Larry Goodwin

Larry Goodwin

Friday, 13 April 2018 15:10

Neighbors: Dan Urkevich

Who: Dan Urkevich

Where: Garden Beds at Saratoga Spa State Park

Q: How many years have you been gardening here?

A: I started gardening in the park after I left the golf course, when the golf course privatized, in 2000 this bed was started…this is the 19th year. Both sides. It’s expanded quite a bit—that and some other beds in the park…every year I try to make it a little better. 

Q: How is your commute from Mechanicville each morning?

A: Easy. Not bad at all. It’s not like having to drive to Albany.

Q: Where do you get the plants and flowers?

A: I buy all my plants at Sunnyside nursery. I’ve always gotten them there. I give him a list of plants I need, he grows them special for me. Ned Chapman. He’s willing to grow for me, so I can do some unusual things here with plants. He’s very generous to the park, always has been.

Q: What are your favorites?

A: I like the zinnias, the tall zinnias. The ‘state fair’ is the variety. And I also like the sunflowers, I’ve used a lot of sunflowers here… you get a nice height and they’re visible from the road…so you can see a splash of color.

Q: How much annual planting is required?

A: It’s probably like 65 percent perennial to 30 annual...they’ll be coming as soon as we get some warmer weather.

Q: How has the state park changed through the years?

A: My first year was ’78. I’ve seen a lot of things here. It’s really improved a lot, all the areas here…I also do the Victoria pool, I do the flowers and landscaping in there and that’s beautiful; try to keep it nice.

Q: Do you have many interactions with passersby?

A: Everybody. A lot of people stop here, you know, questions about the flowers. The walking path was put in the same time all this was done, so this has been a great thing for the patrons. All of that was started, I think, in ’99. It’s much more popular, the whole park…I’ve seen a big increase in the attendance…and with the pumpkins and mums in the fall, it’s just really popular for family pictures. 

Q: What do you like to do for fun?

A: I do a lot of fishing, kayak fishing. I also bike. [Laughs.] I also do a lot of this for my family and friends, a lot of gardening. 

Thursday, 12 April 2018 21:13

Many Voices Heard on Village Budget Woes

In photos: One of the rooms filled this week at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 358 in Ballston Spa; and Village Hall at 66 Front Street. Photos by Larry Goodwin. 

BALLSTON SPA – Dozens of cars and trucks spilled out of the parking lot at the V.F.W. post off Doubleday Avenue Monday night, when village residents showed up to express their concerns about a proposal to raise property tax rates by nearly 26 percent in the next fiscal year.

Television cameras blocked an entryway between two rooms that contained the crowd, as more than 20 people were called upon to address the Ballston Spa Village Board.

Former village mayor James Capasso set the tone for the next two hours.

“I wish you’d appoint a budget advisory committee,” Capasso told the board. “A committee of citizens that live in this village and want to take the budget apart and look at it piece by piece, analyze every nickel that we spend.”

Capasso recalled efforts that were made by village officials in 1988 to improve the future prospects of the Ballston Spa School District.

“You have to surround yourself with good people,” he said. “That’s the only way you’re going to run a good government.”  

The board voted later to set a second public hearing in Village Hall for 7:15 p.m. on Monday, April 23, specific to the issue of exceeding New York State’s 2 percent property tax cap.

Ballston Spa’s pending 2018-19 budget is scheduled for a vote and possible adoption the same night. The $4.4 million spending plan must be passed before June 1.

Mayor John Romano and the village trustees are scheduled to meet with department heads through Friday, April 20 for additional budget workshops.

At the April 9 public hearing, several residents echoed Capasso’s comments, calling on the village board to allow more citizen participation and transparency in general.

Jes Rich, the owner of Sage Wine and Spirits, explained that she was so inspired by members of the Ballston Spa Business and Professional Association that she chose to open her business in 2016 on Front Street.  

“One thing that is concerning is that there really isn’t conversation between the business association and village government about how we move forward and how we help each other move forward,” Rich said. “The businesses—the restaurants and retail shops—are what is bringing in more interest to the area and we need to embrace that.”

Hyde Boulevard resident Liz Kormos reported that she recently filed a Freedom of Information Law request with Ballston Spa Treasurer Christopher Hickey, who informed her “he did not trust the numbers coming out of the village’s computer system.”

“How can the village manage our tax dollars and create a budget if they don’t trust the numbers in their own accounting system?” Kormos asked the board members.

Rowland Street resident Chris Tebbens, a U.S. Navy veteran, urged the board to contact the New York State Comptroller’s office and utilize its “fiscal stress-monitoring tool.”

Romano responded that he has scheduled a meeting with the comptroller’s office in a couple of weeks “to discuss that very issue.”

Other local residents asked for more detailed explanations from Hickey, who prepared Ballston Spa’s tentative budget but was not present.  

According to Romano, it was Hickey who recommended—in his capacity as the official budget officer for the village—raising property taxes by 26 percent. “That is his view of what needs to be done,” the mayor said.

Currently, Ballston Spa has about $16.5 million in taxable property, Romano explained. If the annual tax rate does increase by 26 percent, he cited two examples of how that would translate into real numbers.

Romano said a property valued at $180,000 would see a rise from $694 to $874 in village taxes; a “higher-end” property valued at $254,000 that pays $980 now would see that number rise to $1,243. 

Yet Romano stopped short of saying that Hickey should be present at budget meetings.

“I speak to the treasurer every single day, Monday through Friday. Every member of this board has the same opportunity,” Romano said. “You need to spend some time with the treasurer, one on one.”

“What I’m worried about is that people are getting stuck on whether the guy’s here or not,” interjected Trustee Noah Shaw, who in recent weeks has frequently criticized Hickey’s absence from board meetings. He referred to Hickey as the village’s chief financial officer (CFO).  

“The most important part is whether the CFO of this organization is coming up with good ideas for how to solve the problem. I’m not sure he is,” Shaw said. “We need more help, and we need different ideas and we need different options.”

Shaw prompted much debate about updating the village’s property assessment strategy, which he claimed has not been done in 25 years.  

Anna Stanko, a senior technician in the Saratoga County Real Property Tax Service Agency, reminded the board that village property assessments are tied to those made in the neighboring towns of Ballston and Milton. She vouched for their overall accuracy.

Shaw also recommended that the board should consider selling off properties to raise revenue, including the three-story Village Hall building at 66 Front Street. He said that would make sense following the arrival of so many new businesses on Front Street. 

Shaw requested that Romano form a new budget advisory committee by this August to accommodate the concerns stated by residents in attendance Monday night.

Another local woman acknowledged the complexity of putting together any municipal budget.

Still, she told the board she wants to see results. “I think we have a right to expect a much better process” in the years ahead, she concluded, eliciting applause.

The last speaker was local real estate broker Rory O’Connor, who advised setting up a citizen budget committee without delay. He called on the board members to at least focus on “zero-based budgeting” as they finalize any plan to fix the village’s fiscal woes.

“This is the people’s money. It’s not village money. This belongs to all of us to solve,” O’Connor said. “Zero-based budgeting is simply everyone justifies every penny, starting from the beginning, so there are no sacred cows; there are no programs that are not looked at in the context of being adjusted or reduced.”

“All of the storefronts are filled. It’s because we all worked together to make that happen,” Romano said in conclusion.  

“We’re going through some tough times, but we’ll get through it. We’re going to work hard. We’re going to turn things around,” the mayor added. “You have my word on that.” 

Thursday, 12 April 2018 21:07

Firefighters Seek Memorial Plaque

(From left) Ballston Spa volunteer firefighters Glenn Bowers Jr., third assistant; Kevin Krogh, second assistant; Michael Bashore, first assistant; and Chief Bill Lewis. Photo by Larry Goodwin. 

BALLSTON SPA – The Ballston Spa Fire Department (BSFD), an all-volunteer service provided to the village and surrounding communities, requested a small amount of funding this week for a memorial plaque. 

According to current Chief Bill Lewis, who was recently re-elected to his position along with three other BSFD officials, there will be a $700 initial cost for the plaque. He said the goal is to honor all of the fire chiefs who have served in the village through the course of more than 200 years.  

On Monday, the Ballston Spa Village Board unanimously approved the expenditure after a lengthy public hearing that focused on a proposed $4.4 million spending plan for the next fiscal year, which starts on June 1. 

In 2017, Lewis said, volunteers at the two firehouses that comprise the BSFD—Eagle Matt Lee and Union Fire Company—responded to 392 calls and contributed over 10,000 hours of labor.    

Thursday, 05 April 2018 17:08

County Republicans Mourn Loss of a Legend

The late Saratoga County Republican John Nolan in 2012 at the Saratoga Springs Holiday Inn. Photo by Thomas Dimopoulos.

SARATOGA SPRINGS – A legendary chairman of the Saratoga County Republican Committee passed away on Sunday, April 1 after battling the symptoms of dementia, according to an obituary published online by the William J. Burke and Sons/Bussing and Cunniff Funeral Home.

John (Jack) “Jasper” Nolan “was a man of conviction and unwavering faith. He was a loyal supporter of his family and friends, his beloved Saratoga Springs and our country,” the obituary reads.

The funeral home, located at 628 North Broadway, has scheduled calling hours for Nolan from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, April 6.

The obituary indicated that Nolan was 83 and had worked as a teacher for more than 30 years.

Nolan served as chairman of the county’s Republican Committee between 1985 and 2012. He also was actively involved in a local Knights of Columbus chapter, the Wilton Elks lodge, the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and other groups.

Steve Bulger, another respected Republican and former committee chairman who recently took a position in the federal Small Business Administration, said he had not seen Nolan in several years. Bulger called him “absolutely one of my mentors.”  

Apparently, Nolan had relocated to Connecticut to be closer to a daughter.

“They really took good care of him these last few years,” Bulger said of the family.

As a history teacher, Bulger explained, Nolan “had a great historical perspective” that he could apply to many different subjects.

Bulger said that Nolan’s specialties in politics included a mastery of running campaigns and “how to hold elected officials accountable…to conservative principles.”

“He wasn’t just good at election time. He was a leader all the time,” Bulger added.  

In a statement emailed on Tuesday, Saratoga County Office of Emergency Services Director Carl Zeilman further expressed the sentiment of local Republicans following the announcement of Nolan’s passing last weekend.  

Zeilman, the current Republican Committee chairman, said Saratoga County “lost one of its greatest champions.”

“Jasper was a giant of a man who led the Saratoga County Republican Committee for nearly three decades, achieving unmatched electoral success,” he said. “Under his leadership, Saratoga County grew into one of the most successful counties in the state, with a thriving economy and growing population. Chairman Nolan was recognized across the state as a king maker in the party, but to most of us he was a mentor, a friend, a leader and a man who epitomized the values and commitment we hold so dear.

“On behalf of all the entire Republican Committee,” Zeilman added, “I offer my most sincere sympathy to the Nolan family and ask that we all hold them in our prayers in this trying time.” 

Thursday, 05 April 2018 16:54

Drive-In Flea Market Straight Ahead

MALTA – Jim O’Connell says there will be “just about everything you can think of” at the flea market he plans to start next month at the Malta Drive-In, including a wide assortment of antiques, handmade crafts and even a reader of tarot cards.

On one Saturday each month starting on May 12 and ending on Sept. 15, according to O’Connell, a fee of $2 per vehicle will be charged to access the flea market at the popular drive-in theater. He indicated that $1 from each fee will go to charity.

“My plan for this thing is to make it a community event,” he said, with minimal noise or noticeable impacts on local residents. The other two Saturdays it will be open are June 9 and July 7.

Several years ago, O’Connell explained, another weekend flea market was started at the Malta Drive-In but did not succeed. He said the goal is to improve upon that experience.  

O’Connell, who works full time as a marketing specialist at the CapCom Federal Credit Union based in Albany, conveyed how he has been involved with flea markets in his spare time for more than 20 years. 

This new plan in Malta has received a “a tremendous amount of feedback,” he said, noting how the closest similar markets are set up farther south on Route 9, at the Guptill’s Roller Skating Arena in Cohoes, and in the Washington County fairgrounds west of Greenwich.

O’Connell estimated that the flea market fees would generate approximately $1,000 for the CapCom Cares Foundation, which supports local children and families.  

Earlier this week, the Malta Town Board took an action related to the flea market by voting to schedule a public hearing at 6 p.m. on Monday, May 7 for the purpose of amending the so-called Caro Planned Development District (PDD).

According to Malta Supervisor Vincent DeLucia, a section of that particular PDD needs to be amended because it currently specifies that a flea market can operate at the drive-in between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

O’Connell said the new flea market will operate between 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. only on Saturdays, as a means to avoid any potential traffic problems in connection with services at the St. Peter Lutheran Church directly across Route 9.

DeLucia noted how such a time change “extends the traffic pattern” and would benefit flea market enthusiasts who “want to get there early.”

Malta Councilman John Hartzell was the sole vote in opposition to the public hearing measure.

He opined that changing the hours of operation in the Caro PDD does not “strike” the right balance for residents who live near the Malta Drive-In.

“I wish them well with their business,” Hartzell said. “I think this goes farther than I am comfortable with.”

Yet DeLucia thinks the new flea market will be good for Malta.

“It’s supportive of economic development and brings people into the town,” he said. 

Thursday, 05 April 2018 16:47

State Funds Secured for Drug Treatment

Photo by Larry Goodwin. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (D-Round Lake) confirmed this week that $250,000 in new funding was secured in the recently passed state budget to support Saratoga Hospital’s drug-treatment program at the Community Health Center on Hamilton Street.

In February, Woerner said, she attended a meeting with Saratoga Hospital President and Chief Executive Officer Angelo Calbone to discuss a perceived need for state funding.

Woerner called the effort a “priority” of hers, saying the program in Saratoga Springs is “fully subscribed.” 

In that February meeting, she explained, a figure of $500,000 was agreed upon, but only half that amount remained after negotiations were finalized between state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Woerner said the opioid problem, in particular, has been “overwhelming our primary practices.”

“The medical staff at the hospital is really doing a tremendous job,” she observed, noting how “it’s an enormous problem in our county.”

Saratoga Hospital spokesman Peter Hopper declined to provide further information about how the state funds would be spent. The management team at the hospital is still reviewing the matter and details will be provided at a later date, he said.

In a September 2017 interview arranged by Hopper, Dr. Joshua Zamer, the addiction medicine specialist at the Community Health Center, told Saratoga TODAY that he was actively treating about 170 patients monthly in the drug-treatment program.

Woerner added that Saratoga County emergency workers have expressed to her that many people are still affected. “We haven’t crested the hill on this addiction problem,” she said. 

MALTA – Town officials avoided potential litigation this week by approving a legal settlement with the New Jersey-based company that owns the Steeplechase apartment complex, which recently contested the town’s tax assessment of the property. 

According to Malta Assessor Rae-Lyn Dussault, the apartment community at 2767 Route 9 was previously valued at $30 million.

Dussault explained that representatives of The Silverman Group in New Jersey had requested a reduction in Malta’s tax assessment to $24 million.

“We kind of met them in the middle,” she said, noting how the new agreement values the property at $27.5 million.

“The values that we put on commercial properties, to begin with, are market,” Dussault said.

In October 2014, The Silverman Group purchased the property for $35.5 million, according to a report in the Albany Business Review.

Neither local company officials nor others in New Jersey could be reached for comment. The Silverman Group website indicates that Steeplechase is run by a division named C and R Property Management.

Dussault said it was “logical” to reduce the tax assessment for a number of reasons, including the fact that the community is more than 10 years old and has experienced some recent vacancy issues.   

A company description online indicates that there are more than 230 apartment units in Steeplechase, ranging in size from 830 to 1,300 square feet of living space.

On Monday, the Malta Town Board voted 3-2 in favor of approving a “stipulation of settlement” agreement that was reached between the attorneys representing each respective party in the tax dispute.

Councilman John Hartzell and Supervisor Vincent DeLucia both were opposed.

DeLucia called the previous $30 million assessment “fair and reasonable.” But he added that, as a general rule, he respects the town board’s democratic process. 

“I’m all for settling when we can,” DeLucia said.

Daniel Zazzali, the attorney at the New Jersey law firm McCarter and English who represented The Silverman Group in the case, did not return a request for comment.

Multiple calls to Cathy Drobny at the Saratoga Springs law firm E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy, which represented the Town of Malta, also were not returned. 

Dussault added that New York State Supreme Court Judge Ann Crowell is expected to review and approve the settlement agreement pertaining to Steeplechase.  

Thursday, 29 March 2018 17:46

Putt-ing Mini-Golf on Maple

A rendering of the Maple Avenue Mini-Golf provided by Brian Brumley; and the land owned by Brumley at 556 Maple Avenue. Photo by Super Source Media LLC.

WILTON – Spring Street Deli co-owner Brian Brumley received a positive response last week from Wilton planners for an 18-hole miniature golf course that he intends to build on Maple Avenue near the Daniels Road intersection.

“The whole course is going to be based on the history of Saratoga,” stated Brumley, who decided recently to move forward with the idea. With the necessary approvals from town officials, he hopes to open the Maple Avenue Mini-Golf in early July.     

On Wednesday, March 21, Brumley appeared before the Wilton Planning Board with George Turner, a senior landscape designer at Saratoga Associates. In his own time, Turner is preparing the related documents on behalf of Brumley in consultation with town officials.

Turner said the general idea is to offer more enjoyable outdoor activities locally during summer months, such as those that now exist in the Lake George area.  

“This board is always looking for family-oriented—this whole town is,” responded Planning Board Chairman Michael Dobis. “I think it’d be kind of nice to have this in the area.”

The planning board voted in favor of setting a public hearing specific to Brumley’s application for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 18, following a separate public hearing for an Exit 16 self-storage facility proposed by Northeast Green Tech LLC.

Brumley explained that a builder in Arkansas who specializes in miniature golf courses plans to travel north and spend several months working on the project.

“This gentleman has built 200 golf courses in his life; been doing it for 35 years,” Brumley told the planning board, referring to the builder Jeff Dillon.

In addition to 18 holes for the golf course, some of which Turner said would include “water features,” the board’s agenda referred to a 180-square-foot building that would contain an office and restrooms.

Currently, a small structure is located toward the front of the 2.4-acre parcel at 556 Maple Avenue, which Brumley said he has owned for six years. An arborist utilizes the property for work purposes but is expected to vacate soon. 

The closest comparable miniature golf course is Mr. Bill’s Mill Creek at 3 Trieble Avenue in Milton, off of Geyser Road.

Milton Building Inspector Wayne Howe said that business opened in 1996 and was run for a long period by Boghosian Bros Construction. “They kept the place immaculate,” he said.

Howe described Mr. Bill’s as an “executive golf course,” noting how it changed ownership several years ago. “It’s a pretty hard course, actually,” he admitted.

The only downside, according to Howe, is the seasonal presence of miniature golf. “We wish it was year-round,” he said.    

Planning board members and others in Wilton raised some concerns as well.

Wilton’s Director of Planning and Engineering Ryan Riper indicated that Brumley’s site plans would have to be “revised” to accommodate several changes, including a modification of the parking arrangements.

Brumley said the general rule with miniature golf courses is that one parking spot is needed for each existing hole.

The Maple Avenue Mini-Golf holes need to be reconfigured to “allow more [parking] spaces along the frontage,” Riper said. He requested revised documents by Tuesday, April 3.  

In a subsequent email, Riper indicated that Brumley “does not need to proceed” with the town’s normal three-stage approval process because his proposed miniature golf course is considered “minor in scope.” 

Riper added that the property “already has an approved commercial site plan,” and that “the adjacent land owners will be notified prior to the public hearing” on April 18.

Dobis questioned the potential for increased traffic on that part of heavily traveled Maple Avenue, close to where site work recently began for a new Cumberland Farms.   

Board member Erinn Kolligian noted that, even with the existence of crosswalks, Maple Avenue Middle School discourages youngsters from crossing the road because of its high volume of traffic.

Dobis also recommended that Brumley and Turner consult directly with Wilton Building Inspector Mark Mykins, as a means to ensure that any new structures conform to proper codes. He said that “may just save you some grief down the road, instead of spending money on your design and then finding that it’s an issue.”  

Attorney Robert Pulsifer, a former Wilton planning and zoning official who has long had an office across Maple Avenue from Daniels Road, welcomed Brumley’s plans to build his golf course on the other side of a bridge there.

Yet Pulsifer has previously expressed concerns to town officials about traffic problems in the area, pointing to an apparent lack of interest among state Department of Transportation officials in regards to upgrading the Daniels Road intersection.

“Route 9 is a business corridor and it makes sense to have a business there,” Pulsifer said of Brumley’s land. “I am a pro-business, pro-property rights person.”

“It’s the state that’s not doing their job here,” he added. “They won’t listen.”  

Thursday, 29 March 2018 17:43

Route 9 Upgrades Costly

Jaclyn Hakes of MJ Engineering in Clifton Park and David Jukins of the Capital District Transportation Committee. Photo by Larry Goodwin.  

MALTA – A long-simmering plan to add almost two miles of new medians and crosswalks along Route 9 was discussed on Monday night by the Malta Town Board.

But the costs of such a project, estimated at a minimum of $4.5 million, were perceived as the largest obstacle to completion.

“Oddly, there always has to be this little issue: money,” concluded Malta Supervisor Vincent DeLucia.

David Jukins, deputy director of the Capital District Transportation Committee in Albany, together with Jaclyn Hakes of the Clifton Park firm MJ Engineering, gave a formal presentation at the board’s March 26 meeting that detailed a “complete streets” study. 

The study focused on the 1.8-mile stretch of Route 9 between Cramer Road and Knabner Road that would be affected. In several sections the work would involve a “full-depth reconstruction” and widening of Route 9.  

Hakes said the recently completed study was funded through a state grant and that "a broad cross-section” of agencies participated, including the Saratoga County Planning Department.

Jason Kemper, the county’s director of planning, confirmed that his department had a role in a couple of workshops related to the Malta project more than a year ago, but he declined to comment on specifics.

“We try to provide staff” on a routine basis, Kemper said, for projects taking place countywide.   

Hakes reminded the Malta town board that “you have been working toward this complete street plan for some time,” at least since the approval in 2013 of the town’s “form-based code” process for local development projects. 

Complete street plans are designed to improve the aesthetics of any given area. Malta’s version was modeled on the town’s form-based code rules, according to Hakes.  

The primary goal of these particular plans is to limit the dominance of motor vehicles and allow for a “variety” of uses by pedestrians and bicyclists, she added.

Jukins said that Malta’s plan calls for multiple “controlled access points” through newly constructed medians, so that walkers, runners and bicyclists can more safely get across the busy roadway. 

“We worked closely with the Department of Transportation,” Jukins told the town board members.

Jukins said the state agency used to automatically reject most projects that would substantially alter Route 9 and other state roads. But officials in this case seemed more open to the major infrastructure changes, he added—accepting that there is sufficient local support and funding available.    

Jukins also said state officials stressed the importance of complying with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Hakes alluded to potential difficulties for access points near existing properties in the proposed project area, including Ellsworth Commons and the Malta-Stillwater Emergency Medical Services building. 

“If you fix one thing, you have to think about what the ripple effect might be,” she said. 

Thursday, 29 March 2018 17:36

Village Faces 26% Tax Hike

Liz Kormos (center, standing) makes a point at the Ballston Spa Village Board meeting on Monday, March 26, 2018. Photo by Larry Goodwin. 

BALLSTON SPA – In a crowded Village Hall meeting room on Monday, Mayor John Romano fended off the symptoms of a cold as much as the public ire that resulted recently from a proposed 26 percent hike in property tax rates for the next fiscal year.

“If you think the village tax rate is going to increase by 26 percent, it’s not going to happen,” Romano insisted at the outset of the meeting, noting how the five-member village board has the ultimate say before the 2018-19 budget gets passed.

A public hearing on the proposed $4.3 million spending plan was set for 7 p.m. on Monday, April 9 at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Ballston Spa. 

In his March 20 budget letter submitted to the mayor and trustees, Village Treasurer Christopher Hickey referred to a 5 percent increase in expenditures.

“We will continue to experience many challenges in governmental financing and budgeting,” read the letter. It cited “dwindling state revenues, reduction in federal assistance programs and minimal growth of local revenues, coupled with increasing demands for services and increased costs.” 

But it was the $356,942 “increase in real property taxes,” as Hickey wrote, that captured much of the attention this week.   

Trustee Noah Shaw, reading from a prepared statement, spent more than 10 minutes detailing his concerns.

“I call this a head-in-the-sand budget,” he said. “It doesn’t take a hard, honest look at the mismanagement that got us to this unfortunate place, to learn from those mistakes and to do things differently going forward. It doesn’t put any policies in place to avoid this predicament getting worse in future years.”

“This is a budget that keeps us on the downward trajectory toward real fiscal stress,” Shaw added.

Among other measures, Shaw proposed that the board should consider substantial increases to water-usage rates charged to customers outside of Ballston Spa. He said the village also should renegotiate its fire-protection contracts.

“Our fire departments are best in class, essential to the community. They are an asset, not a liability,” he said. “They should also provide the revenue that they can reasonably generate. We need to seize that opportunity to getting a better deal on the services our fire companies provide.”

Romano responded that contracts with the Town of Ballston were recently updated, and that negotiations with the Town of Milton are ongoing. 

Trustee Shawn Raymond, the newest member of the village board along with Shaw, called for better management and more transparency, including proper oversight from the state comptroller’s office.

Trustees Robert Cavanaugh and Stuart Hodsoll indicated that they are still reviewing Hickey’s proposed budget.

During the public comment period, village resident Liz Kormos—after noting how she runs a strategic planning business—pointed out that Ballston Spa’s expenditures have exceeded revenues since at least 2014, by as much as $334,000 in one year.

Kormos offered advice to the board as well. “You cut everything you can without jeopardizing essential services,” she said. “You make a plan to minimize the impact on taxpayers.” 

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