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Photos by SuperSource Media LLC.

WILTON — On Sept. 20 the Town of Wilton held the bicentennial ribbon cutting and time capsule burial at Wilton Town Hall located at 22 Traver Rd. In attendance were town board members, Todd Shimkus of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, Rep. Elise Stefanik, Sen. Kathy Marchione and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner.

Some items buried in the time capsule included memorabilia celebrating the event, maps of both the old and new Gavin Park, this year’s Historic Homes Tour brochure, a Saratoga TODAY commemorative magazine, a Parkfest brochure and a documentary titled “Wilton 200” produced by Tim Welch, among many others. Also placed in the time capsule was the obituary of Larry Gordon. Larry Gordon died on Sept. 11, 2018 and was part of the bicentennial committee. Gordon developed the bicentennial postage envelope, which was also placed in the time capsule.

“2018 has been a very special year for the town; it’s been a year of remembrance and celebration as we take pride in its 200th birthday. The bicentennial committee has hosted a series of special events designed to encourage our residents to reflect and remember our history,” Supervisor Art Johnson said in a speech before the ribbon cutting.

He later said “typically the Chamber is doing the ribbon cuttings for the opening of a business but today is a little bit different. The ribbon cutting will be putting a closure to a chapter of our town’s history.”

Published in News

WILTON — The Town of Wilton has been celebrating their Bicentennial throughout 2018. As the last quarter of the year draws near, the Bicentennial Committee has announced a final list of events that will take place in September and December of this year.

“It’s hard to believe that we are approaching the last months of Wilton’s Bicentennial Year. Our committee has been meeting for two and a half years planning this year’s Bicentennial Celebration. September will include a cluster of three events followed by an end of year dinner celebration in December,” Sue Lant, Bicentennial Committee Chairperson, said.

“We’ve enjoyed watching our community join in this year of celebration and remembrance of our rich history,” Lant added.

The list of remaining bicentennial events includes the Wilton Historic Sites Home Tour taking place on Sept. 16 beginning at 10 a.m. and ending at 3 p.m. The Historic Site Homes Tour will offer information on 16 historic Wilton homes and sites, many of which are open tothepublic.Alsotakingplace in September is the bicentennial ribbon cutting and time capsule burial on Sept. 20 beginning at 3 p.m. and ending at 4 p.m.

On Sept. 23 Taste of Wilton will take place at Gavin Park. Taste of Wilton is a farm to chef event that will begin at 1 p.m. and end at 4 p.m.

“This event is near to my heart. It’s about showcasing fresh produce and restaurants but mostly about embracing our local farms and in turn helping to feed our food challenged neighbors. It’s a complete circle of supporting each other,” Susan Garret said. Garret is the Taste of Wilton Chairperson.

The event will feature a pairing of area restaurants and farms that will offer tastings ranging from$1 to $6 with proceeds benefitting those in need through the Wilton Food Pantry. A selection of wineries and distilleries will also be present.

The Wilton Bicentennial Holiday Community Dinner will take place at the Wilton- Saratoga Elks Club at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 29. Area residents are also invited to take part in the Bicentennial Challenge and Kids’ Quest Activity contests by going to www.wiltonbicentennial.com. Prizes include Wilton Bicentennial 2018 collectable patches which will be awarded upon completion of the contest activities.

“This Bicentennial Year has been filled with many opportunities forourresidentstounitewithpride as we looked back upon the past 200 years that have brought us to where we are today. We are grateful to all of our many sponsors whose contributions have made this year possible,” Town Supervisor Art Johnson commented.

Major sponsors of the Wilton Bicentennial include Adirondack Trust Company, Scotty’s Exit 16/ The Parillo and Nigro Family, D.A. Collins Construction Co. Inc., Richbell Capital, Saratoga National Bank, MJ Engineering, Kodiak Construction, Bonded Concrete, Inc., Stone Bridge Iron and Steel Inc., McGregor Links Country Club, Bow Tie Cinemas, the Wilton Mall and Fine Affairs. Commemorative merchandise including hats, mugs, patches, frisbees, and pins are available for purchase at Wilton Town Hall.

For more information on the Town of Wilton’s Bicentennial Celebration call 518-587- 1939, ext. 239 or visit www. wiltonbicentennial.com.

Published in News
Thursday, 03 August 2017 13:58

Plans Underway for 2017 School Year

[ Photo provided by saratogaschools.org]


SARATOGA SPRINGS - “There is nothing like the first day of school,” Superintendent Michael Piccirillo exclaimed.

Between working in public education for the last 31 years and attending his own many first days of school, he has experienced a lot of that excitement first hand. Piccirillo attended Binghamton University and received his bachelor of arts degree in sociology, his master of arts in teaching from Binghamton with a certification in social studies for grades 7 through 12, where he went on to earn a doctorate in educational administration from Sage College. After teaching social studies for 10 years in two different school districts, North Warren and Lake George, his own high school alma mater, Piccirillo has been in the Superintendent’s office for the last 10 years, the first five as assistant superintendent and the last five as superintendent.

“It has been a really interesting and exciting 31 years.”

This year on January 1 Piccirillo put in his retirement resignation and the district will announce his replacement in the coming months with his final day being December 31.

“I’m not finished with being a public educator, I’m just looking to do something different and to have a little bit more time with my family,” he said.

For the upcoming school year, Saratoga will see many new projects that will help students succeed. When Piccirillo first began as superintendent, their Legacy Plan was the 2018 Vision, which is now almost to a close. They are now working on their new Legacy Plan and developing their next 5 – 10 year vision. The Great Outdoors Project was just presented to the town board. It is a $15.6 million project that will address the long overdue needs across the districts in properties they own, such as the East and West Side Recreation buildings and the back of Gavin Park that is owned by Dorothy Nolan Elementary School. They will be fixing and building more playgrounds and athletic fields.

Watson for Education is an IBM created augmented intelligence system that Saratoga will be the first district in New York State to utilize.  They will be a “Lighthouse District” for other districts around the state to come and learn from. This program creates personalized education plans for every individual student. It helps to make sure that students are successful not only academically, but socially and emotionally.

“Watson is an exciting and robust system that will ultimately help us to personalize education for all of our students and that has been one of our goals for our current 2018 legacy vision, but having the right tools to make it happen has been the difficult part of it. We believe Watson is going to be the tool we’ve been looking for,” he explained.

Expect a broader digital learning experience this year. CloudBooks, which is a Dell created tablet, will be available for all sixth graders to use and take with them as they move throughout the system. Each year, another grade level will be added, they hope to accelerate additions if more funding becomes available. They are using the Smart Schools Bond Act (SSBA) funds to purchase the new equipment.

The SSBA is “an initiative that would finance educational technology and infrastructure, providing students access to the latest technology and connectivity needed to succeed and compete in the global economy,” according to the website.

Since Piccirillo became Superintendent, graduation retention rate is at an all-time high. The goal for the last 10 years has been 95% and they have reached 94%.

“There is still room for improvement in terms of vision, obviously the target rate is 100%,” he clarified.

Piccirillo believes the retention rate has elevated due to more effort being put into support systems. They have partnered with Franklin Community Center and the LIFT Program to add more social workers to the staff, a mental health clinic, a substance abuse counselor at the middle and high school level. Graduation rates for subgroups have also improved. For special education and economic disadvantage rates have skyrocketed, almost doubling in both areas. Ten years ago, economically disadvantaged students were at a 35% graduation rate and special education was at 40%. Now, they are up to 80% and 75% respectively.

“As life gets more complex, students have greater needs and we need to be able to support them so they can focus on their academics and be successful academically. So yes there’s room for improvement but I also think we’ve made quite a bit of improvement over the last five years,” he noted.

There has been talk recently about the overcrowding in the elementary schools due to new housing developments being built. The district has six kindergarten through fifth grade schools, and of the most concern is with Dorothy Nolan Elementary School behind Gavin Park.

Speaking on the subject, Piccirillo said, “Dorothy Nolan School alone has room for 1200 kids and presently is only up to 800. To my knowledge, there is no concern for overcrowding at the moment. If that concern does become valid, we have the room to grow.”

Dorothy Nolan Elementary owns the land behind Gavin Park and they can expand the building if necessary. If worse comes to worse, they can also re-district and place children in the South Glens Falls schools.

“In the past when this issue arose, we have moved Dorothy Nolan students to Caroline Street School as opposed to having them change districts,” Town Supervisor Art Johnson said.

“If overcrowding does become an issue, Superintendent Piccirillo will certainly address it,” Johnson remarked.

When I asked Piccirillo what his favorite part of the school day was he said, “Students! Whenever I have a chance to be with students, to talk with them, to visit classrooms and participate in activities with them, that’s the best part of the day because that’s why I got into public education as a teacher. It’s always the hardest part of being an administrator is that the further up the ladder you climb in administration, the further away you get from the students.”

It goes to show that Superintendent Piccirillo has made great strides during his five years in the position and that the new Superintendent will have some big shoes to fill.

Published in Education
Thursday, 03 August 2017 13:54

Meet Gavin Park's New Director, Mark Marino

[Photos by www.photoandgraphic.com]


WILTON - Mark Marino, a Massachusetts native, decided to move to the Saratoga Springs area a number of years ago after he and his wife realized the school systems were better here and there would be more job opportunities. Marino attended Norwich Military University with a degree in physical education and moved on to be an Officer in the Army. From 1981 until 1984 he was stationed in Watervliet, where he got a taste of the area. For 14 months Marino worked at the Capital District YMCA until his position was eliminated. From there, he decided to pursue being a physical education teacher like he had planned. For 10 years he was a substitute teacher in Waterford and also owned his own landscaping business for a number of years. These jobs combined with his military background made him the perfect candidate for the director of Gavin Park position. On July 6, the Wilton Town Board voted to approve Marino’s appointment as director of Gavin Park.

“I always wanted to be a physical education teacher and athletic director, this job is the best of both worlds,” he said.

A key element in his hiring was his career background, especially his landscaping business. He knew what the grounds should always look like and what it would mean to maintain them. He was experienced in managing people, he taught and worked with kids for many years, he is an officiate for three different sports, and he was also an athlete. He was a prime candidate.

In regards to Art Johnson, Town Supervisor, Marino exclaimed,“I am very grateful Art is my boss. He was essential in bringing me on board and I really appreciate them giving me the opportunity to do this.”

Gavin Park offers a wide variety of different programs. Tracy Kubis is the assistant recreational director, she is essential to the summer camp and summer programs. Ross McNeal helps Kubis to coordinate and execute the programs.

The main thing Marino is looking to add personally is a hiking activity, geared toward ages 14 – 18.

“I would love to see that age range get off social media and have more face to face time.  I think a hiking program could provide that,” he observed.

Marino said there is not much to add to the park right now because Stephen Porto left it in such a good place after his 10 year tenure. Porto added new fields but also created the concept of Splash Park. Splash Park is a water park for kids 12 and under but most frequented by kids six and under. Sprinklers and other fun contraptions run on a 15 minute sensor, shooting out water for kids to splash around in.

“We try to provide a lot of variety for people so it doesn’t become stale or feel stagnant,” he remarked.

Campers get their fill of variety. They visit all beaches in the area, The Great Escape, Valley Cats games, and other fun activities happening daily.

Only five weeks into the job, Marino said his main goal right now is to “make sure that all the fields, courts, and nettings, along with anything else related to what people are using, are safe and well maintained.”

On a daily basis, Marino arrives at 8:50 a.m. and meets with Kim Brock, who runs the financial side, to discuss payroll and other related things. Then he takes out the golf cart and rides around to every field to make sure everything is proper and clear. He then has meetings with people and in between it all, leaves his office door open.

“I believe in an open door policy. My door is always open for anyone to come in and discuss any concerns or issues,” he expressed.

His day then wraps up at five o’clock and he heads home, excited for the next day to begin.

“In all the jobs I’ve had in my life, I really feel well-received here. I believe in the team effort and being transparent and having open communication and an open door. Everyone here does their job very well and that’s a credit to the overall organization, the town board, the parks and recreation commission, and Gavin Park as a whole. It’s just a very well run organization and it has been for years. My goal is to maintain that level in the years to come. This is a job where I really look forward to coming to work,” Marino said sincerely.

Marino is especially grateful to Maintenance Supervisor John King and his staff for all their hard work physically maintaining the grounds in a timely and organized fashion. He could not speak highly enough about his staff as a whole, from the camp counselors to the maintenance staff to the financial department.

“I want to give a lot of credit to the staff. You can’t run an organization well without having a good staff and again players like Tracy, John, and Michelle, they all do such a great job,” he said.

For more information on all that Gavin Park offers to the town of Wilton, visit www.townofwilton.com and navigate to the parks and recreation department.

Published in Sports

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The large meeting room at the Saratoga Springs City Center on Thursday, November 10 was crowded with businessmen, land use planners, economic developers and elected officials all wondering the same thing – what do the national election results mean for job creation and economic growth in Saratoga County in 2017? The answer is – it depends.

A supermoon effect of economic growth in any area of the country depends on a planetary alignment that reaches from the federal world of the new President-elect to all the local worlds of homeowners, mayors, town supervisors, and educational institutions, among others. Each group has its own internal shifts and changes, and each affects the other, so economic results can be diverse and unpredictable. Wrapping economic development arms around all those moving parts is a challenge, but one Marty Vanags, president of the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership (the Partnership), is confident is manageable here in Saratoga County.

To explore how that can be done, the Partnership hosted a Saratoga County Prosperity Summit last week at the City Center, inviting experts such as Hugh Johnson, chairman and CIO of Hugh Johnson Advisors, LLC. Johnson’s successful management work of over a billion dollars in equity and investments for individuals and institutions has prompted his appearances on CNBC, Bloomberg News, NBC Nightly News, Fox Business, The News Hour, ABC World News Tonight, Wall Street Journal, and CBS Evening News. Johnson predicted fewer regulations and a good, solid year for Saratoga County in 2017, although the first half of a new Presidential term historically tends to be a bear market, and nationally, the economy will likely expand at a slow pace.

“The financial market environment will be positive but certainly not great,” said Johnson. “Everything is fine, but I’m saying, hang on, watch carefully and I hope we all collectively have a great 2017.”

The keynote speaker, Jeff Finkle, president, International Economic Development Council said workforce preparedness was one of the biggest issues facing economic developers in 2017. The national focus on a college degree has minimized the number of young people entering the skilled labor force, and developers are feeling that shortage across the country.

Malta Deputy Town Supervisor John Hartzell said that hearing several of the panelists’ concerns about workforce is something the county really needs to pay attention to.

“There’s a crucial need for a trained workforce to meet employer needs going forward in our county and region. I think our local secondary and postsecondary schools are aware of this, and we need to ratchet it up,” said Hartzell. “The other thing I took away from the summit is that economic development success tends to be regional, and that we’re going to have to reach across some traditional lines of counties and economic development agencies to succeed on a regional basis.”

The free summit at the City Center covered a variety of topics – from the state of economic development to case studies and community preparedness. Speakers also included: Matt Jones, Founder, The Jones Firm; Rocky Ferraro, Executive Director, Capital District Regional Planning Commission; Tom Kucharski, President and CEO, Invest Buffalo Niagara; Brian McMahon, Executive Director, New York State Economic Development Council; Congressman Paul Tonko, NY-20 and many others.

Kucharski has presided over a sea change in Buffalo’s economic growth and future prospects. His advice for 2017? “What I found in New York is everyone needs to put their swords down,” said Kucharski. “In this global economy you aren’t competing against each other, you’re competing against the world.”

Wilton Town Supervisor Art Johnson said he found Hugh Johnson’s remarks about the stock market and timing very informative, but the panelists’ comments on preparing a community for economic development hit home for him, validating that Wilton is doing something right.

“A lot of what they were talking about was how to get a project through the local level with some sense of predictability and reliability,” said Art Johnson. “I can relate to that very closely because some things they suggested, Wilton already has in place. We have a free pre-application process where a developer can meet with me, our planning board chair, and both the planning and building departments. We will give them the sense right away whether a project has any chance of going through, what hurdles they may face, and whether traffic or open space will be an issue. Or be honest with them that it’s not going to work. You’d find out upfront before investing in the project. This is helpful for both the town and the applicant.”

One of the areas of unpredictability discussed frequently was the reaction of homeowners and community members to development. Often, a development project will go through several hoops in the process before a public hearing is announced about the project, and the panelists said when a community is surprised or overextended, costs go up and the viability of the project goes down.

“To provide the predictability that is necessary, we need to invest in planning,” said Ferraro. “There’s a failure to do so in many of our municipalities. They use the excuse of regulations as planning, but there should be more than that. There’s an unfairness associated with using SEQR [State Environmental Quality Review] as the planning method. We should start before then. We need to bring the public in earlier in the process, so the developer doesn’t go through the whole SEQR process and then the town holds a public hearing and finds out the public is against the project. Find out the opposition first, be proactive.”

Ferraro gave an analogy of economic development’s impact on roads and other infrastructure. “It’s like this cup of water,” he said. “One project causes this much traffic, filling part of the cup, then the next one causes more, adding more to the cup, then a project comes in that would overflow the cup and that project is hit with all the costs of upgrading the road, even though the cause was the combination of all the previous projects.”

He suggested that rather than hit one developer with all that cost, and possibly lose the project and not get the road upgrades funded, local planning departments could calculate what the future needs of the road would be, and spread that cost across all projects coming in that will contribute to the road’s wear and tear.

“When it comes to the traffic studies as new large developments are being built, what happens is, until you hit the tipping point, there’s no need for additional traffic infrastructure,” said Saratoga Springs Supervisor Peter Martin. “And then when you find you do need it, the next person has to pay for everything. I agree, it’s important to think ahead to allocate those costs to all.”

Another suggestion was providing prospective homeowners with zoning maps, so they know exactly how close they are to land that could be developed commercially in future or other projects.

“It would be easier on everybody if folks, when they bought the property, would have accurate expectations about what will happen,” said Hartzell. “They think the forest or field next door is going to be there forever, and then it’s gone. One of the things we can do is make sure we have the community engaged in the land use planning process, so they have a good understanding of what’s going to happen around them in the community. Having homeowners participate in the process of deciding what will happen around them, even if it’s not exactly what they want, will at least give them the opportunity to participate, provide input, and be aware, which is important. We as town officials should make that happen.”

Finkle summed up the steps to a positive economic future well. He emphasized there needs to be an increase in blue collar labor, with more access to quality training; more concentration on local retention of existing businesses; more attraction and working with small businesses and entrepreneurs; more development project process predictability; and disaster preparedness.

“Ever since Katrina hit, disaster planning response and resiliency is a major issue,” said Finkle. “Even D.C. had an earthquake. Our infrastructure is in serious decline. Are you prepared?”

Vanags said the Prosperity Summit is just one of many conversations like this that will happen.

“I like to think of this as an ongoing dialogue," Vanags said. "The issue of consistency and predictability is most important, and the brokers and businesses want to know what happens during the process, the A-B-C’s that have to be followed, and they want to know if they can count on it. We’ll do that, that’s the role we play, coordinating between government and developers. We want to be the agent for streamlining these processes and I think many of our supervisors know and recognize that. I’m encouraged by the number of people who attended as well as who attended. It’s their investment that makes this kind of thing work. We plan to do a workforce roundtable in the first quarter of next year, so we’re reaching out to local employers for their input as we put that together.”

For more information about the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership, visit saratogapartnership.org.

Published in News


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