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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, June 29, 2006

Calabro found liable in civil suit

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — Long-time owner of Joe’s Service Station on Western Avenue was found liable in a sexual assault civil lawsuit after being acquitted of sexual harassment in town court last November.

Joe Calabro was ordered on June 20 to pay his former employee $35,000 in damages.

Calabro was accused last year of forcibly touching one of his female employees, and, after a two-day trial in town court, in a criminal trial, he was found innocent. However, the Albany County Supreme Court found Calabro liable for two counts of sexual assault, but threw out a third count of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

"He was found liable on two counts and they dismissed one count for failure of proof," said Calabro’s lawyer, Joseph Gardner. "We’re in the process of figuring out whether we’re going to appeal."

Calabro was originally arrested on a misdemeanor charge because of a complaint filed with the state police by one of his female employees in March of 2004.

According to the victim’s lawyer, John Hock, Calabro sexually harassed his client.

The civil suit was heard by Supreme Court Judge John Egan, said Hock, and he added that Guilderland Police Detective John Tashjian testified on behalf of Calabro during the lawsuit. Nevertheless, Hock said, Callabro was found liable for damages in the suit.

Tashjian did not return calls to The Enterprise this week.

Hock said during the civil trial an audio tape was played with Calabro’s voice repeatedly saying things of a "sexually explicit nature" to Calabro’s employee, and, at one point, during the tape, Calabro said that he "couldn’t stop himself."

Gardner maintained his client’s innocence during the criminal trial, saying the accusations were false. He told The Enterprise at the time, "The complainant has a civil lawsuit pending against him, so that may be part of the reason" for her accusations.

In letters received by The Enterprise in 2002 and 2004, Callabro was accused of charging higher towing fees than the other towing businesses in town. Guilderland now has a towing contract with the companies police call after accidents or arrests so they can only charge a maximum of $125 for towing, unless there are special circumstances.

Walgreens is here — all 14,820 square feet of it

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — Controversial in its planning stage, the pharmacy on the corner of the busy routes 20 and 155 intersection, is now open for business.

Walgreens opened its doors for the first time early last Friday morning.

"I’ve been waiting for these Albany stores," said the store’s manager, Robert Mauro. "I’ve been waiting and waiting."

Mauro has worked for the Walgreens Corporation for the past 20 years and says his company is currently enjoying a financial boom, with another 500 stores slated to open by the end of the next fiscal year. The company’s fiscal year runs from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31.

Walgreens is currently the largest drugstore chain in the nation, with 5,251 stores in 46 states and Puerto Rico, he said.

And more Walgreens are coming to the area.

"We are, over the next couple of years, looking to expand in the area," said Walgreens spokeswoman Tiffani Bruce. "The Northeast in general is one of our fastest growing markets"We will continue to grow in the Capital District."

The Walgreens headquarters are in Deerfield, Ill.

"For about the past 10 or 15 years, they’ve talked about opening Albany stores," said Mauro, who’s originally from Rockland County. Mauro said he is familiar with the area because his wife is from Gloversville, and, he said, the last store he managed was in the downstate town of Suffern.

"Suffern and Guilderland have the same kind of clientele, which is nice," Mauro told The Enterprise.

The closest Walgreens’s from the two location on either end of Route 155, according to Mauro, are in Utica and Kingston. He said the next closest store to open will be in Watertown.

There are about 20 part-time and full-time employees working at the store, said Mauro, who added that the Walgreens company is over 100 years old.

"Back in the late ’70’s and ’80’s, Walgreens was thinking about getting out of New York," said Mauro. "I think there use to be one in Albany." The company re-evaluated its business and marketing plan, like getting rid of their famous soda fountains, and took on a new direction, Mauro said.

Now, says Mauro, Walgreens wants to get back into the New York market.

The new Guilderland Walgreens is open 24 hours a day and carries over 25,000 items, from greeting cards to soft drinks, he said. The store uses a system which links all of its pharmacies and keeps customer records to prescriptions at all of its locations.

"The system allows pharmacists to spend more time counseling patients," said Mauro. "It makes it possible for Guilderland customers to refill prescriptions at any of our thousands of stores across the country." The store also includes a one-hour photography lab and it offers drive-through service

Proposal problems

Walgreens’s original Guilderland application stirred controversy.

Three other drugstores are at or near each of the intersection’s other three corners.

Five houses were torn down to make way for the nearly 15,000-square-foot store.

The Guilderland Planning Board reluctantly approved Walgreens’s application for a special-use permit, saying access to the store, traffic safety, and the size of the building were problematic. These were all points the zoning board took issue with as well. Two petitions with 85 signatures were submitted to the zoning board, protesting the site proposal.

The petitions said the zoning board should not approve a special-use permit for the store because of traffic problems, the large size of the building, and because, "It’s not necessary for the Guilderland’s economic growth."

When questioned by the zoning board, Walgreens officials, citing financial reasons, said a reduction in the store’s size was not possible.

From a business perspective, Mauro said the site is in "a very good location."

After working with site planners and the Walgreens itself, the Guilderland Hamlet Neighborhood Association supported the store’s proposal in exchange for revising the building plans to include a brick façade and "period" antique-style light posts.

The zoning board also added a stipulation that a sign saying "Welcome to the Hamlet of Guilderland," be included on the corner of routes 20 and 155.

One Guilderland resident wrote to The Enterprise this week saying, "In the case of Walgreens, the town effectively said, ‘Put up this sign and you can have your permit to open.’"

Another issue that arose out of the application process was whether or not Walgreens was to be considered a drugstore or a small department store. There was much discussion on the zoning board about the 20-year-old town code’s definition of a drugstore. Some contended that now Walgreens was better described as a department store, which would net be allowed under the current zoning.

Board member Charles Klaer and zoning attorney Janet Thayer both took issue with the definition and asked the town board to examine that part of the zoning law.

No action was taken by the town board.

The zoning board eventually approved the application in a 5-2 vote, with board members Klaer and James Sumner dissenting.

Going Out for Finding a Cure
Rockers and skaters have the Nerve to stop AIDS

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — What does fighting AIDS in Africa have to do with teen rock bands like Moonshine, Assorted Garbage, and Hollywood Funeral"

The link is Christianity as conveyed by Nerve Ministries.

"We’re going to encourage teens to participate in their community," said Nerve Ministry Director Jonathan Hentrich.

According to their mission statement, "The definition of nerve is: a fortitude or strength, or an audacious gall. Our mission is to be a contagious, epidemic network of students, rooted in Christ and committed to serving like Him."

The ministry, for the fourth year in a row, is putting on an event called Nervosity at Guilderland’s Tawasentha Park.

The June 20 event is free, but donations will be accepted. All proceeds will go to World Visions, a charity with an ambitious program called "One Life Revolution," to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa.

Besides Nerve Ministries, the Community Caregivers, The Shelter Skate Park, the Guilderland YMCA, and other community organizations are backing the event.

Last year, over 300 kids and 16 different organizations came together at Nervosity for a battle of the bands, a skateboarding skate-off, and "best of" competitions with categories like skateboarding, dancing, eating, feats of strength, and a drum roll-off.

"There will also be a whole ton of food," promises Hentrich.

"Last year, we had between 250 and 300 kids at Nervosity. Each year, it’s gotten a little bit bigger," he said. "This year will be our biggest and best festival."

Nerve Ministries is a part of Christ’s Church of the Capital District.

"We want to raise a bunch of money to prevent the spread of AIDS in Africa," said Hentrich. "We want to see as many teens as possible get involved."

The event will serve a dual purpose, he said, to provide a creative outlet with a festival catered to teenagers and to teach community involvement with a world view. Simply put, he said, young people will be able to contribute to a solution of a serious issue while having a good time.

Middle-school and high-school students will learn they can have a global impact. They can do this while displaying their talents at skateboarding competitions, playing in a band, showing off their dance moves, or, if they choose, simply enjoying themselves, concluded Hentrich.

What’s happenin’

There will be a drawing, for a dollar a ticket, with prizes such as iPods and a home entertainment center. This money will also go to One World’s AIDS eradication fund.

Nervosity is meant for students between seventh and 12th grade, said Hentrich, but is open to everybody.

"There’s going to be a battle of the bands," Hentrich told The Enterprise with noticeable enthusiasm.

The battle of the bands will have music from all genres, including rock, punk, acoustic, alternative, heavy metal, and even polka. Fourteen bands will take the stage and the crowd will vote for the winners. The first-place winner will be awarded a trophy, a two-song demo recording package, and a chance to play at the Altamont Fair, as well as other prizes from area sponsors.

The second- and third-place winners will also receive prizes provided by Nervosity sponsors like The Shelter Skate Park Skate Shop in Albany. The bands will perform on the Tawasentha Park amphitheater.

Nerve Ministries has already been tallying votes for people’s favorite bands, and the peoples’ choices will determine the lineup, with the band receiving the most votes playing last. The bands will be judged on the criteria of musicianship, stage presence, interaction with the crowd, originality, and overall performance.

The bands include: A bitter ending; Vs.; Moving to Orange; Moonshine; Through the Ashes; Assorted Garbage; and Anything But Ivory.

Also: Wait Till This Hits Home; Gray Star; Leaving the Will; Swanson and Winston; The Novel Tree; Man Over Board; and Hollywood Funeral.

A large skateboarding exposition is also a part of the festival, as well as a "skate-off."

This is the first year that Nervosity is raising money for one particular cause such as AIDS prevention.

"In our ministry, it’s a pretty big issue. It seems super important," said Hentrich. "We’ve always tried to link people with the community, but this gives it a world view instead of just the local communities."

Nerve Ministry is a student-run ministry that is part of Christ’s Church located at 4 Charles Blvd. in Guilderland. It has programs for teens called Impulse and Synapse, held every Sunday at 11 a.m. at the church.

"This service is called Impulse. An impulse in the brain is when a signal starts. For any communication to be sent in the brain, it starts first by the nerve impulse. We believe worship should be the start of all that we do," the ministry’s website explains. "Before we can go out and serve, work, or be with our friends, we need to worship God."

The website also explains Synapse, saying, "We meet weekly to ask questions about what we are learning. These groups are called Synapse groups."

Nervosity comes to Tawasentha Park on Route 146 in Guilderland on Friday, June 20, from 6 to 10 p.m. The festival is free, but donations are accepted.

Report outlines alternative funding plans
School board debates school or community foundation

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The school board here is discussing whether it should back a foundation to accept private donations.

If it does, should the foundation be just for the school or should it be town-wide"

A recent report from a school committee indicates Guilderland may be ripe for the picking, although the report says the town has no history of philanthropy.

Donald Csaposs, a member of the committee who wrote about community foundations for the report, told The Enterprise this week, "I certainly hope the town gives this a fair hearing."

Csaposs is the development director for the town of Guilderland but said he did the committee work as a "freelance" volunteer.

A community-based foundation, he said has "a wider outreach and outflow," although Csaposs said the committee members had "a very sharp and unhappy division of thinking" on which kind of foundation would be better.

Casposs cited a neighboring suburban town, Niskayuna, which he said had launched a successful community-wide foundation in the late 1990’s, that now takes in several hundred thousand dollars a year.

Hy Dubowsky, board member-elect, and the committee’s chair, presented the report to the school board last Tuesday.

Dubowsky said that a community foundation would strengthen the relationship between the town and school, which is "not quite what it should be."

"I’ve been saying that for 20 years," said Csaposs. "Heck, I’ve written letters to the editor of The Enterprise complaining that the town board and school board meetings are on the same night."

"Low-hanging fruit"

After years of debating whether public schools should accept private funds, the school board’s majority finally, in November, agreed to have a committee study the matter.

The committee’s 27-page report stresses many times that "a great deal of non-traditional funding is already taking place."

"There’s an awful lot of commercial stuff we do in this district," said Dubowsky.

The district is already involved in direct product sales; it contracts with vendors for student goods and services for such things as yearbooks, school photographs, and vending machines. The school lunch fund generates between $40,000 and $50,000 each year from cafeteria vending machines.

"We believe there are low-hanging fruits that can be plucked," said Dubowsky.

Schools throughout the district also participate in cash or rebate programs like the Campbell’s Soup label program.

Parent groups — supporting sports, music, drama, and art — are involved in direct-product sales, ranging from candy bars to gift wraps.

Dubowsky said the committee agreed it didn’t want to "infringe" on club fund-raising activities.

Advertising is already prevalent on vending machines and in programs for sports events and clubs.

The report states that the committee’s recommendation for corporate sponsorships, contracts with vendors, and limited pouring rights — granting a beverage company exclusive rights to sell on campus in exchange for a fee — "are simply a logical extension of the revenue-generating activities already in place."

The report goes on, "Following the competitive bidding process, and remaining aware of the Court’s interpretations of the application of First Amendment protections afforded to ‘restricted use educational facilities’ serving youth, we believe there are revenue-generating opportunities that we have been reluctant to explore."

The report also states, "Our position, to proceed while ensuring the safety of our children, mirrors that of the National Association of State School boards, which accepts the need for commercial ventures to ensure the vitality of the public education system."

While some committee members wanted to use alternative revenues to reduce taxes, the majority of the committee thought the funds should be used to "enhance existing program resources or support new programs," the report says.

"A compromise position may be to limit the use of alternative revenues to one-time expenditures...," the report concludes. "Regardless of the path the board chooses, the consensus of the committee is to move forward."


The second part of the report examines the two types of foundations — school and community.

"The absence of de facto competing entities in Guilderland creates a unique opportunity at this moment in time to create a vehicle for philanthropy in a community with a demonstrable level of capacity but with a limited level of philanthropy...," the report says. "There has never been an appropriate conduit for individuals, families, and businesses to use to maximize the impact of their giving through leverage to create a better quality of life for all constituencies within the ‘Greater Guilderland’ community."

Dubowsky listed several advantages to the community foundation besides strengthening the relationship between the town and the school.

He also said it would "create a sense of greater Guilderland," serving multiple constituencies. A community foundation would also create a "bigger net" for donations, which, he said, could be earmarked for specific purposes.

Drawbacks include the school district’s lack of access to funds since the foundation would be serving multiple constituencies, and weakening the district’s control over funds, Dubowsky said.

Kenneth Runion, supervisor for the town of Guilderland, could not be reached for comment this week.

The report says that most school-based foundations operate as an independent entity with no formal or legal relationship to the school district; foundations can specify in their bylaws whether the school board will be involved in voting or not.

Guilderland High School alumni appear to be an untapped resource, the report says.

Advantages to a school-based foundation, Dubowsky said, include more board control in funding decisions and building ties to alumni. He listed drawbacks as more limited access to capital and more limited opportunity for the town and school district to form links.

"Most importantly," the report says, "at some point there must be an active core of district residents willing to assume a leadership role to start a foundation as well as devoting large amounts of time and effort that will be necessary to pursue whichever interest might be preferred. Fundamentally, launching either a school or a community foundation is not a function of the Board of Education."

Board views

The next step will be up to the school board, and opinions varied last week.

Board member Colleen O’Connell, who served on the committee, said there is "no true history of real philanthropy in Guilderland....We know people with four cars and half-a-million-dollar homes," she said, but it’s not clear they will part with their money.

Board member Cathy Barber said that Guilderland’s not having a history of philanthropy shouldn’t stop the board. She called that a circular argument and said, "It probably depends on what sort of effort you make."

Board Vice President Linda Bakst, attending her last meeting, has opposed alternative revenue sources for her entire nine-year tenure on the board.

"It’s not wise for the school board to go down this road at all," she said.

Elected representatives have accountability, said Bakst, which a foundation board would not have.

In referring to leadership roles in creating a foundation, Bakst said, "I would be concerned if it became the role of the school board to do that kind of solicitation...People have not come forward to galvanize that movement."

Bakst said she does support "maximizing contracts we have."

School-board member Barbara Fraterrigo, a long-time trustee of the Guilderland Public Library, said that, based on what she had learned working on the library board, she would certainly not support a town-based foundation.

With a school-based foundation, she said, any funds generated "would go to the kids."

Fraterrigo said, "If you have a vested interest — meaning the children — your energies can only go so far."

She also said that, 15 years ago, a dynamic leader from her hometown had started an alumni association which has "done amazing things in terms of scholarships," and that town had had no history of philanthropy.

"It’s going great guns," said Fraterrigo.

School board member Richard Weisz, who had pushed for the committee to be formed and served on it, said he was "more predisposed" to have a school foundation.

He then asked how the administration would propose to seek corporate sponsorships. He suggested the duties might fall to the board’s newly-formed business-practices committee.

Someone with ideas, Weisz said, is needed to reach out to the community.

Boys’ bonds strengthen with Fresh Air visits

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALTAMONT — Every summer, city kids come to country homes as part of the Fresh Air program. Begun in 1877, several generations have been part of the program that brings New York City youth to upstate families for the summer. Mary and Steve Reinemann of Altamont have been hosting Beshon Austin, a second-generation Fresh Air kid, for the last few years.

"He’s like our son," Mrs. Reinemann told The Enterprise on Monday as she sat with her family around the kitchen table. Her son, Tyler, is the same age as Beshon and says that the pair call each other their "brother from another mother."

The Reinemanns’ refrigerator, covered with family photos — Beshon and Tyler in matching jerseys — bears proof of the family bonds. The boys are inseparable when Beshon visits, said both Mr. and Mrs. Reinemann.

The family usually takes a day trip with Beshon — last year they went to Niagara Falls. The first summer he came, Mrs. Reinemann said, she spoiled him. During that time, she realized that he just wanted to try a different kind of life.

"His favorite thing to do is go frog-catching," said Mr. Reinemann. "He had never seen a frog before."

Beshon has been coming to Altamont to spend holidays with the Reinemanns, too. They take him sleigh riding at Christmas and egg-hunting at Easter. "He had never colored eggs before," said Mrs. Reinemann. She brought out a slew of family snapshots with Tyler and Beshon standing together in matching T-shirts — in front of the Christmas tree, on the Fourth of July, with the Easter Bunny.

The Reinemann’s have gone to the Bronx to pick-up Beshon, where they met his family. "It was neat to see the neighborhood," said Mr. Reinemann. Beshon’s mother was in the Fresh Air program as a kid, said Mrs. Reinemann, she says he loves coming up state to visit.

"He wants to come up until he’s 30," Mrs. Reinemann said that Beshon’s mother told her. "He wants to bring his wife here."

The Fresh Air program is still looking for host families to participate this summer. You can contact Jan Van Etten, who has overseen the local program for decades, at 872-1895 for more information.

From teens to seniors, village planners survey residents

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALTAMONT — The village’s future is being shaped by consensus.

Altamont’s comprehensive planning committee is compiling responses from residents and business owners given in surveys and workshops. This month the committee plans to draft a vision statement based on the feedback.

There weren’t any big surprises in the responses, Trustee Dean Whalen, chairman of the committee, told The Enterprise yesterday. There were several requests for a grocery store.

"People miss the Marquette," he said of the store at the intersections of routes 146 and 156 that was transformed into a Victorian-looking mini-mall.

This month the committee is writing a vision statement based largely on the feedback from the 440 surveys that have been returned; Whalen estimated that roughly 1,000 surveys had been sent out. Local scouts delivered surveys by hand and surveys could also be filled out on-line — both in successful attempts to beat the 20-percent average return.

The vision statement will be part of the draft plan that Whalen hopes will be finished by September. The draft will be commented on and possibly amended by the public before the plan is voted on by the village board, which needs to approve it.

The last comprehensive plan was done in 1974, said Whalen. He added that it is best to do a new plan every five to 10 years because that will make it easier to get grants, which is one of the primary reasons he gave for doing the new comprehensive plan.

Aesthetics, facilities, support for senior citizens and teens, and coordination with the fair, school, and post office are some of the things on which Whalen said the plan will focus.

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