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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, October 18, 2007
Parties clash over spending plan
Guilderland propose $30M budget
By Jarrett Carroll
GUILDERLAND During an election year, the same budget can often be interpreted in two different ways.
While town Democrats point to this years proposed budget as sound fiscal management on their part, challenging Republicans say the budget does little to improve quality-of-life services and they point out that town board members continue to give themselves pay hikes.
The budget proposal for 2008, including all sewer and water districts, highway spending, and parks costs as well as the general fund total $30.46 million.
Although, on average, individual department spending throughout the town is up around 2 percent, with some departments seeing 1-percent increases and others seeing 3-percent increases, overall spending held the lines.
This is because of decreases in liability insurance and lower workers compensation costs, said Supervisor Kenneth Runion.
"With an increase of around $200,000, it’s less than a 1-percent increase in spending over last year," Runion told The Enterprise yesterday.
Runion added that the towns tax rate of 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed value has remained the same and that town taxes are relatively the same as last year, including for the towns highway budget and water and sewer districts.
Residents water bills will increase by roughly 1-percent and there is no increase in sewer bills, according to the 2008 budget proposal.
The towns proposed tax levy of $728,111 is up just over 1 percent from last years.
Republican challengers for town board, Warren Redlich and Mark Grimm, who are running against incumbent Democrats Michael Ricard and David Bosworth, have been critical of Runion’s "no tax increase" stance.
They have both pointed out in recent letters to the Enterprise editor that, although the towns tax rate has not increased, that assessments have increased substantially and that residents are paying more in taxes to the town.
Redlich and Grimm both also say that town board members have given themselves pay hikes since 1999.
Runion responded through The Enterprise, "I can’t really say what happened before 2001"but we have received 3-percent cost-of-living raises which are in line with union contracts."
The current all-Democratic town board took office in 2000 and its first proposed budget was the 2001 budget. The 2008 budget proposal lists Runions salary at $98,007 and each town board member at $20,457, which is roughly 3 percent over last years salary.
Runion added that spending and taxes are not the same.
"They’re trying to imply that spending translates into taxes, which is not the case," Runion said. "We pre-plan for our spending."
Grimm has repeatedly said he "doesn’t buy it," and has asked voters if they are paying the same taxes they were paying seven years ago.
Runion countered by saying the higher taxes have more to do with county taxes and school taxes than it does with the town taxes.
Redlich said both Bosworth and Ricard have lower-than-average assessments on their homes and has alleged Ricard, in particular, had a "sweetheart deal." Redlich says the town’s high assessments are the cause of high taxes.
The Republicans have cited a 70-percent increase in spending over six years. In the 2005 budget, $13.2 million was slated for capital improvements on the towns sewer plant and water system.
Runion said that "big-ticket items" such as that, which he said were inherited from a previous administration, threw off the budgets. Grimm and Redlich assert the town simply mismanages its money and continue to question where the money is going each year.
"Those were two major projects that we had to do," Runion said of the 2005 water and sewer upgrades. "I’m not going to sit here and say we didn’t spend it, because we did spend it and it had to be done."
Without the upgrades, Runion said, the town would sustain zero growth. Typically, the town sees an annual growth of $30 million in new development, Runion said, which is sustainable and is needed to bring in additional tax revenue to offset the growth.
"Without proper sewer and water, we would be in essence telling people they couldn’t build in Guilderland," he concluded.
Grimm said that the numbers "don’t add up."
"These hikes [in spending] took place despite a nearly $3 million increase in county sales-tax revenue," Grimm said. Revenues from sales tax in Albany County are distributed to municipalities based on population. More could be done to reduce spending and increase revenues for the town, which would ultimately reduce town taxes, Grimm said.
Runion said that "bare bone" budgets like the one he is proposing this year is typical of his budgets in the past and has nothing to do with election cycles.
"It’s typical"The different department heads are getting used to me now and know there’s not a lot of budget increases," said Runion, who is running unopposed for a fifth term. "They’re so used to my zero-budget-growth policy, that they come in with very little changes in their budgets and ask for only what they need."
Runion concluded that he doesnt play politics with budgets.
Other items in the 2008 proposed budget include:
A 3-percent salary increase for town justices, who made $42,000 last year, and chief court clerk, who made $40,656 last year;
A 2-percent overall increase in the supervisors office budget from $141,001 to $147,787;
A 3-percent decrease for the receiver of taxes budget from $135,447 to $132,639;
A 3-percent increase in the assessors salary, who made $61,349 last year;
An overall 2-percent increase in the town clerks budget $130,466 to $133,105, which includes the elimination of $1,000 in part-time labor. A digital postage machine is required by federal mandate for the office, which will cost between $8,000 and $13,000. The town clerks office generated more than $16,000 last year in processing passports;
A decrease of 3-percent in the police department for vendor overtime and investigator overtime. There is an 8-percent reduction in the first-sergeant salary because of a new officer taking over the position at a lower pay rate under the current contract. There is an overall decrease of 1 percent from $3,323,973 to $3,276,280, due to retirements and promotions resulting in lowered pay scales;
A 3-percent overall increase for Animal Services from $105,724 to $110,767;
A 1-percent decrease in the emergency medical services’ salaries $806,929 to $805,671. The EMS director salary will increase from $52,000 to $56,418, because, according to Runion, "some paramedics are making more than he is." An overall 2-percent increase was budgeted for the Public Safety Department from $1,481,775 to $1,497,212;
A 2-percent decrease in the fire inspectors budget from $225,923 to $218,221, but three laptop computers and software will need to be purchased to create more efficient and additional inspections and will result in more revenue, Runion said;
A 3-perecent increase for salaries at the towns transfer station, which has an over-all no budget increase;
A 1-percent decrease in spending and a 9-percent decrease in personal services for Community Environment Department;
A zero-percent increase in its $14,650 overall budget for the Economic Development Department;
A 1-percent increase in Parks and Recreation department from $610,566 to $628,963; and
A 16-percent decrease in insurance for the towns Golf Course with 3-percent increases for the grounds supervisors, mechanics, and operators, with an overall 5-percent decrease in the labor. Runion said that when the bonds for the golf course are paid off in 10 years, the town can expect annual profits of $500,000 or more a year, according to current projections.
Dont take our vote away
UAlbany protest called political grandstanding by election official
By Jarrett Carroll
GUILDERLAND Community activists and students got together yesterday morning at the University at Albany to protest what they called a violation of the Equal Protection Clause by the Albany County Board of Elections.
A handful of protesters and students said the board of elections would not allow hundreds of UAlbany students to vote in the November elections.
Albany County Board of Elections Commission John Graziano described the event as political grandstanding and said the board "supports and encourages students to vote."
"There was a candidate who came forward to us and he feels he wanted to make this an issue," Graziano said yesterday. "There’s nobody being denied the right to vote."
The candidate Graziano spoke of is Anton Konev who originally sought a Democratic primary challenge against Mary Lou B. Connolly for a seat on the Albany County Legislature, but his petition signatures were challenged and he fell short of the needed number of names. He enrolled as a Democrat and is now running on the Republican ticket against Connolly.
Connolly currently represents District 32, covering parts of eastern Guilderland.
Konev, who describes himself as community activist and is a UAlbany graduate, currently finishing a masters degree there, helped orchestrate the protest and he said the university and the board of elections acted on the situation only after he and other activists made the matter known to the public.
"This board of elections has been a huge headache since day one," Konev told The Enterprise after the protest. "The board was not processing forms from rightfully registered students"forms that did not have a post-office box."
He said the protest has nothing to do with politics and added that he has been helping students register since he was an undergraduate at the school.
Graziano said the Albany County Board of Elections has had a long-standing relationship with the university and that the post-office-box requirements were created in the mid-1990s in order to better serve student voters.
"The Albany city line runs right through the Dutch Quad," Graziano said of one of four main dormitory buildings on campus. The Indian Quad is in the town of Guilderland and the other quads are in the city of Albany. "So you have a Guilderland district and an Albany district on campus and, in order for them to vote properly, we need to find them"We need that P.O. box number."
Graziano said that voters are not being disenfranchised. They are only put on "an inactive list" if they cannot be found on campus, but can still vote in November, he said.
"It’s a system we worked out in the 1990s"It makes it much easier on the city and it makes it much easier on the SUNY people who collect mail and have to find these students," Graziano said. "We encourage them to vote and we encourage them to register."
The board of elections also said that, even if students are not on the list when they go to their polling stations on campus, they will be able to sign an affidavit and vote on a paper ballot.
Other activists and politicians who joined the protest included: Albany Councilman Corey Ellis; Merton Simpson of the Albany Chapter of Blacks in Government; District 2 Albany County Legislator candidate Lester Freeman; former UAlbany Student Association Vice President Guillermo Martinez, who is also a spokesman for Assemblyman Peter Rivera, a Democrat from the Bronx; as well as representatives from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Konev, who works for Rivera as a legislative assistant, applauded the university for "stepping up" and addressing the problem. Other activists said much more is needed and these situations should not occur in the first place.
"It’s unconscionable that the flagship campus of the SUNY system"would disenfranchise their students," Simpson said during the rally, calling it "an all-time low to disenfranchise our future leaders."
Martinez said "The students on this campus did not come here to lose their Constitutional rights"It’s about time we focus our attention on the evils of the board of elections."
He added that, if students are turned away at the polls litigation is possible.
The university said it was made aware of the situation on Tuesday and confirmed that the school does work with the board of elections on registering students.
"The University at Albany is aware that approximately 80 student voter registration forms were incomplete when filed with the Albany County Board of Elections in August," said the university’s director of media relations, Karl Luntta. "We are working with the board, as we consistently do, to correct the situation and ensure that these registration forms are complete and that the students are registered to vote in the upcoming election."
One UAlbany student said he felt he was being denied his right to vote.
"I’ve been able to register for the past two years without any problems," said UAlbany junior Brian Mascaro. "This is kind of ridiculous."
Mascaro said that, even though there were no registration problems in the past, he did have other problems.
"During my freshman year I lived on the Indian Quad," he said of a dormitory in Guilderland, "but I voted on the Dutch Quad," which is half in Albany.
Mascaro said he is enrolled as a Democrat and has been active on the campus, trying to register other students. He said it was hard enough getting students to vote without the "hassles" and regulations put forth by the board of elections.
"You’d be surprised how many people on this campus don’t care about voting," Mascaro said. "Sometimes people will say ‘Get that clipboard out of my face,’ when you approach them."
Mascaro said he only wants to exercise his civic right to vote with or without having listed a post office box, and, as a college student, that means voting on campus.
Re-zone tabled for Quadrini plan
By Jarrett Carroll
GUILDERLAND The town board has tabled a local developers application for a zoning change because land for a required pocket park is wet.
The board voted unanimously on Oct. 2 to hold until Nov. 8 Brandon Quadrinis request to build eight townhouses on 6.2 acres on Ashford Drive off of Johnston Road.
Currently the land is zoned R-40, meaning lot sizes would have to be 15,000 square feet or more. Multiple Residence, meaning a four-family dwelling can be built on a 18,750-square-foot lot, but has to be approved before Quadrini can build.
A public hearing will held on Quadrinis proposed zoning change on Tuesday, Nov. 8, at 8 p.m., at Town Hall.
The project calls for building eight two-story English-Tudor-style condominiums or townhouses with "partial basements." Guilderland’s planner, Jan Weston, said the town board prefers the townhouses over the condos.
The major sticking point was the land that Quadrini had proposed donating to the town as required by law, is wet. The land was supposed to be used for a "pocket park" as part of his project.
"Are you proposing to give the town 2.7 acres of wetland"" Supervisor Kenneth Runion asked Quadrini during the town board meeting. "Did you discuss this with the planning board""
Quadrini responded by saying the nearly three acres was "partially wetland," and that he did discuss the property with the planning board.
"We didn’t talk in great detail," he added.
Several neighbors living around the proposed site said that the land being donated was wet or held surface water nearly year-round.
"The seasonal pond, with all respect, is wet all four seasons," one neighbor told the board. "I don’t know about the other seasons," he quipped.
Another neighbor told the board, "They better wear their knickers and bathing suits if they’re going to bike on that path."
A third neighbor said the 2.7 acres "really wasn’t buildable."
"It’s perfectly legal to apply for a nationwide permit"and build on wetland," Quadrini said and he added that a retention pond could be built on the land.
"Is that expense"worth the additional space"" Runion asked in response. "Where would the retention pond be built""
Other town board members expressed concerns about the park land, too.
Councilwoman Patricia Slavick said she had several concerns about the proposed bike path. Councilman Michael Ricard told Quadrini , "I don’t want the town to inherit wetlands." He asked for a study or engineering report from the developer.
"The planning board asked for ‘park land,’" Runion added.
Quadrini, who had also been before the town board in early September, said that he has spent a significant amount of time and money and urged, "We should make a decision here."
Continuing, Quadrini said that with 500 homes in the area, "This is very useful for children under 14 or 15"Pocket parks are important to the communities." Neighborhood parents can use trails and paths to walk their children to the park and don’t have to drive, Quadrini told the board.
Runion said he wouldnt vote on the zoning change until more detailed information is provided about the land being used in the 6.2 acre proposal.
"I’m not prepared to vote on this tonight," Runion told Quadrini. "And, if I did, I would have to vote negatively because I don’t have enough information on this."
Planning board approves 74-lot cluster across from Town Hall
By Jo E. Prout
GUILDERLAND Twenty West, the proposed housing subdivision surrounding the Vosburgh archeological site on farmlands across from the Guilderland Town Hall, is on its way to being built. The planning board here last week approved a 74-lot clustered subdivision on the site.
The board gave a negative declaration according to the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act, stating in a long form, from which Chairman Stephen Feeney read, that the proposed subdivision would not adversely affect the environment. The board said that no environmental impact statement needs to be prepared.
Twenty West will cover 181 acres, with 68 acres donated to the town. The donated portion includes the prehistorically-significant land where the Vosburgh point was first identified. The majority of the housing lots will be clustered, but four three- to five-acre "estate" lots are planned for Vosburgh Road within the same plan
Scott Lansing, of Lansing Engineering in Malta (Saratoga Co.), who represented Lou Masullo of Garrison Development, said that one storm-water retention basin had been eliminated from the plan, according to the planning boards recommendation. The new plan uses five basins.
The board had suggested that at least one cul-de-sac in the plan be removed, and the altered plan showed that one had been eliminated.
An easement across the site to adjoining lands was discovered recently, Lansing said, but the developer will preserve it or offer access elsewhere.
The site contains 26 acres of federally-designated wetlands, 13 of which will be regulated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the board said. Arch culverts are to be used to limit the affect of roadways on the streams at the site, the board said.
The developer must still submit a run-off and sediment control plan, and a storm-water pollution prevention plan.
Church Road development
The board approved a 10-lot subdivision on 151 acres on Church Road, with board member James Cohen saying that his approval hinges on the public ownership of open space on the site.
Lansing, representing A. Yip, sought 12 lots that might have been allowed under town standards if land were saved as open space. Lansing said that 97 acres would be permanently protected, but privately owned.
Town planner Jan Weston said that incentives to builders to maintain open space is so that open space is available to the public, or those who live on the property. She said that keeping the open space in private ownership would not meet the spirit of the town guidelines.
"It may be an issue for the bonus," Feeney said.
Lansing said that he could adjust the plan.
"I’m more than willing to work with Ms. Weston," he said.
Board member Lindsay Childs said, "The density bonus is discretionary. If the conserved property is not available"I wouldn’t be enthusiastic about the density bonus."
Planning board attorney Linda Clark said that the space "should be open to the community you’re building." She said that the purpose of the standards is to provide amenities to the public.
According to the plan submitted, deep ravines are left undeveloped.
Lansing said that the plans call for using the topography, rather than altering it. Walk-out basements and driveways that work on the existing topography are planned, he said. Homes would use grinder pumps, he said.
Neighbors told the board that current traffic on Church Road is "absolutely insane," and that the area floods.
Feeney said that each home would be on public sewer, and that, according to town standards, homes must be set far back from ravines.
Neighbors also warned that generations have used the wooded area for recreation and hunting, but the board reminded them that the property is, and has been, privately owned.
The board gave its preliminary approval to James and Lori Matulewicz, who own 230 acres off Depot Road, to build a 60-lot clustered housing subdivision.
Engineer Francis Bossolini, a partner with Ingalls & Associates in Schenectady, said that the owner will still actively farm a portion of the land.
Matulewicz had considered donating unused lands to the states Department of Environmental Conservation, but he may turn the open space over to a homeowners association, instead, Bossolini said.
The original plan submitted showed a U-shaped driveway through the neighborhood, but the board repeated last week that boulevards are not allowed according to town standards.
In other business, the board:
Approved a proposal by engineer Mike Davis to divide 9.4 acres into three lots, with two new curb cuts onto Route 20. Each 3-acre lot would have municipal water; and
Made no decision on a proposal by Rafael Nieves to subdivide 5.7 acres at 3592 East Lydius Street into three lots. The site is in the Albany Pine Bush study area, between East Lydius and the New York State Thruway. One home is there now.
The board said that the design layout was awkward with three lots, but that three meet the zoning requirements. The site has no access to public water or sewer, and one proposed lot abuts the Thruway.
Nieves said that the site is being surveyed now.
Feeney said that the board would not take action because the presence of endangered animal or plant species is unknown. Noise from the Thruway, and fire-safety concerns with the long driveway proposed are other reasons for delay, he said.
"It’s harder to cluster when you don’t have utilities," Feeney said about the layout.
Board member Terry Coburn said that one lot seemed to be a "keyhole in a keyhole" lot.
"Three lots concerns me," Feeney said. "Obviously, we need more information."
School board members say
State audit session like a root canal without anesthesia
By Melissa Hale-Spencer
GUILDERLAND The school board here is anticipating without great enthusiasm the release of an audit on district finances from the state comptrollers office.
"We will expect to receive the official word in the next month," said Richard Weisz, adding that board members would probably learn of it in a newspaper headline. Weisz is the president of the school board and also chairs its audit committee.
The committee met on Sept. 27 with representatives from the comptrollers office to review the preliminary report, completed in March.
"We had a spirited discussion," said Weisz, summing up his stance to the auditors this way: "If you would tell us the way we want to do it in a template, we would do it that way."
The comptrollers office, under former comptroller Alan Hevesi, revived its audits of school districts after scandals broke in Long Island schools. The statewide initiative is to monitor public schools after gross fraud and embezzlement was found in those schools.
Locally, following an audit of the Voorheesville schools, Hevesi, in a widely covered press conference in January of 2006, accused two retired administrators of "inappropriately" paying themselves $216,000. The Albany County district attorney found no basis to prosecute them but said the school district’s "weak internal controls" are what likely led to the problems. The school district filed suits against the administrators, but has since settled with each out of court.
The state comptroller’s office released its audit on Berne-Knox-Westerlo this spring to little fanfare. The June 4 report found no wrongdoing or mismanagement, and Superintendent Steven Schrade commented, "Overall, it was almost a totally clean audit." The audit did point out what it called "weak controls," stating, for example, that district officials could not locate 11 of 38 assets that were tested, valued at $11,000, including computers, VCRs, and televisions.
The business administrator, David Weiser, responded, saying the 11 items were not readily found because the audit was conducted during the summer, when contents of classrooms are emptied and moved to the hallways and other classrooms so the floors can be cleaned.
A recent press release from the comptroller’s office, picked up by the local media, lauded the way Ballston Spa handled its finances. "We had a fuller audit," said Weisz, adding school officials are not allowed to discuss it until the audit is released by the comptroller’s office.
"You are a remarkably generous guy," Peter Golden told Weisz at last Tuesday’s school-board meeting. Board member Golden is also a member of the audit committee.
He described the session with the state auditors not as "spirited" but as "the root canal of committee meetings."
"Without anesthesia," chimed in Colleen O’Connell, another board member who serves on the audit committee.
Golden said there were elements of the audit that have nothing to do with business. "It’s got to do with politics," he said.
Golden credited a small district staff with keeping track of over $80 million annually.
A state-required audit by hired accountants recently gave the district a good report on how it handles its finances. Dorfman-Robbie, Certified Public Accountants, found no material weakness in a 50-page report, and gave the district an unqualified opinion, the highest rating.
"I felt they were being unfair," said Golden of the state comptroller’s auditors.
Weisz took a more philosophic view. He likened it to going to the doctor and asking, "How am I doing"" If the doctor says, "Great, see you in six months," said Weisz, you haven’t learned anything. Weisz said that he looks at the auditing process as an opportunity to learn.
Planner post created
The board approved a new part-time post for a maintenance planner "to increase productivity, saving time on task," as Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders put it. The idea which Sanders called "a very common-sense approach" was developed by Clifford Nooney, the new superintendent of building and grounds.
The planner is to be hired from the current maintenance staff and the new post should not cost the district any more money since, said Nooney, productivity should increase. "You would gain that person back plus some," he said.
The planner will assess a job and identify and arrange for the needed parts. He will estimate the time and manpower needed to complete a job and will schedule the work, Sanders said, which "will eliminate many barriers."
The planner will receive a 50-cent increase in his hourly wage, said Sanders, which will come out to roughly $1,000 annually.
Board President Richard Weisz requested a report on how the plan is working, after which the board voted unanimously to create the new post.
Board member Hy Dubowsky, in approving the new job, cited an old adage, "Measure twice, cut once."
Just two residents spoke at the annual budget development session, set up for citizen input Donald Csaposs, a long-time member of the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, and Karen Keane, new to the committee this year.
"I still don't think it’s enough," Csaposs said of the fall input session. He suggested a roundtable discussion between residents and board members.
His suggestions for the 2008-09 budget were to pay attention to health-care costs for retirees, to look at benefits for part-time employees, and to look at the "pretty hideous" costs for BOCES services.
Keane recommended members of the citizens’ committee be kept to two or three minutes in their closing comments. "Let them put it on YouTube," she said of the long commentaries, which she said were made "for personal or political agendas."
Keane also recommended something be done about the flow of air at the high school and she suggested increasing the number of reading teachers at the high school so that delayed readers, like her son, are assured of getting the help they need.
Dubowsky told the board that he was concerned over the "unusual hour" for a board meeting to appoint a new superintendent. The board met on Thursday, Sept. 20, at 8:15 a.m. to name John McGuire as superintendent in a split vote, 6 to 3.
"We strive to be above board," said Dubowsky, stating he had consulted with lawyers about the "illegally constituted" meeting and concluded, "We are potentially at risk of an Article 78 lawsuit," a reference to a suit typically brought by citizens questioning government action.
Duboswky referred to a Sept. 27 Enterprise article which quoted the state’s Open Meetings Law, requiring public notice of meetings and, even in an emergency, requiring the news media to be informed "to the extent practicable."
Superintendent Gregory Aidala said the school districts lawyer had been consulted. Flyers were posted in school buildings the day before the meeting, he said, and in the future, a notice will be faxed to the media.
Aidala also said the district relies on advice from its attorney rather than the states Committee on Open Government, which had told The Enterprise that the 8:15 a.m. Guilderland meeting to appoint a superintendent would be termed a matter of preference rather than an emergency.
"That’s not a binding opinion either," said Golden of the school attorney’s opinion cited by Aidala.
Weisz said the school attorney will make a presentation to the board. As to a potential lawsuit, he said, "We’ll deal with it if it comes up."
In other business, the board:
Heard from Golden that he was withdrawing his two motions to require the district to provide the board and community with data from statewide tests, comparing the performance of Guilderland students with those in similar schools, as established by the education department. Golden said he would keep compiling research and would "fine-tune" his motions to bring up again later;
Heard from Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Nancy Andress that the Farnsworth Middle School garden project has grown and donated over 2,600 pounds of fresh organic produce to the Capital Region Food Bank. More than 150 students worked in the garden along with community volunteers. More volunteers are sought;
Heard that Carol Kelly coordinated and hosted the first annual Hurricane Teleconference as part of her Extreme Science Enrichment program at the middle school. Over 30 students did real-time investigating, led by meteorologists from the Weatherbug program. Kathy Perry, the districts new technology director, helped coordinate the event;
Learned that Lynn Wells, Farnsworths language arts, social studies, and reading supervisor, and Demian Singleton, math and science supervisor, will present a workshop on curriculum mapping at the New York State Middle School Associations 27th annual conference Oct. 18 to 20 in Saratoga Springs;
Heard that Guilderland High School music teacher Rae Jean Teeter was honored by Rider University. Elizabeth Allen, a Guilderland graduate now a student at Rider, was named an Andres J. Rider Scholar for being a top student and she named Teeter as the high-school teacher who best prepared her for college;
Accepted the donation of a bell kit, trombone, and youth drum set from Vivian Price;
Accepted the donation of a wheelchair from the Guilderland Center Nursing Home; and
Went into an executive session to discuss a student issue and to review administrators performances.
Hiltons leaving Altamont home
By Saranac Hale Spencer
ALTAMONT Keen Hilton was baptized in St. Johns Church, and he hasnt been able to get away from it since.
With a Sirens call, it has drawn him back to the village more than once, and given him a piece of himself with each return.
Born in the same room that his father died in, in a house on Main Street, Hilton can trace his roots through generations in the village, as can his wife, Marge Hilton. She moved in just a few blocks away from that house at 174 Main St. when she was 12. They grew up in a village where "everybody was like your parents," Keen Hilton said of the close-knit community.
"Everybody knew everybody," added his wife.
Drafted into the Second World War at the age of 18, Hilton fought in the Battle of the Bulge and carried the weight of the wars bloodiest battle for years.
"For a while, I wasn’t believing in God," he said.
When he was home again, St. John’s was calling and he went one Sunday with his mother. En route, "A car went by and a beautiful, golden-haired girl waved to me," he said. At church, she was singing in the choir and, through the whole service, he couldn’t take his eyes off her.
That girl was Marge Hilton, who would be his bride three short years later. In the meantime, he got a degree from Union College, and "she set the wedding one week after graduation," he said, with a hint of surprise still in his voice.
As a newlywed, he worked for a while in a division of General Electric, until, he said, "I got the itch I couldn’t scratch."
On his wifes good advice, Hilton entered seminary in Gettysburg and, after completing his second three-year degree, the couple moved to Central Bridge, N.Y. where they stayed five years and welcomed three babies to the world.
Then, Hilton got a call from his cousin, Mimi, who grew-up on the top floor of his childhood home. She said of St. John’s, "We’re down to 35 people worshipping on a Sunday."
So he heeded the call, and returned to the village, with family in tow.
"I tried in my preaching, and in my way of life, to present a loving Jesus, as I know him, to people," he said. People responded and attendance rose. "The open secret of my ministry was to love people like Jesus loved," he said.
Surely, Hilton put his whole self into his ministry. He recalled a scene from the movie Patton where the war-worn general walks onto the still smoking battlefield and says, "God, but I love it all."
"Leaving the hospital at 2 a.m.," after having seen a parishioner, Hilton said, "I’d look up at the sky and think, ‘God, but I love it.’"
Now retired from the ministry, Keen and Marge Hilton will be leaving the village, and St. Johns, for Baldwinsville, N.Y., where they have family; after all the generations of their families that lived in Altamont, none of their children settled here.
A farewell celebration will be held in their honor at the Home Front Café in Altamont on Oct. 21 from 3 to 6 p.m. and a community-wide service will be held, also in their honor, at St. Johns Church on Oct. 27 at 4 p.m.
"It sounds trite to say that we have loved every minute, because there have been tough times," said Keen Hilton. "Really, I loved it all."
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