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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 9, 2006

Blume outlines American Wars

By Jarrett Carroll

ALTAMONT — The Spanish-American War made the United States a world power and marked the beginning of modern diplomacy, says a local professor.

Ken Blume sees similar patterns between that 19th-Century war and our 21st-Century war with Iraq.

"We didn’t have any ambassadors at all until the 1890’s," said Blume.

An Altamont resident, Blume is a professor of history and chairs the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Albany College of Pharmacy where he has taught for 17 years. Scrawcrow Press, Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc., recently published his book Historical Dictionary of U.S. Diplomacy from the Civil War to World War I.

His new book alphabetically outlines all of the terms and phrases used from the Civil War to the First World War.

"I wasn’t quite sure how to approach writing a reference type book like this. When I got into it I found it quite fun. The challenge was finding a reasonable word limit," Blume said. "It was an opportunity to think about a lot of these big issues. It gave me a perspective I never had before, even though I have studied this period for the better part of my career."

"The stakes were very different," said Blume about 19th-Century diplomacy, "depending on your assessment of the world today."

Blume was not exactly comfortable with word "parallel" when comparing the Spanish-American War and the current Iraq war. There are many variables in the conditions leading up to both wars, Blume said.

"It wasn’t a matter of needing Cuban sugar, or we would die," said Blume. "After all, the weapons were not as destructive during that time."

He did, however, say that patterns in American diplomacy leading up to both wars were similar.

"There was probably an over-emphasis with the threat that the situation posed to the United States," Blume said.

The media factor

Media and its effect on public opinion was a big factor in the lead-up to both wars, said Blume. The Spanish-American War had the first major, and often sensationalized, media coverage. With the explosion of the U.S.S. Maine in Cuba’s Havana Harbor, newspapers quickly polarized the American public even before a proper investigation of the explosion was conducted.

Slogans such as, "Remember the Maine, and to hell with Spain," quickly become a part of the public mentality toward a second-rate imperial European power.

"The media was the newspaper in the Spanish-American War," said Blume.

Blume joked about William Randolph Hearst, an American newspaper magnate from California sending an artist to Cuba to sketch pictures for his flagship paper, The San Francisco Examiner.

When the artist said there was no war to sketch, Hearst supposedly told him, "You send me the picture, and I’ll find the war." This type of rationale was often the case with sensationalizing newspapers during that time period, said Blume.

"The newspapers blew it out of proportion, no pun intended," Blume said, as he described the rise of yellow journalism and tabloid news during the Spanish-American War.

Blume pointed to a recent study of the Maine which suggests the explosion was the result of internal complications and not because of foreign sabotage.

Media is still being used in modern times, as during the buildup to ousting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. News outlets aired images over and over of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, standing before the United Nations with a small glass vile, saying that a similar amount of a biological agent could wipe out an entire city. Similarly, no American can forget the images played over and over of the terrorists’ attacks which took place on Sept. 11, 2001.

Much of the American public believed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, partly because of vast media coverage, even though the United States Government later announced that its intelligence information was inaccurate. Powell has since told several media outlets, that, if he had known the information was faulty at that time, he may not have called for the use of military force in Iraq.

The media has the ability of making the general public aware of what is going on in the world and in their own backyards, said Blume.

"Technology in the late 19th-Century and now, have made war a more immediate experience"and more and more average people are aware of what their government is doing," Blume told The Enterprise, about the correlations between technology, media, and public awareness.

A major difference between diplomacy leading to the Spanish-American War and the Iraq war is a direct result of the changing technology. Blume said, because of delays in communication in the 1800’s, people were more easily calmed because the events were less current, less immediate. Those making foreign policy at that time were better able to keep things balanced, added Blume.

Today that is not possible with several different forms of instant communication and people traveling around the world much faster than previously.

The first war photographs taken, said Blume, were during the Civil War. The pictures showed fields of dead bodies and many people lost their romanticized view of war as a result.

"People were shocked to see this, and for it to seem so real," said Blume, about people’s reactions to the Civil War photographs.

Blume explained, much like the Vietnam conflict being broadcast into the homes of millions of Americans, the photographs taken during the Civil War changed the way Americans viewed war.

Forgetting the past"

"It is typically American to have very short memories," said Blume. Dismissing the cliché, "History repeats itself," Blume said, that similar patterns are apparent which most probably have to do with human nature more than anything else.

"A nation is made up of people, and people act in a certain way," said Blume. "International diplomacy is made by people and carved out by people."

"Lessons of the past" can be used as reminders and guideposts for the future, said Blume. All too often, Americans do not recognize these patterns and therefore either fall into similar patterns or simply do not prepare for them.

Americans also tend to look at their successes and not at their failures, according to Blume.

"There is an overwhelming sense of optimism in America, and it is historically an American trait," said Blume. "The problem with the U.S. and the American people is that we haven’t had enough failure. The American people have always been very successful."

Blume said he believes, in modern times, the United States uses a World War II model as an approach to international diplomacy and our role in the world. He adds, "The lessons of these positive experiences is what we always expect to happen."

However, that is not always the case, which is part of the reason why Americans still carry around bruised egos from the controversial Vietnam conflict in the 1960’s and ’70’s, said Blume.

"In the Gulf War, you could almost see the government trying to avoid what happened in Vietnam. That doesn’t seem to be the case in the Iraq war," Blume told The Enterprise.

Much like Yugoslavia, Blume said, maybe Iraq should not be a single country, because historically it never was.

"It is American naïveté to think we can walk in, snap our finger, wave a magic wand, and make everything democratic," said Blume.

The 19th-Century was drastically different since America was not a targeted enemy, and there were not adequate weapons for smaller nations to threaten the United State’s security, explained Blume.

"During the Cold War period, you could say, for example, that the Soviet Union was the number-one enemy. Now, you can say this international network of terrorists is our enemy," Blume said. "You couldn’t do that in the 19th-Century. America didn’t have any one enemy. Certain countries did not like the U.S., but they we were not enemies."

Today, however, there is a feeling that American growth and prosperity is connected with international ties, Blume said, and that as Americans we are trying to find out what we are to the world today.

"If you read the words of the politicians of that period," he said of the late 19th-Century, "you can still hear it today. What is the role of the U.S. as a beacon of liberty and freedom" We liked to talk about it then and we still do today," Blume said.

"Once slavery was abolished after the Civil War, the United States could be a moral beacon again"These lofty ideals, the right ideals, these concepts all came from the period of the Spanish-American War," said Blume.

Today there is still a lot of rhetoric," Blume said, "about how the U.S. has to do good things around the world."

Sound barriers to be built in McKownville

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — As part of the $5.7 million project, the New York State Thruway Authority has approved funding for 10 sound barriers along the Thruway, in order to reduce rising motor-vehicle noise levels in residential areas around the Capital District.

Three sound barriers are slated for construction in McKownville along the Thruway.

The McKownville Neighborhood Association is hailing the Thruway allocations as a major victory, but says more needs to be done.

"It’s great," said the association’s president, Don Reeb. "We did want to get it extended to Schoolhouse Road, but it is still a good thing."

The association wants to get another sound barrier approved for the area along the western portion of Schoolhouse Road.

Five other locations, besides the Schoolhouse Road section, were cut from the original 15 sound barriers that the state’s Thruway authority had considered.

Portions of the Thruway will reconstructed as part of the same project. The dilapidated concrete base is to be reconstructed and a third lane will be added in each direction of the Thruway. Thruway authorities say this will help cut down on traffic jams.

The two-year construction project will begin in 2009.

The sound barrier locations and cost are as follows:

— Along Townwood Drive, Green Hill Court, Sand Pine Lane,
and McKown Road the barrier will cost $1.58 million;

— Along Vaughn Drive and McKown Road the barrier will cost $347,000; and

— Along the Strawberry Lane Condominiums the barrier will cost $336,750.

Faster E-ZPass

Also, the New York State Thruway Authority announced it will earmark $3.5 million for E-ZPass improvements from Albany to Buffalo.

The money will be used over the next six months in order to enhance E-ZPass services, create more lanes, have 40 additional higher-speed lanes, and embellish signs.

Thruway Authority Executive Director Michael Fleischer said in a released statement, "With these improvements, approximately 56 percent of Thruway toll lanes will be available for dedicated E-ZPass use."

Currently, 47 percent of all Thruway toll lanes throughout the New York State system are dedicated E-ZPass lanes.

In the Albany Division, the authority wants to add 17 higher-speed lanes. At least one high-speed lane will be added to the Exit 24 interchange in Albany.

No lanes are being added to the Guilderland exit, according to the New York State Thruway Authority.

Pass Civil Service exam
Trio keeps jobs at water plant

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — Three water-treatment plant operators, who suddenly had to take Civil Service exams after years of service, passed their tests and were officially appointed to their positions at Tuesday’s town board meeting.

After controversy and several articles written by The Enterprise, Peter G. Letko, William R. Dodge, and Dean M. Sim, were all unanimously appointed from the Albany County Civil Service list by the town board. Collectively, the three men have worked at their jobs for over 25 years.

"Albany County Civil Service required all of the Albany County employees to take that test," said Supervisor Kenneth Runion during the meeting.

Board member Paul Pastore asked why there were four names on the list.

Runion explained that the other name was an Altamont worker, and that Runion was given a list of all the eligible names in the town of Guilderland by the Albany County Civil Service Department.

Runion told The Enterprise last month that the town might sue the county if one of the men failed the exam and was removed from his job by the Civil Service Department.

There have been three known Civil Service employees who have been fired in the town of Guilderland, and one in Voorheesville, because of failed exams since the Albany County Civil Service crackdown began.

Petty cash

The board also unanimously approved establishing a $150 petty-cash fund for the town court. Without the petty cash, the court cannot make change for people paying tickets, fines, or fees; they must presently pay everything in exact amounts.

"In the past, the justice court did not have petty cash," Runion said, adding that currently, people have to run out to an ATM or go to another town agency office in order to make change for payments.

Additionally, the board unanimously appointed town-designated consultants to begin reviewing the application of Atlantic-Pacific Properties, Inc., for zoning changes to 57 acres at their Winding Brook Road and Route 20 property. Behan Planning Associates and Delaware Engineering were appointed as town consultants for various projects pertaining to the Atlantic application.

"I thought Delaware Engineering has done a good job in the past, and I think they would be good for this project," said Runion. Delaware is going to work on the environmental impact portion of the application, Runion said.

Other business

In other business, the town board unanimously:

— Authorization the Department of Water and Wastewater to replace the electric control panel at Suzanne Lane Pump Station, which is a budgeted item;

— Approved the release of escrow funds held on behalf of Sandpiper Associates, L.P.;

— Accepted the bid of SM Gallivan for grinding and removing yard waste from the town transfer station for 2006. The bid was recommended by transfer station Superintendent Tim Spawn because it was the lowest bid. There will be four separate pickups throughout the year. The other two bids were put in by William Biers, Inc. and Wood Waste Reduction Services;

— Set a public hearing to amend alternative veterans’ exemption limits local law, which was established in 1998 and amended in 2001, and was recommended by Assessor Carol Wysomski. The public hearing is set for April 4 at 7:30 p.m. at town hall;

— Authorized Guilderland Police Department to bid for a building-access system which will be paid for by Homeland Security Funding.

"We received a grant from Homeland Security to reimburse us for a number of security items," said Runion. One of those items is a card key system, or a building-access system used primarily for the police department, Runion said;

— Adopted resolution implementing the National Incident Management System in order to receive federal-preparedness funding. Runion said courses and training of some town employees would have to take place over the next year in order to be eligible for the funding. "The county would certify that all local agencies have complied to the mandate," said Runion, who added, "We are ahead of the game in terms of training our employees"; and

— Accepted a utility easement from Precision Homes on Fuller Station Road, for water and sewer.

Residents opposed to restaurant plan

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — More than a dozen residents — some of them angry — of what they describe as a quiet neighborhood off of Route 20, objected to plans for a restaurant in their midst.

The zoning board heard their concerns last Wednesday about plans to convert 2026 Western Ave., site of the old Phoebe’s Florist, to an Italian restaurant.

"I’m totally against this"Would you want an extra 100 people running around outside your house"" asked one resident from Sumter Avenue during the public meeting.

Connie Ware, a Guilderland resident, is asking the zoning board for a regulation variance and a special-use permit, in order to build a 500-square-foot addition, so she can convert the flower shop into an Italian restaurant.

"I grew up in Guilderland, and then came back four years ago," said Ware. She told the board that she has worked at many restaurants around the country, including places like Las Vegas and Atlanta. Ware said she came back to her hometown because Guilderland is one of the best places in the country to do business, and that the area was in need of a high-class, fine-dining Italian restaurant.

The restaurant, she said, would offer an intimate setting, seat 60 to 70 people, and have complimentary valet parking. The proposed restaurant is to be open five to six hours a day, six days a week, and would employ around 15 workers.

Those operating hours upset several neighboring residents.

"There’s a lot of accidents at five o’clock. When is the restaurant going to open" At five o’clock," said a neighbor about the already-congested traffic flow on Western Avenue.

Residents say the florist was open during normal business hours and did not affect their quite neighborhood during the nights and evenings.

Other residents say they do not want to be stuck in rush-hour traffic on Route 20, trying to turn onto their streets as restaurant patrons wait for valet parking or look for parking themselves.

The proposed restaurant, residents told the board, will have a negative impact on their neighborhood. The lights of cars and the business, increased traffic, restaurant odors, excess noise, and the parking of patrons will all cause problems, they said.

Ware gave the board a detailed construction plan and outlined her plans to mitigate any negative problems the restaurant may create.

According to Ware, the Western Avenue access to the property is going to be closed off and a side-road entrance will be created to stop backups on the busy avenue during rush hour. An extensive landscaping plan was also proposed in order to help block headlights and the neighbors’ view of the restaurant and parking lot, and to enhance the look of the property.

To aid the parking situation, Ware has also made a deal with another local business to use its parking lot for additional parking after 5 p.m.

Ware added that she will not be serving "bar food," and that the restaurant will not have a bar atmosphere, so the lack of fried foods will cut down on possible odors. People, she said, will only be drinking alcoholic beverages with their meals.

According to Ware’s proposal, the small bar, a part of the restaurant, will only seat six or seven people and will primarily be used for those waiting to be seated or waiting for the arrival of other guests.

Telling neighbors that she understood their concerns, Ware said she would like to work with residents on her plans to make the business transition as smooth as possible. She reassured them that the restaurant will be patronized by responsible people who only want to enjoy a fine dining experience during reasonable hours of the evening.

Neighboring residents’ concerns were not abated by Ware’s presentation to the board.

"I don’t want people parking in front of my house"It changes the face of the neighborhood," said one woman who lives on Cornell Avenue.

"It’s not that we’re against business," said another resident, who continued, saying that the neighborhood is very isolated and quiet even though it is right off of Western Avenue; she pointed out that even a slight increase in traffic would be very noticeable.

Throughout the meeting, zoning board Chairman Peter Barber had to remind residents that he understood their concerns but that the location was zoned for a restaurant.

"I will repeat. A restaurant is a permitted use," Barber said about the mixed residential and commercially zoned areas along Western Avenue.

The board decided to reconvene the permit hearing in another two weeks and asked Ware to come back with more details on her plans for landscaping, lighting, driveway use and parking, and creating an odor-free environment.

"I want to have an open discussion on the intensity of the use," said board member Charles Klaer, about the restaurant’s impact on the neighborhood.

Other business

In other business, the Guilderland zoning board:

— Unanimously approved a special-use permit for Douglas Turner to convert the Center for Teens building at 2323 Western Ave. into a religious facility. The Open Door Church will be 6,800 square feet, employ two full-time workers, have approximately 54 members attend services on Sunday, and hold a Bible study group on Wednesdays; and

— Unanimously approved a two-week temporary banner for the UPS store at 1971 Western Avenue.

School board mulls
Would land purchase be wise or wasteful"

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The school board will decide March 14 whether the public will vote in May on purchasing a strip of land in front of Guilderland Elementary School.

Board members expressed a variety of opinions last Tuesday on whether it was wise or wasteful to purchase the eight-tenths of an acre along Route 20.

The land is owned by the YMCA, which built a recreation facility across Route 20 on Winding Brook Drive. It bought property near the school to reconfigure the school’s driveway so it would line up with Winding Brook Drive for a single traffic light at the intersection.

Last year, the district executed an option-to-purchase agreement with the YMCA. The option runs until June of 2007 and the price for purchase is set at $175,000.

The cost of the option is $2,700 a year, said Superintendent Gregory Aidala, which is applied to the purchase price.

The district could pay for the parcel either by taking out a loan or by including the purchase price in an annual budget, he said.

The public must vote to approve a school district’s land purchase.

The board is deciding whether it should put the matter to public vote this year or wait another year or not exercise the option to buy at all. If it is to be on the May 16 ballot, the board must decide at its next meeting on March 14.

The property is zoned as business, non-retail professional which Aidala described as "a light business function."

A disadvantage, Aidala said, would be that whatever business moves in would share the school’s driveway.

Mixed reactions

Board member John Dornbush said that the consensus at a recent Altamont PTA meeting was there "had to be a compelling reason" for the purchase, like using the land to build a district office.

The Altamont parents, he said, would rather see money spent on something like foreign-language instruction.

Board Vice President Linda Bakst reported different responses at PTA meetings she had attended. Sentiment was divided at Lynnwood Elementary, she said, "maybe 50-50." Some felt it was a smart investment while others felt it couldn’t be justified.

Parents at the high school, Bakst said, supported the land purchase. They thought it was "a wise thing to do," she said, for security reasons and as a potential site for a new district office.

"What is the advantage of us exercising the option in year one instead of year two"" asked board member Thomas Nachod.

"None," responded Aidala. "Next year, we’ll have to make a decision or re-negotiate."

Board member Richard Weisz said he favored purchasing the parcel. "We don’t know who our neighbor would be," he said. Weisz added, though, that purchase would depend on if it were "a budget-breaker."

"Without an educational use, it can’t be justified," said board member Catherine Barber. If the school district bought the land, it would be off the tax rolls, she said.

The zoning, Barber said, would mean a business like a lawyer’s office or doctor’s office or day-care center or newspaper would move in. Barber, whose husband chairs the town’s zoning board, also said that the business would have to go through "a detailed procedure" to get a required special-use permit that would consider such matters as traffic and landscaping.

Board member Colleen O’Connell, a lawyer like Barber, countered that, despite "presumed innocence," a criminal-defense lawyer’s office next to the school or a psychiatric practice would make her uncomfortable.

"They don’t make more land," said Bakst. "It does preserve options."

Board member Barbara Fraterrigo said that parking is an issue at Guilderland Elementary School.

She also commented on the questionable condition of the current district offices, located on the middle-school property on Route 156.

The district had considered including an upgrade to its offices as part of the $20 million bond vote that expanded and updated the middle school but ultimately rejected the idea for fear of losing voter approval overall.

"These folks basically work in trailers that are 20 years old," said Fraterrigo.

During the last inspection, there was worry, she said, "about the roof caving in."

"You want your people working in safe conditions, including your administrators," said Fraterrigo as the administrators at the board table chuckled.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Recognized that a collective bargaining unit formerly affiliated with the National Education Association of New York will now be identified as the Guilderland Central School District Employees’ Association.

A majority of the unit members voted for the change, said Susan Tangorre, the district’s human resources director. The unit has about 200 members, which include cooks, cashiers, bus drivers and bus aids, mechanics, and custodians, she said;

— Agreed to put to public vote May 16 a resolution authorizing spending up to $828,200 for nine new school buses, including seven large ones.

Based on feedback from a transportation consultant, and board response, the district decided to add the seventh large bus after all so that it won’t have to catch up in future years, said Assistant superintendent for Business Neil Sanders;

Weisz thanked the administration for adding the bus;

— Established two memorial scholarships.

One is in the name of Dale C. Westcott and the other is in the name of Joan H. Murphy;

— Recertified the district’s shared decision-making plan, as required by the state;

— Adopted a 185-day school calendar for next year.

O’Connell, referring to the April break being scheduled in the second week of the month rather than the third, said she was troubled to see the calendar "attempting to follow the religious holidays as a public school."

The break starts on Good Friday, April 6, and runs through April 13, including Easter Sunday. It also includes part of Passover, which runs from April 4 to 10.

Superintendent Aidala explained that, in coordinating the calendar with other area schools and the Boards of Cooperative Educational Services, he had voted for the third week, but that was not the consensus of the group.

To have Guilderland act independently, he said, would cause problems for the district’s 75 vo-tec students as well as for the special-education students that use BOCES classrooms in Guilderland schools.

"I think it sets a horrible precedent," said O’Connell, who was the only board member to vote against adopting the calendar.

"We’re doing it for practical reasons," said board President Gene Danese;

— Appointed 10 more members to the Citizens’ Budget Advisory Committee — Donald Csaposs, Daniel Filor, Carol Gnacik, Robert Hilt, Carolyn Kelly, Charles Kuon, Karen LaFreniere, Raymond McQuade, and Mark Owen — bringing the total to 27;

— Heard from Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Nancy Andress that 38 students participated in the Farnsworth Middle School spelling bee.

The winners, who will represent Farnsworth at the regional spelling bee at The Egg in Albany on March 13, are: Clare Ladd, Jean Kang, Tim O’Connor, and Kristen Cagino;

— Heard that two Guilderland Elementary School staff members — librarian Meg Seinberg-Hughes and second-grade teacher Cathy Beadnell — will present a workshop, "Cultivating Children’s Writing Through Mentor Texts," at a March 17 Capital Area School Development Association conference;

— Learned that Guilderland ranked first in the region and 15th in the state, according to preliminary results or the High School Math League Conference;

— Heard that five Guilderland High School art students — sophomores Jen Richardson and Amy Peterson, junior Bethany Patton, and seniors Shannon Hanley and Lindsy Barnhardt — have their work showcased at "Art in Three Dimensions," a show at Niskayuna High School through March 16;

— Reviewed policies on visitors to the school and on the musical instruments program; and

— Met in executive session to discuss interscholastic coaches for the spring season and to review administrative benefits.

School board prez to step down

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The school board president, Gene Danese, announced last Tuesday that he will not seek re-election to the board. His announcement came on the heels of a similar declaration from the board’s vice president, Linda Bakst.

Both Bakst and Danese will have served on the board for nine years — three three-year terms. Both were elected to their current leadership posts in July.

Last spring, two of the board’s other long-time members and leaders, William Brinkman and David Picker, also stepped down.

Danese offered some advice last Tuesday to those who will seek seats in the May 16 election.

"Don’t be a one-issue candidate," he urged. "You need to be concerned with the total package."

Second, he urged candidates to recognize that change is a fact of life; the school must adapt to change to maintain quality, he said.

"Have an open mind," Danese urged.

Finally, he said that school-board governance is one of the "purest forms of democracy we have."

If it is not well-used, he cautioned, this form of democracy could be lost.

"I urge you to vote," he said.

Thomas Nachod, the board’s longest serving member and a former president, told Danese, "You provided...a great level of professionalism. You always cared for the kids...while exercising fiscal responsibility."

Nachod concluded that Danese had done a "fantastic job" and said it was "a privilege to serve with you."

Danese, 58, works for the New York State Education Department, certifying teachers and administrators. He holds a doctorate degree in higher education administration, a master’s degree in teaching social studies, and a bachelor’s degree in geography with a minor in history — all from the University at Albany.

Parting thoughts

Danese is proudest of "the fact I’ve stuck to my principles — providing a quality education at a reasonable cost," he told The Enterprise this week.

Danese believes that funding is the greatest challenge faced by Guilderland and all public-school districts in New York State.

"We have to face reality," he said. "Sooner or later, if incomes don’t rise at the same rate as taxes, there will be a voter backlash."

After years of urging the district to consider alternative funding sources, Danese is pleased that this year such a committee has been formed; he believes a foundation may be the best route to pursue.

On a larger scale, Danese said New York needs to look to other states for ways besides property taxes to fund schools. Florida uses hotel taxes to fund education, he said, and the state of Hawaii has consolidated its schools into one district.

"Funding has got to be more at the county or state level," said Danese. "Right now, property taxes account for 70 percent of Guilderland’s revenues with the state providing only about 26 percent.

"Guilderland has a good reputation as a school district," said Danese. "That’s why people want to live here. There’s a balance in everything."

Within the district, Danese pointed to money-saving measures such as the board’s recent scrutiny of health-insurance costs. (See related story.) He credited Peter Golden, who joined the board in July, with being "instrumental in getting us to look at it."

Danese said that he believes that, eventually, bidding out insurance will be "the way to go."

Danese concluded, in looking back at his nine years on the board, "I’ve stayed true to my philosophy of getting the best bang for the buck."

"Why do we do this""

The third board member whose term will be up this year is Richard Weisz. He told The Enterprise last month, at the time Bakst made her announcement about not seeking a fourth term, that he will run again.

Weisz, a lawyer, has served for two terms.

"I believe in public education," he said, "and I feel a commitment to continue. I still feel I have the energy to and something to contribute."

During last Tuesday’s televised meeting, Weisz asked rhetorically of school board members, "Why do we do this""

He went on to list student accomplishments that had been highlighted earlier in the meeting — ranging from middle-school spelling-bee winners to high-school math league rankings.

"We’re on the board because it’s about the kids...," said Weisz.

"Take a moment to look and see what our students are actually doing," he concluded, "and then we’ll talk about how we’ll pay for it."

School-board elections are May 16, at the same time as the budget vote. (See related story.) Candidate petitions are available through the district office. The board’s nine members are unpaid and candidates do not run on political party lines.

Budget: $3M increase proposed for GCSD

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The school superintendent has proposed a $79 million district budget for next year — an increase of about $3 million or 4.51 percent over this year.

He estimates Guilderland residents would pay 5.66 percent more in taxes — or $19.39 per $1,000 of assessed value.

"I’d much rather see it lower," said Superintendent Gregory Aidala, but the hike is needed, he said, "to maintain the program and goals."

Aidala presented his spending plan last Thursday to volunteers on a citizens’ committee who will review the proposal in a half-dozen televised sessions over the course of the month.

The school board is slated to adopt the budget on April 11 and voters will have their say on May 16.

"We hope our revenues go up and we can control costs and live happily ever after," said Aidala. "Easier said than done."

The plan calls for some administrative cuts (see related story) and for cutting 25 or more teaching assistants for a total of 150 hours.

"Children are our community’s future," Aidala said as he concluded his presentation. "Everyone has a stake in the success of our schools. We’re proud of the Guilderland Central School District but we also have to ensure that the financial resources in our schools are used wisely to educate students.

"Balancing program needs with the impact on taxes is very important," said Aidala.


The $79,048,065 budget proposal counts on about $20.5 million in state aid, which accounts for about 26 percent of the total costs.

While the dollar amount of state aid to Guilderland has increased from five years ago, when it was $18.9 million, the percentage of the local budget it covered has declined steadily from about 31 percent.

The $20.5 million Guilderland is planning on for next year assumes $300,000 in state aid will be restored.

"The single biggest source of revenue becomes property taxes," said Aidala; this will account for about 70 percent of the spending plan. The rest comes from a variety of sources including federal funds and room rentals to programs using the Guilderland schools.

The budget drafters have planned on using $850,000 from the district’s fund balance, the same as this year, and they have assumed property assessments in the town of Guilderland will increase by $10 million.

"I think that’s a conservative estimate," said Aidala.

He displayed a triangle-shaped chart that listed, at its base, state-requirements and, on top, non-required expenditures supported by the school board such as social workers, psychologists, art and music programs, advanced high-school courses, enrichment programs, and half-day kindergarten.

For the first time in decades, the state met its April 1 deadline last year for adopting a budget, making it easier for school districts to adopt their budgets.

Guilderland’s $76 million budget was approved by 56 percent of the voters last May, in a year when property values jumped dramatically because of town-wide reassessment.


The district currently has 5,551 students, a decline of 94 from the previous year. Guilderland expects another slight decline next year — of 37 students — to 5,514. The district employs 1,108 workers — 700 full-time and 408 part-time.

"We are a people-intense organization," said Aidala, noting that typically 75 percent of the budget goes for salaries and benefits.

Aidala listed several assumptions made by the budget drafters. One is that the district will realize a $300,000 savings in health-insurance costs. (See related story.)

They also plan on spending $350,000 when the debt service for the Farnsworth Middle School’s expansion and renovation project moves to serial bonds.

Finally, the cost for meeting requirements set out by the federal No Child Left Behind legislation, of $90,000 to $100,000, is embedded in the budget. Aidala termed the extensive testing required district-wide "an unfunded mandate."

Some of the biggest cost increases are:

— $241,500 more for the state’s Teachers’ Retirement System, an increase of 7.4 percent;

— $537,000 more for health-insurance benefits, an increase of 6.6 percent, which includes a projected savings of $300,000;

— $1,093,100 more for salaries, an increase of 2.61 percent;

— $395,500 more for fuel and utility costs, a 20.9-percent increase, which includes a $150,000 reduction from a new energy-education program; and

— $635,400 more in debt service for the middle-school project, an increase of 9.69 percent.


Aidala outlined five challenges for the upcoming year. The first is to carefully review class sizes. The second is to maintain existing instructional programs.

The third is to recognize, with state aid declining, that fringe-benefit costs, for health insurance and retirement, along with energy prices continue to increase dramatically.

The fourth is to recognize that a tax-rate increase below 5 percent without additional state aid or major reductions in expenditures "will be difficult."

The final challenge is to avoid making the budget situation worse in 2007-08. "What we eliminate this year may cost a lot more the following year," said Aidala.

Aidala also went over several budget highlights.

Small class sizes will be maintained, he said, with a range of 14 to 22 students in kindergarten through second grade, and of 17 to 23 students in third through fifth grade.

There will be no change in total teaching positions at the elementary level, but there will be minor changes at the middle school and high school. The middle school will loose nearly one full-time post, made up of cuts in math, English, and science. The high school will lose just over one full-time post with reductions in business and the loss of an instructional supervisor. (See related story.)

The budget does not include $170,000 for teaching Spanish in the elementary schools as many parents had requested. Nor does it include requested posts of a guidance counselor at the high school or of two teachers at the middle school to maintain 18 sections in sixth grade.

Tax rates

While the lion’s share of the Guilderland School District falls within the town of Guilderland (about 93 percent of true value), small portions also fall in Bethlehem (about 6 percent) and in New Scotland and Knox (each less than 1 percent of true value).

The estimated tax rate for Guilderland residents next year is $19.39 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. That means a Guilderland resident owning a $200,000 house would pay an estimated $3,878 in school taxes next year.

For Bethlehem residents, the estimated tax rate is $28.34 per $1,000 of assessed value. For New Scotland residents, it is $26.38. And for Knox residents, it is $25.86 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Both Bethlehem and New Scotland are currently undergoing town-wide reassessment, as Guilderland did last year.

RFP yields no savings from single health insurer

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The much-awaited response on a single health-insurer for the school district’s employees yielded scant results.

"That’s like spitting in the ocean," said school board member Barbara Fraterrigo, expressing her disappointment at last Tuesday’s meeting.

Guilderland currently offers four plans — two experience-rated and two health-maintenance organizations.

Health-care benefits for Guilderland employees cost $3.2 million this year, 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 the $59 million budget.

To see if it could save money, the district sent out requests for proposals for a single insurer and, just before Tuesday’s meeting, a health-insurance committee, made up of representatives of each bargaining unit, reviewed the responses.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders, who attends the meetings as a non-voting member, reported to the board that five vendors had responded and one was disqualified for not meeting the specifications.

The district specified that the benefits must be equal to its "richest plan," Blue Shield Preferred Provider Organization, said Sanders.

Only Blue Shield was able to match the plan. Offers from the other vendors resulted in diminished benefits, Sanders said.

Sanders told The Enterprise this week that Aetna did not meet the specifications in its bid and Mohawk Valley Physicians (MVP) bid on a self-insured plan.

Of the three contenders — Empire Blue Cross, MVP, and Blue Shield of Northeastern New York — only Blue Shield met the mark.

But, said Sanders, it would have cost the district $507,000 more for next year than what the district anticipates the four plans will cost.

"The idea was not to diminish the benefits," said Sanders.

He explained that it is not surprising it would cost about a half-million dollars more since many of the employees don’t choose the most expensive plan now. Guilderland workers pay for 20 percent of their health-insurance costs, while the district pays for the other 80 percent.

Currently, about 59 percent of Guilderland workers use CDPHP, a health-maintenance organization, while 22 percent use Blue Shield PPO; 12 percent use Blue Shield Health Plus, another experienced-rated plan; and 7 percent use MVP, another health-maintenance organization.

Several school board members had urged that an independent consultant prepare the RFP rather than Joseph Rogerson of Rose & Kiernan, Inc., a long-time advisor to the district’s health-insurance committee.

Board member Peter Golden had first raised the issue in January of a conflict of interest since brokers are paid a commission.

"In one way, it’s ironic the bids came in as the maligned consultant predicted," said board member Richard Weisz at last Tuesday’s meeting.

Fraterrigo made a motion, which was tabled, that the district hire an independent health-insurance consultant "that would not be able to bid on the business."

Asked his opinion on the proposal, Sanders told The Enterprise this week, "Adding a layer of an independent consultant without the ability to benefit financially"I would see that as a better business practice to follow."

At Thursday’s budget-review session, Superintendent Gregory Aidala, in presenting his $79 million spending proposal, said it was based on the assumption that the district could save $300,000 in health-insurance costs.

When asked this week how this would be managed, Sanders told The Enterprise the committee is "looking at other options." He declined to specify what they are since they "might not come to fruition," he said, and people would be "weighing in" needlessly.

The committee has a month-and-a-half to come up with the new strategies before the board is slated to adopt the spending plan.

"Wait and see"

"We’ve learned a lot," said Fraterrigo at Tuesday’s school-board meeting. "We are tied into a contract with the consortium that we really can’t get out of for another budget year yet."

In 1996, Guilderland joined the Capital Area Schools Health Consortium, with the goal of reducing health-insurance costs; the consortium currently has 15 members.

The district, though, can go out for competitive bids on health-maintenance organizations, she said.

Fraterrigo proposed hiring an independent health-insurance consultant, stating that the present consultant "reaps in a great deal of profit."

President Gene Danese termed her proposal "a good idea" but said he was not ready to look into it yet, and that more information is needed.

Weisz also said it was "premature" for the board to strike out on its own until it hears from the health-insurance committee.

Superintendent Aidala, too, recommended holding off on Fraterrigo’s proposal.

The committee, he said, is beginning to look at some other things.

Board Vice President Linda Bakst asked about having a subcommittee of the school board meet with the health-insurance committee to create a dialogue "so ideas are exchanged."

"I wouldn’t rule anything out...We are much more knowledgeable today about health insurance than a couple of months ago," said Aidala.

"Linda’s idea is perfect," said Golden, urging the board to set up such a subcommittee.

"There is no way for the board to talk to them," he said of the committee members. "To continue this idea that the board has nothing to do with health insurance is destructive."

He went on, "It’s gone under the radar and doubled in five years."

"That’s what administrators do," said Aidala, describing the way they act as an interface between the board and the committee.

"With all due respect to Greg being a conduit," said board member Colleen O’Connell, there is "a better level of trust when people meet together in the same room."

When The Enterprise asked Sanders this week about Bakst’s suggestion, he said that he and Susan Tangorre, the district’s human resources director, represent the school board at the meetings.

"In most cases, the board delegates representation to the administration," said Sanders. "We’re not quite sure what role they would play. It hasn’t been fleshed out yet."

On Tuesday, Bakst told Golden that the reason health-care costs have spiraled for Guilderland is because of a national trend.

"The facts are the facts," said Golden, citing surveys of school districts state-wide that show a 67-percent increase in the same tie frame that Guilderland has experienced a 100-percent increase.

"There are less expensive ways to provide the same benefits," said Golden. "Paying too much for health insurance devours programs."

Fraterrigo said an outside resource is needed "to guide us and the health-insurance committee." Most of the committee members, she said, "are just like us." She said the advice and recommendations have come "from the top down."

Board member John Dornbush said he’d like to take a "wait-and-see attitude" for a few more weeks.

Danese said that Fraterrigo’s motion would be tabled.

English teachers object to sharing supervisor

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — High school English teachers turned out in force last Tuesday to object to a plan that would combine the jobs of English and social-studies supervisor into one.

It was one of three recommendations for administrative cuts, totaling about $185,000, made by Superintendent Gregory Aidala, and included as part of a proposed $79 million school budget for next year. (See related story.)

Currently, the high-school supervisor for English and reading is three-quarters of a full-time position, and the supervisor for social studies is eight-tenths. Supervisors oversee curricula and supervise faculty in their departments.

According to the superintendent’s proposal, one person would serve as the supervisor for both English and social studies in the high school, overseeing 41 teachers, and saving $85,000 in salaries and fringe benefits next year.

"The numbers in the administrative study...are compelling and so is the considerable pressure to make those and the dollars and cents numbers smaller," English teacher Michael Pipa told the school board. "I’m here not just to defend a colleague’s vital roll...but to tell you what the numbers...won’t."

Pipa said that the support he got as a new teacher at the middle school from the English supervisor has shaped all of his years of teaching.

"Every bit of extraordinary learning that has occurred for students with whom I have worked is directly traceable to the input and support my supervisor gave me," he said.

Without referring to the current high school English supervisor, Patricia Hansbury-Zuendt, by name, Pipa went on to say that her expertise is the "touchstone against which I continue to test my ideas and my emerging initiative."

He said he spoke for the entire department in its "unmitigated support" in keeping a supervisor exclusively dedicated to English language arts.

With increased state and federal testing, Pipa said, "More and more teachers will succumb to the pressure of teaching to the test" rather than continuing to teach the whole child, fostering a life-long love of literacy "that will far outlive the narrow purposes of any test."

Kathleen Sherwin, another long-time English teacher at Guilderland High School, urged the board to keep an English expert as the head of the English department.

Sherwin said she spoke for all her colleagues when she stated that the proposed change "will have a negative impact on the teachers and the students."

The rich curriculum in Guilderland’s English department, she said, is constantly evolving. "In the last 10 years, under our supervisor, we’ve added over a dozen new courses and 25 new books to help our students grow as readers, writers, and literate thinkers," said Sherwin.

The English supervisor, she said, identifies new trends, selects literature, makes great choices hiring new teachers, and forms links to the State Education Department.

"We have an increasingly large and needy special-education population," said Sherwin. The supervisor helps to select the best materials and best instructional practices "so all students can become more skilled as critical readers and effective writers that will help students succeed into the 21st Century," she said, echoing the district’s motto.

Superintendent’s proposal

"There really are no good choices," said Superintendent Aidala in presenting his 23-page report to the board. "We are looking at restructuring in regard to budget concerns."

Last year, as a cost-saving measure at budget time, the superintendent had proposed having English teachers each teach five courses, as most other high-school teachers do, rather than four. English faculty as well as students and their parents rallied to defend what they termed a rich program, describing the four-course load as a necessity if teachers were to continue to assign in-depth writing projects. A split school board backed the current four-course load.

Aidala’s report presented on Tuesday, which includes recent history of administration in Guilderland as well as comparisons with Suburban Council schools, concludes with three recommendations.

Besides combining the English and social-studies supervisors’ jobs, Aidala also makes two other recommendations.

One is to do away with the district’s two assistant elementary-school principals, jobs that were added in 1999 as enrollment increased at the two largest elementary schools — Guilderland and Westmere.

Aidala points out that, in 2002-03, full-time social workers were installed at all five of the district’s elementary schools and that "enrollment trends over the past five years indicate a steady decline which now appears to be stable...."

The plan calls for eliminating one post next year, and sharing the other between Westmere and Guilderland, for a savings of $95,000, Then, in 2007-08, both posts would be cut, for a savings of $105,000.

Finally, Aidala recommends returning the high-school associate principal position to administrator for special education while maintaining the full-time administrative dean post. This would save $4,500 next year in salary adjustment.

If the school board were to adopt all three recommendations, the total savings for next year is estimated at $184,500 with an additional reduction the following year of $105,000.

Aidala’s report praises the district’s 33 administrators and instructional supervisors, stating, "For a school system such as Guilderland to function at a high level, a team approach is needed."

He also writes, "This facet of school organization is not always understood by the community and public at large who sometimes cavalierly believe that greater resources must always be focused on classroom personnel."

School board views

Four of the nine school-board members Tuesday objected to the recommendation of merging the English and social-studies supervisors’ jobs.

"The two departments are simply too large," said Vice President Linda Bakst. She’d like to see individual supervisors for math and science at the high school, Bakst said; those two posts are currently combined.

In 2002, two long-time supervisors retired and the board discussed several plans, finally deciding to keep site-based supervisors. In other words, rather than hiring one supervisor for math in grades six through 12 and one in science for all the secondary grades, a single middle-school supervisor for math and science was hired and a single high-school supervisor for math and science was hired.

Bakst said she realized there wouldn’t be much support for adding a supervisor.

"We need to continue to have a level of supervision that gives guidance," said Bakst. "You need good administrators to be successful."

If that isn’t widely understood, said Bakst, "We need to educate the community."

At a school board meeting last month, a presentation was made on "a day in the life of a supervisor," highlighting the work of those administrators.

The English program sets Guilderland apart, said board member Thomas Nachod. "You need an English teacher to run the department," he said.

He also said that the amount of money that would be saved is not worth it to the community. "I would hate to destroy in any way our English department," he concluded.

"Their curriculum...is very, very fluid," said board member Peter Golden of the English department.

Golden, a writer, said that 50,000 books a year are published in the United States.

He said that a recent study showed half of the students entering college are unable to do the kind of reading required.

"I really have problems with the recommendation," said board member Barbara Fraterrigo. She stressed the importance of a supervisor’s expertise in his or her field.

Fraterrigo said that she has gotten feedback from teachers that, with math and science combined, it is difficult "to aid and abet the opposite field."

Fraterrigo said she would prefer a single English supervisor for all the secondary grades and a singe social-studies advisor, rather than combing the two at the high school.

"It goes against our culture," she said.

When the discussion ended, about two score onlookers seated in the gallery, many of them teachers, left the meeting.

Future City update

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — A team of students from Farnsworth Middle School, which won first place in a regional Future City competition, qualifying the team to compete nationally in Washington, D.C., won an award there for the Most Innovative Power Generation System.

The award was sponsored by the Navy Nuclear Propulsion Program.

Thirty-one middle schools from across the nation competed in the 2006 National Engineers Week Future City Competition, each the winner of a regional competition. Students from the Chippewa Middle School in Shoreview, Minn. won the competition.

The Farnsworth team of 18 students was coached by enrichment teacher Deb Escobar, technology teacher Tom McGreevy, and by engineer mentor Robert Sipzner, of Barton and Loguidice.

Team members were: Kari Balogh, Lizzy Whalen, Dana MaLaughlin, Haejin Hwang, Justine Aloise, Lily Li, Chris Miller, Alex Verrelli, Andrew Coy, Paul Travers, Kyungduk Rho, Jessie Feinman, Wade Appleby, C.J. Higgins, Alex Dvorscak, Jonathan McBride, Dan Sipzner, and Brendan Blendell.

New water hook-ups to cost $2.5k

By Matt Cook

ALTAMONT — The village board approved a law that will charge users for new hookups to the village water supply.

At a village board meeting Tuesday, after a brief public hearing period, the board passed the resolution with four votes. Trustee Harvey Vlahos abstained.

Under the law, the village will charge a fee of $2,500 per unit for each new residential unit hooking into the water system. Those already on the system will not be charged.

An apartment will be considered a fraction of a unit, depending on the number of bedrooms it has. A single-family home will be a full unit.

Commercial property owners will be charged by usage, one unit per 200 gallons of water used per day. Fractions will be rounded up to the next whole unit.

The so-called benefit assessment fee is intended to help fund a two-phase $2.5 million improvement project to the water system, pieces of which are over 100 years old.

At a public hearing on the proposal last month, developer Jeff Thomas, who is planning to build homes for seniors along Brandle Road, just outside of the village, said the village’s plan was unfair to seniors. Thomas claimed the improvements his project will add to the water system should make him and his residents exempt from the fees.

On Tuesday, Mayor James Gaughan said he has met with Thomas and they have agreed that the fee is fair. He asked Thomas, who was at Tuesday’s meeting, if he had accurately described their meeting, and Thomas said he had.

Vlahos told The Enterprise that he chose not to vote on the issue because the fee was too high.

"There are some certain circumstances that, when you tie it all together, I think it merits some reduction," he said.

Other business

In other business at the March 7 meeting, the Altamont Village Board:

—Approved a site plan for the Park Street senior housing project proposed by developer Troy Miller. The planning board had already approved the plan, but forwarded it to the village board because Miller asked for permission to build a 100-foot sidewalk in front of the project.

The village board told Miller he could have his sidewalk, but not until after the village makes improvements to Park Street in its comprehensive planning process;

—Authorized the destruction of several village records held past the required six years. The village historian will be allowed to look at the records for possible preservation before they are destroyed; and

—Passed resolutions to hold a budget workshop at Village Hall on March 21 at 6:30 p.m., an organizational meeting on April 4 at 7:30 p.m., and a budget public hearing on April 4 at 8 p.m.

Police chief’s tactics questioned

By Matt Cook

ALTAMONT — Terri Gockley used to support the Altamont Police Department and its new commissioner, Anthony Salerno

"In the past year," she told the village board at its meeting Tuesday night, "I’ve had to change my opinion of that."

Gockley, a single mother of two and a teacher at Guilderland High School, claims Salerno is responsible for "excessive and bullying treatment" of her and her son.

Her 18-year-old son, Christopher, was arrested last month after, police say, he hosted a party in which 60 underage people were served alcohol. Salerno denies any misconduct.

It began several months ago, Gockley said, when Salerno followed her son, as he pulled out of a friend’s driveway and into his own nearby. Salerno asked the young man what he was doing, Gockley said, and Christopher Gockley responded that he was unloading band equipment.

In November or December, Gockley said, Salerno followed Christopher Gockley and his friends into the Stewart’s parking lot and asked them, "Why didn’t you walk""

At first, Gockley said, she thought the commissioner was just looking out for the village teenagers. However, by the third time he pulled Christopher over, she said, "It was my understanding that the police commissioner had an issue with my son and his friends."

Each time her son encountered Salerno, Gockley said, her son was polite and addressed the commissioner as "sir."

Christopher Gockley was arrested Feb. 24 at his home for first-degree unlawfully dealing with a child, a misdemeanor. According to the Altamont Police, he hosted a party at his home in which alcohol was intentionally served to over 60 people under age 21. Mrs. Gockley said she had brought her daughter to a concert that night.

Gockley said she doesn’t excuse her son for what he did. She was never more proud of him, she said, then when he stood in court and accepted him punishment.

However, Gockley said, Salerno’s behavior that night was "disturbing."

First, Gockley said, police would not give her a straight answer on if there would be charges against her or her son. At the police station after the arrest, Gockley said, Salerno threatened her son with felony charges and told her, if she didn’t cooperate, her face would be on the front page of the newspaper.

Salerno told her, by way of recommendation, Gockley said, that when his nephew was arrested, he walked into the police station, slapped him in the face and left.

Also, Gockley said, Salerno implied that police knew about several previous drinking parties held by her son at her home. This was the first she heard of it, Gockley said.

"If he is the police commissioner and he’s here to serve our teens, I would ask the board, at what point were they going to tell me"" she said.

Throughout the night of the arrest, Christopher Gockley and his friends were respectful and cooperative, Mrs. Gockley said.

Referring to articles in The Enterprise, Gockley told the board Tuesday, "We have punished other officers for similar conduct"I implore you to investigate."

Altamont Mayor James Gaughan listened quietly to Gockley’s presentation. He thanked her and asked her to file a formal complaint, which she said she would.

"I will be in touch with you to follow up on your comments," he said.

Salerno was in the village hall for his monthly commissioner’s report earlier in the meeting, but he left for a meeting with a member of the Albany County Sheriff’s Department, he told The Enteprise yesterday, so he did not hear Gockley’s complaints.

"If I was there, I think we all could have mediated things a little better," he said.

Salerno denied any misconduct the night of Christopher Gockley’s arrest.

On the arrest itself, the commissioner said, "In my position, I can’t condone binge drinking and underage drinking".My only concern was for the welfare of the children there."

The police department found out about the party from a neighbor’s complaint, he said.

Salerno said he remembers questioning Christopher Gockley several months ago, after he saw him pulling in and out of his driveway, but gave up when he learned it was his own home. Besides that, Salerno said, he doesn’t recall ever encountering Gockley until after the party in February.

The Altamont Police Department has been under fire in recent years. Residents had been complaining about excessive police presence in the village of 1,700, which is covered by the Guilderland Police Department, the Albany County Sheriff’s Department, and the State Police. A citizen’s committee appointed by the village board recommended keeping the department in the village, but was critical of a full-time commissioner that couldn’t make arrests and of so many part-time officers.

Subsequently, the former commissioner, Robert Coleman, offered his resignation and Salerno, an Albany Police detective, took over last fall.

Salerno announced the completion of the first phase of his restructuring of the department last month. Nine part-time officers remain, he said, and the department now has the ability to take the lead in any kind of criminal investigation.

In January, Salerno disciplined one of the part-time officers, Joshua Davenport for harassing a clerk at Ketchum’s Service Store. Davenport was suspended without pay and sent to human-relations training.

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