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Thursday, 27 August 2015 18:33

City Prepares for 100k

Despite Attendance Cap, 100k Anticipated for Travers Day

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Any municipality preparing to host a major event such as baseball’s World Series, a World Fair, or a visiting monarch would do well to reach out to the public and private leadership in the City of Saratoga Springs for a bit of advice. 

Every year, without fail, the City hosts hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world during Saratoga racing season, a feat requiring constant communication and smooth, dance-like coordination between stakeholders to pull off. 

This year, with racing’s own visiting monarch in the form of Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah, plus Earth, Wind, and Fire and Chicago performing Saturday evening at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), crowds could reach 100,000 people on Travers Day, August 29, but the experienced small city in the country is more than ready. 

“We definitely have more staff on duty than we normally would,” said Gregory Veitch, chief of police of the Saratoga Springs Police Department. “We anticipate it being one of the largest track sizes that we have seen in a long time. It’s going to be a big deal and we’ve been planning this for quite some time. There will be an increased presence by all law enforcement, emergency medical and fire. We aren’t doing this in a vacuum.”

In the century and a half of summer racing seasons, successful public safety and coordination at local, state, and federal levels has played an important role in keeping fans and visitors returning year after year. 

“A lot of thought has gone into our coordinating with other agencies, and we are very appreciative of them,” said Christian Mathiesen, commissioner of Public Safety in Saratoga Springs. “I know the sheriff’s department will be very helpful, especially with traffic. The fire department will have an increased presence, and EMS will have two engine crews instead of one and one HAZMAT truck at the racetrack. The Police Department will have some changes in the traffic patterns, and overall staff will be optimal to take care of issues at the track and throughout the City. My advice to everyone is to come early and be patient, not to expect to breeze right into the City.”

Visitors will be driving in to attend the concert at SPAC around the same time the people are leaving the racecourse after the last race, so traffic patterns may change to accommodate the increase and timing. Visitors are asked not to honk their horns, as this can startle the horses. (See page 14 for important traffic safety notices).

Public safety is just one piece of the larger entertainment puzzle put together by public and private partnerships in the City. As a destination locale, there is quite a bit of effort put into assuring everyone has a good time. 

“We began talking and staying in touch as soon as American Pharoah won the Triple Crown,” said Todd Shimkus, CCE, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. “The Convention and Tourism Bureau, Downtown Business Association, CDTA, the Mayor’s office, the Police Chief – we even talked with Amtrak the week after he won.”

Those conversations continued throughout the season. “There has been months of preparation ahead of this year’s Travers in anticipation of American Pharoah coming to Saratoga,” said Todd Garofano, president of the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau. “Once NYRA [The New York Racing Association] announced that attendance would be capped at 50,000, we all turned our attention to creating and promoting viewing parties at Saratoga area bars and restaurants. Our message is that while the Travers is sold-out, Saratoga is not. We want fans to come and participate in what is a historic weekend for Saratoga. A website was created, www.2015saratogatravers.com to list and promote the viewing parties around town.”

Shimkus understood the reasons behind NYRA’s cap on attendance at the track, but said the rest of the town leaders were confident that the City could welcome many more, which is why they worked so hard to set up viewing parties. 

“This is about creating an experience that people want to come back to time and again,” Shimkus said. “The cap allows the track to provide the best possible customer service to those attending, so it’s up to us to provide the best possible experience to City visitors not only to ticket holders, but for all those who can’t be there. We’re working hard locally to make sure we can accommodate everyone, that everyone has a great experience, with just the right food, the right product, and help people find hotel rooms – we are getting calls from around the world.”

Shimkus went on to say with confidence that it is not the first time the City has hosted a big crowd in Saratoga. The vast majority of businesses are locally owned by people who live here and have a sense of what they need to do to make this work. He said the process has been relatively smooth for years when it comes to preparing for crowds from a staffing perspective, food perspective, merchandise perspective, and promotional perspective.  

 

“I don't think anyone has any idea of what it takes to host something like this,” said Shimkus. “This hasn't happened in 37 years, [Triple Crown winner]. We'll be talking about this to our grandkids. Yes, traffic is difficult, parking is difficult, getting reservations is difficult, folks might have to wait in a line, but while standing there, take a deep breath and look around and know you’ll remember this race and this moment 40 years from now. The enormity of the event will make us all a little more patient when we think about how cool this really is.”

WILTON – Last June, residents of Wilton and surrounding towns pulled together to raise funds for Clarkie Carroll, a 13-year-old lacrosse player who had been diagnosed in 2013 with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that only affects 250 people a year.  

Nearly 350 people gathered at McGregor Links Country Club in support of Clarkie and participated in “The Clarkie Cup,” raising nearly $40,000 as a community. 

Due to those funds and other donations raised in honor of Clarkie, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer-powered and donor-centered charity dedicated to raising money for childhood cancer research, announced this week that a Hero Fund created in honor of Clarkie Carroll will support lifesaving childhood cancer research, specifically a research grant focused on Ewing Sarcoma. About $300,000 was raised, and all of the funds are going toward research. This is the second $100,000 research grant to be awarded out of the funds raised by the Wilton community.

“It sounds cliché, but it definitely takes a village,” said Clarkie’s father, Dave Carroll. “An unfortunate circumstance led to some wonderfully generous folks and an amazing turnout at the fundraiser. We are immensely grateful – there’s so many people to thank. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be where we are now.”

After struggling with leg pain throughout his 2013 spring lacrosse season, Clarkie’s parents pushed for an MRI. It showed a mass in his upper right femur. Clarkie’s treatment involved 34 weeks of chemotherapy and surgery to remove the top half of his femur and replace it with a titanium prosthesis and donor bone. Clarkie completed treatment in May 2014 and now shows no evidence of disease.

“We stay cautiously optimistic,” said Dave Carroll. “He’s doing well, he has a metal prosthesis in his leg and needs a couple adjustments from a hardware standpoint, but he’s tougher than most. His mindset is he doesn’t feel sorry for himself. He checks the box and keeps on grinding, setting goals for the day, the week, and just goes from there. I have learned a lot from him.”

Dave Carroll added that the disease is so rare and not well known that it is not a priority in national research funding. 

“It will take getting the dollars to the folks in the research labs, and on the [micro] scopes, and in the basements of the hospitals to find a cure,” he said. “It’s going to have to come from private dollars. We are humbled by Wilton’s generosity, and hopeful all the hard work does pay off. It’s amazing, but not surprising, that a community like this rallied around one of its own. And now that money is getting to the right folks, those that have the most promising work.”

This year, the “Team Clarkie St. Baldrick’s Research Grant” was awarded to Dr. Eric Sweet-Cordero, Ph.D., at Stanford University. The $100,000 grant will support Dr. Sweet-Cordero’s research project that aims to understand how a DNA mutation causes Ewing Sarcoma. He hopes that understanding this mutation will lead to better therapies for children with this cancer.

The Team Clarkie Fund was started by Dave and Shannan Carroll in honor of their son, Clarkie. Throughout treatment, Clarkie amazed everybody with his strength, positivity, sense of humor and resilience. 

 

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a volunteer-powered charity committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers and give survivors long and healthy lives. Since 2005, St. Baldrick’s has awarded more than $176 million to support lifesaving research, making the Foundation the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants. For more information about the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, call 1.888.899.BALD or visit www.StBaldricks.org.

SARATOGA SPRINGS – When Matt Cummings, 32, and his graphic design business partner, Mike Miakisz, 31, put together a logo for American Pharoah this spring; the 3-year old colt had just dominated the Arkansas Derby, a key prep race for the Kentucky Derby. Little did they know they were designing what would become one of the most popular t-shirts of the summer racing season.

“He was one of the best 2-year olds last year,” said Cummings, co-owner of Ascot Creative with Miakisz. “Then he had a small injury and missed the Breeders Cup. When they brought him back this year and we watched him win a couple races, we knew that was the horse.”

Cummings and Miakisz, who have known each other since grade school, are Saratoga natives with a natural love for horseracing. Both went to college for design, settled into steady careers, and Miakisz started a family, but they both wanted just a little bit more from their American Dream. So over the last couple of years, they began a small entrepreneurial venture on the side, Ascot Creative, designing apparel for horseracing fans that would feature a particular horse or stable on t-shirts, hats and other items.  

“We kinda know which are the popular horses in the horseracing fan base,” said Miakisz, “so we try to reach out to their owners and set up a licensing agreement to sell merchandise with their horses and stables on it. It benefits us, the owner, the stable, and horse racing fans in general.”

The two lifelong friends had no idea when they reached out for the licensing agreement on American Pharoah that they were creating a design for the horse that would win the Triple Crown for the first time in 37 years. Ascot Creative sales went up after the Kentucky Derby, then American Pharoah won the Preakness, sales went up again, and the rest is history, both for the horse and the entrepreneurs. 

“There’s no comparison to what we did last year,” said Cummings. “I didn’t think going into the Kentucky Derby that we’d sell a hundred shirts, and didn’t even know what to expect. We had to come up with a new design after he won the Triple Crown, but we’re at about 600 for him and still going. Not only that, we are selling other shirt designs and hats, like Texas Red.”

The sales are all derived online at AscotCreative.com, through promotions on Facebook and Twitter. “It’s really amazing,” Cummings said. “We’ve even gotten orders from Australia, Japan and England.” 

 

Both men feel good about the future of their design business. “This year we’ve established a relationship with some big-time owners,” said Miakisz, “which gives us some credibility with other owners, something we didn’t have before. And [American Pharoah’s] win has gotten our name out there to horseracing fans. We’ve had a great response.”

BALLSTON SPA — Veterans returning from service often experience a multitude of emotions as they re-acclimate to civilian life, including a sense of loneliness and isolation, even when surrounded by loved ones. The Saratoga County Veterans Peer to Peer Mentoring Program has recently added a new program, expanding upon the existing services they provide, to meet the needs of returning military. 

Earlier this year, Program Coordinator Amy Hughes began exploring companion animals for veterans, and naturally thought to work in partnership with the Saratoga County Animal Shelter. 

“Study after study has shown the therapeutic benefits of pet ownership,” said Hughes. “What better way than to have these lost or abandoned animals find homes with veterans and be trained as Emotional Support Animals?” 

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is a companion animal that provides therapeutic benefit of affection and companionship for individuals suffering from various mental and emotional conditions, such as anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“That therapeutic value, however, is not intended to take the place of services the veteran may need,” said Frank McClement, Director of the Saratoga County Veterans Services Agency. 

The new Vets and Pets Program is currently being offered to veterans receiving services through the Peer to Peer Program. “It’s important to connect a veteran with services first,” said Hughes, “then the mentoring program, and then a pet. It’s a gradual process that may or may not end in adoption, because it is important that there be a good match between the veteran and pet.”

Veterans are asked to consider volunteering at the Animal Shelter, which gives the animals time to socialize with them. The program includes volunteer trainers who have offered to assist preparing the pets and veterans for their futures together, although pets do not have to be trained by a professional to be licensed as an Emotional Support Animal. The program also assists with fees and getting the animals registered as Emotional Support Animals, which protects these animals under federal law from no-pet policies in housing and other situations where the veteran would need the pet.

“It’s mutually beneficial,” said Saratoga County Administrator Spencer P. Hellwig. “Not only do veterans have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of having an animal as a part of their lives, but the pets can lead a happy life with a home, companionship, and an owner who is willing to take on the responsibility.”

Hellwig said the Saratoga County Animal Shelter, on a typical month, has about 100 dogs and 30 cats needing homes. Some are strays and some are from families who are no longer in a position to care for them.

Giovanni Sorrentino of Malta was serving as a pilot in the Air Force as a First Lieutenant, stationed in Texas, when he was hurt in a training exercise that resulted in a L4-L5 vertebrae spinal fusion, requiring a titanium plate and three screws in his spine. “I can’t tell you what it was like to lose my wings and know I’d never fly again,” said Sorrentino. “I spent my whole life training to become a fighter pilot.”

He was a mentee in the Peer-to-Peer program, and is new to the Vets and Pets program. His dog, Mia, is a Morkie (a purebred Yorkshire Terrier and a purebred Maltese cross).

“I actually got my puppy on my own and raised her as a therapy dog,” said Sorrentino. “The program helped me get her licensed so I can bring her with me out and about. Mia has been more powerful and therapeutic than any medication a doctor could write. There’s nothing like the emotional and physical support of a companion at all times. She depends on me and I depend on her. Vets and Pets provides the support of an animal that’s trained and certified, taking time with the shelter making sure you’re paired with an animal that is a good fit. Truthfully, the dog kind of picks you.” 

Matt Catlin of Niskayuna served in Iraq in 2006 as an E5 Sergeant, an Army medic. Currently he is a hyperbaric oxygen therapy technician at Albany Memorial. His American Pit Bull Terrier was a stray dog at a Native American reservation in upstate New York. “His name is Gwaho, pronounced WAH-hoe. It’s a Mohawk name that means wolf,” said Catlin.

Catlin added, “I had a difficult time when I came home. There was no one in my life who could associate with my experiences. They had no idea what I went through. Nothing is like the experience over there, and I couldn’t stop thinking about all the patients I tried to save, and the ones I couldn’t.”

Catlin described how veterans start to lose their ability to socially interact, feeling isolated when surrounded by people who have not been through similar experiences. “What better way to regain social interaction than starting with a pet?” said Catlin. “They don’t judge you. When you make a mistake, they don’t make you feel bad about it. They support you through good and bad times, completely unconditionally, which is difficult to expect from people. It’s fitting for the Peer to Peer Mentoring to start providing a service animal function to fill that needed emotional support.”

The Saratoga County Veterans Peer to Peer Mentoring Program pairs established veterans with returning veterans who are experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other re-acclimation challenges. Personalized and informal, these pairings yield relationships intended to ease the transition from combat to civilian life.

“It’s a great program, so needed,” said Catlin. “You’re with peers who’ve worn the same uniform, had the same goals and ambitions to save the world, who can say ‘I understand your pain, and there is light at the end of the tunnel.’ Programs like this one helps veterans gain good coping mechanisms, and not slip into drugs or alcohol.” 

Drew Torres of Glens Falls served as a sergeant in the Marine Corps in communications and artillery. He is from Wilmington near Lake Placid, and moved to Glens Falls to study IT networking at Adirondack Community College, which is where he met Hughes and heard about the Peer to Peer Mentoring program. “I thought this could help me meet other veterans, people I can relate to, I guess because it’s easier to talk on the same plane,” he said.

Torres and Kaia, an American Stafford terrier, bulldog and coonhound mix, are part of the Vets and Pets program, Torres has recently become a mentor in the Peer to Peer program. “We go through training, learning how to talk with someone who has PTSD or anxiety issues,” he said. “When I first moved here there was no one to talk to. I would definitely have considered becoming a mentee if I had known about the program then. It makes a difference, one veteran helping another.”

“The Saratoga County VA program is one of the best in the country,” said Sorrentino. “I went to one in Texas, in New York City, and here – and this program is unparalleled. I’m very grateful to be a part of it.” 

 

For more information about the Vets and Pets or Peer to Peer Mentoring programs, please call 518-884-4999 or visit www.veteranspeertopeer.org. For information about adopting a pet outside of the Vets and Pets program, call the shelter at 518-885-4113 or visit saratogacountyny.gov and navigate to the shelter page.

Friday, 14 August 2015 18:12

Saratoga’s Solar Future Looks Bright

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Local governments around the nation are increasingly seeking ways to curb energy costs, and finally – between improved technologies and federal and state incentives – the reduction of a municipality’s carbon footprint has become both affordable and fiscally appealing. This is very good news for taxpayers, especially in a city like Saratoga Springs, with residents who are committed to lower energy costs without sacrificing environmental conservation and beauty. 

The Saratoga Springs City Council has launched two initiatives that will save homeowners, businesses, the City, and ultimately taxpayers significant energy and financial resources in the short and long-term. Additionally, the City has formed a Solar Access Committee to research additional solar energy opportunities. 

Solarize Saratoga 

Solarize Saratoga is a volunteer-driven campaign sponsored by the City of Saratoga Springs, led by Mayor Joanne Yepsen, and New York State to make it easy and affordable for households and small businesses to “go solar” utilizing funds provided by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) as part of the statewide NY-SUN Initiative. Community partners Sustainable Saratoga and Green Conscience Home and Garden have signed on to promote awareness of the campaign.

“The community is coming together to make it easier and more affordable for Saratoga area homeowners and businesses to install solar PV systems,” said Yepsen. Combining the power of community with a smart group purchasing strategy, Solarize helps everyone learn about solar technology, benefits, choices and financing options—together. 

The City selected two firms - Apex Solar Power, headquartered in Queensbury, and Hudson Solar, headquartered in Rhinebeck - through a competitive process to install solar PV systems in Saratoga Springs and adjacent communities. They are offering discounted group pricing for those who purchase solar before mid-October through the Solarize Saratoga program.  

Homeowners and businesses who sign up for solar installations by October 7 through the program will be able to take advantage of group rates below market prices. The more customers who sign up, the lower the price will be for all participants.

Solarize Saratoga is a nine-month program. The enrollment period began in July 2015, with the last installations wrapping up in December of 2015. For more information, visit www.solarizesaratoga.org.

Spa Solar Park

The City of Saratoga Springs awarded a bid to SunEdison on May 21, 2013 to work with the City to convert the City’s capped Weibel Avenue Landfill into a solar energy production site known as the Spa Solar Park Development. 

According to Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan in a report to the City Council, this is the City’s project, but SunEdison will build, own and maintain a 2 megawatt AC solar array on the City Landfill for an estimated 20 years.  The 2MW solar array is estimated to generate electricity equal to about 35-40 percent of the City’s current electricity usage for municipal operations. 

Sun Edison’s financial model includes funding from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA), which was received in October 2014 through the Governor’s NY-Sun Competitive PV Program.  It also includes funding from the sale of electricity to the City.  Since this is a “remote net metering” project, the actual electricity produced by the City’s solar panels will be directed to National Grid, which will provide a monetary credit to the City for amounts generated; the City, in turn, will pay SunEdison for electricity that is directed to National Grid. This payment is governed by a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (“PPA”), which was approved by the Council in December 2014 and fully executed in January 2015. 

“The electricity price the City will pay to SunEdison remains the same over its entire course,” said Madigan. “The City saves money when the PPA price is lower than the National Grid credit amount, which is the anticipated result. Regardless, having a 20-year price allows for long range budget planning, as well as reduces the City’s carbon footprint.”    

“There are tremendous opportunities through federal credits or state agencies like NYSERDA that enable local governments to save taxpayer dollars not only on their next electric bill, but for years down the line. We have seen a shift to renewable energy work wonders for private homeowners or local businesses like Stewart’s, and government at all levels should strongly consider this model as a way to save money, green the environment, and reduce our dangerous dependency on fossil fuels,” said U.S. Congressman (N-21) Paul Tonko.  

In 2013, Stewart’s Shops announced it would install a 600-kilowatt photovoltaic rooftop solar energy system at its manufacturing and distribution center near Saratoga Springs. Stewart’s took advantage of federal tax credits and a rebate offered through NYSERDA to offset the cost of the $1.5 million project.  

According to Stewarts Shops spokeswoman Maria D’Amelia, “It’s doing well, the project is generating about 7 percent of our plant’s electricity needs, saving about $3,000 a month. The only thing that gets a little in the way, which made us slightly under projections, was the bad winter which gave us a bit of a backup with snow covering the panels. Otherwise, it’s been very positive, with very little maintenance, and we are very pleased.” 

Solar Access Committee

At the June 2 City Council meeting, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan announced the formation of a committee to review the solar landscape including advances in science, technology, and how other communities handle solar access in laws and regulations. “I do think there are more things to look at than what we’ve considered so far,” said Madigan. 

Saratoga Springs resident Larry Toole chairs the Solar Access Committee. He holds an undergraduate degree in meteorology and is also a board member with Sustainable Saratoga, but makes it clear that he is on the Solar Committee as a Saratoga Springs citizen. 

“I’m interested in helping the City best understand the solar landscape in today’s world, anticipating where we might be in the future,” said Toole. “That’s dependent on lots of things, certainly the projected growth in solar is going to be quite significant, such as the signs of global warming initiatives and state and federal regulations of emissions.”

The goal of the committee is to provide context for that, as well as look at best practices regarding solar access rights, solar zoning issues, and other issues that other local governments have addressed. The committee will issue a report with recommendations in a couple of months. 

“In phase two of the Spa Solar Park there is potential for the City to add community solar,” said Toole. “This means that businesses and homeowners who do not have properties conducive to solar panels could instead purchase solar power through the Spa Solar Park array, or some other future array.” 

Looking into the solar future, Toole sees a day when no trees will be cut back or down to avoid shading solar panels on roofs, no ordinances will need to be changed to manage infill shadowing of neighboring panels, and no homeowner or business will need solar panels on their roofs. 

“Historical buildings would even be able to have solar energy,” said Toole. “Everyone would be able to purchase clean energy through a community scale project.”

For that to happen, however, New York State would have to pass legislation that require operational and billing changes in the power industry. 

“It’s inevitable that the power industry will have to go through a transformation in the next 20 to 30 years,” said Toole. “If President Obama’s mandate to the industry to reduce greenhouse gases by 32 percent by 2030 survives the courts, they will start owning more utility-scale renewable energy projects as part of their industry portfolio. When we’re 25 years down the road, 80 percent of the energy you buy from National Grid will be clean energy, so there won’t be a need to buy solar panels for rooftops. The power industry’s business model will change, but that has to start with net billing and they won’t do it unless required to by the state.”

Toole said that most indications are that the state is moving toward authorizing a community solar future, and once that happens, Saratoga Springs is likely to jump on board. This scenario is one of many that could be included in the committee’s report to the City. 

 

“I’m excited about the potential of what the committee can do,” said Toole. “We have a good cross section of concerned citizens, businesses, people with expertise in earth science and solar technology, plus support from the City, so hopefully we con provide useful information to incorporate in the future. You combine the ebb and flow between the Solarize Saratoga concept of discounts on rooftop solar, plus City savings on the Spa Solar Park, and add community solar one day, and we still have only begun to see what a solar future for Saratoga can look like.”

 

Additional Matching Grant Could Bring Total Public/Private Funds to $375k

GLENS FALLS — Due to the generosity of the Charles R. Wood Foundation, the oncology pharmacy at The C. R. Wood Cancer Center could soon become a state-of-the-art facility – again. 

“The Cancer Center opened in 1993, and I was there then,” said oncology pharmacist Sharon Geerts. “At the time, we had a nice, modern Center and things flowed well, but our volume has since multiplied, and cancer patients are living longer, plus there are new drugs and new targeted therapies in the last several years, so we’re seeing much larger volumes. We’ve added physicians, physician assistants, and we’ve simply grown out of the space.”   

The Wood Foundation has made a $125,000 gift to Glens Falls Hospital to assist with the relocation and expansion of the oncology pharmacy — and has committed a second $125,000 Matching Grant Challenge, if area families and businesses combine to give an equal amount to the project. 

“Every dollar that you contribute to the oncology pharmacy project becomes two dollars, thanks to the Wood Foundation,” said Cindy Sherwood, Vice President of Development for the Glens Falls Hospital Foundation. “The original gift, plus community donations as we work toward getting the match, will provide a total of $375,000. This project will cost a little more than that, but we anticipate using some of the hospital’s capital funds as well. It is great that Charley Wood was so instrumental in getting us the Cancer Center to begin with, and here the Foundation is still working to help make sure the facility continues to meet the needs of the community. We are more than grateful, and hopeful the community will meet the Challenge.”

The oncology pharmacy at The C. R. Wood Cancer Center is where pharmacists prepare and dispense the chemotherapy drugs and other medications used by the center’s patients. It is currently 190 square feet, while the new one will be 540 square feet with a new clean room configuration that would bring compliance with upcoming federal regulations. The Center is working with the authors of the regulations so the new facility will meet the intent throughout the renovation process. All of the chemotherapy drugs are prepared in this one pharmacy, totaling about 42 percent of the hospital’s entire medication purchase. 

“You would be very surprised at how small it is,” said Geerts. “I’m looking forward to working in a state-of-the-art facility where I can process patient orders and adjunct medications that will not only be safe for the technicians and pharmacists that prepare them, but also for patients that receive them simply by the additional benefits of a well-streamlined process with modern efficiencies.”

The newly expanded pharmacy will enable pharmacists to safely increase the amount of chemotherapy drugs they are able to prepare at any given time, providing improved service to patients at a time when patient volume at the Cancer Center is increasing.  

Donna Winchell, a senior manager at the Cancer Center, said,  “We have one hood for preparing chemotherapy medications and one for nonhazardous preparations. With the new pharmacy, we will have two hoods for chemotherapy medication preparation. There will be an overall increase to employee safety resulting from the evolution of new technologies and research that we will be able to implement.”  

Sometimes the packaging of medications shipped to the pharmacy has trace particles on them, and the renovations will help ensure employee safety by minimizing exposure to hazardous materials during handling. The new room will also include better environmental controls such as air exchanges and humidity levels, which will allow doses to be prepared with a longer shelf life. Currently, doses must be administered to patients within 12 hours. The optimized space with sterile compound needs will lengthen that. 

The late Charles R. “Charley” Wood, founder of Storytown USA (now The Great Escape theme park) and many other area hospitality businesses, established the Wood Foundation in 1978 for the purpose of helping area not-for-profit organizations. In 2001, Mr. Wood made a $1.4 million gift to the hospital, which led to the renaming of the Cancer Center in his honor two years later. 

“Once again the Wood Foundation has stepped to the fore with a gift that inspires others to give,” said Dr. John Schutze of Schutze Family Dentistry, Chairman of the Glens Falls Hospital Foundation Board of Trustees. “Just like Charley Wood himself, they make generous investments that multiply many times over for the good of our community.”

“More than 1,000 new cases of cancer are treated at Glens Falls Hospital each year, and the oncology pharmacy is an invaluable part of the care those patients receive,” said President and CEO Dianne Shugrue. “We are thrilled that the Wood Foundation has chosen to support this important project, and we look forward to our community’s help in meeting the challenge.”

Anyone interested in making a gift in support of the Wood Challenge can give online at GlensFallsHospital.org, by calling the Glens Falls Hospital Foundation at 926-5960, or by sending a check to Glens Falls Hospital Foundation, 126 South St., Glens Falls, NY 12801.

 

Glens Falls Hospital is a comprehensive integrated system of primary care, specialty care and hospital services, serving a six-county region of the southern Adirondacks. With 2700 employees, 535 physicians and other credentialed providers, and 27 regional health service locations, Glens Falls Hospital has the region’s longest-established employed physician group, including specializations in primary care, cardiology, endocrinology, hematology/oncology, internal medicine, nephrology, occupational medicine, otolaryngology, psychiatry, emergency and inpatient medicine, thoracic surgery, and wound healing. Patients are offered a wide range of inpatient surgical services, primary and specialty care, rehabilitative and diagnostic services, and community health improvement programs. For more information: GlensFallsHospital.org. 

Friday, 14 August 2015 11:17

Area Schools Announce Vaccine Changes

STATEWIDE – According to the New York State Department of Health, the state has changed its immunization requirements for entry into public schools effective with the 2015-16 school year. Among the changes are requirements that all children have their complete series of MMR, DTaP and polio immunizations prior to entering school. Previously, the final doses of each vaccine could be administered up until age 6. 

“August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and now is a great time to remind parents that immunizations protect not only our children but our general population,” said Janice McPhee, MSN, RN, NCSN, Ballston Spa Central School District Health Leader, School Nurse, and President of the New York State Association of School Nurses. 

“Between the time a child is born and through the school years,” McPhee added, “vaccinations protect our children from a number of serious preventable diseases, such as the measles outbreak in California. Some children cannot be immunized because they are allergic or on chemotherapy or for some other medical reason cannot have the vaccine, so having other children around them who are vaccinated will protect those with compromised immune systems.”

Earlier this year, a large, multi-state measles outbreak was linked to cases in California’s Disneyland, affecting nearly 200 children and adults according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No source was identified, but CDC analysis showed that the measles virus type in the outbreak was identical to the one that caused the large measles outbreak in the Philippines in 2014.

That incident rekindled the national vaccination debate with new vigor on both sides. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), about a dozen states were weighing immunization exemption laws. All states currently require vaccines for students with exemptions for medical reasons, but other exemptions vary. Nearly all states exempt those who have religious beliefs against immunizations. 

Of the 20 states that allowed parents to opt out of vaccinating their children because of personal, moral or other beliefs, two will no longer allow philosophical exemptions beginning in July 2016. Vermont became the first state to repeal its personal belief exemption (but not religious exemption) and California removed exemptions based on personal beliefs, which include religious objections. New York does not allow a personal belief exemption, but it does allow medical and religious exemptions in public schools. Private schools in New York State often have stricter rules, and do not allow any exemption of any kind.

“Parents across the country want to keep their kids safe, happy and healthy,” said Paul Tonko, U.S. Representative, (NY-21). “However, the scientific and medical communities overwhelmingly dispute non-evidence based theories that vaccines are bad for our children. The existing framework of vaccination requirements has strengthened and protected public health for decades, and should continue to be followed.”

McPhee noted that vaccination rules are carefully considered and updated on the latest medical evidence, and encourages parents to check with their school nurses and pediatricians to make sure their children are up to date. 

“The changes we’re making require the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and varicella (chicken pox) vaccines in order to enter kindergarten because they found it’s more effective to have the additional vaccine earlier than waiting for the booster in sixth or seventh grade,” said McPhee. “Teens and pre-teens need additional shots because some immunizations wear off over time, which is why there are some booster shots. Foreign exchange students have to comply with these requirements as well.” 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) provides information to parents and caregivers about vaccine safety through this link: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/index.html. For more information about New York State immunization requirements, visit https://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/immunization/recommended_vaccinations.htm

Thursday, 06 August 2015 17:10

Saratoga Taxi Goes Digital

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Hailing a cab just became much easier in Saratoga Springs. Last week, Saratoga Taxi launched its services in the NexTaxi app, available on both iPhone and Android smartphones. 

“The whole thing is fantastic,” said Saratoga Taxi owner Larry Cooper. “The capabilities are unlimited. You can even book a trip now, tomorrow, next month or next year and never even talk to a dispatcher. Nobody else can do that.”

According to Gord Walsh of Future Quest Wireless Inc., marketers of the app, NexTaxi was one of the first passenger apps to launch in the market about five years ago. As one of the pioneers in the market, they were able to perfect the app in its early stages through fixing unexpected glitches and incorporating customer feedback to create this new version, which offers in-app payment, trip price estimation, the ability to choose the closest cab, the ability to watch the driver arrive in real time on a smartphone, and more. 

“The best part users will love,” said Walsh, “is you can book a future trip. So you can, for example, book a pickup to go to the airport next Tuesday morning. Upon opening the app, it is already showing you at your location, which is super simple, but you can also type an alternate location as the pickup. Perhaps you want to book a pickup for your daughter at school. So it can be used not just for you but your loved ones.”

Cooper said his drivers and dispatchers are acclimating to it well. “It makes the dispatcher a manager – kind of like an air traffic controller,” said Cooper. “Someone has to monitor the flow of calls, and it frees the dispatcher up from nitpicking duties and go forward and monitor the fleet, coordinate and supervise more than dispatch. You would never eliminate a dispatcher for something like this. You still need them to use their heads for something more than matching a person to a car. They get to look at the bigger picture, making them more valuable and they enjoy it more.”

Another useful feature is the app displays the closest cars to the pickup address, allowing customers to see the type of vehicle, the distance of each one, and even the driver.  Users can choose the closest car or let the system choose, or even pick a favorite driver, then watch the driver arrive in real time. This means no waiting in the heat or cold outside – passengers will know exactly when the driver is getting close. Previous pickup places are also saved for fast repeat bookings.

“I think this is a tremendous step for us and for Saratoga,” said Cooper. “It tacks on well to what we’ve been doing the last 36 years that I’ve owned Saratoga Taxi, and that’s great customer service. It’s a tremendous leap forward. Bottom line is the customer has to benefit, and this is so customer-friendly. No more phones ringing 10, 20 times before we can pick up during peak time. This app is lickety-split fast.”

Cooper added that this was the third system that his company had tried. “NexTaxi has the right formula,” he said. “The system would support a thousand cars, and our 19-car fleet is small for them, but they were the best company for us with a great program, offering a lot more capabilities than ever before. They are constantly listening to customer feedback and making upgrades based on the data. We’ve been eagerly looking for some sort of source for automatic dispatching, and this actually works. It’s like going from washing cars to launching a spaceship. Very exciting.”  

Saratoga TAXI is dispatched, maintained, and garaged in Saratoga Springs. It has been in business for more than 50 years, providing residents and visitors transportation locally and to Albany Airport as well as the Saratoga, Rensselaer, and Schenectady Amtrak® Stations. 

For more information about NexTaxi, visit futurequest.biz. For more information about Saratoga Taxi, call 518-584-2700 or visit saratoga-taxi.com.

 

The Philadelphia Orchestra Surpasses Itself

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The cocktail chatter had faded by the time the oboe’s solitary, readying note glided across the beautiful summer evening of Wednesday August 5 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC). The audience held its collective breath as Principal Guest Conductor Stéphane Denève gave a silent signal to one of the world’s most renowned gathering of musicians. It was opening night in the summer home of The Philadelphia Orchestra, and the audience was about to experience an Olympian musical performance rivaling that of even the great American Pharoah. 

In an interview the evening before, Denève described feeling a great good fortune in his role with the Orchestra. “They have this incredible sustained sound,” he said, “very powerful, with star players. I’m a little like a child in a toy shop in choosing an accurate piece to showcase such talent.”

And powerful it certainly was, as well as warm, relaxed and inviting. Denève led that talent in a repertoire highlighting the season to come, with challenging works requiring the deftest fingers, the longest breaths, the most precise muscle movements – all delivered with the poignant grace of those who not only love music, but become music once they lift their instruments, bringing the audience right along with them on a breathtaking journey of sound best heard in the acoustical magnificence of the Best Outdoor Music Venue in the nation (USA Today 2015). 

The French-born Denève, who is conducting the first week of the Orchestra’s season, is also the Chief Conductor of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra and, beginning in September 2015, Chief Conductor of the Brussels Philharmonic as well as Director of its Centre for Future Orchestra Repertoire. 

He is a member of a spectacular roster of conductors leading The Philadelphia Orchestra in its three-week residency, including Music DirectorYannick Nézet-Séguin; conductor-in-residence Cristian Măcelaru; and assistant conductor Lio Kuokman. Audiences can look forward to a captivating mix of the best in classical and modern music, a program they carefully designed collectively. 

“It is a very unique and unusual setup for decision-making in an orchestra,” said Denève. “This collaboration came from the musicians and I’m honored they chose me to be included. It builds a wonderful team feeling and deepens the relationship of conductor and musicians. One of the great things is that we’re all very young for conductors, and the Orchestra is so open-minded. There is no fight for tradition; they listen to my vision for the pieces and I know they will always try to fulfill my dreams. It is very rare and I love them. I know there is a very loyal following here, but for everyone I can only say I hope the people realize how very privileged they are to have such an Orchestra as this in residence here each year.”

The first half of the evening’s program contained excerpts of works that will be performed throughout the residency, including:Beethoven’s “Coriolan”, and selections from Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite”; Rachmaninoff/Stokowski’s “Prelude in C-Sharp Minor”;Brahms’ “Third Movement from Symphony No. 3”, and Prokofiev’s “Montagues and Capulets.”

“It is a little ‘amuse bouche’, appetizer, of the weeks to come,” said Denève. “It is very exciting and I hope the audience will discover pieces they didn’t know and will come to love. For me, the most touching piece is in my second night, from Romeo and Juliet. The end, with the death of Juliet, is so heartbreaking that I must refrain myself from, well, crying, in the middle of the job I must do for the musicians counting on me. It is a very deeply, moving piece to hear and to conduct.”

For the second half of the opening night program, the audience enjoyed the incomparable Bernadette Peters, who has earned two Tony Awards and three Drama Desk Awards, as well as a Golden Globe Award. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1987 recognizing her impressive career, which has included starring roles in original productions of “Into the Woods”, “Song and Dance”, and “George M!”, as well as highly praised revivals of “On the Town” and “Annie Get Your Gun”.

Marvin Laird led the Orchestra as Guest Conductor to Peters’ vocals, which included “Let Me Entertain You”; “No One is Alone”; “There is Nothing Like a Dame”; “Fever” (performed while draped atop the piano); “It Might as Well be Spring”; “Losing My Mind”; “Send in the Clowns”; “Being Alive”; and “Kramer’s Song”.

Bernadette Peters, for all her diminutive stature, fills the stage simply by stepping onto it. This legend of stage and screen has delighted audiences for decades, yet to experience her live is like drinking from the fountain of youth. The audience was completely hers opening night. She tickled their fancy, held them spellbound, lifted them to exuberance, and gently brought more than one pair of eyes to silent tears. 

Highlights of the remaining season which runs through August 22 can be found at the venue’s website, http://www.spac.org/events/orchestra. 

Thursday, 06 August 2015 16:34

Villa Balsamo's Opens its Gates

Southern Neapolitan Dining Available Nightly, Year-Round

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The once more-often-than-not locked gates of the upscale Villa Balsamo restaurant are standing open for unforgettable family-style dinners from 5 to 10 p.m. seven nights a week beginning the week of August 10. 

The facility has been open for private functions over the last three years, but “Ralphie” Balsamo and his father, Joseph “J.B.” Balsamo, decided it was time to begin offering a full nightly restaurant showcasing the culinary talents of a family renowned for authentic Southern Neapolitan cooking. 

“This is a place with a lot of people who have grown up with my father,” said Balsamo. “That’s very important. A lot of people miss his cooking. We want everyone to enjoy it here.”

Ralphie Balsamo makes no apologies for how long it has taken to open the restaurant for daily public use. He described the facility as a Sleeping Beauty. “You have to be very careful how you wake her up,” he said. “If she wakes up too fast, she could be angry. The timing has to be just right, slow and gentle for her beauty to really shine.”

The kitchen and operations will be led by the son, but when asked if it meant the senior Balsamo will enjoy some well-earned time to relax, Ralphie Balsamo answered, with some familial pride, “Him (sic) relaxing is him watching, smelling, tasting, seeing everything in the kitchen and throughout.” 

Balsamo described his father’s arrival in the late 40’s, early 50’s to the U.S. beginning with J.B.’s landing in Norfolk, Virginia with the Merchant Marines and making his way to Brooklyn with his entire entourage. “Then he built an empire,” said Balsamo. 

“When he saw this place,” said Balsamo, “it took him a year of driving up here from Brooklyn once a week and waiting for the owner to come out to collect his mail.” Joseph Balsamo successfully convinced the owner to sell, and Villa Balsamo began.

The man who runs the front of the house, head waiter Scott Urell, has been with the family since 2003. “This is a great facility,” he said. “The dining room is beautiful and the grounds are perfect for tents for weddings and parties. In future, there will be a bar in the basement and the upstairs will be rooms for a bed and breakfast.” 

“Yes, we’re thinking of calling it the J. B. and B.,” laughed Ralphie Balsamo. “Some of these projects will be finishing up in the fall, but we are definitely open for dinner year-round. We have free WiFi, too, so you can come with your laptop and sit with a cup of cappuccino if you like. You don’t want family-style? Someone in the family want something different? No problem. All you gotta do is let us know what you want, and we’ll get it for you.” 

As pricey as that level of service may sound on such expansive grounds in the high-end feel facility, the Balsamos intend to keep things affordable. “You can have a three-course dinner for two with wine for about a hundred dollars,” said Balsamo, “and still have food to take home with you.”

Workmen were still on the premises during the media preview tour on Tuesday August 4, putting the finishing touches on the refurbished and upgraded historic mansion boasting nine master rooms. The 14.5-acre site includes four ponds, natural springs, and a spectacular view from every window. The family intends the entire first floor suite to be available for weddings. 

“There are many houses for weddings in the Capital Region,” said Balsamo, “but they don’t have the original 1931 Sleeping Beauty that we have. We want to be the event place of Saratoga. The groom’s family can be on one end, the bride’s on the other, and they can walk out the door onto these grounds – and let me tell you, at dawn this place is majestic – you’ll step out feeling like all this is yours,” indicating the beautiful grounds with a broad sweep of his arm. “What could be better than that?”

He is especially proud of the menu. “All the favorites will be there,” he said. “The baked clams, the shrimp oreganata, the fettuccine prosciutto, and ocean-friendly sea bass – everything’s ocean-friendly. We will even have gluten free pasta available. Do you know, we have no walk-in freezers? Don’t need even need them. Everything’s fresh.”

Balsamo was clear that he owes much to the Villa Balsamo team. “I’m not a chef, I’m a cook,” he said, “and I’m very lucky to have a team who is with me, from the front of the house to the dishwasher beside me. My father knew the importance of that – and I tell you this with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat – do you know what it takes for him to build something from the ground up and have it last? You need the right talent working with us, not for us, and that’s very important. I even have someone flying in from Naples. I’m not saying who just yet, but just know that we are very proud of our team and very excited about the future and being open year-round.”

For reservations, call (518) 885-3227.


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  • COURT  Joseph W. Welch, 39, of Schroon Lake, was sentenced Oct. 21 to 3-1/2 years in state prison, after pleading to attempted assault in the first-degree, a felony, in Saratoga Springs.  Adam J. Belair, 36, of Gansevoort, was sentenced Oct. 21 to 1 year in jail, after pleading to aggravated family offense, a felony, in Moreau.  Kevin Leno, 26, of Schenectady, was sentenced Oct. 14 to 1.5 to 3 years in state prison, after pleading to aggravated family offense felony, in Saratoga Springs.  Norman E. Rose, 41, of Saratoga Springs, pleaded Oct. 15 to criminal contempt in the first-degree, a…

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