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Saratoga: a New Golden Age?
SEDC and the Partnership See Great Promise in County’s Future
This is the second in a three-part series on economic development in Saratoga County. The first in the series, "Taxpayers Triple Down on Saratoga," can be read here.
SARATOGA COUNTY – While the rest of the nation is still pulling slowly out of the Great Recession, Saratoga County has been holding its own and growing.
According to Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, the prognosis and outlook is good. “Last year was one of the first years since I have been here that everyone around the table [local CEO’s] expected growth. Anecdotally, I think every sector I’m aware of saw job growth.”
Dennis Brobston, president of the Saratoga Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), a nonprofit 501(c)3, agrees. “Saratoga County is known in upstate New York as one of the best counties for economic development,” said Brobston, who has been dedicated to growing the local economy for over three decades. “It has one of the lowest unemployment rates across the state across all sectors, and is in the top three fastest growing. You can see it in the boom of jobs, housing, low county taxes and more. We’re really blessed we have such great product to sell [Saratoga County], and there are plenty of ancillary jobs created because of what we do.”
Marty Vanags, president of the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership, is also working to build on the strengths of the county to multiply the economic development efforts here. The Partnership’s Saratoga Strategic Plan is focused on four main objectives:
First, the Partnership will engage in a proactive, targeted and collaborative campaign to attract new business to Saratoga County in key clusters and industries, including: Advanced Manufacturing; Agriculture; Financial Business Process Outsourcing; Research and Development; and Specialized Distribution. According to Vanags, he intends to bring trade shows here so CEO’s can experience everything Saratoga has to offer, and use those events to encourage them to explore staying.
Secondly, the Partnership will engage existing businesses, stakeholders, partners and other economic development agencies in an all-inclusive, multi-year Business Retention and Expansion Campaign that will help the private sector secure new jobs and capital investment in Saratoga County. Vanags will work with local partners on branding and awareness campaigns to get the news out about the benefits of the county.
The Partnership shall leverage the investment of GlobalFoundries and the presence of Luther Forest Technology Park to attract new advanced manufacturing businesses, suppliers and allied industries to increase employment and capital investment in Saratoga County. One aspect of this is an area that SEDC is working on, too, creating a supply chain to feed the work at GlobalFoundries.
The Partnership will build and expand relationships with appointed and elected officials at the local, state and federal government levels to enhance investments in Saratoga County, and the next article in this series will touch more on the impact of state and national government on our local economy.
Both the Prosperity Partnership and SEDC are providing decades of expertise and national relationships to build on the county’s current growth and tremendous economic potential.
“The role of an economic development agency is to create jobs, good paying jobs,” said Brobston. “It enables a person to live a decent life, pay bills, and contribute to the investment in a community. And, our role is to get companies to invest in the community, because that investment brings dollars in taxes which helps our schools, existing local businesses, and more.”
SEDC’s goals for the county’s future include much of what they have been working on already – encouraging businesses to locate here that provide a supply chain for GlobalFoundries; that manufacture advanced technologies like medical supplies and sensors; building on the hotbed SEDC’s created here for warehouse distribution; and working on relocating corporate headquarters here.
“Saratoga County is a wonderful place to live and have a business,” said Brobston. It offers a lot of access to the world through Boston, Montreal, Buffalo – just jump on a plane and be anywhere. Within a day’s drive of here is 54 percent of the population of North America.”
Shimkus sees a benefit to having both SEDC and the Partnership out marketing Saratoga County to industries to relocate here. “There’s so much interest in moving into Saratoga County that having two organizations selling with more feet on the street doing sales is helpful,” said Shimkus. “When you could have a lot of demand, you want to make sure you’re doing as much prospecting as possible.”
And that double-prospecting can help fill in the employment gaps that exist in the county. Brobston acknowledged that the northern end of the county has a higher unemployment rate than the southern, partly due to access to Albany and government jobs at that end of the Northway, but he foresees change for the northern end, as well. The addition of Dollar General’s new warehouse in Wilton, should that come through, would make a big difference.
“We’re a county that’s been growing a lot later than other counties,” said Brobston. “These were bedroom communities in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Saratoga Springs was a resort that was busy only five months out of the year. We’re maturing, now. We’re less transient than when GE and the paper mill were moving their employees in and out. People are staying and we’re seeing a need for senior housing like we never had before.”
Brobston described the impact of Ball Corporation, one of SEDC’s first projects. The company is celebrating retirees now, people who moved here 35 years ago due to SEDC’s efforts to relocated Ball Corporation in Saratoga Springs.
“Now we have people who want to stay because their families are here,” said Brobston. “I was here at age 27, moved away, moved back, and now I have grandkids here. I’m never leaving – first my wife would shoot me and then my grandchildren would,” he joked. “I’m not the only one. According to census estimates, the brain drain has slowed down a bit. People who’ve left are coming back. Once you add in the GlobalFoundries personnel into the numbers, we’ve got a great mix of all ages and people are staying, aging in place. We’ve never had that before, and it began with Ball. They were a great success story. We have many of those success stories. Ball, Quad Graphics, Saratoga Eagle, Ace Hardware, Delmar Thomas, all corporations from somewhere else.”
Brobston had some thoughts about how county citizens can contribute to job growth beyond showing up with welcome signs at planning board meetings. “Local residents can help by paying attention to what the world needs,” he said. “It’s okay to say if they aren’t thrilled with a new project, but also say let’s figure out a way to do this together.”
He described the proposed expansion of Saratoga Hospital as an example, saying that community could use some of the corresponding road improvements that would go along with the project, but those improvements will be slower coming without the investment dollars a hospital expansion would bring.
“Some people are worried about traffic, others are more worried about access to healthcare,” said Brobston, “but they might be afraid to speak out in fear of being ostracized. We need to be thoughtful, vocal, and positive. Be more willing to find compromise. I believe there’s hope and ways to do this. The individual is what this country was built on, and home rule is what this state was built on, but we can’t forget that what we say and do has an impact on others. It’s not always about us.”
Shimkus adds, “It’s easy to tell people to shop and go to independent local stores, but I think the bigger issue is that we need the community to always support efforts to grow the economy. You have to always be trying to create new jobs, local jobs, so there are jobs here for their kids to come back to. We can’t be complacent in Saratoga and believe we have it all. We have to always be focused on growing the economy like what SEDC and the Partnership are doing.
The Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership is located at 2911 Route 9 in Malta. They can be reached at 518-871-1887. The Saratoga Economic Development Corporation is located at 28 Clinton St, Saratoga Springs and can be reached at 518-587-0945. The economic development plans for both agencies can be found on their respective websites.
Taxpayers Triple Down on Saratoga
Economic Development A Good Bet?
This is the first in a three-part series that explores taxpayers’ investment in economic development in Saratoga County.
SARATOGA COUNTY – When political strategist James Carville coined the phrase, “the economy, stupid” back in the early 90’s in answer to a question exploring top voter concerns, he could not have known it would become a standard part of the American vernacular.
Debates may rage throughout this Presidential election year on foreign policy, health care, immigration, and a variety of other important issues, but it can be arguably said that none resonate more with the average voter than how that voter will be hit in the pocketbook. That is just as true in Saratoga County as it is across the nation. People want jobs, good-paying salaries, and affordable goods and services. The glimmer of hope seen in the slow rate of the national upturn of job creation and drop in unemployment may have restored some consumer confidence, (as seen in the record sales experienced by the automobile industry in December) but a December Gallup poll showed 57 percent of Americans think the economy is “getting worse.”
Placing the Bet
The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors (the Board) understand, in no uncertain terms, that it is “the economy, stupid,” and have been making preparations to assure the county economy grows in a sustainable way in 2016 and into the future. In late spring of 2014, the Board made a decision to sever its three-decade relationship with the Saratoga Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) and begin a new economic development agency from scratch.
For county taxpayers, this resulted in a substantial increase in allocation of their tax dollars for economic development. SEDC was paid $200,000 in 2014, but in 2015 the Board allocated $750,000 to the newly created Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership (the Partnership). That’s more than triple the prior year allocation. The Partnership did not utilize all those funds and returned the unused portion back to the County, as statute required.
State legislation that was passed last year at the request of the County authorized one-half of one percent of the County’s hotel occupancy tax to go to the Partnership in perpetuity, beginning this year. That, combined with other County revenue, will continue the $750,000 a year for the Partnership.
According to Saratoga Springs Supervisor Peter Martin, there were no tax or fee increases or existing program cuts to cover the additional half-million-dollar expense. The Board used a combination of unallocated surplus funds and increased sales tax revenues to cover the cost in 2015. The local economy was better in 2015, and consumers made more purchases, so the money was there. The Board decided it would be a good bet to reinvest that money into the economy, and additionally decided that it would increase their odds on a return by directing the money to a new economic development agency rather than give it to the existing one.
Arthur “Mo” Wright, who is currently serving his first year as chairman of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors after nine years of representing Hadley as Town Supervisor, reiterated what other supervisors have been saying, that they didn’t feel they were seeing much in the way of results from SEDC.
“Once GlobalFoundries came in, we haven’t seen much else,” said Wright. “Marty [Vanag]’s presentation to the Saratoga Springs City Council [Tuesday, January 5] was the same as what he gave to the Supervisors, and the number one goal of the county is to work with him and support the Partnership. You can’t lose sight of the fact that there’s more to this county than just GlobalFoundries. Obviously they are a new entity and it takes a while to get staffed and up to speed, but it sounds like he’s hitting the ground running.”
Dennis Brobston, Saratoga Economic Development Corporation president, was unavailable for comment, but SEDC has recently been working to bring Dollar General to the county with a $92 million dollar warehouse project that would bring over 500 new jobs to the area. On Monday, January 11, the Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) approved a package of tax incentives valued at more than $11 million to sweeten the deal against the competition. Dollar General is also weighing locations in some New England states. If that deal and others like it come through, taxpayers might wonder whether that additional half a million dollars for the Partnership might have been better spent.
The Ace in the Hole?
Marty Vanags was hired as president of the new Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership back in May of last year. He moved here from Indiana, bringing the heavy-hitting resume of an economic development veteran. According to Saratoga Springs Supervisor Matthew Veitch, his salary is in the neighborhood of $125,000 a year.
“He’s worth every penny,” said Veitch. “You have to understand, we didn’t create SEDC. They are an independent entity. It’s not like we can dissolve it if we feel it’s not meeting its responsibilities. The Partnership was created by statute, and even though it is formed as a nonprofit corporation and has its own board, there’s a degree of transparency there that we just weren’t getting from SEDC. This is taxpayer money, and we have to know where it is going and how it is being used. The straw that broke the camel’s back with SEDC followed a request of the Supervisors to sit on the board – given the financial contribution. When SEDC refused and frankly told us that there was some legal problem that meant they couldn’t do it, the board decided we’d go our own way to meet our needs.”
Rodney Sutton, newly elected chair of the Saratoga County IDA, said Vanags has already brought some business to the county, but is pragmatic about the fact that there are now two agencies with the same goal in the area.
“All due respect to partnership,” said Sutton, “they are the new kid on the block and we are more than willing to cooperate with the Partnership so we can work together to continue the growth of the county. They have to go out and generate activities that they think SEDC has not. That’s the capitalistic enterprise that we live in. If they can bring something to the table, that’s great. I do think over the years SEDC has done its job admirably, but things change. Our economic message could change, economic winds could be changing as we speak.”
Vanags recently announced a four-point strategy for economic development in the County. Veitch said, “In the time we’ve had Marty around, for him to come out with a strategic plan and move forward with it is huge for me. I don’t know that we’ve done anything like that in the past. Now the public knows this is our plan and it’s out there, open to people for them to add suggestions, concerns and criticisms. Now, that’s accountability. The outlook for 2016 and beyond, I think is good.”
Sutton agrees. “My firm belief is that good strong businesses will still come to Saratoga County and find it an attractive place to stay,” said Sutton. “We’ve got good educational institutions, good housing, good transportation, a stable tax base – there are a variety of reasons for companies to move here. Through the recession, we still held our own through that whole period of time. Now we’re seeing an uptick in manufacturing and other companies that might move into the area.”
In our next edition, we’ll take a closer look at the strategy and its potential impact to the local economy. The Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership is located at 2911 Route 9 in Malta. They can be reached at 518-871-1887 or visit SaratogaPartnership.org.
Home for the Holidays
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Few understand how precious it is to be home for the holidays as well as our men and women in service. We caught up with a couple of sailors this week at the U.S. Navel Support Unit in Saratoga Springs to get a picture of holiday life in service.
Command Senior Chief Jeff Simpson reported to the U.S. Naval Support Activity (NSA) Saratoga Springs in August this year, and Lieutenant T.J. Mulqueen reported as an executive officer in May. Neither is spending Christmas at home, but Simpson feels fortunate that his family has joined him in Saratoga Springs for his three-year term of service here.
“Whenever you transfer, if you have family they can travel with you, on where you are going,” said Simpson. “We live in town, my wife, Stephanie, and I and our two boys, Nixon (9), and Kaleb (8). Home for us is in Tiffin, OH, and last year the boys got us up around 5 in the morning. It’s just a joy watching their faces as they open up everything; I love it to death. The look on their faces when the wrapping paper comes off – that’s the good stuff. Oh, and whoever’s handing out the presents has to wear the Santa hat. That’s a big deal in our household.”
For Mulqueen, home is miles away in the mountains of Alpine, Arizona, where his parents and brother are.
“The Navy does try to make an effort to provide time for family, especially when you are on shore,” said Mulqueen. “My sister lives in Massachusetts and if flying out there, and on Christmas Day we’re going to Skype together. I sent the presents ahead of time so they can have them in time.”
Mulqueen recently served on the U.S.S. Alabama out of Bangor, Washington, a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine.
“We decorate, put a little Christmas tree in the wardroom, but you still have a mission to do,” he said. “I remember taking an engineering exam on Christmas day. There’s holiday spirit and everything, but everyone understands that there is a job to do.”
“I was stationed in Iraq on an oil platform along with 35 other guys,” remembered Simpson. “We had this Christmas dinner together, and I was able to Skype with my wife who was home in Ohio and watch the kids open their presents and stuff.”
He said it was tough out on that oil platform together because the men would watch the Skype or listen on the phone, and then it’s over. The loved ones are gone with the closing of the screen and the hanging up of the receiver.
“Grown men, these big tough men, are going to cry,” said Simpson. That’s okay because you’re a human being. I find the best way to deal with not being home for the holidays is to not make it about yourself – it’s about the guy next to you. If a guy’s upset, you put your arm around him and give him some encouraging words, and then you flip that switch and go back to the job that you are there for, keep your mind active. You realize that when you are on a ship away for the holidays it’s bigger than you. It’s 350 souls bigger than you, at least on our cruiser it was.”
Both men have grateful words for all the schools and other organizations that remember the military during the holidays with care packages.
“Ships come out and are able to drop stuff off, things like DVDs, snacks, and magazines,” said Mulqueen. “When you’re going away, you get sports and news but you don’t know what movies are coming out, so these packages keep you in touch with the shore.”
“I remember the best thing I ever got was a box of honeybuns from my mother-in-law,” said Simpson. “They are the greatest things in the history of man.”
Simpson added, “A lot of times a handwritten note – it does mean a lot. People think it’s cheesy or cliché if you will – but it means a lot to the men. We got a stack of letters from this school in Tennessee with pictures they drew for us. We always hang them on the wall. Stuff like that means a lot to the guys. It’s a reminder that there is a good news story out there. The kids put so much heart and effort into it.”
When asked what he misses most about not being home, Mulqueen said, “My dad’s Irish. He would make this heavy, dense – like it was made of lead – fruitcake. We didn’t have the heart to tell him we didn’t like it, so he’d keep making it every year. And I miss the black and white pudding, sausage, breakfast beans, toast and eggs Mom made.”
Simpson said he could talk about the people he serves with forever. “You’d be hard pressed to find more resilient people – in my 20 years of service, I couldn’t be more proud to serve with them. But I am glad to be with my family this Christmas.”
“Being home for the holidays is one of those things that, especially as a military member right before you join, you don’t realize how important it is,” said Lieutenant T.J. Mulqueen. “Even after I separate from service, I will still have that appreciation for it. You don’t forget what it’s like to not be home.”
Remembering Our Fallen at Christmastime
SCHUYLERVILLE – On an uncommonly warm Saturday, December 12, upwards of 600 people gathered in the beautiful weather to lay 2,700 holiday wreaths at the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery.
The ceremony began at noon at the main flagpole, consisting of the National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance, opening prayer, ceremonial wreath placing, recognizing all the military units and some fraternal organizations, and then closing remarks. All of the branches of the military were represented and participated in the services. The Cemetery provided a Civil Air Patrol color guard with 21-gun salute and the playing of taps.
There was a special wreath presentation at several of the graves, including for the nine who were killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, the grave of the unknown Civil War soldier, and the graves of three Medal of Honor recipients. The presentation was given by the Patriot Guard Riders and representatives of the Marine Corps League, as well as Gold Star families when possible.
Students from Schuylerville Middle School participated, placing homemade wreaths on the unclaimed remains of some Veterans.
“One of our ride captains, Joe Spodnick, has developed a nice relationship with those kids over the years,” said Bill Schaaf, Assistant State Captain of the Patriot Guard Riders. “Part of what this program is, it’s teaching about the history, about honor and respect. Joe took a teaching moment with the kids, and I think they enjoyed it.”
The Patriot Guard Riders of New York organize the annual event to remember fallen soldiers in concert with Wreaths Across America, the organization that trucks thousands of wreaths from Maine all across the country to ceremonies happening at noon local time on the same day in cemeteries nationwide. The event began locally 7 years ago; when 7 donated wreaths were placed on soldiers’ graves.
The Patriot Guard Riders hope to one-day place a wreath on all 13,000 graves at Saratoga National Cemetery. To that end, they have arranged with Wreaths Across America to receive one free wreath for every two wreaths purchased. To obtain the “buy two, get one free” deal, donors must purchase a wreath through the Wreaths Across America website and enter the code “NY0057”. To learn more about the program, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.
400+ Jobs: Dollar General Eyeing Wilton
Public Encouraged to Bring Welcome Signs
WILTON - Dollar General is eyeing a parcel of land off of exit 16 of the Northway as a potential location for a $92.4 million distribution center it intends to build somewhere in the Northeast.
According to Dan MacDonald, a spokesman for the company based in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, they are currently evaluating multiple locations. Although Dollar General is interested in this site, the large retail chain has not yet committed to building a distribution center in Wilton at this time.
Wilton Town Supervisor Art Johnson confirmed Dollar General has an option on the land, and they are through the zoning board, but are still in the very preliminary stages of the planning board process.
“It’s very exciting, the thought of all those jobs and the addition to the tax base,” said Johnson. “A lot of the jobs are not automated, as some people might think. There’s a lot of manual labor involved and they need a lot of people. Salaries will likely average between $35,00-$45,000 a year, and there will be upper level management positions, too. This will give people who may not have a professional license or young people a chance to make a decent income. I look forward to working with them.”
MacDonald said the company has much to consider when exploring a location for the 934,000-square-foot distribution center, such as availability of workforce, the business climate, roads with easy access to an interstate system, and infrastructure.
“We’re still early in the site selection process,” said MacDonald. “We need a new distribution center to support our growth. We just opened one in Janesville, Wisconsin with over 500 jobs. We’ll have more than 400 jobs in this new project somewhere in the Northeast. We opened 730 stores this year, and plan on 900 new stores in 2016. We’ve had pretty successful growth over the last five years. We’re looking for a site that fits in our footprint for growth in the Northeast. It’s an exciting time.”
Johnson said they are also looking for $11.26 million in sales and property tax incentives from the Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency. There will be a public hearing on January 11 at 8 a.m. at the Wilton Town Hall regarding the requested tax incentives.
“They want a 10-year PILOT,” said Johnson, “a payment in lieu of taxes. The company is doing its due diligence. They know there’s no sewer, water, or gas on that side of the Northway; that all three utilities will have to be extended from the other side.”
Given the unknown competition from locations in other states, Johnson thinks the best thing the public can do to help bring these jobs here is to show up at the meetings in support of the project.
“This is a new-coming business that is not familiar with New York,” he said, “and the fact that a town is receptive to a project can make a world of difference. The planning board meetings are monthly as they move through the different phases of approval, and the public is always welcome.”
Dollar General currently has 12 operational distribution centers in Alabama, California, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia. Two distribution centers are currently under construction in Texas and Wisconsin.
For more information on Dollar General, how it serves communities with value and convenience, its commitment to literacy and education and more, visit www.dollargeneral.com.
Considering the Call for Armed Civilians
SARATOGA COUNTY – Including the tragedy in San Bernardino, California, there have been 39 mass shootings in the United States so far this year, shootings that resulted in four or more fatalities.
It is in that context that some law enforcement have made statements calling for citizens who are licensed to carry concealed weapons to carry them regularly. The controversial call was most prominently made by Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who declared the day after the December 2 mass shooting in San Bernardino that he could no longer guarantee the safety of the people of Arizona, and he urged civilians with concealed carry licenses to carry guns and be ready to step up.
The sheriffs of Laclede, St. Clair and Vernon counties in Missouri recently announced they are lowering the cost of concealed carry applications, and here in New York, Ulster County Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum wrote on the Ulster County Sheriff's Office Facebook page on December 3, "In light of recent events that have occurred in the United States and around the world I want to encourage citizens of Ulster County who are licensed to carry a firearm to PLEASE DO SO."
A few months ago, Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo established an unrestricted concealed carry permit process – new for Saratoga County – and he said that 240 gun owners have since attended the Concealed Permit Course.
“We instruct 60 a month,” said Zurlo. “I don't want people out there thinking they can do whatever with this permit. I'm a big second amendment supporter, but just use common sense. You can't carry a firearm in a school or federal buildings or county buildings. And be proficient in your weapon.”
Saratoga Springs police chief Gregory Veitch agrees. “Yes, an active shooter may be stopped by a citizen with a gun in certain circumstances and as a last resort, and we would all agree that that would be a good thin” he said. “I think we would all also agree that having one or more armed private citizens drawing their weapons, responding to and taking action during an active shooter situation, is not likely to stabilize the encounter or help to reduce the confusion that is sure to be occurring. They may confuse another well-meaning private citizen with a suspect or they may shoot innocent bystanders or responding police officers in plain clothes. They may be mistaken by responding uniformed officers who are looking for an armed person at the scene.”
Saratoga County has pretty stringent firearm training requirements that are needed to obtain an unrestricted concealed carry permit.
“The training is two-fold,” said Zurlo. “One is so you can use the weapon and know the state laws, and the second part is to be proficient with the weapon that you own. You need to have a pistol permit for one year. After that, you can take the 8-hour course taught at a gun club by a certified NRA instructor, the first four hours covering the safety of weapons and when you can or can't use it. Then there’s a written test and if you pass that, you continue to the live-shoot course. You are scored at the end, and if you pass that, your paperwork is sent to judge, then there’s another background and another mental health check, and then it’s the judge’s discretion if he wants to give you a permit.”
Defense Dynamics is one of four authorized training centers offering basic and advanced conceal and carry training toward licensure locally, and its instructors are NRA training counselors. NRA training counselors are not only individuals who are legally capable of training other civilians, but they can train and certify NRA instructors. There are only about 1,700 NRA training counselors in the whole United States.
Gerard Moser, one of the principals and an NRA training counselor with the training firm, had this to say about a civilian response to shooting incidents.
“The first thing anyone should do if they see such an incident is call 911,” said Moser. “It’s extremely important we be a very good witness, that’s one of the things we emphasize in our classes. A lot of folks don’t realize how invaluable that is. In California, a witness called and gave pertinent information that led to that capture [and subsequent death of the San Bernardino shooters in a gunfight with police] so much faster. If he had tried to intercede, he might be dead and we wouldn’t have known who these people were. Your firearm should be used only when your life is in danger.”
It seems to be the sheer randomness of mass shootings, more than anything else, which is particularly challenging for law enforcement and alarming for civilians. The San Bernardino shooting took place at a holiday party at a center that cares for the disabled, undoubtedly as unlikely a place as a movie theater or elementary school. In a survey of New York Times readers last week, there were several thousand responses that stated they think about the possibility of a shooting every day, whether dropping off children at a daycare or holiday shopping in the mall.
Moser stressed that, even with licensure, civilians cannot count on their guns. “Modern minutemen would not be the appropriate answer,” he said. “Whether you are going to carry a firearm or not, people should be aware and prepared for responding to situations. You can’t have a firearm on school property, so you can’t rely on your firearm if you walk into your child’s school and a situation arises. How are you going to secure yourself and your child? What’s the best cover? It’s important to be aware of your environment and understand how to respond, with or without a firearm.”
“Guns don’t make us safe,” said Jim Fulmer, a member of the Saratoga Peace Alliance. “Our ability to kill won’t make us safer. This is just my personal point of view, but I believe our ability to understand and be involved in a community together makes a real difference. I support hunters, but not killing other people.”
And killing another human being is not as easy as it looks, a cautionary thought proposed by both Veitch and Moser.
“I would suggest that even though it is legal to carry a conceal firearm if one has the proper permit,” said Veitch, “anyone who is considering such a course of action should think long and hard about the burden of responsibility they assume in carrying a weapon. Most gun owners are responsible men and women who often go above and beyond the legal requirements of the permitting process to educate themselves in proper gun safety and handling procedures. It is important to keep in mind, however, that carrying a weapon is serious business and the decision to do so must not be taken lightly. It is one thing to legally carry a gun, it is another thing entirely to use that gun against another person, and simply having a permit and some safety training in handling a weapon does not prepare one for a violent encounter, or the consequences of the decision to use a firearm.”
Moser added that the big challenge with most people in getting a firearm is asking themselves whether or not they would be able to use it.
“It’s something a lot of people don’t think about, but it should be the first thing,” said Moser. “Would you be able to do that [shoot someone], and would you be able to live with yourself if you had to use it? It’s not weak to decide you can’t. Just know that if you’re not willing to use it, you should not be carrying it, because it could be a detriment to you and everyone around you because it could be taken from you and used against you.”
For civilians who do not want to carry guns, as well as for those who do, the NRA came out with a series of courses called “Refuse to be a Victim.”
Moser said, “It doesn’t pertain to firearms. It’s actually a course that teaches you how to respond to things that work in cases of an active shooter. Secure yourself behind a desk or a file cabinet that’s full. How to secure your home. How to respond if someone is in your home. How to respond if someone is coming toward you with a firearm.”
Ultimately, it seems that everyone agrees that if terrorism is a fact of modern life, that it makes most sense for civilians to learn how to prepare and respond, whether or not they have a weapon, to a possible dangerous situation.
“I cannot give any assurance that Saratoga Springs is safe from an act of terrorism or an active shooter,” said Veitch. “There is always the possibility that this can happen in any community. As a police department, we train regularly for an active shooter situation and we continually communicate with other law enforcement agencies on these types of issues. My advice to someone who might be considering carrying a concealed weapon is that they must keep in mind their responsibilities when carrying, and not just their legal right to do so. They must remember that the decision to use that weapon comes with the burden to use that weapon properly, legal and ethically. No one is free from the responsibilities and consequences of carrying or using a weapon at all times, not just during an active shooter situation.”
Leading By Example
Local Teens Making a Difference
SARATOGA COUNTY — Even the youngest of us can provide the greatest lessons in giving. This holiday season, area schools reached out to Saratoga TODAY to share the stories of local teenagers who recognized a need in their communities and stepped up to do something about it.
From collecting shoes for the needy a half a world away to training to fight fires, young people are setting aside the free time they could be spending on electronic devices to put the community around them first.
Elizabeth Ashworth, 17, is a senior at Ballston Spa High School. She hopes to attend the Culinary Institute of America with a focus on baking. But a couple years ago, when she was told she wasn’t old enough to help the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), she didn’t let that stop her from finding a way to do her part.
“I organized a collection [of item donations] for the SPCA throughout our neighborhood,” Ashworth said, “and put flyers and posters up, and collected and delivered the donations to the one in Queensbury.”
Now in its third year, Ashworth’s “Trick or Treating” for SPCA takes place each Halloween. She consults the SPCA website to see what items are needed, generates a flyer, and distributes it throughout her entire community. Then on the pre-determined date she collects all donated items, which are left at each person’s mailbox. Behind, she leaves a special thank you note. From there she sorts and delivers all the items. In 2013 she donated two carloads worth of items. In 2014 she donated 3 carloads and monetary donations.
“We collect food, cat toys, stuffed animals for dogs, chew toys, sheets and towels, litter and food treats, among other things,” said Ashworth. “That first year, the lady was overwhelmed and didn’t know where to put everything. They rely on donations, and are so happy to get them. I love that fuzzy feeling I get knowing that even though I can’t adopt all the animals, I make their lives a little better while they wait for a family.”
Elizabeth Watson, 17, is a senior at Schuylerville High School. She hopes to go into biomedical or chemical engineering. She has been participating in her youth church group for quite some time, such as the church garage sale this weekend, Friday November 13 and Saturday November 14 at the Presbyterian New England Congregational Church in Saratoga Springs.
“With the funds we raise, we will get Christmas lists from families in need and go to Target and get them,” she said. “I am glad we can help people that can’t afford simple things like Christmas presents. Sometimes they put toothbrushes and toothpaste on the lists, and it’s sad for me to see that they actually need these things, like clothes and shampoo, but it makes me happy that we can get it for them.”
Watson hopes to continue volunteering through college and long after. “There’s Engineering Without Borders, that help developing countries get clean water for themselves or their plants,” she said. “I think it’s [volunteering] just something that everyone needs to do – if they have the ability to help someone, it’s a necessity that they do.”
Schuylerville senior Anna Moreau, 17, said she loves to read and volunteering at the public library regularly over the years has been a “no-brainer” for her.
“I love community service,” she said. “Whatever they needed me to do, I do it. We make capes for a bunch of the kids for a parade, have tea parties, read to them, and just have a really great time over there.”
She also volunteers at St. Clement’s Church with four to seven year olds. She said she started volunteering as a service requirement for the National Junior Honor Society, and discovered she loved it.
“I think it’s important to volunteer and give back,” she said. “I’m capable of doing it, and it’s great to inspire people younger than me to do the same.”
Jacob Dooley, 17, also a Schulyerville senior, hopes to study fire science and technologies as well as paramedicine in college. He currently volunteers at the Quaker Springs Fire Department.
“When I grew up, my father was a fireman there,” said Dooley, “and I really liked it, so when I was old enough I joined. I started there in the junior program at 14. There’s a lot of training to get started off, two to three-week course of introduction to firefighting.”
He said he has received training to go into a burning building – but can’t do it until he’s 18. “Everyone gets nervous and stuff like that and you just overcome it and keep working,” he said about the dangerous aspects of the job. He said for those who would like to volunteer without that aspect, there’s plenty to do.
“There are so many things you can do on a fire call,” he said. “It’s not all burning buildings. There’s car accidents and stuff. There’s traffic control, truck drivers, ladders and hose, lots more to do than that. I love it because, although it can be a little nerve wracking at first, we build great bonds and it teaches you how to be a good person in the community. It’s a great opportunity.”
The opportunity stretches far beyond what the volunteer student receives. These young people are quietly making an impact on their whole communities.
“These students are outstanding young leaders and invaluable contributors to our school and community at large, each in their own unique way,” said Schuylerville High School Principal Matthew Sickles. “Whether it’s initiating and implementing new opportunities for their classmates here at school, volunteering their time to keep our outside community members safe, or serving those in need, these students truly reflect the spirit of the Schuylerville school community by putting others first. As principal, I couldn’t be more proud of the amazing work they do without being asked and the positive example they set for their peers.”
Brit Douglas, JV lacrosse player and 10th grade student at Ballston Spa High School and Josh Porcell, owner and CEO of Rogue Lacrosse have teamed up with Warrior Lacrosse, King Dyes, Grunt Lacrosse, Darkstar Lacrosse Dyes, East Coast Dyes, The Siena Men’s Lacrosse Team and Swift Stix Lacrosse to support the troops.
The combined project has produced 100 Warrior Burn Lacrosse heads that have been dyed with patriotic and military themes. The heads will be available for purchase online through the RogueLacrosse.com website. Funds raised from this team venture will be donated to the Navy SEAL Foundation, Team Red, White and Blue and The Wounded Warrior Project.
Douglas raises funds and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project and two related groups. He did it mainly through his involvement with Lacrosse. He worked on a second campaign in April-May 2015. Warrior Lacrosse donated the heads, 3 different companies dyed the heads, East Coast Mesh donated the mesh and the men’s Siena Lacrosse Team did the stringing of the heads.
Together they raised $12,000. $5,000 was presented to WWP at their gala event at the Waldorf Astoria in NYC in May and $3,500 was sent to Team Red, White and Blue and $3,500 was sent to the Navy Seal Foundation. It was a huge success.
“My father is a Marine Colonel,” said Douglas, “and when he was a Company Commander he led three different companies of Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. When they got back, he worked closely with the Wounded Warrior Project [WWP] to make sure that the Marines that were wounded and disabled during the deployments got the continued help that they needed after they were discharged from the Marine Corps. I met the WWP directors at some WWP events and I have seen first hand the work that WWP has done to improve the lives of some of my father’s Marines.”
Even though Douglas had volunteered at WWP events, he wanted to do something on his own that made a difference.
“When I was playing modified lacrosse,” he said, “I had a Warrior lacrosse head and I thought it was neat that they both used Warrior in their names (I was 12). I started brainstorming ways to combine the two. I figured if the guys at Warrior lacrosse had a way to help our service members that they would, and they did. My coach, Josh Porcell knew some of the Warrior reps and they loved the idea. They sold us 75 heads at cost and donated the other 25 and then King Dyes volunteered to dye all the heads.”
Douglas feels that everyone has a role to play in giving back as a way of showing thanks for what we have, and not just during the holidays. “I have learned that anyone can find themselves needing help, you never know what your future will bring and that if everyone does a little bit, we can make a big difference,” he said. “I am most thankful for the love and support of my family and the freedom we have in our great country. But I am also thankful for all of my teachers, coaches, and leaders that share their knowledge and provide me with motivation and encouragement.”
Planning for School-Wide Grief
SARATOGA SPRINGS — According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, accidents account for nearly half of all teenage deaths, motor vehicle fatalities being far and away the most common.
Knowing those statistics does not make a tragedy any easier to bear for parents and school communities, but the reality of those numbers are why school district and campus administrators all have a plan in place for helping school communities overcome the shocking tragedy of the sudden, often preventable, loss of a young life, and, eventually, return to a daily academic routine.
Cathy Roy, guidance counselor and homeless liaison for high school students in the Ballston Spa School District, said that there were two such tragedies in the last five years at the high school.
“We have a crisis team, so as soon as something happens, our principal will alert guidance staff and social workers – it’s all hands on deck. That first day of school since the tragedy is the hardest. We’ve got to get through the whole day, and that teacher and those students are looking at an empty seat in their class.”
She said counselors would go through the day processing with teachers and students in the classes with those empty seats, as well as any other classes needing assistance.
“There are bus drivers who may have picked up that student every day feeling the loss,” said Roy. “Coaches, cafeteria workers – there are so many people in the school community who may have been touched by that student’s presence, and we make ourselves available for all of them.”
Dr. Andrew C. Demaree, Director and Clinical Psychologist in the Skidmore College Counseling Center, is part of the emergency response team that flew into action within hours of the tragic accident that took the life of 19-year-old Skidmore freshman Michael Hedges on Saturday night, October 31, as well as hospitalized two other students.
“The Dean of Students is the first person notified,” said Demaree, “and she gets everything started. She went to Albany Med [Albany Medical Center] that night and stayed there with the students, waiting for the families to arrive.”
Like any school community, Skidmore and Ballston Spa School District have a comprehensive emergency plan ready for a large number of scenarios. The plan details which staff gets notified when; who notifies the family; who coordinates with the media and the sheriff’s department; and what processes to have in place immediately and longterm.
“I was contacted early Sunday,” said Demaree. “We all got on a call with residential life and other members of the emergency response group around 7 that morning. There’s a coordinated effort for the immediate response, and then we planned for the day.”
The counseling center is typically not open on Sundays, and appointments are scheduled days or weeks ahead of time. That Sunday, it was open immediately for walk-ins. Demaree said the longest anyone had to wait was 20 minutes.
“We were helping people dealing with the immediate shock. It’s a relatively well-used thoroughfare; a dark road and a lot of folks could imagine where it happened and how it could have happened to anyone,” said Demaree. “There were those walking by who were exposed to a really traumatic scene, and some students who have experienced a traumatic loss in their high school may feel that piece inside them get activated again. Even if they don’t know the people involved, it’s sudden and tragic and overwhelming and here it all is again.”
Roy said schools know that overcoming school-wide tragedies is an ongoing process that can take years. “There’s the initial shock of getting everyone through that first day, but there’s the ongoing grief. There’s the boy that should have been with us graduating; there’s the Safe Spring presentation about the hazards of drunk driving that could bring back pain and memories; there’s the student’s birthday and holidays to be gotten through every year. We’ll dedicate a page in the yearbook, for example. We acknowledge that the student is missing and still in our thoughts years later at graduation, with an empty chair with a white rose on it. Schools know to be ready for all of that.”
Demaree said they are putting together a calendar of support options for the campus community, including evening grief workshops, expressive arts around grief, a drop-in grief group, and the Tang Museum is putting together works on grief to display.
“Business as usual is not going to make sense,” said Demaree. “Some classes are not being held, and others are open, but there’s no official attendance policy this week. The message is clear – students and faculty are struggling, and this is a time for support and structure, and being flexible.”
Roy agreed, and added, “We’ll have a spot for students just to gather, because oftentimes the biggest source of comfort is themselves, coming together to grieve. They will make a card for the family, or create a mural or some other way of paying respect to peers lost – an action item to do.”
Demaree also said that the community is very good about keeping an eye out for each other. “Individual students will reach out to say that this person or that person seems to be struggling, bringing friends and others to our attention and putting them on the counseling center’s radar. We’ll also follow up on those stumbling academically throughout the year.”
Roy said, “We know students grieve in very different ways. Some are stoic, some teary, and we do an active search to find those who were very close to the students involved in the tragedy, a proactive search for students who might be hurting the most, because sometimes they won’t say.”
Skidmore College administrators and students who were close to him attended Michael Hedges’ funeral service on Thursday, November 5 in his hometown in Lenox, Massachusetts. The other two students, Toby Freeman and Oban Galbraith who were in critical condition on Sunday, November 1, are still hospitalized but have been upgraded to fair condition. Both are expected to make a full recovery. Click here for more information about the accident.
Saratoga Hospital & Albany Med Plan Affiliation
SARATOGA SPRINGS — One of the many goals of healthcare reform is to tip the balance of medical scales more toward prevention than cure. Two hospitals, understanding the complicated implications of such a change, have decided to bring that future to the present, under their own terms, to assure a stable transition to the coming healthcare reality.
Saratoga Hospital and Albany Medical Center have signed a letter of intent to affiliate, paving the way for a more comprehensive, cost-effective and integrated health care system. Leaders of both hospitals announced plans for the partnership on Tuesday, October 27 and expect to finalize the affiliation during 2016.
Under the terms of the letter of intent, Saratoga Hospital will retain its name, local leadership and governance, and oversight of services delivered in the community. The existing medical staff at Saratoga Hospital will remain part of the hospital.
In a news conference held at Saratoga Hospital, Saratoga Hospital President and CEO Angelo G. Calbone and Albany Medical Center President and CEO James J. Barba described a fast-approaching future that will no longer include small, autonomous hospitals on a fee-for-service system.
“We are riding a long, slow, inevitable arc of healthcare reform,” Barba said. “The new reality is pay-for-performance and population health management.”
Calbone added, “We will be held accountable in the not too distant future for the population’s health and well-being. That’s a very heavy lift for a single hospital to do. There will need to be physicians strategically placed around the region. This partnership will provide the financial security, stability, and multiple other benefits which goes into patient care.”
Calbone gave an example of Saratoga Hospital’s current developments in internal cardiology. “Albany Medical Center is providing clinical oversight, advice, direction – alone it’s just not something we could do.”
This push from insurers, government, and the public for healthcare systems to be more responsible for managing a population’s wellness comes at a time when medical technology and innovation are making major scientific leaps, a trend picking up speed as well as increasing costs. The new partnership aims to help each hospital have better access to the best of modern medicine as it comes, while simultaneously balancing prevention and cure for the region’s population.
“Population health management is creating systems around people’s wellness, especially with chronic conditions that help them manage those conditions outside of the hospital,” said Janice M. White, Chair of the Board of Trustees for Saratoga Hospital. “They are systems designed to help patients come to the hospital less often. Of course, that’s how hospitals get paid, with patients coming in. You see the challenge.” The new partnership will create a health system that will meet these future needs in a sustainable manner.
Barba described health systems from out of state that are creeping into New York looking for an increase in market share over quality local health care. “We must secure our own size and scope of autonomy and quality care with lower costs and higher efficiencies. It’s best to fix the roof while the sun is still shining, and right now it is shining brightly here at Saratoga Hospital and at Albany Medical Center. This partnership will help assure that sunshine continues, and this health system is our system, locally focused.”
“One of the primary goals of the partnership is to protect Saratoga Hospital’s future—to preserve our ability to continue to grow and provide the care our community needs and deserves,” Calbone said.
White agreed that moving now assures a smooth transition into the future that prioritizes the healthcare needs of the local region. “This is a long-term vision, not a crisis,” she said. “We’re fortunate to be in a visionary situation where we can look 5 or 10 years down the road and see that if we don’t do this now, it’ll happen anyway later.”
The planned collaboration builds on partnerships already in place. A prime example is the highly successful joint venture, Malta Med Emergent Care, in Malta. Physicians and medical teams from Saratoga Hospital and Albany Medical Center have been working there together since June 2013, providing comprehensive 24/7 urgent care and higher-level services. Another example is a collaboration, launched in 2009, to enhance stroke care by enabling real-time sharing of diagnostic information. Dozens of lives have been saved as a result.
“In addition, affiliating with Northeastern New York’s only academic health sciences center—with its medical school and cutting-edge research programs—enhances the ability of our medical team and patients to access advanced options that are available only through that type of institution,” Calbone said.
For more information, go to www.saratogahospital.org. or www.amc.edu.
Mayor Joanne D. Yepsen, Running for Re-Election
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Joanne D. Yepsen, 56, (DEM, WF) is seeking a second term as Mayor of Saratoga Springs. We met for her interview in the Beekman Arts District, where it became clear that it was a favorite place because she had a history to tell of several of the buildings and businesses as we walked along the street.
“I love the arts and this mixed-use district,” she said. “Everything about this section is a microcosm of our city history.” She recalled a cleanup party at 69 Beekman; noted Beekman Street Bistro as the city’s first farm-to-table restaurant; and spoke highly of the growth of the Textile Studio. She said she was proud of her contributions to the area and throughout the city during her time in public service.
Among her accomplishments as mayor, she listed the resolution of labor contracts; ending homelessness for veterans in the city; preservation of the Pitney Farm; the first updated comprehensive plan in 14 years; opening the waterfront park and more. “What an amazing year, Centennial Year 2015,” Yepsen said. “Moving forward, we need to be really proactive regarding the economy. The Textile Studio is an example of the creative economy creating jobs, but we also have the performing arts, the high tech industry, hospitality and tourism, and encouraging the film industry here.”
If elected to another term, Yepsen also wants to – among other things – continue work on the greenbelt-downtown connector; increasing the city’s walkable and bikeable status; and start to do a full Complete Street plan. Yepsen prioritizes the “city in the country” theme, and is seeking to balance City Center parking needs with potential mixed-use proposals, such as workforce housing.
For the golf resort proposal by Saratoga National, she said she is seeking a “full conservation easement assurances, assurances that the greenbelt trail will be built on the property, nothing short of a 3,000 foot setback, and minimum of 90 percent open space preserved.”
She said the applicant keeps changing the proposal, but she wants to work with them because she doesn’t want to see the property sold and turned into 40 houses. “To me, that’s sprawl,” Yepsen said. “There’s going to have to be some very tight clustering to keep as much green space as possible. We’ll be working with the special assessment district and downtown businesses – which are our staple – because we can’t have retail and commercial sprawl there, either. We have to be careful not to set precedents and look at the overall plan.”
For Yepsen’s biographical information and endorsements, please visit LWVSaratoga.org.