players, coaches, and parents from other schools in the Suburban Council; and

— Learned that Amy Zurlo, the district’s communications specialist, received an Award of Merit for the 2006-07 budget newsletter from the New York State Public Relations Association.

Out of 877 publication entries, 125 received Awards of Excellence, 295 received Awards of Merit, and 260 received Awards of Honorable Mention.

Clustering off Depot Road
Farmer plans to develop 60 lots and keep on farming

By Jo E. Prout

GUILDERLAND — A part-time farmer wants to develop his land by Guilderland High School into an old-fashioned neighborhood, and keep farming it, too.

Engineer Francis Bossolini, a partner with Ingalls & Associates in Schenectady, described for the planning board last week a 60-lot cluster off Depot Road.

Planning board Chairman Stephen Feeney told owners James and Lori Matulewicz that school traffic and the possible installation by Albany County of a roundabout near the industrial park could delay their project.

Bossolini’s proposal showed a U-shaped neighborhood drive, with curb cuts onto Depot Road near one another.

"It seems a little odd, the placement," Feeney said. He said that the curb-cut issue could also stall the project.

The Matulewiczes own 230 acres considered in the project, but plan to use only 123 acres of buildable land. Part of the property is swamp near Black Creek. More than 100 acres south of the proposed cluster could be free for agricultural use.

Bossolini said that the project goal was to "create a traditional neighborhood-style setting — a higher quality than a standard subdivision." According to the plan, the lots in the cluster are narrow, with service roads to garages in the rear of the homes.

The board worried that the narrower-than-usual lots would create a stream of variance requests for buyers who would want garages in the front or side of their homes.

"Everybody has a right to apply for a variance," Feeney said. "We kind of like, as a board, what you’re presenting. But we’d like to make sure that’s what happens."

The board said that the developers might put possible buyers on notice that narrow lots are the purpose of the neighborhood. The board also said that the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation might be interested in taking over a portion of the property near Black Creek.

Matulewicz told The Enterprise that he had not known that he could donate the swampy area on his property to the DEC.

"I like the idea of contributing the land to the DEC," he said.

"Nothing’s set in stone, yet," Lori Matulewicz said.

James Matulewicz’s plans for the green space around the cluster is "to continue to farm where it can be farmed," he told the board.

The cluster neighborhood with agricultural uses nearby is one way "to have a farmer afford to keep his farm," Matulewicz told The Enterprise. "That’s a very serious issue for farmers around here, too."

"The talent is to have a higher level of design," Bossolini said.

Matulewicz said that he does not make his living being a farmer. "I don’t know how anyone could," he said. He has lived in Guilderland since 1985, he said. He does not drive during the school drop-off and pick-up hours, and the off-peak traffic does not bother him, he said.

"I don’t see a big issue," he said.

Town planner Jan Weston said that the Helderberg view shed is protected, according to the plan.

"We need a clearer depiction of what is buildable," Feeney said.

Board member Lindsay Childs said that, because the cluster is close to Guilderland Center and the high school, the developers should consider installing a sidewalk along Depot Road to School Road.

The plan includes cul-de-sacs, which are not disallowed, but are not encouraged in Guilderland, the board said.

"It’s more along the lines of what we’d like to see," Feeney said. "I think we’re heading in the right direction."

Matulewicz told The Enterprise that the project would not be under construction for three to five years.

"We have to find a buyer. The buyer has to put in all the roads, etc. You can’t market it until it gets approved," he said.

Runaway teen found in less than a day

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

ALTAMONT — An Altamont teen who was reported missing by her family Tuesday evening was found in the town of Bethlehem Wednesday morning, according to Altamont’s public safety commissioner, Anthony Salerno.

"She’s been located and will get the help she needs," he said.

Her family was "definitely" relieved, said Salerno and, he said, "She is now working on resolving why she ran away."

The family called the Altamont Police at about 7:30 or 8 p.m. on Tuesday, said Salerno, and reported the 15-year-old girl had not come home. "We got a good description and put a message on the state system," said Salerno, explaining that this alerts police across New York.

"We utilized Neighborhood Watch," he added, referring to a group of about a dozen Altamont citizen volunteers who searched for the girl.

The girl, whose name is not being released, was ultimately found by Bethlehem Police in a location Salerno declined to disclose.

"Just thank God it all worked out," Salerno said last night, "especially with the way the world is today with all the issues kids are facing".When I was growing up in the sixties, we understood what the good things were. We didn’t have all the peer pressure. It’s tough for them today."

Altamont doubles its water supply

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALTAMONT — After years of uncertainty, the water-strapped village has relief.

Two new wells are on-line, completing a $1.4 million project that just about doubles the village’s water supply, said Mayor James Gaughan.

Several years ago, engineers discovered water on privately-owned land outside the village. Under former Mayor Paul DeSarbo, Altamont agreed to buy about five acres on Brandle Road from Nancy and Michael Trumpler in order to provide water for village residents. Soon after the deal was made, the village agreed to also provide water to developer Jeff Thomas for his senior-housing complex, planned for Brandle Road, just outside the village limits.

Distressed the water would be used outside the village, the Trumplers filed court papers seeking to get out of their contract and asking a judge to rule on its validity. The village counter-sued for tens of thousands of dollars and Thomas then also sued the Trumplers for $17 million, claiming interference.

Later, Thomas offered the Trumplers $100,000 to drop their suit and to settle with the village, which was now headed by Mayor James Gaughan.

The village didn’t accept the offer because there were conditions attached, Gaughan said this year when the offer came to light. Thomas requested that the village grant him immediate access to municipal water, rather than waiting until the new wells were on-line, and he wanted a waiver of the benefit assessment fee, which would total roughly $62,000 to connect all 72 of his units to the water system, Gaughan said.

In April of 2006, the village agreed to pay the Trumplers $225,000 for the five-acre well site plus 32 adjacent acres to be used by Michael Trumpler during his lifetime.

In March, the village board voted to implement a fee of $2,500 per unit for each new residential unit hooking into the new Brandle Road water system.

Last August, the village asked for easements from property owners along Brandle Road so that the pipe line could connect the wells to Altamont’s water system; it offered to waive the hook-up fee as an incentive to gain easements.

In February, the village board adopted a $30 annual fee on all units connected to the village’s water system to help pay for the Brandle Road well project.

Now the new wells are hooked up to the municipal system.

Gaughan had initially thought that the wells would be on-line in February, but due to some hold-ups, it was connected this summer, he said last week.

"There were some technical problems that had to be addressed," he said.

There are two satellite radio connections, one at the new Brandle Road well site and one on Gun Club Road, Gaughan said, and there was trouble with communications between the two sites.

Now, he said, "We are satisfied with the way things are running."

At Altamont's July 3 village board meeting, with the new well water on-line, the board approved water service to four new customers. The village had had a moratorium on granting water outside village limits.

Local developer Troy Miller's application for water service to 774 Route 146 was granted as was Michael McMillen's request for water service to 778 Route 146; both applied within the last month, Gaughan said last week.

The board also granted water to William Gizzi, of 6396 Gun Club Rd., and Michael Santabarbara, of 6404 Gun Club Rd.; both applied for water months ago because of contaminated well water in that area.

Each of them will be hooked up to the water system after they pay the $2,500 benefit assessment fee and roughly $400 hook-up fee, Gaughan said.

The village will grant water to single-family houses that are outside the village but adjacent to the water line; 21 of these connections are possible, Gaughan said. The new wells can accommodate the demand, he said.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Voted unanimously to authorize Tim McIntyre, superintendent of public works, to purchase on state contract a plow and dump truck for approximately $107,000. No one spoke at the public hearing on the purchase. The truck will replace two existing vehicles, both of which will go out to bid, McIntyre said;

— Voted unanimously to amend the first local law of the year after holding a public hearing on the matter. The board has broadened the senior-citizen tax exemption to include people with higher incomes;

— Heard from McIntyre that the department of public works has been conducting the first phase of the sanitary sewer inspections and has found about 15 small leaks. He will also do dye testing in some areas and camera work in others, he said;

— Voted unanimously to accept the resignation of part-time police officer Walter Pajak, who submitted a letter of resignation on June 14;

— Voted unanimously to adopt a new set of subdivision regulations, as prepared by the comprehensive planning committee. The new regulations will replace the subdivision rules adopted in 1970 and amended in 1988;

— Voted unanimously to authorize the fire department to transfer its Firemen's Service Connected funds from UBS Financial Services to RBC Dain Raushcer, as requested by the department;

— Voted unanimously to refund $313.50 to Beth Denniston for an error in her water and sewer bill;

— Voted unanimously to refund $70 to Christine Carpenter for overpayment on a summer camp application; and

— Agreed to cancel the Aug. 7 village board meeting unless an emergency arises.

Fair pageant
Seeking "good girls who want to volunteer"

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

ALTAMONT — "We’re not a beauty pageant; we’re a personality pageant," says Bobbi-Jean Jeune, coordinator for the Miss Altamont Fair pageant.

Each year, contestants compete for the crown before a crowd at the Altamont Fair. But, says Jeune, that is just the tip of the royal iceberg.

The pageant winners from last August participated in a variety of events throughout the year. This month, for example, they celebrated the Fourth of July on the USS Slater.

"They participated in the raising of the colors and Lindsey led the pledge," said Jeune. Her daughter, Lindsey Jeune, is Young Miss Altamont Fair.

Bobbi-Jeune volunteers her time because she believes it helps promote the Altamont Fair in a positive way. She has fond memories, going back to her childhood, of the fair, which serves Albany, Schenectady, and Greene counties.

"It’s good for the fair," she said of the pageant promotion. "A lot of people have forgotten what the fair is about — it’s about families not midway rides" Generations of families used to show their animals together and participate in 4-H events. Everything’s becoming more showy," she said, with a wistful tone in her voice.

She highlighted some of the pageant princesses activities to illustrate substance over showiness.

Aside from participating in parades — riding in a float for a Christmas parade in Schenectady and marching in four parades for Memorial Day — the girls will read stories shortly at the Berne library and they made Easter baskets for children in St. Peter’s Hospital.

"We didn’t want kids in the hospital wondering why the Easter Bunny didn’t find them," said Jeune.

She went on, "We’re trying to get more girls involved who want to do nice things for the community."

Explaining why she considers it a "personality pageant," Jeune said that 60 percent of the points to win come from an interview, 20 percent come from the on-stage modeling of an evening gown, and another 20 percent from modeling sportswear.

"This isn’t a body-image kind of pageant," said Jeune. "I’m looking for good girls who want to volunteer."

Larry and Shirley Fronk, the pageant directors, said, "If you are interested in becoming the next Miss Altamont Fair, we have an age group for you."

The earliest category for competition begins at age 5 while the most senior category, for Ms. Altamont Fair, has no upper age limit.

Contestants must apply before Aug. 6 and may stop by the fair office for applications or visit www.AltamontFair.com, or call the fair office at 861-6671.

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