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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 18, 2005

Albany County Rural Housing Allience recieves much needed grant

By Holly Grosch

VOORHEESVILLE — The Albany County Rural Housing Alliance, headquartered in Voorheesville, has received $540,000 in grant money as part of the state’s $92.2 million dollar initiative for affordable housing across New York.

ACRHA received $500,000 this year — $100,000 more than last year — toward the HOME program, which pays for home repairs for very low-income people.

"We can never meet the need," said executive director Judy Eisgruber this week. The waiting list is up to 125 people, and, with this grant, the housing alliance will be able to serve 45 households, she said.

Sixty percent of those 45 houses are located in New Scotland, Guilderland, or the Hilltowns, Eisgruber said.

The money will be split among the residences rather than used for a few big expensive projects.

"There is more of a need than ever before," Eisgruber told The Enterprise. With the increased cost of health care, prescription drugs, and fuel, elderly residents are having to decide whether to eat well or keep warm, Eisgruber said.

Forty-thousand dollars of the $540,000 is allocated to the RESTORE program, which is used as an emergency fund for desperately-needed repairs to homes owned by seniors 62 years of age or older.

One person was housebound for a year, before the RESTORE program built a handicap ramp for the elderly disabled woman, Eisgruber said.

With the elderly remaining in their homes for longer and staying later into their lives, the alliance makes those old homes handicap accessible by widening the doors, putting in ramps, and redoing the bathrooms, she said.

The RESTORE program in the past has also paid for hot-water heaters, fixed leaky roofs, and replaced irreparable furnaces.

"One woman was warming hot water for three years with a Mr. Coffee Maker before she found out about us," Eisgruber said.

Another recent project was replacing the floor of a trailer, which had rotted out to the point where the trailer’s elderly resident was jumping over holes in the floor, Eisgruber said.

Many of the elderly are hidden in the community in pockets of poverty, Eisgruber said. Projects are prioritized based on health and safety, she said.

A lot of the seniors ACRHA is serving, Eisgruber said, have a yearly income less than $9,000, which is 15 percent of the median income for Albany County residents of about $63,500.

The grant money allocated to the HOME program which isn’t age specific, so families and seniors are both eligible to receive aid.

ACRHA is helping families of four whose income is $31,750, half of the median income for the county, Eisgruber said.

One of the most common projects needed on family homes is roof repairs, because water is literally leaking in by the buckets, she said.

First-time homebuyers can also apply through ACRHA to receive a $25,000 grant for the acquisition and rehabilitation of a home. Fifty-one percent of the money must be spent on rehabilitation but the rest can go toward the down payment and closing costs, Eisgruber said.

Anyone interested in applying for aid through ACRHA can visit its website at www.ACRHA.org, Eisgruber said.

VFD plans $1.2 M firehouse renovation

By Bill Sherman

VOORHEESVILLE — Village and fire-department leaders unveiled preliminary plans Tuesday for a $1.2 million upgrade to the 38-year-old firehouse on Route 156.

Calling the project "functional, not fancy," Mayor Jack Stevens told The Enterprise he estimates the cost to residents to be $80 per household over the next 20 years. The amount would be added to villager’s tax bills.

The engineering firm, Barton and Loguidice, is providing consulting assistance to the village for the project. Richard Straut, senior vice president of the firm, said the fire department needs more space to accommodate larger equipment and to provide a space for training and community events. The building is also in need of renovations to bring it into compliance with the current building code.

Among the renovations, Straut said, the equipment bays and training room will be expanded by more than 30 feet behind the building. The current heating and electrical systems are near the end of their life, Straut said. Both will be completely replaced.

Several safety and accessibility issues also need to be addressed. Currently the restrooms are not accessible to people with handicaps. Also the asbestos in the building needs to be removed.

Straut said the fire department received a $90,000 grant earlier this year to address other safety issues such as fire and smoke detectors, a sprinkler system, and an emergency generator.

He said residents will probably notice very little change to the firehouse from the street since most of the work will be done inside and in the back of the building. Straut also termed the project as a functional upgrade, as opposed to the huge expansion projects to firehouses in other Capital District communities.

Stevens was mindful of the cost to taxpayers.

"It’s a lot of money," he said. "The average village taxpayer pays about $80 now."

Stevens said the village trustees and fire department are only interested in upgrading the facility to meet new firefighting standards.

"We have no hidden agenda here," he said. "Residents are welcome to view what we have before us."

Stevens said the second public hearing on the firehouse proposal will be held at 7 p.m. on Sept. 13 at the firehouse.

"We are having two meetings to accommodate summer vacation schedules so everyone can attend," he said.

Residents should plan on a public vote on the project’s financing sometime in the fall. Straut said if the public approves the project, the next steps will be to completely design the building and to start the bidding process. If all goes as planned, the project could be completed in October of 2006.

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