Jonathon Norcross

Jonathon Norcross

BALLSTON SPA — Stewart’s Shops’ annual Holiday Match program raised $2 million for local children’s charities this year. Customers donated $1 million, with Stewart’s contributing the rest. The money will be distributed over the next few months across New York and Vermont.

“Even during uncertain economic times, our customers continue to amaze me with their generosity,” said Stewart’s COO Chad Kiesow.

Stewart’s Holiday Match fundraiser began in 1986, and has raised more than $38 million since then. According to Stewart’s, the company does not charge any administrative fees, meaning that all of the funds are re-distributed into the community. 

Stewart’s is currently accepting applications for Holiday Match funds until the end of the month. Local 501c3 charitable groups that benefit children can apply online at stewartsshops.com. The funds will be distributed by the end of March.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Saratoga Springs and Ballston Spa school districts are both plagued by bus driver shortages that may threaten to eliminate some bus routes.

At a Board of Education meeting last month, Saratoga Springs City School District Director of Transportation Jerry Keenan delivered an annual report that stressed the urgent need for new hires.

“We were scheduled to have 76 permanent drivers approved in our budget this year,” Keenan told the board. “Unfortunately, we’ve lost more drivers than we’ve hired since school has started.” Keenan said that the district will have twelve openings for permanent positions this month.

Keenan said that he and Assistant Director of Transportation Kim Ross both drive buses themselves to help make up for the lack of drivers. “We work very hard to ensure every day that we are getting our kids to school,” he said.

Ross said that the transportation department hired five new employees but all of them left their positions for various reasons. “We bring them in and they go out, but we do try,” she said.

The Ballston Spa Central School District also needs more transportation workers. “Unfortunately, the Ballston Spa Central School District continues to eliminate certain bus routes as we are confronted with a need for additional staff members,” the district said on its website. “Bus drivers, substitute bus drivers, and bus attendants are all needed to ensure the district can transport all students on the district’s bus routes each morning and afternoon.”

Bus driver shortages are not unique to the region. Data from the Economic Policy Institute indicates that from September 2019 to September 2023, there was a 15.1% decrease in the total number of K-12 bus drivers nationwide. Private school bus driver employment also declined by 21.5% over the same four-year period.

Those interested in an open transportation position at the Ballston Spa Central School District can call the department at 518-884-7140 or visit www.bscsd.org/Page/279. 

For information on openings at the Saratoga Springs City School District, visit saratogaschools.org/departments-services/employment/.

MALTA — The Ballston Spa Central School District received $16,000 in grant awards from the GLOBALFOUNDRIES-Town of Malta Foundation. The bulk of the funds ($10,000 to be exact) will support the Robotics Team and Competitions. $5,000 will be devoted to Senior Class activities and the annual After Prom event. The final $1,000 will help fund a digital safety program for students and parents.

“We are thrilled to receive the support of the GLOBALFOUNDRIES-Town of Malta Foundation to enhance our programs throughout the district,” said Superintendent Dr. Gianleo Duca in a statement. “We appreciate their ongoing investment in providing the best learning experiences and opportunities for students.”

The GLOBALFOUNDRIES -Town of Malta Foundation funds organizations, programs, and projects that benefit Malta residents. For more information, visit sites.google.com/site/gfmaltafoundationorg/home.

BALLSTON SPA — A Broadway veteran who has appeared in productions of “Wicked” and “Newsies” visited Ballston Spa last month to offer students some pointers on nailing their auditions.

The Ballston Spa High School’s Troupe Booster Club hosted performer Danny Quadrino for an audition workshop that helped students improve their musical talents. Pianist Jesse Cohen-Greenberg accompanied Quadrino.

The Troupe Booster Club sponsored the event with partial funding provided by the Ballston Spa Partnership for Innovation in Education Fund. For additional information on the fund, visit www.bscsd.org/CRPS.

ROUND LAKE — Guilderland grad and Saratoga resident Dylan Collett played baseball at the high school, college, and professional levels. A few weeks ago, he opened the Collett Baseball training facility in Round Lake so that he can pass on his experience to future generations of ball players.

The 8,000-square-foot, all-turf warehouse features some high tech gadgets. “We have the TrackMan sensor, which is a high-end sensor that MLB uses now,” Collett said. “It gives you a tremendous amount of data on every hit and every pitch.” TrackMan allows Collett to analyze and track the development of every player. 

The facility also houses a pitching lab with Plyo Ball throwing, which improves arm strengthening and conditioning. “The beauty of pitching is you’ve got to know a lot about hitting to be a good pitcher,” Collett said. “So I actually give just as much hitting instruction as pitching.”

The bulk of Collett’s playing experience was on the mound, where the southpaw was a starter in college, before coming out of the bullpen in the pros. After three years at Saint Leo University near Tampa, Florida, Collett transferred to UMass Dartmouth, where he finished with a 4-1 record and 4.30 ERA. 

Collett expected to be drafted, but an injury during his senior year put those plans on hold. He took a year off before playing two years of independent pro ball for the Birmingham-Bloomfield Beavers outside Detroit, Michigan. As a reliever, Collett pitched 47.2 innings, earning an impressive ERA of 2.45.

“I ended up going to spring training with the Boston Red Sox the first year of COVID,” Collett said. But when he didn’t receive an invitation from the Sox to return, he decided to retire as a player. “I was kind of old for baseball at that point, for the level I was at,” he said.

Nowadays, Collett instructs all levels of players, from five-year-olds to professionals. He also leads group clinics.“Teams will actually give me five or six pitchers at a time, or five or six hitters at a time,” he said.

By his estimate, Collett has coached at least 100 players so far, with more on the horizon.

The Collett Baseball training facility is located at 17 Wood Road in Round Lake. For more information, visit www.collettbaseball.com.

GLENS FALLS — Some say revenge is a dish best served cold. In this case, ice cold. The Adirondack United girls’ hockey team defeated Clinton in a rematch of the 2023 state championship last month, then followed it up with three more victories during the holidays. The team is now 7-0 on the season.

Against Clinton, the United scored three goals in the first period, cruising to a 4-1 victory. Coach Jeff Willis said his team was “definitely wound up to play against [Clinton] emotionally and it showed in the first period.”

Despite the big win, Willis said the United are primarily focused on their end goal: a state championship. “I don’t think we’re really getting caught up in any individual game because their goal is really pointing toward the end of the season,” he said. “So a lot of activity right now is really built around development.”

Bayley Duffy, the team’s leading scorer last season, had two assists against Clinton and continues to be one of the United’s biggest scoring threats. But Coach Willis also praised Tekla Fine-Lease, a player he said has stepped up this season. “She’s showing some great leadership, as well as improvement on the ice,” he said. “She’s shown an ability to create her own shot.”

Despite being undefeated thus far, Willis said his team is always focused on improving. “We beat Saranac-Lake Placid eight to nothing and we were talking about different things we need to do better,” he said.

Last season, the United finished with a 19-2 record. Both of those losses came at the hands of Clinton. The squad’s next game is on Friday, January 5 at Ithaca.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Freezing temperatures couldn’t stop hundreds of runners from participating in the Saratoga First Day 5K on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2024.

Only 16 minutes and 15 seconds after the race began, Cameron Davis became the first runner to cross the finish line, followed seconds later by Nicholas Conway. Emily Bush, a standout on the Saratoga Springs girls cross-country team, finished first among all female runners and fourth overall. 

According to the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, nearly 800 people registered for this year’s race. 651 officially finished the race, leaving about a hundred people who decided not to brave the cold and/or their New Year’s Eve hangover.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A new student-designed lunch truck will make its debut this spring on the Saratoga Springs High School campus.

Eric Bush, the district’s School Lunch Program Director, said the truck was designed by students from the high school’s graphic arts class. “They worked on all the signage, all the graphics, the look, the name; everything came from the high school students designing it,” Bush said.

High School seniors are allowed to leave the campus for lunch, and the goal of the food truck, Bush said, is to entice them to stick around for what Bush called “a different, unique experience.”

A promotional image from the district described the truck as “a novel dining experience that will expand meal options for students and staff.” The image also stated that the truck will embody “a fusion of culinary diversity.”

In terms of cost to students, the truck will essentially operate the same as the existing cafeteria. Free meal packages will be available at the truck, along with a la carte items that can be purchased for an additional fee. Proceeds from those purchases will go back into the school’s cafeteria fund.

“The more kids that participate, then the more money I can put back into the program,” Bush said.

Despite claims to the contrary found on a local Facebook page, Bush said that no “COVID money” was used to purchase the truck. According to Bush, the vehicle was bought using money from the school’s self-sufficient cafeteria fund, which is separate from the school’s general fund. “I did see that [Facebook post], which I thought was pretty funny,” Bush said.

The high school’s cafeteria is currently undergoing renovations, but is set to re-open in mid January. Then, Bush will turn his attention to getting the lunch truck up and running. “We’ve been working on it for a couple months,” Bush said, “doing the [request for proposal], going out to bid, then getting it delivered, and now it will have to go to Glens Falls for the health inspection.”

The school will create menus for the truck in the coming months. Bush estimated that the truck will be operational by April.

Thursday, 21 December 2023 12:11

Business is Booming for Saratoga County Hotels

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga County hotels are seeing notable increases in revenue this year for one primary reason: visitors are willing to spend more money to stay in the area.

From January through October of 2023, hotels in the county reported a RevPAR (Revenue Per Available Room) of $110.70, up 6.5% from last year’s numbers, according to the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.

“The demand was up slightly, the occupancy was up slightly, but the willingness of individuals to pay in order to be here, and to be especially in downtown [Saratoga Springs] was pretty clear,” said Todd Shimkus, president of the Chamber.

Although the flood of summer tourists betting on ponies at the track or dancing the night away at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) is still a big part of hotel revenue, the city is increasingly becoming more than just a seasonal attraction.

“SPAC’s now got a year-round agenda and schedule of events. Live Nation has often now moved into September. This year they’re moving into May so they’ve spread out,” Shimkus said. “And then you can’t count out the City Center. This is the first year where the City Center has been full virtually every day. This is twelve months of success for the leisure and group tourism business.”

With the Belmont Stakes coming to town this spring, horse racing season is also kicking off ahead of schedule. “The Belmont coming here is going to have a huge impact in the month of June, if not a little earlier,” Shimkus said.

The most sought-after bookings might be downtown, but hotels throughout the region continue to profit from the deluge of visitors. “We don’t have enough lodging capacity to handle everyone who is going to want to be here,” Shimkus said. “So they’re going to have to stay in places outside the area.”

Hotels in Malta, Clifton Park, Glens Falls, Queensbury, Lake George, and even Albany benefit from the lodging shortage in Saratoga proper. 

Within city limits, developers are working to create more accommodations. A Marriott AC Hotel is set to open on South Broadway sometime in the next 12 to 18 months. The Brookmere Hotel is expected to open late next year at the former site of the Longfellows Hotel and Restaurant. The Adelphi Hotel is also in the midst of an expansion.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — When the owners of Impressions of Saratoga and The Dark Horse Mercantile launched their Adopt a Grandparent gift-giving campaign last month, their goal seemed ambitious. They wanted to sell 350 gift tags in order to buy holiday presents for every senior at the Wesley Community. 

As of December 19, a total of 385 gift tags had been sold, surpassing the initial goal. Although the campaign’s December 17 deadline had technically passed, store co-owners Maddy Zanetti and Marianne Barker were still adding more gifts to their heap of donations.

“We’ll just make more [gift] bags and give them to more people,” Zanetti said. “We had people coming in today that still want to buy them.” Zanetti and Barker said that several people also offered to buy as many gift tags as necessary to hit the 350 goal.

Zanetti said that a group of volunteers would meet at Wesley to prepare the gift bags, which will then be distributed to the seniors in time for Christmas.

Due to the campaign’s success, it may now become an annual event. “We had a lot of fun with it,” Zanetti said. “People have been so, so supportive.”

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Blotter

  • Saratoga County Court  Sara N. Babinski, 35, of Schuylerville, was sentenced to 3 months incarceration/ 5 years probation, after pleading to felony DWAI, charged January 2024 in Saratoga Springs.  Thomas R. McCall, 35, of Rensselaer, pleaded to criminal possession of a weapon in the second-degree, in connection with a March 2024 incident in Saratoga Springs, when city police initiated a traffic stop on a vehicle on South Broadway and located a Magnum .357 revolver with ammunition underneath the driver’s seat, according to a statement by Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen. Further investigation determined that the firearm belonged to the defendant,…

Property Transactions

  •   BALLSTON  Frederick Wright sold property at 78 Beacon St to Jacqueline Zielinski for $361,000 Barbera Homes Kelley Farms sold property at 30 Paddock Pl to Erik Weiskopf for $716,959 Harold Tomlinson sold property at 429 Devils Lane to Amy Hotaling for $575,000 CORINTH Khalil Grant sold property at 5049 Rt 9N to Colin Murray for $239,500 Angela Wingle sold property at 83 Clothier Dr to Brittany Dunston for $249,900 Foothills Builders sold property at 49 Black Bear Path to Zachary Yetter for $455,605 Gwendoyln Matson sold property at 116 County Route 10 to Victoria Bourque for $169,000 MALTA  David…
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