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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 27, 2009

Roundabout proposed for Guilderland Center, school board weighs in

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — School board members are enthusiastic about a proposal to build a roundabout in Guilderland Center.

Board member Barbara Fraterrigo has met with a group studying the hamlet over the summer, which has been “brainstorming ideas,” she said, to reduce traffic problems.

The small hamlet straddles Route 146, with houses, many of them more than a century old, close to the road. In addition to the district’s bus garage and high school, Guilderland Center has the town’s transfer station and highway garage, a strip mall and an apartment complex, as well as a nursing home and a large industrial park.

The roundabout, which is still just a proposal, would be built at the intersection of School Road and Route 146, Fraterrigo told the school board at its Aug. 18 meeting. Also, she said, “They’re trying to work with the Northeastern Industrial Park to open up the southern gate.” This would reduce truck traffic and perhaps school bus traffic in the hamlet if the buses could go that way and avoid the intersection on School Road, Fraterrigo said.

Another meeting will be held to get community reaction to the proposals, she said.

“I love roundabouts,” said board member Denise Eisele, but she asked if huge trucks would be able to make the curve.

Fraterrigo replied that the roundabout would be designed to accommodate them.

Board member Colleen O’Connell was also enthused about a roundabout. She said a new roundabout at Curry Road and Route 7 keeps traffic from backing up there as it used to. “Everybody just flows,” she said. “It’s amazing.”

Hamlet planning

In May, a neighborhood planning meeting highlighted traffic safety and pedestrian connections as the top priorities for attention in Guilderland Center. Federal funds, totaling $780,000 for sidewalks, have been promised, Supervisor Kenneth Runion said at the May meeting. At the same time, residents also learned that, within a three-year period, 47 reportable accidents had occurred in the hamlet.

The town hired Behan Planning and Design to conduct a study to develop a neighborhood master plan for Guilderland Center with help from Creighton Manning Engineering, and funding through the Capital District Transportation Committee. A $31,000 grant was allocated for the study.

John J. Behan, a principal with Behan Planning and Design, told The Enterprise this week that the roundabout proposal was “in response to what we’re hearing from residents.”

Asked about the feasibility of a roundabout in such close quarters with such big trucks, he said, “It’s difficult for all of us to see, how to shape spaces to make something fit. Our engineering consultant is confident it would work there.”

“Folks should be open-minded about ideas,” said Behan. “I’m a big fan of anything that makes our roads safer….Roundabouts are much, much, much safer than a conventional intersection. Fatalities drop 90 percent,” he said, when roundabouts are installed.

Behan also said that he had just returned from a trip to Italy, where there are many historic hamlets. “They have roundabouts everywhere…It’s very traditional. We have kind of forgotten them in our vocabulary of roadway design,” he said.

Asked about how long it would take to build a roundabout and how much it would cost, Behan said that it would probably be a state or federal highway project and that the timing would be funding-driven.

“If the community were to embrace it,” he said, “the town and the Capital District Transportation Committee and the state Department of Transportation could look for funding to pay for design and construction.”

On timing, he said, “Quite frankly, it might be five or 10 years…If the community wants to pursue it, that would help getting funding.’

Behan also said that community interest would be needed to pursue opening the southern gate at the industrial park.

“They have security and control issues,” said Behan of the Northeastern Industrial Park. “If that becomes a community request, the town leadership is given a clear message.”

Behan said of the industrial park, “They’re very willing participants; they have to consider costs.”

He concluded, “There is no perfect solution…We have a fairly good direction; we’re still looking for input. It’s important folks raise questions and voice support.”

Other business

In other business at its Aug. 18 meeting, the school board:

—         Approved BOCES rental and ancillary service agreements for the 2009-10 school year. The Board of Cooperative Educational Services of Albany-Schoharie-Schenectady-Saratoga Counties will pay rent of $12,000 per classroom and an ancillary services base of $14,250;

—         Approved a rental agreement with the Capital District YMCA for the 2009-10 school year. The YMCA leases three classrooms among the Guilderland, Pine Bush, and Westmere elementary schools, paying an annual rent of $7,000 for a total of $21,000;

—         Agreed to bid cooperatively with other districts for computers and technology equipment for Project Lead the Way pre-engineering courses at the high school;

—         Extended the district’s contract with Bell’s Auto driving School for behind-the-wheel driver education at a cost of $310 per student, and appointed Roderick MacDonald as the in-class instructor at a rate of $51.40 per hour for the 2009-10 school year.

“The only complaint I ever hear is people wish there were more seats,” said O’Connell. “I think they would fill up”;

—         Extended a contract with Durrin, Inc. to provide private transportation at a cost of $29,068 for the year. The company will transport two special-needs students, said Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders;

—         Accepted a bid for $20,680.80 from RIS Paper Co., Inc., the lowest of three bidders, for 840 cases of copy paper. The paper will last two to three months, Sanders said, adding, “We are recycling”;

—         Approved a co-curricular club, Guilderland Students Care, to extend the work of the Community Caregivers to high school students. The students will make phone calls and visit the elderly and housebound, and help with errands and household chores. Superintendent John McGuire said the new club “embodies everything we espouse”;

—         Adopted a policy on harassment, including sexual harassment, and discrimination. Lin Severance, the assistant superintendent for human resources, said the proposed policy had been sent to the district’s union presidents who shared it with the rank and file. “They thought it looked fine,” she said. Training will take place in all of the district’s buildings, she said;

—         Heard from Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Demian Singleton that curriculum work this summer has put the district in good shape to start its full-day kindergarten program in September;

—         Learned from Singleton that the state schedule for elementary and intermediate testing for 2009-10 has been revised so that English and math tests will be in late April and early May. Administrators at the elementary and middle schools have been “working feverishly” Singleton said, to modify calendars and activities. “It’s a challenge but we’ll certainly muddle through it,” he said;

—         Heard congratulations for Jill Dugan, foreign language teacher at Farnsworth Middle School, who was one of two New Yorkers to receive a Summer Institute scholarship from the New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers;

—         Heard congratulations for Heather Thomas, a Pine Bush elementary teacher who won the Greater Capital Region Teacher Center  Summer Grant Round, which supports activities to raise standards;

—         Heard from Singleton that new district priorities have been adopted. He called the priorities “a reflection of the collective thinking of all involved” and said they “will serve as guiding principles of our work”; and

—         Met in executive session for a personnel update, to discuss the process of evaluating the superintendent, and for updates on negotiations with the Teaching Assistants Unit and the Guilderland Employees Association.

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