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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 29, 2011

2011 in review: Altamont
Village welcomes visitors for concerts, fair, congressman’s meeting, and Victorian Holidays

ALTAMONT — Altamont saw small-town events grow to reach hundreds in 2011, while new businesses continued to open. The village remained stable, with the adoption of a budget with an unchanged tax rate, the election of incumbents, and the permanent appointment of its formerly temporary police chief. The village board, however, ended the year with a lawsuit related to a police officer it had worked hard to retain.

In February, the Boyd-Hilton Veterans of Foreign Wars post joined with Excelsior College to offer tuition-reduction rates to local vets to finish associate’s or bachelor’s degrees. The partnership was the brainchild of local VFW member Judy Reed, the director of veteran services with Excelsior College, a local college offering online-only courses to more than 30,000 students.

“The college takes a lot of [veterans’] military credits,” Reed said, “putting them a lot closer to degrees than many colleges.” Military credit acceptance and tuition reduction, which is further reduced by membership in the Altamont post, lets veterans finish sooner than if they attended other schools, she said. The partnership is a way for the post to increase the number of its own active members, Reed said.

“It’s a proud thing to be a member,” said Post Commander Dennis Cyr. “It’s an honorable thing to serve in the services.” He said that post membership costs $35 per year, or veterans can pay for a lifetime membership at a cost that varies according to age.

“We’re an informational tool for veterans,” Cyr said. “It’s a community center for our veterans. It’s just one of those feel-good things. We donate a lot. We help veterans in need, and families that are in distress.”

The annual Countryfest event at the Altamont fairgrounds in July distressed fewer village residents this year, even with record numbers attending.

“Everything went really well this year,” according to Police Commissioner Todd Pucci. The crowd of 41,000 concert-goers yielded only three arrests, he said.

The concert’s sound system was set up differently than in previous years to keep the noise levels down for the village, Pucci said. The police department did not receive complaints from village residents about the noise, as it had for several years before, he said.

The Altamont Fair, too, was a success in August with the tried and true farm, garden, domestic, and art exhibits as well as some new attractions, including performing bears, a birds of prey exhibit, and the Stinger — a million-dollar ride making its American debut on the Reithoffer midway in Altamont.

Kelly Slingerland, 20, of Selkirk was crowned Miss Altamont Fair.

Festivities continued into the fall as Altamont continued to welcome visitors.

The 10th annual Victorian Holidays event, held in early December by the group Altamont Community Tradition, brought out 1,200 people to tour historical or decorated homes. Revelers also attended a live Nativity and waited for Santa, who arrived by train.

Volunteers decorated donated trees and wreaths and returned them to ACT, who distributed them around the village.

“It was really bustling. I was pleased this year,” said Judith Dineen, the ACT president. “I’m so grateful for this community and this team — this bunch from ACT.”

The village welcomed new businesses that opened through the year.

Altamont Extreme Auto owned by Geoffrey Brown and Kevin Willsey opened in January.

“We’re going to be a small-engine clinic with complete repairs and maintenance,” Brown said. Brown handles home, farm, lawn and garden equipment repairs and maintenance, while Willsey oversees automotive details.

“We have top-notch Automotive Service Excellence-certified mechanics” who offer “fully-licensed inspections on cars, trucks, and motorcycles. A one-stop shop,” Brown said. 

In August, Liberty LiVecchi opened her salon Li Bella in Knowersville Plaza on Route 146. A professional hairstylist for more than 20 years, LiVecchi previously worked in New York City styling runway models. Her salon features a make-up artist and a nail technician, all of whom travel for continuing education and to style those in weddings across the country.

Her Altamont clients “like the atmosphere. They like the coziness. It’s not a big salon. When you think of a quaint village, that’s what people think,” LiVecchi said.

The Spinning Room Yarn Shop is at the corner of Maple Avenue and Main Street. More than 30 regular customers crowded into the tiny shop in October to celebrate the change of ownership from Liz Cassidy to Deirdre DeSantis. 

“The ladies had gotten together and made her a friendship quilt,” DeSantis said of Cassidy’s devoted patrons. More than 45 people created 56 six-inch squares that were put together into one large afghan.

The shop offers knitting, weaving, crochet, and felting classes.

“We’ve got a lot of nice yarns,” DeSantis said. “We have some very friendly people, too. It’s got the hometown appeal. Everybody says hello to everybody who comes in. It’s a very friendly shop.”

And just in time for the holiday season, Mio Vino, a wine bar and pizza bistro at the corners of Main Street and Maple Avenue, opened its doors. Owner Mike Giorgio renovated the Victorian-era building that had housed Hungerford Market. The popular bagel shop owned by Jean Conklin moved around the corner to a beautifully refurbished spot with an entrance on Maple Avenue.

The new dark red siding of Mio Vino now dominates the corner and inside fine wines and wood-fired pizza await.

Village business

New zoning regulations meant to keep Altamont quaint upset longtime residents this month, as their appeal to park a trailer near their home was denied.

John and Barbara Floeser asked that they be exempt from recently enacted zoning regulations that require them to park their licensed trailer behind their backyard fence.

“We don’t want to continue to have neighbors angry with us,” Barbara Floeser said. The zoning board’s denial of their variance application meant that the Floesers must drive 70 feet across their side yard to park the trailer behind a fence.

“The yard is a disaster,” Floeser said. “It’s not a matter of convenience. It’s a matter of a hardship.”

Village residents returned uncontested incumbents William Aylward and Christine Marshall to their village board seats in March. Village Justice Rebecca Hout also won her uncontested seat. Each position has a four-year term.

“The board is kind of in the middle of a few projects that I want to see through,” Marshall said about why she ran, again.

“You stay on to see that what you started is finished,” said Aylward. “That’s what we’re doing now.”

Aylward lost his seat as a county legislator later this year. He served three terms. Last month, the village board honored Aylward for his work in local politics over the last 40 years. Aylward previously served as village mayor for 10 years, town supervisor for two years, and chairman of the town’s Democratic Party.

The village passed a $1.04 million budget in 2011. The village also had a water fund budget of $445,000 and a sewer fund budget of $456,000.

In June, former Altamont Public Safety Commissioner Anthony Salerno said he would run for Albany County Sheriff, with the unexpected retirement of Sheriff James Campbell. Campbell’s deputy sheriff, Craig Apple, received the appointment in June, running and winning the seat, himself, in November.

Salerno’s bid to be sheriff ended a long period in the public eye, after he failed to take and pass a Civil Service police chief exam for the village post that was supposed to be probationary. Salerno also had 20 years of experience with the Albany Police Department. The village board praised Salerno for bringing Altamont’s police department up to a high standard, but some residents criticized him for unorthodox methods.

Court papers were filed this year by Johanne Beauvais against the police department, Salerno, the Center for Disability Services, and Mary Ellen Smith for police methods related to an accusation of theft and improper transportation at an Altamont group home.

Beauvais, a former group home employee, was ordered to go to the village police station in 2009. When she arrived, “She was neither informed that she was permitted to leave at any time, nor of her right to remain silent or to an attorney,” the court papers say.

“Beauvais was accused of stealing a Nintendo Wii system… In lieu of being arrested, she was given the option to either admit that she stole the items, or sign a predrafted letter of resignation,” the papers say.

“She was told that if she did not sign the letter she could be arrested, lose her nursing license, and/or have her children taken away from her,” according to the court papers.

  In August, the village hosted a standing-room-only crowd that attended Congressman Paul Tonko’s town hall meeting.

Tonko, a Democrat representing the 21st Congressional District, described his Mighty Waters Initiative, a plan to reinvigorate upstate New York waterfronts and maintain the state’s Erie Canal waterway heritage.

“A water economy is coming,” Tonko said, estimating that a greater reliance on the waterway would develop in the next 30 years. Tonko also spoke of government help to bolster local manufacturers who need capital to grow.

“It’s time for us to say, ‘Make it in America,’ ” Tonko said.

—By Jo E. Prout

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