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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 17, 2008

Political squabbling
New G’land GOP’s proposal defeated

By Saranac Hale Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Department leaders won’t be required to address the town board any time soon, but they will be invited.

Councilman Warren Redlich made a proposal Tuesday to have the heads of various town departments come before the board in what he termed, "a vote for open government."

His running mate on the Republican line in the fall election, Councilman Mark Grimm, ran on a platform of opening up Town Hall. The pair ousted two incumbent Democrats on what had been a single-party board.

Redlich’s motion was voted down along party lines, 3 to 2.

"I was shocked," Redlich said yesterday of the Democrats’ opposition. Although they still have a majority on the board, he said, the Democrats were burned by the last election and they’re reacting to that. "They don’t believe the voters elected us, they believe we stole the election," he said.

"It’s political; I’m not going to deny that," Supervisor Kenneth Runion said yesterday, after saying that the department heads on Redlich’s proposed schedule were the ones he had been critical of during his campaign.

The first department Redlich wanted represented, at the Feb. 12 town board meeting, was the assessor’s office. Redlich ran on a platform of fair tax assessment, and accused the town of poor assessment practices. Yesterday, he didn’t deny the connection, saying that one reason he put that department first was "because I got elected on fair tax assessment." The other reason, he said, is that the taxable status date is March 1 and Grievance Day — when residents can ask for a reduction in their assessments — is at the beginning of May, so he’d like to air problems he sees in the department before then.

"The campaign is over, the election is over. Let’s get down to business," Carol Wysomski, the town’s assessor, said yesterday.

She received an invitation from Redlich on Wednesday, the day after the meeting, to appear at the Feb. 12 meeting; she doesn’t plan to attend. Wysomski said she attends a class on Tuesday nights, which is when the board meets.

Through the six administrations with which she has worked, she’s never been required to appear before the board, Wysomski said — although she has come before it voluntarily in the past. "I don’t like being put on the spot like that," she said of Redlich’s motion.

As the board’s liaison to the assessor’s office, Redlich should have come to Town Hall to introduce himself and ask any question he might have, which she would be happy to answer, Wysomski said.

"The liaison thing is an empty designation," Redlich answered through The Enterprise yesterday. "It’s an empty title, because Runion is liaison to everybody, and everyone in town government knows it."

Regardless of his status as liaison, Redlich wants to have discussions in public, he said. "I think this is something town residents want to see, instead of me doing it behind closed doors," he said at Tuesday’s meeting.

The idea behind the plan was to let the board ask questions to better understand what each department does and find out what plans each may have for the future, Redlich said. Scheduling the conferences during town board meetings would make it open to the public so that interested residents could also get a better understanding of what town departments are doing, he said.

To Redlich’s initial pitch on Tuesday night, Runion answered, "I have a couple of issues with it." Each department has representatives available to answer questions when a board member has one, he said, and two of the people on Redlich’s list to appear — the highway superintendent and the receiver of taxes — are elected officials and so may not have to respond to a request from the board. Several other arguments were made between the two parties on the board during a lengthy discussion before the votes were cast.

Runion said yesterday that Redlich’s invitation to Wysomski was more appropriate than his proposal at Tuesday’s meeting.

"There’s a distinction," he said, between the request that Redlich first made and the invitation that he extended on Wednesday. He added, "It may be subtle."

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Voted unanimously to appoint William Cook and Michael Hotaling, both Republicans, and Abel Palma and Charles Arcolano, both Democrats, as machine custodians and James Bruce, a Republican, and Thomas Robert, a Democrat, as party representatives for the primaries and elections in 2008;

— Voted unanimously to appoint Michael Borges to the Economic Development Advisory Committee;

— Voted unanimously to release the escrow for the Bentwood 2C subdivision, Spyglass Court;

— Voted, 4 to 1, after lengthy discussion and debate, to install a stop sign at the intersection of Curry Road Extension and Kings Road. Before casting the only dissenting vote, Redlich, a lawyer, argued that a stop sign wouldn’t be sufficient to make the intersection safe. Rather, the board should have the highway department or a qualified engineering firm assess the intersection, he said. A "T-intersection" would likely be more safe than the current "Y-intersection," he said, and warned, "Now that the town is on written notice that there is a problem with the intersection... we’re exposing the town to liability";

— Voted unanimously to make a formal request to the highway department to review the design of the intersections at Curry Road Extension and Kings Road, Johnston Road and Veeder Road, and Gun Club Road and Western Avenue. Redlich made the motion following the previous vote because he felt that the "triangle" intersection used in the first two examples aren’t safe; Runion offered the third example, although it doesn’t employ the "triangle" design;

— Voted, 3 to 2, to install two stop signs on Penney Lane, one at the intersection of DiBella Drive and the other at the intersection of Timothy Lane. The request came from residents of the development, said Councilwoman Patricia Slavick, who is the liaison to the traffic safety committee.

Town Clerk Rosemary Centi lives in the neighborhood and explained the layout of the suburban roads to the board, adding that some people have a tendency to speed on the straighaways.

"This is a place that doesn’t need a stop sign," Redlich said, and suggested that maybe it is a place that needs a police officer who could issue speeding tickets. He went on to say that using stop signs as a means to slow traffic demeans their effectiveness elsewhere, in places that require a full stop.

Councilman Paul Pastore countered that he thought there were many law-abiding residents in Guilderland who would obey the signs;

— Voted unanimously to make changes to the employee manual;

— Voted unanimously to appoint Janet Thayer, Christopher Knauf, and Robert Hilt to the town’s ethics board; and

— Went into closed session to discuss contract negotiations with the Police Benevolent Association.

Fund drive underway for burned-out family

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — It was six degrees out when the call came in at 4:30 a.m. on Jan. 4 about an apartment-house fire on McKown Road, said Paul Fuino, assistant chief of the North Bethlehem Fire Department.

"I pulled up and saw the fire and said, ‘We’re in trouble with the conditions,’" recalled Fuino.

The brick building had six apartments, he said. The family in the burning apartment was safely outside by the time the firefighters arrived, said Fuino.

It took an hour to get the blaze under control, he said; his company didn’t leave the scene until 10:30 a.m.

There was "heavy damage" in the apartment where the fire started, said Fuino. "We don’t know the cause at this point," he said. "To save the other five apartments was quite an accomplishment."

A drive is underway to help the family that was burned out. They lost their home and all of their belongings, said Marie Smith, the nurse at Guilderland High School, where the child in the family is a student. "It’s so traumatic for them," Smith said, explaining she did not want to name the family to protect their privacy.

Smith suggested the best donations would be gift cards for stores "where you can get a lot for the dollar." A notice about the drive is posted on the district’s website at www.guilderlandschools.org. Smith can be reached at 861-8591, ext. 3031.

"The community has been so wonderful," Smith said of donations received so far. "I’m glad I live here."

Firefighter injured

"They were tough conditions; there was so much ice," said Fuino. Water froze on the sidewalks and driveway and on the firefighters’ gear and on the top of the trucks, he said.

Other departments — from Westmere, McKownville, Slingerlands, and Guilderland — joined the fight through mutual aid. The Western Turnpike Rescue Squad was on the scene, said Fuina, and the fire department from Delmar was ready to help if a firefighter were trapped.

Bill Swartz, with the Westmere Fire Department, slipped on the ice and broke his leg. He is 66 years old and has been a firefighter for 46 years. Swartz said he doesn’t plan to give up now. "I’m not going to quit," Swartz told The Enterprise yesterday.

Swartz, who drives the department’s aerial truck, was standing by the ladder truck when he slipped on the ice. "Everybody was slipping and sliding....Down I went," said Swartz. "I knew it was broke the minute I hit."

He had surgery at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany. "They put in a pin from my knee to my ankle," he said.

He’s home now. "I’ll be out 16 weeks," said Swartz, a busy retired electrician.

Asked if it was painful, Swartz answered, "Very," with a laugh. He went on, "I don’t take the medication."

Swartz’s son is the Westmere fire chief. "I taught him; now he’s teaching me," he said. "He’s my chief."

Swartz concluded, "I’m in for the duration. I’m doing fine. It was an accident. It’s just a bump in the road. I’ll be back."

By Jo E. Prout

GUILDERLAND — Cabernet Café on Western Avenue is temporarily closed while the possible new owners seek zoning approval for adjustments in the operation, including a plan to stay open until 3 a.m.

The planning board here tabled a site plan review for the restaurant last week.

James and Margrét Baggetta and Joe Taylor own J.J. Rafferty’s in Latham, and J.T. Maxie’s in Colonie. If they purchase Cabernet Café, they want to expand the outside seating area, and the hours of operation, their attorney, Julianne Girard, of Latham, told the board.

Henry Klein is the current owner of Cabernet Café.

"It’s not closed. We’re on hold for our annual rotation" while he waits for the potential buyers to get zoning approval, Klein told The Enterprise. He said that the business certificates are all up to date. The business temporarily closed on Jan. 1, after a New Year’s Eve party. Klein said that the restaurant has been for sale since last fall, but he declined to discuss the price. He said that the location and facility are good, and that there has been a lot of interest from other restaurant owners.

Klein also owns Sutter’s Mill and Mining Co. on Western Avenue. He said that, having young children, "I really don’t want to run two restaurants."

The planning board last week suggested that Girard submit a more detailed plan that includes landscaping, elevation drawings, lighting descriptions, and proposed fencing. The board also said that the business needs signs directing patrons to overflow parking. The current restaurant uses its own spaces, as well as those in Cosimo’s Plaza. The proposed plan would increase restaurant seating from 90 to 118.

Girard said that the variance granted to Cabernet Café would change because of the change in hours of operation. The Baggettas and Taylor propose to stay open until 2 a.m. during the week, and until 3 a.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, with the kitchen open until a half-hour before closing. The board said that the current owner has a permit for the patio for smokers’ use.

"There is a neighborhood directly behind this," said board member Terry Coburn. Board member Thomas Robert said that, if sliding doors onto the patio, or the new seating area, are left open, music and noise would spill out and affect the neighbors.

"Until 3 o’clock outside is a lot different than midnight," said board member Michael Cleary.

"I’m very concerned about the noise issues," said board member Lindsay Childs. "It is a very serious problem. How well can you screen noise so it doesn’t go to the back""

Girard said that a solid awning put up and taken down seasonally would subdue the noise. The new operation would offer one- to three-piece acoustical music, she said. Board member Paul Caputo said that the use of acoustical music would alleviate his concerns about the sound carrying.

The board said that it wants to encourage business, but prevent future problems.

"We don’t want a nuisance situation," planning board Chairman Stephen Feeney said.

"Noise mitigation is the critical issue," Childs said.

After an altered plan is submitted, the board will send its interpretation to the zoning board of appeals.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Approved a request by Joseph Hamman to subdivide 9.4 acres on Western Turnpike into three lots.

Teen wins talent search
Rabadi rocks the Garden

By Saranac Hale Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Alexis Rabadi filled a packed Madison Square Garden with song last month.

The 13-year-old Guilderland native sang "Colors of the Wind" to clinch first place in a kids’ talent contest that drew hundreds of contestants. She competed in the final three during a New York Knicks basketball game.

"Just about every hair on my body stood up," said Shaw Rabadi, bursting with pride, as he recalled his daughter’s New York City debut. He owns the Greek restaurant on Western Avenue, BFS.

"It was more exciting than nerve-racking for me," Alexis Rabadi said of her first audition in the city and the contest that followed. Rabadi is a veteran of local theater, having played starring roles in Farnsworth Middle School productions and at the Washington Park Playhouse. She’d like to have a career in show business.

So far, her favorite role has been Kim McAfee in "Bye Bye, Birdie," the teenage fan of a rock idol. Rabadi can identify with McAfee’s character, she said, adding, "My Conrad Birdie is Johnny Depp."

As for the song she chose from Disney’s Pocahontas, Rabadi said, "It applies to what’s going on in the world now," referring to global warming and related environmental issues. Initially, she had chosen to sing the Titanic theme song, but one of the two other contestants she was competing against in the finals had also chosen that song. The winner was determined by the crowd of roughly 20,000, Mr. Rabadi said.

When her mother discovered the contest advertised in the back of a magazine, the two of them went downstate for the auditions, Rabadi said.

"Her mom loves to sing, you know, in the car," Mr. Rabadi said of where his daughter might have picked up her talent.

"I’ve just been singing for as long as I can remember, just in the back seat of the car," Alexis Rabadi said.

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