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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 3, 2005

Fisher wins Times library award

By Matt Cook

VOORHEESVILLE — When The Enterprise spoke to Voorheesville librarian Suzanne Fisher yesterday, she was preparing Ceylon punch—a concoction of tea and fruit—for a book group. The group was going to discuss The Hamilton Case, Michelle de Kretser’s historical-fiction novel about colonial Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Fisher explained, and she wanted to serve something that went with the book.

"I do go all out," Fisher said. "I’ve been told I’m rather obsessed."

Fisher’s obsession has paid off. She has been selected as one of the 27 winners of the fifth annual New York Times Librarian Award. Over 1,200 public library librarians from across the country were nominated for the award, which includes a $2,500 cash prize.

Fisher was nominated by Dennis Sullivan, a regular Voorheesville Public Library patron, the village’s historian, and the editor of a respected journal on justice.

In his nomination, Sullivan wrote: "[Fisher] has shown me, and our community at large, what it means to be a dedicated civil servant, what it means to be a source of inspiration as she injects life into the library and the community’s young and old alike...When you come into our library, Suzanne is the person who sends you out a far richer person—always!...She is the jewel in our library’s crown."

When Sullivan told her of the nomination, Fisher said, she was flattered. After a while, though, she said, she forgot about it until a call came from the New York Times.

"I was just flabbergasted. I didn’t really expect to get it," Fisher said.

Winning the award is nice, Fisher said; it’s the greatest achievement of her career. Even greater, she said, is the fact that the award exists at all.

"I think the thing that pleases me the most is somebody took the time and the effort to recognize public library librarians," Fisher said. "It’s not a status job. It’s not a highly paid job."

Fisher, of Albany, is the head of adult services at Voorheesville. She has worked in the library for 17 years. Before that, she was on the reference staff at Union College in Schenectady.

Fisher didn’t grow up in a family that read a lot. It was a librarian who showed her how to love books.

"There was a librarian in elementary school who really inspired me, who gave me good books and encouraged me," Fisher said. "I guess that stayed with me."

That inspiration stayed with her after she finished college with a degree in French and decided to earn a master of library sciences degree at the University at Albany.

Librarian is a good career for a humanities student, Fisher said.

"I always say, ‘I know a little about a lot of things,’" she said.

Sullivan noted Fisher’s wide range of knowledge in his nomination.

"I soon found out that this librarian could talk with authority not only when she assisted me with a difficult reference question about Peter Stuyvesant, but also when she offered information on a good restaurant in Portland, Maine, or spoke about the influence of the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, on the monastic world," Sullivan wrote.

Besides her monthly book-discussion group and her duties as a reference librarian, Fisher organizes an annual classical music concert at the library, and writers’ workshops.

The most recent workshop was led by Vermont mystery novelist Archer Mayor.

"I think this area has a lot of opportunities to hear writers, but I don’t see a lot of opportunity for people to actually learn from a published and successful writer how to write," Fisher said.

Recently, Fisher organized the library’s first book-discussion field trip. After reading The Glorious Cause, by Jeff Shaara, a novel about the Revolutionary War, Fisher led 34 people on a trip to the Saratoga Battlefield for a guided tour by a University at Albany history professor.

The event was a hit, Fisher said, with people asking for more events like it.

"I like to try to be creative and come up with new things," she said.

Though the popular perception is that, with the Internet and television, libraries are becoming irrelevant, Fisher doesn’t believe that.

"People say the end of reading is coming and that’s not true," she said. "There is still that core love of literature. Most of the librarians I know, that’s why we’re here."

Village board delayed plans for up to six new homes

By Jo E. Prout

VOORHEESVILLE -- The village board exercised caution last Tuesday, as it delayed plans for a housing development and resolved to create an alternate planning commission seat.

Superintendent of Public Works William Smith told the board that developer Eric King wants to hook up six new homes near Swift Road to the village sewer plant. King does not want to pay for a study of how that would be done until he has village approval, Smith said.

King, who owns Equinox Construction in Albany, told The Enterprise that he has no formal project, yet.

"We’re just looking at the capacity" of the sewer system, King said. "We’re waiting for engineers to come back to us to say, ‘Yes, it would work,’ and then make a formal proposal."

"I think he should come before the board before you approve anything," said Village Attorney Anne-Jo McTague at the village meeting.

Board member William Hotaling said that water is the main topic of the next board workshop in one week, and that King should approach the board then.

Building Inspector Gerald Gordinier said that King plans to run his own line to the system. The plan has nothing to do with the existing village line, Gordinier said.

Smith said that sewer system number one has enough capacity to take on King’s project. He said that the new system, updated when Mountainview Road was redone two years ago, was designed to accommodate the elementary school, homes on Mountainview Road, the proposed 48-unit senior housing to be built near St. Matthew’s Church, and a few more homes.

Smith urged the village board to have any further applicants who apply for sewage services pay for an engineering study to determine the additional load on the system.

New commission design

McTague wrote a resolution to establish a seat for an alternate member of the planning commission. She said that the alternate would allow the commission to vote at all scheduled meetings, once a candidate has been appointed and approved by the mayor. Before the alternate position was created, applicants had to wait for a quorum, which does not always attend the commission meetings, she said.

Mayor John Stevens said that a similar resolution had already been passed to create a zoning-board-of-appeals alternate.

A rebuttal

Stevens told the board that a critical letter written by former village clerk Lauren Meacham and printed in The Enterprise two weeks ago was a "personal attack on me. Don’t take it personally."

When the letter was printed, The Enterprise asked Stevens to respond to Meacham’s letter, but he would not. Instead, he invited concerned citizens to attend the October meeting.

Stevens responded to the letter’s main points last Tuesday at the meeting. He said that Meacham criticized a $50,000 computer purchase.

"The software was dropping data," Stevens said. "We bought a whole, complete system," rather than a single computer, he said. After the village had an audit done, discrepancies were found in the payroll accounts, he said. Stevens said that the discrepancies could have been caused by the failing software.

Stevens said that Meacham’s concerns about the construction on Prospect Street were unfounded, because the village has received "only praise" for the sidewalks that were installed.

Stevens said that the village had not increased the office staff by 40 hours weekly, as Meacham stated in her letter. The village has a part-time employee for 20 hours as it had in the past, Stevens said.

He said that Meacham was correct that the village lost the bus-parking contract with the school system. Stevens said that the school chose not to renew the contract at the old rate of $15,000.

Regarding the new parking lot next to village hall, where a razed building once stood, Stevens said, "The village purchased that house solely to take down for parking."

McTague said that repairs to the house would have been expensive.

Stevens apologized to the board for the long response, and said that he had hoped his response in The Enterprise would have brought any interested residents out to the meeting.

"The only ones here tonight are the paper and our representative from New Scotland," Stevens said.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Hired a part-time worker for up to four weeks to help with village leaf clean-up. The extra help would "keep the job moving and get it done quicker," Smith said. Smith said that funds to cover the expense could be pulled from a payment interval between when one employee left and another began.

"We’ve done it in the past. The budget shouldn’t be a problem at all," Stevens said;

— Learned that resident Margaret Snowden, whose property is near Martin and Picard roads, has a water tap for the village system paid for back to 1982, Smith said. Smith said that he tried to locate the tap, but only found poison ivy; and

— Nominated Richard Stewart to be chairman of the Conservation Advisory Council.

Planning Board says: no re-zone

By Holly Grosch

NEW SCOTLAND — It didn’t take long for the planning board on Tuesday to decide unanimously its recommendation to the town board — not to change the medium-density residential zone in the northeast quadrant of town.

Last month, the Northeast Neighborhood Association submitted a petition to the town board with about 170 residents’ signatures, requesting to rezone the medium-density residential zone east of the abandoned D&H railroad bed, to permit only two-acre lots, a lower density than what is currently allowed.

There are three pieces of land zoned MDR in the northeast quadrant. The town board limited the scope to consider re-zoning only the medium-density residential district that is east of and abuts the abandoned railroad bed.

The Garrison Development Group’s subdivision proposal called Kensington Woods lies within this medium-density zone.

The preliminary housing plan calls for 286 clustered units on 267 acres of land with lots ranging in size from 9,000 to 40,000 square feet. Houses are proposed for both the west and east sides of Hilton Road, which comes off of Route 85A and serves as a through road to Krum Kill. The northeast side of the proposed development would run along Font Grove Road.

The proposed residences range in price from $300,000 to over $1 million.

Kensington Woods would occupy a little less than half of the medium-density residential zone that is just north of the railway bed. The rest of this MDR zone includes large chunks of land owned by Robert Cook, the Genovesis and the Donatos.

"I’m sick and tried of people trying to tell me what I can and can’t do with my land," Anthony Genovesi told the planning Board calmly Tuesday night. Two-acre lots is a "ludicrous request," he said.

"It’s the same old, same old people" who are coming in and trying to "manipulate the law for their own agenda," Genovesi said. "It’s the same people who stopped me from having a cell tower," he said of the neighborhood association efforts in 2002. Genovesi said he decided it was time for him to defend himself.

His farm is very hilly, so he needs the ability to cluster lots for development, he said; the cost of infrastructure would be too much if the houses had to be spread out over two-acres lots.

One Font Grove Road petitioner, Andrew Carnell, told The Enterprise earlier that he wanted the zone change to protect the rural character of his neighborhood.

"The concept of putting a home on less than half of an acre will really change the character of the area," Carnell said; it will "turn an area traditionally under-populated to a very populated area."

More than half of the town’s northeast quadrant is already zoned Residential 2-acre .

Planning board Chairman Robert Stapf said Tuesday that he thinks the planning board can protect the character of the town through the subdivision and site-plan review phases of development proposals.

The Kensington Woods plan has not come before the planning board yet.

Zoning rationale

Stapf said that he was on the planning board when this medium-density residential zone was created. He had participated in making the 1994 comprehensive plan and so did current planning board member Robert Smith.

Stapf said that when they looked at designating MDR zones, they were looking for areas of town that have the ability for development, including having water resources, and in this area of town there is water in the ground, Stapf said.

The town’s building inspector and zoning administrator, Paul Cantlin told The Enterprise last month that a pump test of the well on the Kensington site had been done last year — the well pumped over 400 gallons a minute for 72 hours, he said. That aquifer could supply the whole commercial area, Cantlin said.

On Tuesday night, the planning board compared the differences between an R-2 District and an MDR.

A Residential 2-acre district generally has slopes and soils that are not the best for construction; the purpose of an R-2 zone is to discourage growth, Stapf said as he read from the town zoning ordinance.

MDR zones are for areas of town that are accessible to other population centers, can feasibly be serviced with public water and sewer, and are generally outside the prime agricultural areas, the ordinance reads.

The medium-density residential zone permits lots of 22,000 square feet.

"We spent at lot of time creating this MDR," Smith said. There is water accessible to this land, and the area will accommodate growth, he said. "I’m adamantly against changing the zone in this area," Smith said.

Stapf said that he doesn’t like everything about the initial Kensington Woods proposal, but this is an area of town that is conducive for development. There are a number of benefits to developing this area, Stapf said. One is fire protection and the other is that it will bring more people into town, which will encourage commercial growth.

Board views

Planning board member Chuck Voss, said he agreed with the rest of the board, that this land is suitable for development for a number of reasons. He added, "I would hesitate to support any zoning changes."

Voss went on, any re-zone action anywhere in town would have to have an updated comprehensive plan to support the reasoning for the change. He said he’s not saying that an update to the comprehensive plan needs to be done now, but he thinks rezoning "shouldn’t be done as part of a knee-jerk reaction."

This land is where utilities are a possibility, planning board member Kevin Kroencke said. He doesn’t think what Kensington Woods is proposing currently is moderate-priced housing, but he said, "two-acres lots, — all that’s going to do is increase the price."

For 25 years now, the town has seen many proposals for this old Tall Timbers property and it’s still not developed, Smith said. And this is the most feasible area in town for growth, he said, as he expressed concerns for New Scotland’s lack of development.

"That zone was created for a good purpose and we should leave it," Smith said.

Planning board member Lorraine Tuzzolo said, "I think the law should stay the way it is," echoing other board members.

The board voted unanimously and passed its recommendation on to the town board.

Only one planning board member, Cynthia Elliott was absent, because she was out of town, but she had shared her sentiment with Cantlin before she left; he then conveyed to the board that she was not in favor of the rezone either.


Planning board attorney Louis Neri emphasized that the planning board’s recommendation is in no way binding. The town board simply had asked the board to take a look at the petition and offer its advice. It is now up to the town board to decide if it wants to hold a public hearing on the matter, Neri said, and make a final policy decision.

Councilman Richard Reilly, who is the liaison to the planning board, told The Enterprise on Wednesday that he views the planning-board recommendation as "a step in the process" and that he would like to "continue with the process" which includes environmental review and "certainly a public hearing."

"I appreciate the input from the planning board," Reilly said. He also appreciated that most of the board members explained their reasoning of their well-thought out position, he said.

Referring to the residents of the northeast quadrant, Reilly said, "I know it’s an issue folks over there feel pretty strongly about, both for and against." There are significant consequences of a re-zone for them personally, but also significant consequences for the town as a whole, he said, such as development and access to water.

Reilly said that he is not yet ready to issue an opinion on the matter.

Since several planning-board members expressed that there shouldn’t be zoning changes unless there is something that changed to justify it, Reilly said he would like to go forward with the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) with assistance from the town engineer, to see if things have changed.

Reilly said that he would certainly give weight to what the planning board said as he considers his final vote.

School renovation project begins

By Holly Grosch

VOORHEESVILLE — The elementary school building has historic charm but also historic parts.

Such as flooring from the 1930’s, and a 45-year-old heating system.

The Voorheesville School District is planning a $3 to $4 million renovation project for the school.

One of the greatest expenses is replacing all the unit ventilators, estimated to cost $1 million, and upgrading exhaust and ventilation across the building — in corridors, classrooms, and the gymnasium — totaling about $670,000 more.

Other elementary-school building renovations include:

— Removing asbestos floor tiles and putting in new vinyl composition floor tiles;

— Finding a permanent solution to foundation and water leakage at the lower gym;

— Replacing existing ceilings and putting in new corridor lighting;

— Rehabilitating masonry on the exterior facade and chimney;

— Replacing windows with new aluminum windows with insulating glass;

— Solving the problem of moisture on the lowest level;

— Redesign wheelchair accessibility to the entrance; and

— Installing energy-management systems, including digital control of equipment, and low voltage control wiring.

Along with the major improvements to the elementary school, another $1 million worth of renovations are planned for the high school and middle school.

This makes the overall expected project cost for both buildings $4 million to $5 million.

Construction is planned in two main phases, starting in the summer of 2006, with most of the major renovations to be made in the spring and summer of 2007.

A public referendum on the project is expected in April.

The last major building project for Voorhesville’s school district was in 2002, Assistant Superintendent for Business Sarita Winchell said, but only minimal work was done at the elementary school — the leach field was abandoned for environmental reasons because it was too close to the stream, and the school was hooked up to a public sewer system.

While the main focus currently is to upgrade the elementary school, a few things were left at the high school which need to be picked up now, Winchell said. Original bathrooms, the tennis court, and 1989 roofing needs to be replaced.

And, at the middle school, locker rooms need to be renovated; new fixtures, tile, ceiling, and partitions are needed, plus some areas of the locker room need to be made accessible to people with physical limitations.

The greatest single expense

Currently, each elementary classroom has its own unit ventilator, Michael Goyer, the director of operations and maintenance, told The Enterprise. The units date back to the early 1980’s, he said.

The uni-vents take fresh air from outside and mix it with the heated air inside and then redistributes the combination of air throughout a room, he said. The heated air comes into the rooms through separate piping.

Goyer said that he has a hard time finding parts for the old uni-vents and last winter, with sub-zero temperatures when the power went out, a few of the unit ventilators froze and burst. Unit ventilators are essential for indoor air quality, he said.

Besides the uni-vents, the way that air circulates throughout the building needs to be updated, Goyer said. There is a ventilation system for the building, but that dates back to the 1960’s when the addition was put on, he said.

Voorheesville’s old system does not meet the most current specifications for air circulation — the building is stuffy, Winchell said.

Upgrades will bring the air exchange up to the current code, Winchell said, so that there is proper exhaust.

Improving the air flow will help with heating costs and also prevent the stifling high temperatures that were recorded in some of the elementary school’s second-floor classrooms last spring. It wasn’t the outside heat so much but the lack of air flow, Winchell said.

The district has hired an engineering firm to investigate remedies, Goyer said. There isn’t piping that circulates air through the building, so it is dependent on natural air flow, where the hallways are and openings are to rooms, he said.

Professional team

The school board hired Integrated Building Systems Engineering Consultants for its mechanical and electrical-engineering services. Kevin Murray is the principal engineer tied to the project.

Integrated Building Systems regularly partners with Dodge, Chamberlin, Luzine, and Weber Associates Architects, which the district also agreed to hire. Michael Fanning is the architect assigned to Voorheesville.

And, the Chazen Companies will be providing the site work and environmental analysis such as the State Environmental Quality Review documentation under the leadership of engineer Joel Bianchi.

The three-company team was proposed by the consulting engineers and approved by the school board at its last meeting.

Murray said they specialize in schools and are familiar with the problems associated with construction at a school. His company brings to the table experience and expertise in technology, electrical work, plumbing and heating, ventilation, air-conditioning analysis and design.

Fanning said 85 percent of the work done by his East Greenbush architectural firm is public school facilities. His firm often works with Integrated Building Systems, the two are practically integrated, collaborating on architectural and engineering design, Fanning said.

Bianchi said he is being brought in for the groundwater issues at the elementary school.

The scope of the over-all project still needs to be worked out.

Superintendent Linda Langevin said that the district’s building committee took representatives from the firms around the school and showed them the "nooks and crannies."

School board member James Coffin, a member of the building committee, said that he likes the idea of using local firms.

Langevin said, while the committee is made up of board members, the building principals, and Goyer, the district still needs to add teachers to the committee as well.

Integrated Building Systems submitted a preliminary proposal report to the school board at the October school board meeting, addressing the basic time line and scope of the project with expected cost.

Prior to a referendum being held, the consultants will be paid $18,600.

A capital reserve fund of $500,000 was established with voter approval after this year’s April school elections, but that money cannot be spent without approval by the voters.

Winchell said that the $18,600 will come out of the general fund for now, but, once voters hopefully approve the capital-improvement project, the general fund will be reimbursed with money from the reserve fund.


Voorheesville gets 61.8 percent back in state aid on building projects, Winchell said. The rest is funded through a voter-approved bond issue; 1989’s bond issue will be paid off in 2008-09, Winchell said.

Phase one of construction is smaller, and starts in spring of 2006, then runs through that summer. It’s a time to expedite projects including replacing the roofing, redoing the high-school tennis courts, and replacing some of the flooring at the elementary school, the engineers’ report reads.

The report states that these projects can be designed quickly and completed with readily available materials.

Winchell said, if the district can spend under $100,000 on a capital improvement project next year, it will get full aid the following year.

Elementary school

The elementary school, recognized with an historic maker by the side of the road, is comprised of three buildings.

The original building is still the front of the school today, alongside where the buses pull up; the front door dates back to the 1930’s, Winchell said. An addition was put on and attached to the right of those front doors in 1949; which blends into the original architecture, Winchell said. The modern back part of the building, seen from Route 85, was added in 1963, Winchell said.

The old section of the school still has original flooring, but now there are "several layers of floor that are cracked and a mess," Winchell said.

The district has waited for years for the state regulations on the removal of asbestos tiles to change and the floors can’t wait any longer, Winchell said. The floor is not friable, or easily crumbled, he explained.

The only time the asbestos would become airborne is if someone were to grind down the tile, Goyer said. So In terms of replacing tiles, touching the tiles to remove them there is no danger, Goyer said. But the glue under the tiles is mastic, and there are regulations to remove the tiles and air sampling that has to be done, he said, which the school’s maintenance staff is not qualified to do.

The engineers’ plan says that, in the 1930-40 building, all the existing layers of flooring down to the asbestos tiles can be removed for about $250,000 to $300,000. The new vinyl composition tile will cost $50,000 to $60,000.

A separate major issue at the elementary school is drainage.

The school’s gymnasium no longer floods through the door, Winchell said but there are drainage issues.

In the mid-1990’s, Voorheesville received a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a flood wall was erected, paid for by the government; since then, there hasn’t been a problem with flooding, but now the concern is groundwater, Winchell said.

In the corner of the small gym where the floor and the wall meet, there is some leaking, she said; it is unclear at this point what is causing that. Also, moisture forms on the basement floor, so the engineers are going to look into how to mitigate that, Winchell said.

When the septic systems went in, part of a storm drain may have been damaged, Winchell said.

The engineering report estimates that solving drainage and leakage at the lower gym could cost anywhere from $250,000 to $450,000. Solving the moisture issue in the lower floor will cost about $140,000. The engineers are considering regrading the existing lawn to slope away from the building and or installing subsurface drainage.

Things are at a real preliminary stage right now, Goyer said.

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