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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 20, 2005


Mall crime
How effective is Crossgates curfew"

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — How effective has Crossgates Mall’s age policy been in reducing crime"

This July, Crossgates Mall enacted an escort policy, which, according to mall management, would reduce violence and arrests. Under the policy, on Friday and Saturday nights after 4 p.m., those under 18 must be escorted by a parent or guardian who is over 21.

A Guilderland police lieutenant told The Enterprise this week that she thinks the policy has been effective.

However, The Enterprise calculated the number of arrests at Crossgates Mall for 10 weeks before the policy and 10 weeks after and found that, since the police has been enacted, the number of arrests has not decreased. In fact, 87 people were arrested since the policy began, compared to 82 who were arrested in the 10 weeks before.

While the number of shoplifting arrests may be the same, because the mall’s anchor stores are still open to anyone, violence at the mall has been reduced, said Lieutenant Carol Lawlor.

The mall hasn’t had as many fights since the policy or shoppers calling the police to report concerns about large crowds that may get violent, she said.

"We support the policy," Lawlor said. "We think it makes a difference....We haven’t had too many issues with it; it seems to be going smoothly."

Mall management did not return calls from The Enterprise.

The idea for the policy came after two gang-related incidents occurred in March at Crossgates Mall. Then, police arrested at least eight people and, with a Taser gun, stunned two of them.

And, on May 7, a 25-year-old man was stabbed at the mall in what police said was another gang-related brawl.

These incidents, Guilderland Police Chief James Murley said then, and "increased violence on a weekly basis" at the mall, caused the escort policy.

However, after the May incident, no such arrests occurred, neither before the escort policy or after.

Carousel Center in Syracuse — which is owned Pyramid Cos., which also owns Crossgates — enacted an escort policy in 2003, to answer complaints of disruptive teenagers roaming the mall.

Since then, Carousel has had more visitors and increased sales on the weekends, Michael Bovalino, chief executive officer of Pyramid, told The Enterprise earlier.

Lawlor said this week that the police department has heard from many people that Crossgates Mall’s atmosphere is better on Fridays and Saturdays.

"We’re very supportive of the mall’s decision," she said.

With the Crossgates policy, on Fridays and Saturdays after 4 p.m., shoppers under the age of 18 need a parent or guardian, who is over 21, to escort them.

At Crossgates, extra security guards are to check shoppers’ identification cards at the entrances to the mall, stopping anyone under age and without an escort.

The Crossgates policy does not apply to the mall’s cinema area, to teen employees of the mall, or to the mall’s anchor stores with separate entrances.

Teens under 18 can enter those stores, do their shopping, and leave. Or they can go to the theater, see a movie, and leave. What they can’t do is congregate in central areas like the food court without being escorted by their parents.

On Friday at about 7 p.m., The Enterprise saw the identification guards, dressed in green jackets with pink buttons, walking throughout the mall. However, only the main entrance seemed to be monitored by a guard. The rest of the entrances were open and the guards paced the mall, looking for those under 18 who slipped through the unchecked doors.

The mall was very quiet Friday night and The Enterprise didn’t see the guards stopping anyone. Most shoppers looked well over 18.

On Saturday at around 4:30 p.m., the atmosphere was different. Three guards stood in front of a single entrance door and a line of teenagers waited to show their ID’s.

The guards — or "greeters" as mall management calls them — were courteous but firm and, while some of the teens looks disgruntled, they complied, showing their identification.

Under the policy, those who try to enter the mall without valid identification are asked to leave or are escorted to an area in the mall where they can wait for a ride.

More arrests

The Enterprise calculated the number of arrests from May 1 to July 14, before the policy went into effect, and from July 15 to Sept. 30, the same amount of time after the policy was enacted.

Before the policy, 82 people were arrested at the mall; 43 of those arrests were on Friday or Saturday nights. Of the total arrests, 22 were of people under 18 years old.

Since the policy, 87 people have been arrested; 32 of those were on Fridays or Saturdays. Of the 87 people, 27 were under 18 years old.

While no one was arrested for trespassing in the 10 weeks before the escort policy was enacted, 13 people have been arrested since July 15 in connection with the policy.

Eleven of these people were arrested because they refused to show their identification to the guards at the mall’s entrances. When pursued by the guards and later asked to leave, they refused and were then arrested for trespassing.

One arrest was for obstruction and the last was for disorderly conduct. Police said in both cases that the defendants interfered with others being arrested for trespassing.

In addition to trespassing, one of the defendants was also charged with two counts of second-degree assault, a felony; resisting arrest, a misdemeanor; and disorderly conduct, a violation.

Guilderland Police say that, on Oct. 2, they were called by mall security to deal with Cashaunna Tekia McGill, of 260 North Pearl St., Albany, who refused to leave the mall. McGill then punched an officer in the face and bit his arm, police say.

Not including McGill, since the policy has been enacted, six people have been arrested for disorderly conduct and one has been arrested for assault. In the 10 weeks before the policy, four were arrested for disorderly conduct and no one was arrested for assault.

These extra arrests haven’t been a problem for police, Lawlor said. When someone refuses to show their identification, first the guards at the doors of the mall handle it, she said. If there’s still a problem, mall management and security step in, she said.

"For the most part, people are cooperative," Lawlor said. On a few occasions, police have had to intervene, she said.

The mall pays a few Guilderland Police officers to be stationed there, she said. The number of officers varies, she said; it hasn’t decreased since the policy went into effect but it will increase soon, because of added holiday shoppers.


McKinnon steps down
Caregivers search for new leader

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — After almost two years, the executive director of Community Caregivers has decided to resign, but she’s not forthcoming about why.

"I’ve enjoyed my time here," Judith McKinnon simply told The Enterprise. "It’s a wonderful organization with very dedicated people."

When asked why she was leaving, McKinnon told The Enterprise this week that she wasn’t ready to discuss it. She plans on writing letters about it to Caregivers’ volunteers later, she said.

"She wanted to do something a little different," Joseph Purcell, the president of Caregivers’ board of trustees, told The Enterprise of McKinnon. "She wanted to get involved in work more directly related with clients."

Community Caregivers harnesses the energy and skills of volunteers to provide free services for Albany County residents in need. For example, a volunteer may drive an elderly person to a medical appointment or help an ailing young mother with child care.

The agency was originally based in Altamont and is now located at 300 Mill Rose Court, off Route 155 in Guilderland.

As executive director of the organization, McKinnon was in charge of fund-raising and management.

"She’s a sensitive kind of person and she liked to do more than management," Purcell said. "...I know her well enough to know the kind of thing she liked, so I wasn’t totally surprised."

He added that he’ll be sad to see McKinnon go. She will leave her post sometime between Nov. 1 and 15, Purcell said.

McKinnon began as Community Caregivers’ executive director in February of 2004. Then 50, McKinnon said she moved back to this area, after a decade of traveling west, to be near her three grandchildren.

"It’s a model program for this area," she said then of Community Caregivers. "There’s no other program in the Capital District that does what we do.

"The whole focus is to support people so they can remain independent in the home," McKinnon said then. "You know what I really like about his program" We all like to sit and listen to reminiscences about people...It harks of that time...so people feel they’re part of that. I think that serves us well."

Director search

Purcell replaced co-presidents Judith and Arnold Rothstein in July, but he had volunteered with the organization for years.

When Purcell took over as president, McKinnon told The Enterprise that Community Caregivers is heading into a new era where younger professionals are taking on leadership roles.

"We’re starting to be pretty intentional about bringing on board people that have professional connections to the community," she said then. "It’s been a natural evolution."

As part of the changing atmosphere, Community Caregivers also recently got a new vice president and two new members on its board of directors.

McKinnon said in August that she was excited about the shifting focus of Community Caregivers.

This week, when asked if her decision to leave was difficult, McKinnon said, "You do get close to people, but the needs of the organization have changed. They need certain things at certain times and certain people fit the bill at certain times."

Community Caregivers is now running an ad in The Enterprise, stating that the agency is looking for an energetic leader for organizational development, fund development, programming, and public relations.

Asked if the agency is looking for someone less like McKinnon, since she decided the job didn’t fit her, Purcell said it wasn’t.

"She brings characteristics that are terrific," he said of McKinnon. "We want someone sensitive to the program and empathetic to the clients we have."

When McKinnon was hired two years ago, the full-time position paid $39,500. Now, Purcell said, it pays somewhere in the mid-$40,000 range.

The job requires a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of five years’ organization leadership, preferably with a not-for-profit organization.

"We need someone who is very capable in the area of fund-raising and management," Purcell said. "We’re looking for somebody who has both kinds of strengths and who is service-oriented, although the person who becomes executive director won’t get to do a lot of services themselves."

Résumés will be accepted until Nov. 10 and then a committee, consisting of board members and other Caregivers’ volunteers, will begin interviews. When McKinnon applied for her job two years ago, she was selected out of 100 people, Purcell said.

"Hopefully, we’ll get a lot of people interested again," he said.


Saving country
G’land adopts rural plan; rejects two-acre zoning

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — The town board changed the zoning in much of western Guilderland Tuesday. The change was part of enacting the rural Guilderland plan — adopted in July and drafted over two years — that some residents first fought and then, with compromise, came to praise.

Still, about 50 people attended Tuesday’s hearing with concerns. Some said they had never heard of the rural plan and were worried about the changes.

The new zoning, called Agricultural-Rural 3 and 5, will keep the characteristics of the old Agricultural zones, but will encourage clustering and open-space preservation, said Supervisor Kenneth Runion.

Several of the dozen residents who spoke at the town board meeting said they worried the plan would encourage development.

During the many public hearings before the rural plan was adopted, many residents said they wanted development in western Guilderland. Many others said they favored the plan because they thought it would control development.

The town board even agreed Tuesday to change the name of the new zone — from Rural 3 and Rural 5 to Agricultural-Rural 3 and Agricultural-Rural 5 — to please the newest concerned residents.

Before the change, farmer Ernie Rau and a few others told the board that they were upset the word agriculture would be taken out of their zoning district. If developers don’t see that word, the landowners said, they’ll begin building houses without knowing that farms are nearby.

"I’m vehemently opposed to it," Rau said, almost scolding the board for omitting the word.

When the plan was first drafted, the new zones were called Agricultural 3 and Agricultural 5. The town changed the name when some residents said it was confusing and led people to believe that the land couldn’t be developed.

"All agricultural uses are permitted," Runion said. "If it makes people feel better, we can throw the word agriculture in."

Other concerns

With the old Agricultural zoning, two-acre, grid-type development is allowed, Runion said. If the entire town developed like this, "It would be worse than suburban sprawl."

The new zoning has "cluster-type development," Runion said, with three-acre density for the Rural 3 zone and five for the Rural 5.

Lots that are currently smaller than three or five acres will be grandfathered in, he said.

The new zoning also gives developers incentives to extend public water lines, preserve open space, and add sidewalks and bicycle paths, he said.

Some people told him they were concerned about their farmland, which is already included in an Albany County agricultural district, Runion said.

The county’s zoning designations supersede the town’s. Some areas in town are zoned residential and farming isn’t usually allowed there, Runion said, but since they are in the county’s agricultural district, farming is allowed.

John Heller, of Hawes Road, told the board that his house is close to his neighbor’s. If the neighbor sold his property under the new zoning, Heller said, "I could have a little village next to me."

He’s worried that the new zoning will encourage development in his part of town, he said.

With the new zoning, Runion replied, the town will have better development patterns then currently allowed. Over time, he said, the town will have 4,000 acres preserved as open space. Without the zoning changes, he said, no open space will be preserved and land would "just be gobbled up by two-acre lot sizes."

"People move to rural areas for space," said Ken French, of Chandler Road. "It looks like this is catering to urban people that want to get away from the city a little, but still have the city atmosphere."

French also raised concerns that the board never mentioned bringing public water to the western end of town.

The western half of town, which, except for the village of Altamont, does not have municipal water, is rural while the eastern part — with water — is largely developed.

During the earlier public hearings, some residents said they wanted town water so their part of town could be developed. Others stated they were glad western Guilderland does not have municipal water, because that keeps developers away.

Paul Nelson, of Gardner Road, said Tuesday that public water will determine whether or not rural areas will be developed.

"Does the town feel obligated to make sure large landowners are able to develop their land"" he asked.

"No," replied Runion. If land is elevated to over 350 feet above sea level, as it is in western Guilderland, the town has to physically pump water upward, which is difficult and expensive, he said.

The town is studying whether it can loop existing dead-end water lines in western Guilderland, Runion said, which would improve water quality and quantity to some residents.

After more questions, some from residents who previously knew nothing about the rural Guilderland plan, the town board unanimously approved the new zoning.

"Zoning is one of the most emotional issues," Runion said. But, he said, without the plan and the new zoning, the western part of town would become suburban sprawl.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Approved sewer assessment rates for 2006;

— Was presented with a study by Delaware Engineering on the feasibility of looping water lines, to improve water quality and supply, along Route 146 in Guilderland Center and Route 158 in western Guilderland.

The board members were each given a packet of information to review and they agreed to discuss the issue further later;

— Approved a work order for a radio-system upgrade at the town’s water-treatment plant;

— Authorized the police department to go to bid for the sale of surplus items, such as recovered bicycles; and

— Heard from Town Clerk Rosemary Centi that anyone interesting in being a ballot clerk or inspector for the Nov. 8 election should contact her at Town Hall.


Serafini cleans up, avoids court deadline

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — After the town board heard complaints about developer Anthony Serafini’s zoning violations and The Enterprise ran a front-page story on the violations, Serafini has since been making progress in correcting the problems.

Rodger Stone, Guilderland’s zoning-enforcement officer, said this week that Serafini has been cooperating with the town. His tickets to clean up all of his property or appear in court have been lifted, Stone said.

At last month’s town board meeting, Andrew Linehan said he and his neighbors were upset that Serafini had been violating the zoning code for years without punishment. Unsatisfied with the zoning department’s response, Linehan asked the town board for help.

Serafini owns part of the upscale subdivision where Linehan lives — Williamsburg, off of Fuller Station Road.

For years, Linehan said last month, Serafini has had construction debris and unregistered vehicles and trailers on the property.

Stone told The Enterprise then that Serafini has been in violation of the zoning code for a long time. Stone said the town has been trying to work out solutions with Serafini and he said that, if Serafini didn’t remove the debris and trailers by Sept. 26, a judge in town court will decide his punishment.

At the time, Serafini told a much different story. The developer said in early September that he knew nothing about the Sept. 26 deadline or about having to remove the debris and trailers from his property.

"I’m a very clean person. I’ve never even had a parking ticket," Serafini said.

This week, Stone told The Enterprise that Serafini never had to appear in court. The day the front-page story ran on his zoning violations, Serafini and his wife met with Stone and Donald Cropsey Jr., the town’s chief building inspector an zoning administrator, Stone said.

Serafini had already removed one tractor trailer by that Thursday, Stone said. Two days before that, The Enterprise took a picture of the two tractor trailers that were in violation. Most of the length of the vehicles were in the woods, surrounded by tall shade trees.

On Sept. 15, the town decided to give Serafini more time to remove the other trailer, Stone said. That’s because it is filled with "finishing materials for the interior of a home," Stone said; Serafini needs to find a place to store these materials.

Linehan also complained about a small office building on Serafini’s property. The office’s building permit is dated Dec. 1, 1987, Linehan told the town board, and was only good for six months.

Of the small office, Stone said then that the building permit did expire in 1988 and no new permits have been issued.

The office is a small, clean-looking building surrounded by a neatly-trimmed lawn. The office is across the street from a backyard that is surrounded by a tall, wooden fence.

Stone said this week that Serafini applied for and was granted a new building permit for his construction office.

Construction supplies and brush are strewn about the property, Linehan and Stone both said earlier. The only debris The Enterprise saw was a pile of what appeared to be branches and yard brush near the tractor trailers. This is in a wooded area, not in the direct view of any houses.

Stone said this week that most of this rubbish was under the tractor trailers and Serafini is working on removing it.

Serafini also had two signs that didn’t conform to the town code and permits for those were supposed to be renewed every six months, but weren’t.

Stone said this week that Serafini took the "junky" sign down and applied for a new permit for the "nice" one.

No specific date has been set for Serafini to comply with his remaining violations, Stone said, but he agreed to do it before winter. No neighbors have complained since, Stone said, and he feels confident that the town and Serafini are working things out.


Examining cost of health-care benefits

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The school board is examining health-care benefits for district employees, which this year cost $8.2 million or 10.8 percent of the district’s $76 million budget.

The cost has about doubled from the $4.1 million the district paid five years ago; in 2000-01, health insurance accounted for 7 percent of a $59 million budget, and costs have been rising steadily since.

At last Tuesday’s board meeting, Superintendent Gregory Aidala said the topic will be on the board’s agenda before Jan. 1 and the start of the budget-building process for next year.

"We’re keeping it on the front burner," he said.

Board member Peter Golden raised the topic at the September board meeting, and the superintendent subsequently presented the board with a report on the district’s health-insurance benefits.

Golden said there are "a whole host of things" the board should look at to "get a handle on what we’re facing."

He recommended, for example, looking a numbers of employees close to retirement and numbers of retirees using health insurance.

Board member Barbara Fraterrigo commented, "I never really realized once a retiree dies, his spouse continues with the insurance."

Golden also asked, "Do we have any compliance plans in place"" He said most major corporations use such plans and they are effective in reducing costs.

"I certainly get uncomfortable with the notion of us looking at compliance," responded board Vice President Linda Bakst. "If the insurance company isn’t doing that, I have no interest in looking at if our staff is taking their insulin or blood-pressure medication. I don’t want to go down that road."

"I don’t know that it’s an invasion of privacy," said Golden.

Board member Richard Weisz said he’d like to see what other school districts provide.

And board President Gene Danese said, "I don’t think information ever hurts."

An overview

Aidala’s 20-page report provides an overview of employees’ health-care plans at Guilderland, with comparisons to other local districts.

"It is fair to say that Guilderland offers a health-insurance benefit to its employees that is comparable to those offered by other area schools," the report states. "The benefit package is a means to attract and maintain employees of the highest caliber in a very competitive marketplace within Albany County."

Unlike like most districts, Guilderland does not negotiate health benefits during the collective-bargaining process with labor unions.

"Often, health insurance is a contentious issue and prevents many contracts from settling without protracted and difficult negotiations," the report says. "Also, there can be a disparity in benefits among employees if benefit changes are agreed to with only one bargaining unit at a time."

Instead, Guilderland, for more than 35 years, has had a District Health Insurance Committee, which includes representatives from each of its 12 bargaining units.

Over the past two years, changes made by the committee — for example increasing co-pays from $10 to $20 — have saved the district about $800,000 annually, the report says.

Guilderland offers health insurance — covering medical, dental, and prescription drug costs — to hourly employees who work at least 20 hours a week and to salaried employees who work half-time or more.

Retirees can continue the district’s group health insurance plan if they have worked for the district for at least 10 years. Most the bargaining units offer benefits for surviving spouses.

Although workers are eligible for coverage, participation is optional and the district does not offer buy-outs for workers who choose not to use the benefit.

The district currently offers four plans:

— Capital District Physicians Health Plan, a health-maintenance organization, which files for rate increases with the state, is used by 59 percent of Guilderland employees;

— Blue Shield Preferred Provider Organization, an experience-rated plan, meaning that premium rate increases are influenced by the cost of claims incurred, is used by 22 percent;

— Blue Shield Health Plus, another experienced-rated plan, is used by 12 percent; and

— MVP, a health-maintenance organization plan, is used by 7 percent.

Seventy-eight percent of retirees use Blue Shield Preferred Provider Organization; it is the only plan offered with nationwide coverage.

In 1996, Guilderland joined the Capital Area Schools Health Consortium, which currently has 15 members.

Most of the Suburban Council districts, like Guilderland, offer a choice of health-plan options, with both health-maintenance organizations and experience-rated plans.

For active employees, the report says, area school district percentage contributions range from 67 percent, for new employees only, to 100 percent, with most districts contributing 90 percent or more.

Guilderland, since the early 1980’s, has paid just 80 percent of health coverage, the report says.

A chart of 12 local school districts shows Guilderland below the middle in terms of percentage of its school budget devoted to health insurance — at 10.8 percent. Seven schools are higher and four are lower.

The districts with the highest percentages are Ballston Spa at 14.5 percent and Voorheesville at 13.3 percent. Those with the lowest percentages are North Colonie at 8.7 percent and Niskayuna at 9 percent.

The report concludes, "The district is experiencing large premium increases as are other employers throughout the country. The cost of maintaining the high quality of health care in this country, coupled with very expensive drugs and extended life spans of former employees, has led to the sharp rise in health-care costs."

Guilderland has made changes to help control costs, the report says. This includes shifting from indemnity plans (major medical plans that allow unrestricted access to doctors and nationwide coverage) to provider networks where rates for services are negotiated. It also includes increasing co-pays and "placing more stringent limits on services," the report says.

"These efforts, in cooperation with employee representatives, have resulted in significant cost savings of approximately $1.2 million over the last two years," the report says. "As part of our discussion and analysis, members of the District Health Insurance Committee clearly recognize that cost-saving measures must be addressed now and in the future given the rate increases experienced over the past several years."


Guilderland School Board
Raises for administrators, a clean audit, no idling buses

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — School administrators and supervisors will receive raises of under 4 percent for the next three years, according to two contracts ratified last Tuesday by the school board.

The agreements were ratified by the board unanimously and without public discussion.

Susan Tangorre, administrator for human resources, went over the details of the contracts for The Enterprise after the meeting.

Both contracts will run from the 2005-06 school year through the 2007-08 school year.

The contract with the Guilderland Central School Administrators’ Association, a bargaining unit not affiliated with a union, applies to 12 administrators — assistant principals, principals, and the special-education administrator.

The percentage increase for the first year of that contract is 3.95 and salaries that first year range from about $68,000 to $93,500. The percentage increase for the second year, and again the third year, is 3.75.

"We are asking all units, as we negotiate, to agree to direct deposit," said Tangorre; this is in keeping with recommendations made by the state comptroller and applies to both new Guilderland contracts.

"No other significant pieces" were changed in the administrators’ contract, said Tangorre.

Next to administrators’ salaries at other comparable Capital District schools, those in the Suburban Council with Guilderland, Tangorre said, "We’re in the low middle." Comparable Suburban Council administrator salaries range from about $68,000 to $102,000, she said.

The newly-ratified agreement for the Supervisory Unit of the Guilderland Teachers’ Association applies to nine supervisors, Tangorre said.

This includes two supervisors at the middle school — one for English, reading, and language arts, and the other for math and science; supervisors at the high school for English, social studies, and math-science; and district-wide supervisors for foreign languages, art, and music; as well as the health, physical education, and athletic director.

The percentage increase for each of three years will be 3.85. In the first year, salaries for the nine supervisors range from about $75,000 to $95,600.

It is difficult to compare the salaries to other supervisors in the Suburban Council, Tangorre said, because seven of the Guilderland nine work for 12 months of the year; the other two work 10 months.

The salaries for supervisors at other Suburban Council schools range from about $74,000 to $106,000, Tangorre said.

About other changes, Tangorre said, "We agreed to look at use of secretarial time."

The brunt of meeting new testing requirements falls on supervisors, she said, and some share secretaries.

"We may not be increasing time or staff, but realigning so it’s efficient," said Tangorre. Such discussions will be part of the annual budget process, she said.

Other business

In other business, the school board:

— Reviewed the draft, not released to The Enterprise, of a state-required independent audit, and heard comments from two employees of Dorfman-Robbie CPA’s PC, the firm that conducted the audit.

They said Guilderland received "a clean audit report" and went over the new requirements legislated by the state at the comptroller’s recommendation after fraud at a Long Island school district.

The board had previously discussed the changes. It agreed last Tuesday to form a five-member committee — made up of three board members and two volunteers from the community — to guide the audit process;

— Heard from Guilderland High School senior Kaitlin Jewell that the Class of 2006 is hosting Trick-or-Treat Street at the high school on Oct. 29.

Kids from the community can trick-or-treat safely, she said, as they go from room to room in the school, each sponsored by a different club or team. Pre-sale tickets cost $3;

— Accepted a donated viola from Cynthia Englehardt and a gift of two speakers from Lori Hershenhart, district music supervisor. The viola and the speakers will be used at Farnsworth Middle School;

— Reviewed policies on student complaints and grievances, on energy conservation, and on not letting school buses idle.

"We basically do this anyway," said school board member Barbara Fraterrigo of not letting buses idle.

Fraterrigo, who chairs the board’s policy committee, went on to say not idling saves money and is also better for the health of children.

"Diesel exhaust is difficult for kids to cope with," she said; and

— Went into executive session to discuss administrative performance reviews, and to be updated on litigation and on the selection of a high-school principal.


Not forgotten
Stanton plans to honor Iraq veterans

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

ALTAMONT — Drop in unannounced to take a picture of Darlene Stanton and what is she wearing" Red, white, and blue, of course.

She describes herself as a patriot and has put her effort for years into helping veterans.

As president of the Ladies Auxiliary at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Altamont, Stanton is currently working on a community-wide celebration for Veterans Day — A Salute to Hometown Heroes. It will take place on Saturday, Nov. 5, in Orsini Park at the center of the village.

"Tim McIntyre came up with the idea," said Stanton. McIntyre is the head of public works for the village and active in community affairs. "He was in the service himself. We know a lot of the kids coming back now from Iraq and Afghanistan," she said. "They deserve a welcome home."

Stanton knows "the kids" because she’s spearheaded a campaign to send care packages to local men and women serving abroad.

She describes, with tears filling her eyes, what she envisions for Saturday afternoon on the village green.

"The sun will be shining. It will be warm, but not too warm," she says. "After the parade, our Gold Star Mother will change the wreath. There will be veterans from World War II and Korea and Vietnam and Desert Storm, and they will all come together with the new veterans.

"We’re going to honor these kids, and their parents too, for what they’ve been through — for us. I don’t want them to feel like the guys did coming home from Vietnam. I don’t want them to be forgotten."

Stanton’s voice trails off.

Her husband, Arthur, a trucker, served in the Vietnam War. She joined the VFW because he did.

"When they came back from Vietnam, it wasn't like the other wars. When our guys came back, they were spit on and called baby killers," said Stanton.

She’s had help in planning the Nov. 5 celebration.

"A lot of the Vietnam vets say, ‘They didn’t do this for us,’ and I tell them, ‘If I was here, I would have.’"

Her husband, she said, does not have good memories of the war. While watching TV news coverage now, he’ll say, "They build up one soldier dying. Do you know how many soldiers we lost""

"I want to be sure it’s different this time," said Stanton.

Everyone’s mother

Stanton says her work on veterans’ projects takes as much time as a full-time job, about 40 hours a week.

She works the bar at the Boyd Hilton Post in Altamont.

She is president not just of the local auxiliary but she is also Albany County Council president and conductress for the Third District.

She has worked on projects ranging from essays and artwork contests for children to putting together holiday baskets for elderly vets in the Veterans Affairs Hospital or donating goods to local shelters for homeless veterans.

"I feel it makes a difference," said Stanton. "I appreciate what I have," she said, struggling for words to express herself. "And it feels good to help people who might otherwise be forgotten."

She’s also involved in many local celebrations — a Gold Star tea, for parents whose children have been killed in battle; the annual Fourth of July picnic; Altamont’s Memorial Day parade.

Stanton grew up in Clarksville, the oldest of three children in a family dedicated to community service.

Her parents, Donald and Mary Ann Hendrickson, both volunteered for the Onesquethaw Fire Company and were leaders of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Her father, now retired, drove a fire engine for the Albany Fire Department and was an emergency medical technician. Her mother did volunteer work along with raising the three children — Darlene, Donald, and David.

"She was always like a mother, even as a girl," said Mary Ann Hendrickson. "She was always babysitting somebody’s kid. My youngest son, David, she’s his mother."

Stanton works now as a nanny.

"She’s got a great personality; she gets along with a lot of people," said Hendrickson.

Stanton credits others. The response to the Nov. 5 Hometown Heroes Day, she said, has been "awesome."

"We’re sending out invitations to all the kids we know, all of our kids," she said. "They have been so appreciative that they have not been forgotten."

Stanton is looking for others to invite and celebrate; she urges those who are veterans or who know veterans to call her at 768-2586 or e-mail her at wwdeedeeass@aol.com.

"We all work well together," said Hendrickson of the women in the auxiliary. "When Darlene says she needs help, everyone volunteers."

Both mother and daughter are women of action.

When The Enterprise asks Stanton if she has a favorite picture at the post she’d like to pose next to, she immediately describes a float in a recent Altamont Memorial Day parade. Marines, dressed in World War II garb, reenacted the raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima.

Stanton scans the walls, each covered with a wide array of plaques, awards, certificates, and photographs. First, she looks in the pine-paneled meeting room, then crosses purposefully through the room with the bar where a few men sit watching television, then on into the room next the kitchen, where she often works.

"There it is," she says, pointing to the picture that looks much like the famous one by Joe Rosenthal.

The photograph is blocked, though, by stacks of metal folding chairs, resting in bins.

Before the photographer can suggest another venue, mother and daughter have wordlessly set to work, clearing the bins of chairs from the wall. In no time, the picture is visible.

Stanton points to the treasured photograph and flashes a ready smile.


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