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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 21, 2005

Is Westervelt anonymous author"

By Nicole Fay Barr

This week, as 23-year-old Erick Westervelt was locked up at Albany County’s jail, waiting to be sentenced for second-degree murder, Bethlehem Police seized many of his personal belongings from his cell.

Then, officers went to the Salvia Lane home in Guilderland that Westervelt had shared with his parents and younger brother, and took the family computer.

The police raids are because of an anonymous letter that was sent to the Times Union editor last week. Police say Westervelt may be responsible for the letter, whose author claims to have been involved in the hatchet deaths of Timothy Gray and Peter Porco.

The Times Union editor did not return phone calls immediately Wednesday.

Westervelt was convicted on June 29 for Gray’s death; he will be sentenced on Aug. 25. Bethlehem Police said that, on Oct. 28, Westervelt beat Gray in the head in the Bethlehem home that Gray shared with Westervelt’s former girlfriend.

During his week-and-a-half trial, Westervelt’s defense maintained he was innocent, that he had been at home at the time of the murder.

On Nov. 15, while Westervelt was in Albany County’s jail, Peter Porco was beaten to death in his Bethlehem home and his wife, Joan, was severely injured. Bethlehem Police have since named the Porcos’ youngest son, Christopher, as a suspect. No one has been arrested in that case.

Westervelt’s attorneys, Mark Sacco and Kent Sprotberry, tried unsuccessfully to convince a jury last month that, although Westervelt confessed to Gray’s murder, he did not do it. Rather, the defense said, Westervelt was forced to make a false confession after hours of police interrogation.

Sacco and Sprotberry could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Sacco told The Enterprise the day of Westervelt’s conviction that the real killer is still out there. He speculated that whoever killed Gray also killed Porco, since a hatchet was used in both incidents. The Bethlehem Police, he said, should be looking for the killer.

When The Times Union received the letter, an editor turned it over to the Bethlehem Police, Lieutenant Thomas Heffernan said.

"We treated it like other leads," he said. "We take all leads seriously."

The letter was sent to a State Police lab, Heffernan said, where it is currently being analyzed for fingerprints and other forensic evidence.

"In following up on the contents of the letter," Heffernan said, additional information was obtained that convinced police to apply for warrants to search Westervelt’s home and jail cell.

The lieutenant would not disclose what the information was or why police believed Westervelt was involved.

Asked if he believed Westervelt wrote the letter, Heffernan said, "We’re investigating that."

Westervelt is not a suspect in the Porco murder because he was in jail at the time and could not have been the killer, Heffernan said.

Monday, at the Westervelt house on Salvia Lane, police took the family’s computer and other documents, Heffernan said. He declined to elaborate. Police also took "personal belongings" out of Westervelt’s jail cell, he said.

The seized materials have been sent to a State Police lab for analysis, he said.

Some information in the letter, relating to the Porco crime, is inaccurate, Heffernan said.

Asked what he thinks this means, he said, "It leads us to believe that whoever wrote it just made errors in the facts. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing; we’re following up."

Town, Guilderhaven still fighting over funds

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — Will the $41,000 that Guilderhaven has spent a year raising be used to renovate the Guilderland Animal Shelter after all"

Guilderhaven treasurer Susan Green and Town Supervisor Kenneth Runion both say they hope so and want to work on a resolution.

Last month, Runion said the town would move ahead with improving the shelter, without the funds raised by the not-for-profit organization, and Green said the money may be returned to the many donors.

After the squabble, Guilderhaven sent a check to the town.

But, the check came with a list of conditions saying that the town can cash it if Guilderhaven has control over decisions for the project. Right now, Runion says, the town is locked into a position where it can’t accept the money because of the conditions.

Meanwhile, Guilderhaven’s involvement with the shelter is being filtered out.

Volunteers who, several years ago formally created the not-for-profit Guilderhaven, had for decades helped care for lost and stray animals in Guilderland. Once the town built a shelter, on Frenches Hollow Road, the volunteers continued to help, both with animal care and placement and with fund-raising.

The renovation at the shelter is continuing. Runion said he hopes it will be complete in August or September. Then, he said, the town will appoint a committee to take charge of evaluating volunteers at the shelter. The committee will determine if the volunteers are adequately prepared to handle the shelter’s cats and dogs, he said.

And, a January agreement that Guilderhaven will help hard-to-adopt dogs get training has been changed. Guilderhaven was taken out of the equation, Runion said, because the law says only licensed humane societies or other municipalities can have that kind of control.

Fund fight

Last month, one of many conflicts between Green and Runion unfolded. Green told The Enterprise that Runion refused to take the funds that Guilderhaven raised for the shelter. Green said that Runion wanted to put the donations in the town’s general fund. Then, when she said that’s not acceptable, Runion said he didn’t want her money, Green claimed.

Runion argued that he would never put donations in the general fund. Green didn’t trust the town and refused to hand over the funds, he said. He told The Enterprise then that the town is not prepared to beg Green for the funds she promised; the town would renovate the shelter itself, he said.

Last week, Green decided to work things out with Runion. Green told The Enterprise last Wednesday that, on the advice of an attorney and a certified public accountant, Guilderhaven decided to send the town a check for $41,338.50.

Green paraphrased a letter Guilderhaven sent to the town: "It said something to the effect that we’re hoping to get back on track and become partners."

However, a copy of the letter, given to The Enterprise by Runion, lists several conditions with which the town must comply before cashing the check. The stipulations basically say that Guilderhaven must approve any changes to the project and have control over decisions.

When Runion received Guilderhaven’s letter and check, on July 12, the day of the last town board meeting, he decided right away to bring the issue to the board, he said.

"I wasn’t just going to send a check back," Runion told The Enterprise this week. "The letter said cashing the check is an agreement to these terms....That day, I had the town attorney do research on what we could or could not agree to."

In executive session last Tuesday, the town board agreed to send the check back to Guilderhaven.

The last condition — that Guilderhaven be given control of project changes — is what bothered the town the most, Councilman Bruce Sherwin told The Enterprise. The town obtained a ruling from the state comptroller’s office that says, when a not-for-profit organization gives a municipality money, there must be no strings attached, Sherwin said.

It is against the law to put stipulations on charity funds, he said.

Wednesday, Green told The Enterprise that Guilderhaven has taken the town board’s concerns into consideration and has revised its conditions. It will send the check back to the town with the new stipulations next week, she said. She declined further comment.

"The only condition that we can accept is that the town follow through on the 25 percent," Runion told The Enterprise. He was referring to an agreement the town had with Guilderhaven that it would pay for a quarter of the renovation costs. Any new or changed conditions drafted by Guilderhaven will not be accepted, he said.

Harrowing history

This is not the first time Runion and Green have clashed.

In November, Runion decided to change the policy at the town-owned shelter, so that dogs who are not adopted in a certain period of time would have been sent to another shelter, where they could have been killed.

Guilderhaven volunteers were angry, Green said in January after negotiations broke down, because they spent months raising $100,000 — in cash and donated services — for renovations to the shelter on the premise that Guilderland runs a no-kill shelter.

Runion responded that the new policy would save taxpayers money and would be more fair to the abandoned animals at the shelter. Dogs would have had 90 days under Runion’s policy to be adopted before they were sent to a kill shelter. This, Runion said, was more humane then having an animal live alone in a cage for years.

A week after the Enterprise story ran, residents packed a town board meeting, speaking out against the policy. But Runion began the meeting by saying he had rescinded the kill policy. He was trying to do what was best for the town’s dogs, he said.

Under the town’s new policy, if a dog’s owner can’t be located and a rescue organization does not want the animal, the dog will be evaluated by an animal behaviorist and possibly trained.

Guilderhaven was supposed to help with this, but, Runion said this week, now it will not.

"We took the Guilderhaven portion out of it the day after it was decided because someone from Ag and Markets came in and said you have to be a licensed humane society or organization that is another municipality to do that," Runion said. He was referring to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

The Guilderland Animal Shelter is owned by the town, but was largely built by volunteers. Members of Guilderhaven have for decades donated supplies to the shelter and helped its animals, Green said earlier. About five years ago, she said, Guilderhaven became a formal not-for-profit organization with a name.

In April of 2004, the Guilderland Town Board voted to give about $40,000 to the Guilderland Animal Shelter. The money was to cover a quarter of the cost of renovating the shelter; Guilderhaven was to raise the rest of the money.

Shelter volunteers then worked all summer and raised over $100,000, in both monetary and labor donations. In November, Green said, as Guilderhaven was about to announce it had raised the 75 percent, it was informed by Runion that the town had eliminated the shelter’s no-kill policy.

"His timing was right before we exceeded our goal," Green said at the time. "After we predicated our entire fund-raiser on that. It’s a breach of trust."

Before Runion rescinded the kill policy, Guilderhaven said it would have to give back all the money it raised and forget the renovation project, because it couldn’t support a kill shelter.

If that were to happen, Runion said then, the town planned to spend about $40,000 to make improvements to the shelter this year. The town had planned to do this all along, he said, until Guilderhaven stepped in and offered to raise money for a more extravagant project.

Then, a compromise was reached with Runion’s new no-kill policy. Things seemed to be going well, until it came time to begin the project.

Control conflict

"Our primary objective was to follow through on our promise to the community that generously donated that money to the rehabilitation of the Guilderland Animal Shelter," Green said of trying to work things out now. "That was our responsibility."

Guilderhaven gave the town a check for the donations with five conditions.

The stipulations include:

— That the funds be used only for construction at the shelter as agreed upon in an attached "scope of work" document;

— That the town obtain approval from Guilderhaven for any changes on the scope of the work;

— That any remaining funds after a year be returned to Guilderhaven;

— That the town agrees to pay for 25 percent of the construction costs; and

— That a detailed cost list be provided to Guilderhaven, including a list of payments with the names of vendors, description of work completed, date of invoice, and date and amount of payment.

Sherwin told The Enterprise that, in the executive session last Tuesday, "We encouraged the supervisor to be positive about the donations and to work with Guilderhaven."

The board decided to send the check back to Guilderhaven with a letter saying that, "While we would love to have the money, we can’t accept it under these guidelines restricting how the money will be used," Sherwin said.

"It will say that, we’d like the money, but we can’t accept it. We’re not able to by law," he said. "We have no choice at this point."

Sherwin, who served as the board’s liaison to the project, had told The Enterprise in January that, although changing the shelter’s no-kill policy was unpopular, the town had to take control. Many people didn’t know the town owned the shelter; Guilderhaven volunteers had keys to the facilities, he said.

This was irresponsible of the town, Sherwin said, and the town board agreed that the shelter policies and decisions had to be reestablished by the town.

Now, both Sherwin and Runion said, the town can’t agree to take Guilderhaven’s money in exchange for control of the shelter project.

This week, Runion spoke again about Guilderhaven volunteers having keys prior to six months ago.

"That was out of control," he said. "I don’t know how they ever got keys...That happened before I became supervisor."

This is a big liability issue, he said. The town cannot allow people who aren’t employees access to town facilities, he said.

"The only reason I learned of the keys is apparently we almost had an incident where an animal-control officer got hurt," Runion said. A cat placed at the shelter by a volunteer was feral and the animal-control officer didn’t know it, he said.

Runion then requested that those who have keys to the shelter but do not work for the town, turn over the keys to him, he said.

Runion said almost all of the conditions for taking the money are unacceptable, such as for agreeing to give Guilderhaven control of approving the work at the shelter.

"We do make changes as we find out that certain things don’t work," Runion said.

For example, at the start of the project, doors that separate the dog kennels from the yard were going to be removed, he said. But, animal-control director Rich Savage later told Runion that he thought the shelter should keep the doors. It’s safer for workers to clean the stalls of aggressive dogs if the dogs can be shut out, Runion said.

"We can’t turn over those types of decisions to an outside group," he said.

Another issue was plumbing, Runion said. Originally, the project’s architect planned on having water lines in one area. Later, he decided it would be better to move the lines elsewhere, Runion said.

Donald Cropsey Jr., the town’s chief building inspector and zoning administrator, also found minor areas of the plan that need to be tweaked, Runion said.

Guilderhaven wants to approve any changes like this that the town makes. But, Runion said, this could result in conflicts that would hold up the project, costing more money.

Runion, too, said the town board won’t accept the condition that any remaining funds after a year be returned to Guilderhaven. With its letter, Guilderhaven included a detailed computation of how all the money will be spent. No money will be left over, Runion said.

"If somebody felt that distrusting of the town, they’d make the donations in increments," he said.

The Schoolcraft House committee, for example, gives the town money periodically for different restoration projects at the historic house, he said.

Runion added that, if Guilderhaven did get some of the money back, it would be a "nightmare" trying to figure out how to return it to the donors.

But, he said, the town board’s main problem is in Guilderhaven having "veto power over changes and trying to tie us into not making any changes."

Of the condition where Guilderhaven wants a detailed accounting of costs charged, Runion said, "We normally don’t provide detailed accounting." Of the project’s budget, he said, "A lot of people come in to see it. It’s open to the public anyway, in the comptroller’s office here."

What’s next"

Green spoke little this week about what will happen next with the Guilderhaven funds. The group is in the process of working things out, she said.

"It is our hope that we’ve put all our differences behind us to work together again for the welfare of the animals in our community," Green said.

Asked if he would consider working with Guilderhaven on another project in the future, Runion said, "I don’t think so. We’ve been through too much difficult times...But, it’s not my decision alone. It’s up to the town board. I’d have to vote no, though."

In the past, Guilderhaven volunteers have walked dogs at the shelter or helped take care of cats. The new committee, to be appointed in August or September, will evaluate anyone who wants to volunteer at the shelter to make sure they have training to deal with difficult animals, Runion said. This way, he said, the town will be responsible for any problems.

"Usually we get extremely difficult dogs," he said. "We don’t get household cats; we get feral cats. Generally, all the animals have some sort of behavioral problem."

Runion added that, with attorneys’ fees and the town’s building inspector overseeing much of the project, the town is already paying more than 25 percent to renovate the shelter.

Jet-ski accident ends in fatality

By Nicole Fay Barr

A 21-year-old Guilderland man with dreams of running his family’s automotive business died Sunday in a jet-ski accident on the Mohawk River.

Although a paramedic and a few police officers frantically tried to save Jack Falvo III by jumping into the water where his friend kept him afloat, he was later pronounced dead from head injuries.

Falvo, of Vosburgh Road, loved the outdoors and had a passion for jet skiing. (See obituary elsewhere in the newspaper.)

A jet ski is a jet-propelled recreational watercraft, smaller than most speed boats, larger than most surf boards.

Glenville Police say the accident happened around 4:45 p.m., in the area of the Freeman’s Bridge Road boat launch. Falvo was riding a jet ski while two friends fished in a boat nearby, police say.

Falvo hit the wake of another boat, was tossed into the air, and hit his head on the jet ski, police say. His friend jumped in the water to save him while another called 911 on her cellular phone, police say.

Officers came to the area and flagged down a passing boater, who assisted them in finding the scene of the accident. Police officers and a paramedic from Mohawk Ambulance all jumped into the water to help Falvo, who was unconscious. His friend was in the water, keeping Falvo afloat, police say.

Falvo was taken to the Alplaus Marina by the Alplaus Fire Department’s airboat. He was then taken to Ellis Hospital where he was pronounced dead, police say.

Toxins to be removed from Burns’s property

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — After over 40 years, Joan Burns may be able to walk in her backyard without fear.

The federal government has announced that, this September, it plans on removing the toxic waste that it buried on her property a half-century ago.

"It’s been a long time in coming," Gregory Goepfert, the project manager from the Army Corps of Engineers, told The Enterprise.

Goepfert was instrumental in getting the funding for the $650,000 project. Although the project has not been officially approved, Goepfert expects work to begin in September, he said.

The property, on Route 201, was once part of an Army depot. Recent tests performed under the direction of the Army Corps of Engineers have shown that much of the buried waste on Burns’s land is toxic and dangerous.

"The results of the samples showed that the materials had hazardous components to them," Goepfert said. "I was able to justify the removal based on these results."

The funds are from the Defense Environmental Restoration Program for Formerly Used Defense Sites, known as FUDS, but funding is hard to come by.

The New York District, which covers New York and New Jersey, has an estimated $500 million in clean-up costs and an annual budget of $3 million to $5 million, Goepfert said.

"We’re fortunate that we’re able to do this," Goepfert said. "It’s a priority project and I’m very happy to be able to get started."

Burns said Monday that she’s optimistic, although the project isn’t definite.

"I’m happy with the way it’s going, but everything’s pending," she said.

"I’m quite pleased..." she continued. "We appreciate all The Altamont Enterprise has done, the articles and so on, that has really helped a great deal."

Goepfert also said earlier that Enterprise stories and editorials on the depot pollution had helped secure funds.

"I requested it over and over again," Burns told The Enterprise a year ago, before samples were taken from her property. "I hope something is about to happen."

Burns and her late husband, Milton, bought their house with 40 acres in 1963. The property was once part of the Army depot that was built in Guilderland and New Scotland in the 1940’s.

The Burnses bought their property from the General Services Administration when the depot was being phased out; they were not told about waste being buried there, Burns said.

News of the Love Canal broke in 1979; Hooker Chemical had buried toxic waste in western New York where houses were later built and residents then suffered health problems.

Burns heard about the Love Canal and she and her husband noted areas where nothing grew and their soil appeared to have an oily substance on the surface.

"I became suspicious," Burns said. Ever since, she had been in contact with a variety of agencies — county, state, and federal — trying to get answers.

Burns, a nurse, said her family has suffered "a lot of health problems" that she believes are associated with the buried waste.

"My husband died of colon cancer in 1995," she said. "He was the one out on the land."

Her two horses, who weren’t genetically related, also died of cancer, Burns said. She had autopsies done at Cornell, she said, and found that both had died of lymphoma.

She has also had cats that "mysteriously died," she said, after they had "gotten out by mistake."

Burns told The Enterprise last year that she can’t sell the land or use it in its current state.

"I don’t like walking on it," she said. "I don’t use it. It’s wasted land."

Burns’s land is located on Depot Road, within in the Black Creek drainage area. The Black Creek feeds into the Watervliet Reservoir, Guilderland’s major source of drinking water.

Thadeus Ausfeld — also instrumental in pushing for funds — has been concerned that the waste buried on Burns’s property will affect the town’s water supply and the groundwater. Ausfeld operates the town’s water plant and, with Charles Rielly, co-chairs the Army Corps of Engineers’ Restoration Advisory Board, largely made up of local citizens. Burns also serves on the board.

"The people who live along [Route] 201 here should be concerned and get involved," Ausfeld told The Enterprise last year. "The public has to wake up."

Cleaning up

This week, Ausfeld said he was pleased that Burns’s property may be cleaned up.

"The engineering evaluation looks really good," he said. "There’s definitely bad stuff there. She certainly deserves to have it cleaned up."

The Army Corps will basically dig toxic materials and remove them from the site, Goepfert said.

"We’ll be removing materials from two basic areas," he said. Drums filled with a tar substance and bottles with paint residue and ink will be dug out of the ground and taken away. The holes will later be filed in, he said.

At the back of Burns’s property, bottles and vials "with an orange liquid and a smell to it," will also be removed, Goepfert said. The toxic material will be taken to a licensed disposal facility, he said.

The project should take 60 to 90 days, he said. A workplan should be created in August, he said.

Asked if Burns would have to leave her property for the cleanup, Goepfert said, "Oh, no. She can stay in her house. We’re not going to uproot her."

A temporary road may be set up in the back of Burns’s property for trucks to transport the toxic materials, Goepfert said.

The public has until July 30 to comment on the project. "I don’t expect anyone to be against this action," he said.

Other "areas of concern"

Including the Burns property, the Army Corps of Engineers has classified nine areas of concern, or sites that were determined to be a risk to human health.

In the 1940’s, the United States Army chose a site near the Black Creek in Guilderland Center for a depot. The Army diverted the creek — now a tributary to Guilderland’s main source of drinking water — into two halves, and, as was common practice in that era, sent waste into the creek or buried it on site or possibly near the site. The depot closed in 1969.

Most of the former depot land now belongs to the Northeastern Industrial Park.

The Army Corps of Engineers was then assigned to assess the environmental damage stemming from the military use of the Former Schenectady Army Depot, Voorheesville Area, which was originally farmland and swamp or marshland.

The Army formed the Restoration Advisory Board to assess the situation. For at least seven years, members of the board have been urging citizens and government officials to advocate the cleanup.

In 2002 and 2003, The Enterprise ran a series of articles outlining the depot’s contamination.

Despite Ausfeld and Rielly’s insistence that the advisory board should meet more often, meetings are usually once a year.

A Restoration Advisory Board meeting will be held tonight (Thursday), at the Lynnwood Reformed Church on Carman Road. Burns’s project will be discussed, as well as other plans for next year, Goepfert said.

Ausfeld told The Enterprise that he will ask about cleaning up areas of concern one, four, five, and eight. Those areas, especially area of concern one, the United States Army Southern Landfill, and area of concern eight, the Black Creek, should, similarly to Burns’s land, be studied and cleaned up soon, he said.

Three years ago, Goepfert secured FUDS funding, originally intended to clean up a former burn-pit (area of concern 3) from which a toxic plume is emanating. The money was used instead to clean up a site by Guilderland High School where the school district was building a new bus facility. It cost about a half-a-million dollars.

Small subdivision approved for Timothy Lane

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — Timothy Lane may soon be developed.

The town’s planning board last Wednesday approved an application by Frank Tralongo to create a four-lot subdivision on 3.3 acres there.

Timothy Lane, in the northeastern part of town, was created when the Lone Pine 7 subdivision was built. Todd Westervelt, of ABD Engineering, told the board that Tralongo plans on building three houses that will face Timothy Lane and a fourth that will face Salvia Lane.

The lots are already vacant, except for the fourth, along Salvia Lane, where some trees will be removed, Westervelt said.

Town planner Jan Weston had concerns that the lots may include wetlands.

An erosion-sedimentation control plan was conducted, Westervelt said. What appears to be wetlands on the site is just soggy land in an isolated pocket, he said.

"There is no federal wetland on the site," he said.

The board then unanimously approved the proposal.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Approved the concept of realigning four previously-approved building lots on Depot Road. The applicant is Michael Cleary, no relation to the planning board member with the same name; and

— Approved the concept of a four-lot subdivision on eight acres on Gun Club Road, as proposed by Daniel Rucinski.

Tedesco at the helm at GHS

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Frank Tedesco says he loves kids.

He started last Monday as the interim principal at Guilderland High School; he’ll see the school through its fall opening and is slated to work up until Dec. 1, when a permanent replacement is to take over.

Tedesco, 58, has spent more than three decades in education. For the last 27 years, he has worked at the Niskayuna School District. He recounted his many roles at Niskayuna with enthusiasm.

He began there as a high school guidance counselor; then, after four years of counseling, he spent the next four as an assistant principal. He then became director of pupil services where he oversaw special education, remedial programs, testing, and school psychologists and nurses.

That was followed by a dozen years as an elementary-school principal, and then the last few years — before retiring in January — Tedesco was the district’s administrator for human resources.

Asked which job was his favorite, Tedesco answered without hesitation, "I’ve loved it all. I love kids at all ages. Schools are just a great environment to work in...It keeps you young at heart."

Tedesco and his wife, Donna, who live in Latham, have three children of their own — Frank Jr., Meghan, and Christopher — all grown.

Tedesco himself grew up in Rochester, the second oldest of seven children. He served in the armed forces in Korea from 1966 to 1968.

He is a graduate of Saint John Fisher College in Rochester, where he majored in psychology.

Tedesco came to the Capital Region for a graduate degree from the University at Albany; he earned an Ed. S., Education Specialist degree, 30 hours beyond a master’s degree, in advanced counseling, he said.

Tedesco said he found his half-year of retirement "rejuvenating" but considers the five-month stint at Guilderland "an exciting opportunity."

"It’s great to get back in school with an end in sight," said Tedesco. "I want to contribute and I know I will learn a lot at Guilderland."

Asked about his plans for the next five months, Tedesco said, "My role is to be principal and have people see me....At the same time, I’m not going to commit a new principal to my own priorities. Basically, I want to see that there’s a terrific start to the new school year."

He concluded, "I’m just happy to be here. I’ve heard such wonderful things about the Guilderland School District over the years."

"Seasoned veteran"

Ismael Villafane, who had been the principal at Guilderland High School for two years, announced he was leaving in June for a warmer climate because of his wife’s rheumatoid arthritis. Villafane, who spent decades as an educator in Texas, is returning there to be principal of Riverside High School near El Paso.

Villafane followed John Whipple, who was principal at Guilderland for 14 years.

Superintendent Gregory Aidala told The Enterprise that, once Villafane announced his resignation, he and the Susan Tangorre, the district’s administrator for human resources, met with teachers, administrators, and supervisors in three groups.

They decided there wasn’t enough time to hire a new principal before the start of the school year and instead sought an interim principal so a thorough search could be conducted.

"We didn’t publicize it," said Aidala of the interim post; two people were considered, he said.

Tedesco, he said, "had experience at another Suburban Council school district at all levels." Aidala called Tedesco "a seasoned veteran."

Aidala went on, "He’s got an excellent track record. His references said he’s very approachable, he works hard, he pays attention to details, and he gets the job done."

The school board unanimously appointed Tedesco to the interim post at its July 5 meeting. He will be paid $450 a day.

Tedesco spent last week introducing himself to staff and familiarizing himself with Guilderland High School, Aidala said. "He’s really digging in," said the superintendent.

To lay the groundwork for finding a permanent new principal, Tangorre and Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Nancy Andress spent two days in June, Aidala said, meeting with teachers, office staff, teaching assistants, and administrators to hear their requirements for a principal.

"We’re looking for a good fit," said Aidala.

The post will be widely advertised and candidates will be screened by a committee made up of staff as well as administrators, he said.

Aidala named some of the qualifications for the new principal. Candidates should be experienced at the secondary level as teachers and administrators. They should be leaders "who can motivate people." They should be "strong communicators" and good problem-solvers, he said.

Finally, the superintendent said, "We want someone who’s student-centered and people oriented."

Tresselt full of energy in his new role

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The school district has its first energy manager — Fred Tresselt.

He doesn’t drive to his job, teaching at Farnsworth Middle School. In the spring and fall, Tresselt walks. "In the winter, I snowshoe through the woods to school or cross-country ski," he said.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders described Tresselt as a technology expert who is well respected by the staff. He will oversee a program that has the potential of saving the district $2.3 million over seven years, said Sanders.

"The energy program has a great deal of potential," Tresselt told The Enterprise this week. "It will be my job to communicate that in an understandable manner."

He has already been to the district’s five elementary schools for "background information," he said, and is eager to meet with energy consultants. "The goal is to get a lot of this in place before the start of the heating season," he said.

Tresselt went on, "A lot of people want to cooperate. They just need to be shown how."

A math and science teacher at Farnsworth, Tresselt has worked for the district for 21 years.

Tresselt will do his work as energy manger outside of the school day, said Susan Tangorre, the district’s personnel director.

He will begin work early, "even earlier than earth science," Tangorre quipped.

Tresselt has been involved in many aspects of the school; he has served on the Farnsworth building cabinet and on the district’s technology committee, he said.

He knows the schools from a parents’ perspective, too, since his three children — now grown — attended Guilderland schools.

Tresselt, who grew up in western New York, has had a long-standing interest in the environment and conservation issues. He was a forestry major at Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks and went on to study physical education at Brockport. He earned a master’s degree at Colby College in Maine on a National Science Foundation scholarship.

His first teaching job was in Herkimer. "I was in Herkimer in 1970. April 20, 1970 was the very first Earth Day," he said. "We got a program together."

Tresselt went on about energy conservation, "It’s always been on my mind. You can save a lot of energy if you put your mind to it."

At 58, Tresselt is past the age when many teachers retire. "I’m just happy with what I’m doing," he said.

His wife, Janet, also a teacher, has recently retired.

The two just returned this week from a sojourn to Alaska.

The couple has traveled widely, teaching in Norway and Italy, and spending a year-and-a-half backpacking through Asia, Turkey, and India, "right down to Australia," said Tresselt.

"Traveling overseas, you see how little energy is needed for a good life," Tresselt said.

Energy Education

Guilderland has contracted with Energy Education Inc., a Texas company that markets, Sanders said earlier, "a guaranteed energy-saving program based on reducing consumption in facilities while maintaining occupancy comfort."

Sanders told the school board in November, when it first considered the plan, "There’s no need for people to be in the cold or work in the dark."

The program had been successfully used by 600 school districts nation-wide, he said, including Bethlehem and South Colonie locally. The large savings, Sanders said, come from "a combination of very small savings." One example he gave was of South Colonie saving $8,000 a year by shutting off the lights in its vending machines.

The Energy Education approach is comprehensive across the district and it focuses on changing people’s habits, Sanders said. Consultants identify energy use and consumption patterns, devise ways to save energy, and train the energy manager to see that people conserve while encouraging teamwork.

The program costs average $150,000 for the first four years, which Sanders described as being broken down this way:

— $120,000 for the consultants and training;

— $23,000 for the salary of the part-time energy manager;

— $3,000 for the annual seminar travel expenses for ongoing training; and

— $10,000 for the first-year payment on energy-accounting software with a $1,000 annual maintenance fee thereafter.

Savings are projected to average about $360,000 per year for an average net annual savings after expenses of over $200,000 per year, Sanders said. Savings increase considerably, averaging $500,000 per year in the fifth, sixth, and seventh year as the fees for Energy Education Inc. disappear, he said.


The board approved raises at its July 5 meeting for the 2005-06 school year, effective July 1, for employees who are not represented by negotiating units.

Daily rates remain at $80 for substitute teachers, $90 following a total of 40 days of district service, and $145 for long-term substitutes who teach 15 consecutive days for the same teacher.

Hourly pay rates for substitute custodial workers went up to $8.30, and to $9.40 for those who have worked four years or more in the district.

Hourly wages also went up for substitute mechanics to $10.35, and to $12.40 for those who have worked four years or more in the district.

Hourly rates for substitute bus drivers went up to $10.75 for workers with up to six months with the district, $11.50 after six months and a minimum of 100 hours substitute driving, $12.25 for after 12 months and a minimum of 200 hours; and $15.25 after 30 months and a minimum of 500 hours.

Pay rates for substitute nurses went up to $15.70 per hour up to 25 days, and to $19.25 per hour after 25 days of work in the district as a nurse substitute.

Rates for student workers also went up, to $6.25 per hour. For student videographers, the rate went up to $7 an hour the first year and $7.75 after that.

Tutor rates went up to $21.35 per hour up to four years, and then to $29.85 per hour after four years and a minimum of 50 hours tutoring each year.

The rate for election inspectors went up to $9 per hour,

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Authorized the superintendent to execute an option-to-purchase agreement with the Capital District YMCA for an annual fee of $2,775.

This will give the district, until June 1, 2007, the exclusive option to purchase two adjoining parcels of property along Western Avenue adjacent to Guilderland Elementary School.

Board member Peter Golden asked if the district had any plans for the land besides discouraging development.

"We really have no specific plans per se," said Superintendent Gregory Aidala. If the district wanted to purchase the eight-tenths of an acre in front of the school, on Western Avenue, voters would have to approve in the purchase for $175,000 in May of 2006, Aidala said. The price is based on its assessed value.

Board member Richard Weisz said the YMCA had acquired the land, across Western Avenue from the entrance road to its facility, and now has no plans for it.

The option, he said, gives the district time to determine if it would be better not to have development or to pick who develops the land;

— Approved a BOCES classroom rental and ancillary service agreement for the next school year.

The Board Of Cooperative Educational Services rents rooms from the district. The rent for 2005-06 is to remain at $12,000, for a total of $180,000 for 15 rooms.

The district also furnishes ancillary services for children with handicapping conditions assigned to the leased classrooms. The ancillary services base is rising from $14,000 in 2004-05 to $14,250 in 2005-06;

— Approved higher fees for building use. "The fees were last reviewed in 1998," Sanders wrote to the board. "Since that time the costs of operating and maintaining our facilities has increased."

An hour of use of the high school gym, for example, is going up $10 to $135; for the high school auditorium, up $5 an hour to $80; and for the middle-school cafetorium, up $5 to $65.

Hourly fees to be paid for custodial work are going up, too — $5 an hour to $25 for weekdays and to $55 for holidays;

— Heard congratulations for Stephanie Keller, a fifth-grader at Pine Bush Elementary School who placed second in the Upstate New York Celebrate America Creative Writing Contest.

Her essay was selected from 300 entries. She received a check and an autographed copy of Project Mulberry, a novel by Linda Sue Park;

— Heard from board member Thomas Nachod a suggestion that the board allow residents viewing board meetings on the cable access channel at home to e-mail comments to the board.

Aidala recommended the communications committee discuss the matter.

And board member Barbara Fraterrigo reiterated her suggestion that the board schedule public dialogue sessions before designated meetings;

— Heard praise from board member Colleen O’Connell for the high school graduation exercises.

Board President Gene Danese again encouraged board members to sit on stage during the ceremony.

"We should attend," he said.

And Golden, alluding to the fact that this year’s graduation was scheduled on Sunday morning, said the district should show respect "for the religiously observant in our community."

Alice Begley: "A historian and a patriot"

By Maggie Gordon

GUILDERLAND — Alice Begley has been a Guilderland resident for 51 years and the town historian for almost 10. She took the job because it "just melted in" with her passion for history, and reading and writing about it.

In her decade as town historian, Begley has written two books, and columns for The Enterprise. She has taught schoolchildren and spearheaded major projects like the restoration of historical markers and of the Schoolcraft mansion.

When asked what made her want to be a historian, Begley told The Enterprise, "I grew into it. I’m a historian and a patriot."

Begley grew up in North Albany. "The area was called Limerick, because the only people that lived there were Irish-Catholic Democrats," she said.

She lived in Limerick until she married her husband, Jim, a little after the beginning of World War II. Her late husband was in the Navy, and she followed him to the West Coast. When Mr. Begley had to leave on his Mine sweeper, Mrs. Begley returned to North Albany to live with her mother and father.

A few months later, she gave birth to her daughter. Begley’s husband got word of his first child through a chain of messages.

"His father," Begley said, "went to the American Red Cross and told them his son was in the Pacific and he had a new baby daughter. The Red Cross contacted the Red Cross in San Francisco — probably by phone — then the Red Cross is San Francisco ‘Morse coded’ it to the nearest ship in the Pacific.

"The ships kept rewriting the nearest ships that ‘Lt. Begley had a new baby daughter and her name is Alice. Mother and daughter are doing fine,’ until they got to the ship he was on," Begley said.

The baby was 10 months old when Mr. Begley returned to Albany.

"Shortly after he returned, we moved to Guilderland and built a house, which a lot of other service men and their wives were doing... All of us at the same time were just looking for a green spot," she said. "I still live there today."

Interpreting, informing, and interacting

She dove into a large project as soon as she began the jobas Guilderland’s town historian; she repaired and documented all the historic markers in the town. There were 34 markers in all, though two were missing. The task took about a year-and-a-half to complete, Begley said, even with the help of the town’s highway department.

"The markers had to be taken down, cleaned, sanded, and repainted," she said. "Some of them were in really bad shape. They were dented and that kind of thing."

After she had restored the markers, Begley wrote a book about them, which ran in segments as columns in The Enterprise. The book, entitled Town of Guilderland: Historic Markers, features an illustration of each marker as well as a page detailing the marker’s background. "It’s a great resource for teachers," she said. "For the history of the town."

That is not the only book Begley has written as the town historian. She co-authored Images of America: Guilderland New York with Mary Ellen Johnson. This book, one of a series published by Arcadia Publishing, provides a history of the town of Guilderland through photographs and their descriptions.

"The books and all of the things you do as a historian are important in some way," Begley said.

She maintains that books and historical markers are not the only ways to learn about a town’s history. "A cemetery is really a book on the history of the town. You’ll see many names of town supervisors — it’s really a history."

While cemeteries are an important part of town history, Begley maintains that they are not the center of her job.

"Everybody thinks my job is to find Grandma or Uncle Willie in the cemetery. The job of an historian is to interpret, to inform, to write public pieces and interact with schools," Begley said. "Most people think public historians are genealogists, but New York State mandates that they are not."

Begley would know. She was one of the first public historians in New York to be certified as a "Registered Historian." (See related column)

One of the most rewarding parts of her job, Begley said, is working with kids, and getting them interested and excited about history. She works mostly with fourth- and seventh-graders who are studying their local history.

Begley remembers one time when she worked with a class on a project involving one-room schoolhouses. The class was so enthusiastic about what they had learned, they decided to pretend that they were in a one-room schoolhouse for a day, bringing their lunch in sacks, and eating soup together in the classroom.

"Real gem"

Begley’s favorite project, above all, is "bringing the Schoolcraft House back to its original grandeur.

"Every town needs a few symbols to remind them of what was," Begley said. "It’s going to be a real gem."

When restoration work is finished, the Gothic-revival mansion will be used as a cultural center for the town. "It will be a symbol of what had been," she said. "And it will be wonderful for new generations."

The house, which is located on Western Avenue, was built in the 1840’s by John L. Schoolcraft, who later became a Congressman, and one of the original presidents for the bank now known as Key Bank. It is built in a Gothic-revival style, with asymmetrical peaks and roof lines. The siding is "faux brownstone," according to Begley.

The mansion stands out from surrounding buildings now, just as it did when it was originally built. The house, with its 1,000 acres, was across the Great Western Turnpike from the Guilderland Glass House, a glass factory from which Begley thinks most of Schoolcraft’s windows came. Schoolcraft’s neighbors were mostly workers at the glass factory, with much less ornate homes.

"The house has loads of history," Begley said, while showing off brick and plaster walls.

The town purchased the house in 1994, with the help of the Guilderland Historical Society, and Begley. She has stuck by the project since then. Before the purchase, the lot was set to become a parking lot for the Hamilton Union Presbyterian Church.

While recently walking through the mansion, Begley delivered facts off the top of her head. "There are five fireplaces...Yes, these are the original floor boards here...This is the original staircase...There were four apartments in here a few years ago...This is where the office will be — hopefully the office of the historian."

A tour through the house with Alice Begley revealed not only a one-of-a-kind building, but her own deep passion for her job. As she moved through the house, she explained different uses that rooms had had over the years, and her plans for them in the future, including the future tea room in brick-floored basement. Typically, in the mid-19th century, kitchens were located in basements.

Upstairs, in one of the former apartments, a dome-shaped skylight lends an aura of grandeur.

"Someone told me I might as well get rid of it," she said, looking up at the gray sky as rain pelted the glass. "I think it’s beautiful."

Making it happen

Begley spends a lot of her time at the mansion, especially during this phase, while Ed Zyniecki, a town employee, helps reconstruct the house, removing flooring, chipping at walls, and replacing the siding.

When she is not at the Schoolcraft mansion, Begley spends time raising money for the job. A brick walk leads up to the home, with bricks bearing the names of people and businesses who have donated money toward the project.

"We charged $75 for individuals and $150 for businesses," she said.

At Town Hall, where she spends every Tuesday, Begley works on grant applications for the property, getting estimates for the heating and plumbing, and securing some of the 19 paintings that Schoolcraft brought home with him from a trip to Europe 150 years ago.

"I found two pieces in a museum in Ohio," she said. "Another is in the Philadelphia Art Gallery."

She has already secured one portrait for the mansion, which was donated by Key Bank, four years ago. The portrait of John Schoolcraft hung in the executive offices at the bank, along with two of the other three original presidents. The painting now hangs in the supervisor’s office in Town Hall, but Begley hopes to move it to the front room of the mansion when it is up and running as the Schoolcraft Cultural Center.

Begley hopes to have the house ready for a reception Christmas Eve, when she will open the doors to the people who have donated time, services, and money toward the reconstruction. She hopes that, by that time, she will also have received enough donations to put up an historical marker in front of the building.

While there are plans for opening parts of the house for a reception, the house will still not be ready to be officially opened for a while — she is shooting for two more years.

Full-time job

While the Schoolcraft house takes a lot of her time as historian, Begley still tracks down people’s relatives in cemeteries, writes pieces about her town, and answers a heavy load of phone calls each day.

Her office has a desk, stacked with enough projects to keep her busy; and two filing cabinets loaded with old issues of The Enterprise and papers recording everything she has worked on in the past decade.

That is her Tuesday life. Mondays, she works in Altamont, where she serves as the village historian. "There are a lot of facets of being a historian and I try to cover all of them," she said. "I created a mayors’ wall in Altamont, with photos of mayors since the village was incorporated in 1890."

That project took her over a year, with the help of volunteers from the village.

While Mondays and Tuesdays are the only days she goes to an office, Begley said that being an historian is a full-time job. "It takes all my time," she said. "All week, every week, every day there is something connected with being the town historian."

Dean, McIntyre, and DeLucia: Three honored at Altamont picnic

By Maggie Gordon

ALTAMONT — The Altamont Community Tradition presented three awards for Citizen of the Year Sunday, at the organization’s annual picnic.

The community turned out in force for the games, food, music — and to honor three of its own. The selection was easy, according to Beth Shaw, president of the ACT.

"There was a small committee," Shaw said. "We discussed General Citizen of the Year, Business Citizen of the Year, and Youth Citizen of the Year...We came to a consensus pretty quickly."

Dean named Youth Citizen

This was the first year the category Youth Citizen of the Year existed, Shaw said. The award went to Andrea Dean, a 21-year-old student at Russell Sage College, majoring in criminal justice.

"She is a very busy young woman, who is extremely involved in the community," Shaw said. "It’s heartening to see a young person in the community take such an active interest as well as working hard at school and in the work force."

Dean has worked at Hungerford Market for six years, and she is also the office manager at Altamont Physical Therapy. On top of her two jobs, and her status as a full-time undergraduate student, she is also an Emergency Medical Technician, and a member of the comprehensive planning board committee for the village.

Earlier this year, Dean was named Altamont’s Emergency Medical Service Provider of the Year, and she serves on the board of directors for the organization.

"During the school year, I work and do all these other things for probably about 50 hours a week on top of my course load," Dean said.

"It was s complete shock," she said of being named the Citizen of the Year. "I didn’t expect to be picked. I’m glad that the people appreciate what I do, but I don’t think that it’s anything anyone else couldn’t."

Dean told The Enterprise that her favorite part of living in the village of Altamont is "seeing people I know wherever I go — and I’ve met a lot of people working at Hungerford — and familiar faces."

McIntyre named General Citizen

Tim McIntyre was named the General Citizen of the Year at the picnic. "He goes above and beyond what he needs to do as the head of public works," Shaw said.

"I’ve been involved with the public works for quite some time," McIntyre told The Enterprise. "I give as much time as I can, about an hour here, three hours there, just to be able to help out."

McIntyre said he has tried to start food drives for the less fortunate members of the community and "little things here and there to help out."

One of the "little things" that McIntyre did to help his community was calming residents during the recent road construction in the village. "That was a great feeling," he said. "I really can’t put into words how I felt after that."

McIntyre was extremely thankful to be honored as the Citizen of the Year.

"It’s a great feeling, to have one person be picked by so many people as to be a great citizen — it’s an amazing feeling," McIntyre said. "I’m glad I could be able to do things to improve my community... I’m just glad to be a part of a community such as Altamont."

DeLucia named Business Citizen

Gilbert DeLucia, the former owner of the village’s pharmacy was honored as the Business Citizen of the Year, as was his late wife, Anna.

"It was a lifetime achievement sort of award," Shaw said. "He’s done a lot of community service work."

"This award came out of the blue," DeLucia said. "It was based primarily on the fact that I’m one of the old-timers here, and I ran the pharmacy for about 40 years. I guess therein lies the reason for them wanting to give me the award."

Gilbert and Anna DeLucia ran a pharmacy on Main Street in the village for decades. They were known for dispensing care and advice along with drugs. Mrs. DeLucia died in January, 2004.

DeLucia’s daughter, Michelle Perras, said that her father is involved with the Altamont Seniors and his church, St. Lucy’s.

"I’ve lightened the amount of work I do with the church," DeLucia told The Enterprise. "I do work with Altamont Seniors, but I have let the younger people do their thing lately.

"I was flabbergasted, and happy to see all those young people at the picnic. There was a good sense of community...We’ve known so many people for so many years and it’s more like family than it is a community in that sense."

DeLucia is 78 years old. "It’s very nice to be recognized. Quite frankly I don’t think I did anything special besides my work and my job. A lot of it was my wife. She was really my partner through all these years. I was very pleased to know that they thought about her."

NYISO on the move

By Maggie Gordon

GUILDERLAND — The New York Independent System Operator is planning on relocating 300 of its 400 employees, now in Albany, to East Greenbush.

NYISO purchased the former Phoenix Life Insurance building in East Greenbush on July 8, for more than $14 million.

NYISO is a not-for-profit organization that operates the state’s power grid and administers the wholesale energy markets, according to spokesperson Ken Klapp.

There will be no jobs leaving the company’s Guilderland headquarters, which is located on Carman Road, Klapp said. Instead, the employees from the system’s two Albany buildings will be moving over.

"Currently we operate out of four buildings, three of which are leased," Klapp said. "We’re trying to consolidate...This way people don’t have to move from building to building for meetings."

Right now, the company is leasing three of the four floors in the new building to the Phoenix Life Insurance Co., which will stay there until NYISO’s new home is finished in 2006. The remaining floor is undergoing preparations for NYISO to come in.

Klapp said the move is expected to begin at the end of this year, and be completed in 2006.

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