Jonathon Norcross

Jonathon Norcross

Thursday, 15 February 2024 14:49

Milton Citizens Push Back On Massive Project

BALLSTON SPA — The Milton Community Center was packed last Wednesday with citizens concerned about what’s been called “the biggest project in Milton ever.” A town hall-style event hosted by Milton Citizens for Responsible Development allowed locals to ask questions and express concerns over the Mill Town Centre project, which could bring 507 residential units, more than 1,200 parking spaces, and multiple new businesses to the area.

Dan Galvin, a member of Milton Citizens for Responsible Development, began the question and answer portion of the event by saying he “could care less about government. My opinion is the less government, the better. I want to be left alone to go to my job to provide for my family and come home and live my life in peace. That’s where I stand. But when I started to see the development that is happening in our area, it started to scare me.”

Peter Nelson, a Milton resident for 33 years and another member of Milton Citizens for Responsible Development, said one of the top concerns with the mixed-use project was increased traffic. In a Powerpoint presentation, Nelson displayed a photo of a traffic jam near Northline Road. “I’m no scientist but I’m pretty sure if there’s another thousand cars or so from Mill Town Centre, it’s not going to help,” Nelson said. 

A long-time Milton resident named Mary said she “would have been here a lot earlier, but it took me ten minutes to back out of my driveway. With all the new traffic that this project will bring forth, I can’t even imagine what it’ll be like.” Another local said that traffic in Milton “has been a nightmare in the last ten years.”

To help manage the additional vehicles that the project would bring into Milton, infrastructure upgrades such as traffic circles are being planned. The project developer is supposed to pay for the upgrades, although some citizens were concerned that their taxes would be increased in order to fund these upgrades in the future.

A traffic assessment prepared in August of last year by Creighton Manning Engineering stated that the project “is expected to generate 365 new vehicle trips during the AM peak hour, 281 new vehicle trips during the PM peak hour, and 340 new vehicle trips during the Saturday peak hour.” The report recommended that a traffic signal be installed at the intersection of Rowland Street and Grand Avenue, that Rowland Street be widened to create a left-turn lane, and that multiple stop signs be installed.

Attendees also expressed concerns over the potential impact of bringing more students into already short-staffed school districts. However, data cited by Ballston Spa Central School District Clerk of the Board and Records Access Officer Brian Sirianni at a recent Board of Education meeting indicated that renters of one and two bedroom apartments typically don’t have kids. Sirianni also said that commercial properties, like the ones planned for Mill Town Centre, usually benefit school districts financially. “Burnt Hills, south of us, really doesn’t have a lot of commercial property so they suffer and they have a much higher tax rate because it falls on the residents,” Sirianni said. 

John Bartow, Chairman of the Milton Planning Board, said that the Mill Town Centre site is currently divided between the Ballston Spa and Saratoga Springs school districts. He said that it would be up to the districts and the developer to decide where Mill Town Centre kids would attend school.

Other concerns raised during public comments included the potential impact on water supply and the lack of affordable housing units. 

Bartow, who answered a number of questions from attendees, provided an update on the project’s status. He said the application was recently deemed complete, and there are now two stages left to the process: a rezoning request that’s before the town board, and a site plan review that will be conducted by the planning board. Bartow said this whole process would take a minimum of four to six months.

In addition to Bartow, other local officials in attendance included State Senate candidate Minita Sanghvi and Ballston Spa Mayor Frank Rossi. Mill Town Centre developer Malta Development Co. was invited to attend but did not send a representative. Wayne Samascott, vice president of Malta Development Co., previously told Saratoga TODAY that he hoped to begin construction this year.

The Milton Citizens for Responsible Development will meet again on February 21 to “decide what our next steps are.” The meeting will be held at the Kaydeross Rod and Gun Club at 706 Geyser Road from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

Detailed documents regarding the Mill Town Centre project can be found in the Planning Board section of the Document Center at www.townofmiltonny.org. Milton Citizens for Responsible Development maintains a Facebook page that has nearly 200 members.

MOREAU — Last week, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) hosted a pair of public hearings, one virtual and one in-person, regarding the proposed Saratoga Biochar project in Moreau. Participants were given three minutes to submit for the record their comments on whether Saratoga Biochar should be granted a permit to build a biochar manufacturing facility in the Moreau Industrial Park.

Of the 24 people who spoke at the virtual hearing, 20 opposed the Saratoga Biochar project. Dozens more spoke at the in-person hearing, with the vast majority again opposing the construction of a biochar facility in Moreau. 

Moreau resident Thomas Masso said that the Moreau Planning Board “approved the project 4-2 based entirely on the information submitted by Saratoga Biochar. That information consists of unproven theories, cherry-picked excerpts from various studies, and small sample tests.” 

David Walker, a professor at the Columbia Climate School, said that he reviewed the project two years ago but believed that unresolved concerns had not been addressed. “Given these unresolved and potentially devastating issues, it’s not surprising that the use of sewage sludge-derived biochar as an agricultural soil amendment is banned in countries like the U.K. New York should also ban that sort of use,” Walker said.

Myles Gray, program director at the U.S. Biochar Initiative, spoke in favor of the project. “In general, the process of converting biosolids into biochar is a climate solution, and it also is a pathway to eliminate forever chemicals from agricultural systems.” Kathleen Draper, who described herself as a “longtime advocate of carbonizing underutilized organic material” also spoke in support of Saratoga Biochar.

Following the public hearings, Saratoga Biochar released a statement from its president, Bryce Meeker. “Let me be clear: Saratoga Biochar Solutions is a green, environmentally and socially conscious company,” Meeker said. “We are here to alleviate the pollution burden by remediating biosolids and enabling them to be beneficially utilized as bio-fertilizer to restore soil.”

Thursday, 15 February 2024 14:24

Our Educators: Julie Leffler

Julie Leffler is a special education teacher at Schuylerville High School. She teaches a life skills and work-based learning class. The course teaches functional academics, independent living skills, and job skills. She and her students go on several community-based instructional trips each month. During these trips, students explore the local community and utilize skills they’ve learned in the classroom.

Saratoga TODAY asked Leffler about being an educator, as well as her future plans.

What is your favorite part of being an educator?

My favorite part of being an educator is having the opportunity to watch my students grow into independent young adults during our time together.

What are some things about your job that the general public might not understand?

The pandemic changed the way education looks and the ripple effects are still being felt. In the case of my students, many programs and services they could be entering into after graduation are understaffed and not fully operating. This has been a challenge as they move into adulthood.

What are your future plans/goals?

My plan for the future is to continue teaching at Schuylerville High School.

BALLSTON SPA — At the Ballston Spa Central School District Board of Education meeting on February 7, Clerk of the Board and Records Access Officer Brian Sirianni delivered the 2025 Budget Development presentation, which focused, in part, on upcoming budgetary challenges faced by the transportation department. Sirianni listed several specific challenges, including fuel costs, electric buses, and the driver shortage.

Fuel Costs

“Fuel costs really got us a year ago and overdrew the budget significantly,” Sirianni said. This year, the district has a $380,000 budget for fuel but will likely end up spending more than $400,000. But Sirianni said that this year’s added expense is “nothing compared to where it was the year before, where we had budgeted $300,000 and it [cost] $462,000.” Sirianni said that relative to last year, the district was now “in good shape” with its fuel costs. He’s predicting that gas and diesel prices will stay about the same or decrease next year. “Hopefully that will play out,” Siriani said.

Electric Buses

Sirianni said that the state government does not have a specific plan to “fund the literally hundreds of millions of dollars that it’s going to take to pay for [electric buses].” Sirianni said the district would need to purchase around 80 zero-emissions buses, each of which will cost about $380,000. “We’re not a big school district,” he said. “Multiply that across the state; they can’t afford this.”

Sirianni said he hoped the issue would go away, but not because he doesn’t agree that carbon emissions need to be lowered. “It’s just nobody can afford this, and we’re being forced to buy buses that are going to be useless in a few years because they’re going to be out of date because the technology is changing so quickly,” he said.

Driver Shortage

Sirianni said that the district’s bus driver shortage issue was improving. “We hope that it will eventually go away in the next year or so, and we’ll be in a position to not have to call it a driver shortage anymore,” he said. “We’ll see.” 

Sirianni said that the district has been paying more to train drivers, employ substitute drivers, and recruit new drivers.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — If not for his time in Saratoga Springs, Anthony Weaver might’ve never made it to the NFL. 

Blaise Juliano, who would become Weaver’s high school football coach, heard that Weaver was a great athlete, and went to the junior high gym to recruit him into the football program. Juliano said he put his arm around Weaver and said, “Tony, I know you’re a great athlete and I know you love basketball, but I think you should consider football.” Weaver took Juliano up on the offer. “We laugh about it,” Juliano said. “That’s where you are today because I happened to go down and look [you] up in junior high.”

Weaver started playing football for the Saratoga Springs Blue Streaks in 1995, when he was in 9th grade. The next year, he was brought up to the varsity team, where he played offensive guard. For the next three years, Weaver played for Coach Juliano. By the time he was a senior, he was being actively recruited by colleges with elite football programs. 

According to Juliano, Weaver weighed 238 pounds when he last played for Saratoga. The next game Weaver played, he was a starter for Notre Dame and weighed 255 pounds. “I thought that was pretty impressive,” Juliano said. After an accomplished college career at Notre Dame, Weaver was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the second round of the 2002 NFL Draft.

Weaver ended up playing in Baltimore for four years, then with the Houston Texans for another three years. During his playing career, he had 200 tackles, 15.5 sacks, and 57 assisted tackles. As his body began to wear down, “he decided to look into coaching and he gave me a call,” Juliano said. 

Weaver began his coaching career as defensive graduate assistant at the University of Florida, then had a stint at the University of North Texas before heading back to the NFL. In 2012, he became the New York Jets’ assistant defensive line coach. He then became defensive line coach for the Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans before going back to Baltimore, where in 2022, he was promoted to assistant head coach. 

Weaver soon attracted attention from teams around the league, and in January of 2024, he interviewed with both the Atlanta Falcons and the Washington Commanders for their vacant head coaching positions. Ultimately, he ended up being hired by the Miami Dolphins as the team’s new defensive coordinator. 

Juliano said he thinks Weaver will make a great NFL head coach one day. In the meantime, Weaver continues to stay in touch with his Saratoga mentors. “When he comes back to Saratoga, he’ll go and visit his elementary teacher and see all of his friends,” Juliano said. “He and I are on a very close basis, and I consider him more family than just a former player.”

“When I received the Head Football Coach position at Saratoga, he was the first to text me and congratulate me,” current Saratoga Springs varsity football coach Eric Hayden told Saratoga TODAY. “Anthony is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. His Athletic achievements are amazing, but his personality is what separates him.”

Juliano echoed the sentiment. “One of the biggest qualities that you notice about him is his adaptability to people and his love for people,” Juliano said. “He’s really a great person.”

Weaver was inducted into the Saratoga Springs Blue Streak Hall of Fame in 2010. His entry on the Hall of Fame website states that Weaver “has offered financial support to the football program and reached out to needy children in the community.”

“We hold an annual youth football clinic in Saratoga and he will come and see all the kids,” Hayden said. “One year he couldn’t make the clinic, so he sent a bunch of prizes and autographed material for us coaches to give out to kids who were working hard.  He even sent a video to say hello to us all.”

Although Saratoga football fans may be fiercely loyal to the New York Giants or Buffalo Bills, Hayden said they’ll now “have a reason to turn on Dolphins games.”

Thursday, 15 February 2024 13:40

Local Pitcher Traded to Dodgers

Just one week after being picked up by the New York Yankees, upstate New York native Matt Gage has been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for lefty reliever Caleb Ferguson. The Dodgers also received 19-year-old prospect Christian Zazueta as part of the trade deal. The Yankees were in search of a bullpen southpaw following the departure of Wandy Peralta to the San Diego Padres.

Gage is an upstate New York native who attended Broadalbin-Perth High School. He pitched for Siena College before being drafted by the San Francisco Giants. Gage has pitched for both the Houston Astros and the Toronto Blue Jays for a combined 19.2 innings and 1.83 ERA.

Thursday, 15 February 2024 13:40

Belmont Receives 36K Pre-Sale Registrations

SARATOGA SPRINGS — According to New York Racing Association VP of Communications Patrick McKenna, more than 36,000 people have signed up for pre-sale registration for the upcoming Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. 

Emails sent out Monday morning to registrants said that pre-sale would last from noon until 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, February 14.

Tickets are on sale to the general public beginning Thursday, February 15 at BelmontStakes.com/tickets. Daily attendance will be limited to 50,000.

Thursday, 15 February 2024 13:26

Skidmore Baseball Team Names Captains

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Skidmore College Thoroughbreds baseball team announced last week its captains for the upcoming season: outfielder Jaden Torrado, lefty pitcher Ameer Hasan, and catcher/infielder Trey Bourque. The team also held its 2024 media day three days prior.

Last year, catcher Jackson Hornung became the first Skidmore athlete to be drafted by a professional team when he was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 16th round of the MLB Draft.

Thursday, 15 February 2024 13:25

Belmont Receives 36K Pre-Sale Registrations

SARATOGA SPRINGS — According to New York Racing Association VP of Communications Patrick McKenna, more than 36,000 people have signed up for pre-sale registration for the upcoming Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. 

Emails sent out Monday morning to registrants said that pre-sale would last from noon until 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, February 14.

Tickets are on sale to the general public beginning Thursday, February 15 at BelmontStakes.com/tickets. Daily attendance will be limited to 50,000.

Thursday, 15 February 2024 13:24

Saratoga Fire Hockey Team Plays Benefit Games

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Last week, the Saratoga Springs Professional Firefighters hockey team played against the Troy Firefighters IAFF Local 86 in a benefit game to raise funds for the family of Schenectady Fire Department Lieutenant Mark Barkyoumb. According to Saratoga firefighter Chris Stewart, over $15,000 was raised for Barkyoumb’s family. The Saratoga and Troy hockey teams will face off again on March 21 at the Weibel Ice Rink at 6 p.m.

Barkyoumb passed away unexpectedly last month while off duty. He was 38 years old, and a married father of four. Barkyoumb most recently served as the Lieutenant of Rescue One on the 2nd Platoon of the Schenectady Fire Department.

Three players on the Saratoga Fire hockey team worked with Barkyoumb as members of the Schenectady Fire Department.

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Blotter

  • Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office  A 20-year-old Watervliet man was charged with first degree manslaughter after allegedly “striking another person with a large wrench and causing that person’s death,” according to the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office said they received a call of a fight in progress on Sparrow Drive in the town of Malta and the Investigation into the complaint led to the arrest of Cyrus J. Tetreault, 20, of Watervliet.  The victim was identified as 53-year-old Malta resident Brian M. Miller.  “It is truly tragic that this situation resulted in a loss of life,” county Sheriff Michael Zurlo…

Property Transactions

  • BALLSTON  Richard Burt sold property at 921 Route 50 to 921 Route 50 LLC for $173,000 GALWAY Rita Werner and Erin Forlenza sold property at 1064 West Galway Road to Karen Crandall for $145,000 GREENFIELD John Mishoe sold property at 463 Allen Road to Michael Forlini for $390,000 John Duffney sold property at 288 North Greenfield to Kelly Rozembersky for $270,000 MALTA  Timothy Albright sold property at 54 Shore Ave to Joseph DiDonna for $800,000 Jennifer Hogan sold property at 5 Plum Poppy South to Dustin Mullen for $475,000 Nicolas Aragosa sold property at 10 Scotch Mist Way to Steven…
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