Malta Welcomes Two Women, Waits on Engineer
Director of Planning Jamie O’Neill (left) and Acting Director of Parks, Recreation and Human Services Alyssa Benway after the Malta Town Board meeting on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. Photo by Larry Goodwin.
MALTA – On Monday, town leaders expressed optimism as they officially approved the appointment of a new planning director. They also sought advice from both her and the acting director of the recreation department, regarding a perceived need for a new town engineer.
The Malta Town Board voted unanimously in favor of appointing Director of Planning Jamie O’Neill, who has 16 years of related experience in Saratoga County.
Councilman Tim Dunn indicated that O’Neill is recognized statewide for her knowledge of open space and agricultural matters as they relate to planning processes.
“We were very happy and fortunate to get Jamie,” Supervisor Vince DeLucia said, noting how the planning department has been disrupted in recent months by unexpected staff vacancies. A planning position remains open and needs to be filled, he added.
Yet, instead of more planners, Councilman John Hartzell opined that Malta should consider hiring an in-house engineer as a means to save money. The town now pays consulting fees for staff engineers at the Chazen Companies who are based in Troy.
DeLucia, after inviting comments from O’Neill, agreed with her assessment that engineers and planners specialize in “two very difference disciplines.”
The supervisor also invited comments from Alyssa Benway, who was appointed as Malta’s Acting Director of Parks, Recreation and Human Services late last year after the retirement of Audrey Ball.
Benway has an engineering background following her education at Clarkson University.
Dunn made it clear that he opposes creating a new position for a town engineer in Malta, as neighboring towns have done, because he is “not comfortable doing this outside of the budget process” later this year.
For his part, Malta Comptroller Kevin King recommended that board members must always consider the unpredictable budget impacts of fees paid by local builders.
“The big variable is just development,” King said. “It’s volatile. It’s based on the economy.”
Ballston Zoning Heats Up
The Ballston Town Board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2017; and Ballston Councilman William Goslin. Photos by Larry Goodwin.
BALLSTON – At least 60 people turned out for a public hearing Tuesday night to discuss comprehensive zoning changes that are being considered by the Ballston Town Board.
For the better part of an hour, Deputy Supervisor Joseph Whalen patiently called the names of local residents who signed up to speak.
Before proceeding with the board’s other agenda items, Whalen said he would leave open the public hearing due to the number of people in attendance.
Several speakers praised town board members for thoroughly preparing the proposed changes, which would update zoning codes in Ballston that have been in place for more than 10 years. The changes specify zoning codes for proper “buffers” from streams, subdivisions, the density of future construction projects, and more.
Other speakers made clear their displeasure with the proposed zoning changes.
“I moved out here to enjoy the night sky,” explained Devil’s Lane homeowner David Marvin. But the increased light pollution and local traffic from construction projects are jeopardizing the charm and appeal of Ballston’s rural areas, he told the board.
Marvin faulted the town, planning and zoning boards for acting as a “rubber stamp” when each new development proposal is made. He said most large projects are being approved “regardless of what the residents want.”
“I would like to make it as difficult as legally and humanly possible to make any further subdivisions of any property within the town of Ballston,” Marvin concluded. His comments prompted a loud round of applause.
“I am not interested in supporting your mistakes,” exclaimed Hop City Road resident Eileen Lofthouse, when she was called upon to address the board members.
Lofthouse handed out “glossy” flyers promoting new apartment communities that were recently built in the area, saying, “These places are empty. They do not fill up.”
She added: “You keep pushing our taxes up, we’ll be paying as much to stay in our homes as we would to go to these places.”
At that point, Councilman William Goslin was compelled to add his own comments to the record.
“I’m very confused as to what some of these speakers are speaking about,” he said. “The zoning changes that we have proposed severely limit development in our town.”
In regards to a previous “planned unit development district” code that covered all of Ballston, Goslin explained, “we eliminated that in every place except Route 50.”
“The tax issue is something that really baffles me, because there’s no town highway tax and there’s no town tax. The zoning package that we passed is not what I’m hearing tonight,” the councilman added.
According to Town Clerk Carol Gumienny, the new zoning language has received an initial approval by the town board but a final vote is required in the months ahead.
Details of the proposed zoning changes are posted in red lettering on the town’s website for public review (http://www.townofballstonny.org/).
The Ballston Town Board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 13 in its main offices at 323 Charlton Road.
More EPA Tests for Village Properties
BALLSTON SPA – The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicated this week that about a dozen homes near the abandoned Rickett’s dry-cleaning site on Doubleday Avenue will be subject to secondary “vapor intrusion” tests in the weeks ahead.
In a statement, the EPA indicated that testing at 11 homes is necessary “to confirm that there have been no changes in the conditions at the properties” since a similar effort was made early last year.
“Consistent with the previous sampling effort, the process will include the installation of air-sampling equipment and the subsequent collection of air samples from beneath and within the structures. The same 15 chemicals of concern will be analyzed,” the EPA added, specifying the “primary chemicals” of “trichloroethene, tetrachloroethene, and vinyl chloride.”
Results of the testing will be provided directly to homeowners, according to the EPA.
Wilton Elks Ramp Up Food Deliveries to Seniors
(Left to right) Saratoga-Wilton Elks Members Ed Decker, Ben Buffa, Marge Mohrmann and Gail Decker; and Wilton Food Pantry Director Peter Maynard. Photo by Deborah McCabe.
WILTON – For months, members of the Saratoga-Wilton Elks Lodge #161 have discussed what they call “a critical need’ in the community: identifying and helping those seniors who can no longer drive themselves to the grocery store.
Last week, in partnership with St. Clement’s Church and the Wilton Food Pantry at 155 Ballard Road, the first 10 grocery deliveries were made as part of a new Senior Food Delivery Outreach Program managed by Elks member Ben Buffa.
“Qualifications for the program are that seniors must be 55 years or older, live in Saratoga County, meet certain income limits and not have access to reliable transportation,” the Elks reported in a statement.
Peter Maynard, director of the Wilton Food Pantry, said he expects regular grocery deliveries through the new program to increase from the current 10 to more than 40 within a couple of months.
“These are seniors who are not exactly doing really well,” Maynard explained, noting how tenants of rent-subsidized communities are the primary recipients.
“Each senior is given a menu of food items generally available,” the Elks statement indicated. “Food deliveries occur on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month. These orders are picked up and delivered by volunteers of the Elks Lodge to the location’s community rooms between 1 to 2 p.m.”
Maynard expressed confidence that supplies are sufficient to accommodate the new Elks program.
Every year, he said, the Wilton Food Pantry obtains grocery items weighing “tens of thousands of pounds” through its own partnership with the Regional Food Bank in Latham. Three times a week, groceries are picked up at the Weibel Avenue Hannaford and supplemented as needed by the Latham branch.
“We’re in an enviable position of being resource-rich,” Maynard said.
In addition, the Wilton Town Board allocates more than $2,000 to the food pantry in its annual budget. Area churches and volunteer groups provide further support.
Maynard shared statistics from 2017 showing that, in total, more than 660 “unique patrons” obtained grocery items at the Wilton Food Pantry. That number includes 76 seniors, 396 adults and nearly 200 children.
For more information, call Buffa at 518-480-7172 or visit www.wiltonfoodpantry.org.
Malta Officials Pick O’Neill for Planner Position
MALTA – On Monday, Feb. 5, the Malta Town Board is expected to officially vote on the selection of Jamie O’Neill for the position of Building and Planning Coordinator.
For several months, O’Neill has served in the town’s Planning Department, most recently as a senior planner. Her appointment followed the departure last year of Anthony Tozzi, and subsequent efforts to replace him that did not succeed.
Supervisor Vincent DeLucia said this week that six candidates made the final list for interviews. O’Neill’s new appointment is subject to a vote of approval Monday by the full town board.
O’Neill served for more than 16 years in the Saratoga County Planning Department. She has an abundance of knowledge in agriculture and open space, according to DeLucia.
“That’s something our town has great interest in, especially with all of the growth and development here,” DeLucia said. O’Neill has “good background experience,” he added.
Saratoga County Director of Planning Jason Kemper could not be reached for comment.
Wilton Bicentennial Begins
(Left to right) From the Wishing Well in Gansevoort: Chef Tim Godlewski and Sales and Events Coordinator Corey Pritchett; Wilton Supervisor Arthur Johnson and his wife, Sandy; Bicentennial Chairperson Sue Gavin Lant and her husband, Councilman John Lant; Gala Coordinator Fran Dingman and Supervisor Secretary Nancy Riely; from Chez Pierre in Gansevoort: Pierre, Kelsey and Patrick Baldwin; and musical entertainment provided by Jeff Brisbin, whose family dates back to Wilton's founding. Photos by www.photoandgraphic.com.
WILTON – The parking lots at the McGregor Links Country Club on Northern Pines Road filled up fast last Saturday, as hundreds attended the town’s Bicentennial Kick-Off Gala.
“It’s going to be a fun night,” Wilton Supervisor Arthur Johnson observed at the outset, noting how 200 gala tickets were sold in recent months at $18.18 each.
The Jan. 27 gathering at the newly renovated golf club was the first of many events scheduled to mark Wilton’s two centuries of official existence.
“This is the first of a whole series of signature events throughout the whole year. They appeal to all different age groups,” said Fran Dingman, a local events promoter who organized much of the McGregor Links gala.
In a promotional brochure for Wilton’s Bicentennial, April was deemed the “anniversary month.” From 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 20, there will be a re-enactment of the first town meeting at the center court in Wilton Mall; and historic tours the next two days.
There also will be a Parkfest Celebration on July 7; a historic home tour on Sept. 16; a Taste of Wilton event on Sept. 23, and a holiday dinner on Dec. 29.
Sue Gavin Lant, whose father inspired the name of Wilton’s popular recreation park on Lewis Road, said other events may be added along the way. For more than a year, Lant has chaired the committee that is planning the bicentennial activities.
According to Johnson, there are currently about 17,000 people living in Wilton.
“It’s the best place to live, raise your family and work,” he said. “We have low taxes, we have a great quality of life here; we’ve got parks, recreation, schools—all the best things to offer to people.”
Ballston Spa’s Big Budget Gap
A view north on Milton Avenue in Ballston Spa. Photo by Larry Goodwin.
BALLSTON SPA – Mayor John Romano gave a lengthy presentation Monday night on various difficulties that are looming over village finances, before presenting a resolution that authorizes borrowing $600,000 to pay current expenses.
With Trustee Noah Shaw listening through a cellular phone due to his absence, the village board voted 4-0 in favor of a “revenue anticipation note” backed by Saratoga County highway funds that will be provided to the village by June. Additional funds are expected sooner from sales tax receipts and water bills that are being prepared.
Romano indicated that Ballston Spa National Bank will provide the $600,000 loan, which he said will be promptly paid back from that expected revenue. The main purpose, he explained, is for the village to remain in “good standing with vendors.”
In an email, Susan Slovic, vice president for marketing at Ballston Spa National Bank, declined to provide more details.
“We value client confidentiality and as a result, we don’t provide information to the public regarding client relationships, including whether or not a specific relationship exists,” Slovic said.
During his presentation, Romano pointed to “the rising costs of providing basic services to our residents and taxpayers.” In recent years, the village has incurred nearly $1 million in unexpected costs related to sewer system repairs and other factors, he noted.
The mayor said “an avalanche of unfunded mandates” from New York State, involving expenses such as health care for village employees and workers’ compensation payments, now equals 22 percent of Ballston Spa’s $4.1 million annual budget.
Costs have been reduced as much as possible and staff is short in multiple village departments, Romano continued, even as the village’s annual payments to the state pension system for retired municipal employees have risen from $22,000 in the early 2000s to $288,000 now—or 1,200 percent.
In addition, officials may be forced to consider spending $1.2 million soon on faulty village vehicles and upgrades for water infrastructure that is nearing 50 years old.
“We can’t continue to limp along. We’re at a point now that we need to do things differently,” Romano concluded. He reported that individual meetings were held recently with each village board member to discuss such fiscal challenges.
“The first rule of holes is to stop digging,” offered Shaw through the cell phone. “This is not a sustainable trajectory that the village is on.”
A comprehensive review should be conducted of “systemic” fiscal issues in the village, Shaw said, especially during negotiations for the next annual budget in April and May.
Trustee Stuart Hodsoll called the mayor’s presentation “really overwhelming.”
Yet Milton Planning Board Chairman Larry Woolbright, who attended the meeting on Monday and spoke briefly during the public comment portion, found a reason to believe that Romano and his fellow board members would solve the village’s financial problems.
“I’m more optimistic than I’ve been in a while,” Woolbright said.
Questions Linger for Route 9 Development
MALTA – On Monday, the Malta Town Board discussed the “Shecky” development, focusing primarily on the provision of additional water service.
Nearly 50 single-family homes are under construction near the site. The town board is considering a proposed change to local zoning so that a mixture of commercial and residential space near Route 9 can be added.
Scott Lansing of Lansing Engineering gave a brief presentation on behalf of the applicant, Skecky Development LLC. He noted how Skecky is proposing a 2,500-foot extension of water lines south on Route 9 to benefit the hamlet of Maltaville.
But town board members said the water line extension alone would not solve multiple water problems that exist in Maltaville. They also discussed legal complications related to the combination of private and municipal water supplies.
Neighbor: Kaylee Delaney
Q: What is your actual title at the City Center?
A: I am housekeeping and set up. It’s 90 percent cleaning, and sometimes I do chairs and pick up tables if the guys are busy doing something else.
Q: How would you describe your work ethic?
A: I love cleaning. For me, it’s more like 100 percent cleaning and if the guys have this much to do and I’m done with my list, then I go help them. I love my job. This is a great place.
Q: What’s your most memorable event at the City Center?
A: Oh, goodness. We have so many, that’s a very tough question. I would say, once a year, we do a very fun event where families bring in all of their children who have special needs, and we do all sorts of things. We do so many fun arts and crafts, and there’s a bounce house. It’s just a good thing for the families that have special-needs children or even the parents themselves. Everybody has such a fun time. Or the pet shows, because everybody loves pet shows…We have Dance Flurry coming up next month, which will be 5,000 (or plus) people in the building for a two-, three-day period…We do so many events a year, it’s like non-stop.
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: When it’s not wintertime, I do a lot of hiking. I like to ice skate, but I haven’t been able to get really back into that. That’s one thing where, if you stop doing it for a while, you’ve got to have really good balance. We’ll see if I get back into that. Fishing. Four-wheeling. I read often, go to the gym. That’s about it.
Q: Do you plan on staying in this area for life?
A: That I’m not so sure yet. I do love Saratoga, but there is a lot more of the world out there to see. And, actually, two years ago is when I really just started traveling, too. That’s another big one for me. One place a year, at least. My first trip…two years ago, I went to Vegas, and last year I went to New Zealand…I didn’t want to leave.
Q: Where else do you want to go?
A: Italy, Greece, Australia’s a big one…I do want to go to South Africa once. [Her partner] Nathan’s sister is there now, and she’s been sending me so many pictures. Just to go see all the animals and their actual way of life is pretty cool. Plus, other cultures are so interesting.
Then I want to go to Fiji, the Philippines and see all the different islands and stuff out there. The next trip will either be Florida or Hawaii. We’ll see…Nathan’s family is all military, Army, Navy. They travel quite often. His sister and his brother, their next placement might be in Japan. If they go there and get stationed over there, we’ll go visit, so that’s another one on my list.
Fingerpaint to Buy Broadway Property
(Left to right) The recently purhcased Fingerpaint property at 1 Franklin Square; and the company headquarters at 395 Broadway. Photos by www.photoandgraphic.com.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – After owning a prime piece of Broadway real estate for the better part of 50 years, Andrew Hunt says his family is willing to part with it because “we have a lot of respect” for the buyer.
Earlier this week, Fingerpaint Marketing announced its intention to purchase the property at 395 Broadway from Myron M. Hunt Inc., which is based near Buffalo and has leased it to various businesses since the 1960s.
“We’d be happy to own that for another 50 years,” Hunt said, when contacted this week for comment. He is president of the real estate firm.
Hunt fondly remembers the corner lot as the site of both the Red Barn restaurant and Pope’s Pizza, before Border’s bookstore demolished that building and started anew with bricks and mortar in 2000.
Since 2012, the corporate headquarters of Fingerpaint have occupied the 25,000-square-foot space. The property includes a parking lot for more than 50 vehicles.
“It makes strategic sense for us, and I think it’s a great outcome for them,” Hunt said, admitting that 395 Broadway is the only property in Saratoga Springs that his family currently owns.
Hunt explained that the transaction with Fingerpaint is “largely under their control.”
In a statement, Fingerpaint indicated that the real estate deal is expected to be complete within six months.
Construction of a third floor is planned for the existing two-story structure along with a mix of new commercial and residential space in the parking lot, company officials said.
Bill McEllen, chief of strategy in Fingerpaint’s Saratoga Springs office, said in an email that “we are not releasing any information” regarding the purchase price.
Fingerpaint also recently bought the property located at 1 Franklin Square, which McEllen said will be utilized “to accommodate growth for additional administrative and creative conference space” after renovations.
The Franklin Square building includes two apartments that staffers will be able to use when they travel to Saratoga Springs from Fingerpaint offices in Arizona, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The Fingerpaint statement reports that the company has grown from 42 employees in 2012, when annual revenues were $4.3 million, to a $45 million operation now with almost 200 employees.
In the statement, Fingerpaint Founder Ed Mitzen said: “This acquisition will ensure our long-term presence in downtown Saratoga Springs. We absolutely love our current location, and it has been a wonderful complement to all of the restaurants, bars and retail shops downtown.
“We are thrilled that we will continue to be a major player in downtown Saratoga Springs for years and years to come,” Mitzen added. “It’s a truly special place.”
For more information, visit the website www.FingerpaintMarketing.com.