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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 7, 2006

Masked gunman takes shot at bank worker and runs

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — An attempted bank robbery last Thursday has left one bank employee shaken, yet unharmed, and several police agencies scrambling for clues to find a gunman.

A $5,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the gunman’s arrest.

Around 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 31, a Bank of America employee was going to work at 1791 Western Ave., and, as she backed into her parking spot behind the building, an unidentified 5 foot, 7 inch white male approached her vehicle on foot, according to Guilderland Deputy Police Chief Carol Lawlor.

The woman’s name is being withheld by police.

The man wore a denim shirt and a rubber "Halloween-type mask" and broke the employee’s driver’s-side window, after which, she put the car into drive and began to leave the scene, Lawlor said. While the woman proceeded to drive away, the masked man fired one shot, which entered through her broken driver’s-side window and exited through the passenger-side window, causing it to shatter as she drove off, said Lawlor.

The Guilderland Police are not releasing the type of mask used or what caliber of gun was fired, although Lawlor did confirm for The Enterprise yesterday that the weapon used was a pistol.

"I understand it was just the one shot," said Lawlor.

The woman was not hurt during the attempted robbery. It is unknown how the gunman fled the scene, she said.

A report authorized by Guilderland’s police chief, James Murley, listed the potential charges against the suspect as second-degree attempted murder, first-degree attempted robbery, both felonies, and reckless endangerment.

The bank was closed down for the day and then roped off as a crime scene. Several enforcement agencies collaborated during the investigation, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Guilderland Police, the Albany County Sheriff’s Department, the State Police, and University of Albany trained dogs.

A State Police helicopter flew overhead Thursday morning in search of the suspect while The Enterprise took photographs of the crime scene.

"It’s been a joint effort with the different agencies. They have given us a lot of assistance throughout this ongoing investigation," Lawlor said. "We’ve increased our awareness in town and our officers are paying extra attention to areas of concern."

Last Friday, a donor offered a $2,500 reward for any information leading to the apprehension or arrest of the man responsible for the incident. Yesterday, the reward was increased to $5,000.

The donor wishes to remain anonymous, Lawlor said.

Roadside checkpoints

On Friday, the morning after the attempted robbery, Guilderland Police, the Albany County Sheriff’s Department, and State Troopers conducted what police termed an "informational road check" in the area near the Bank of America on Western Avenue, near Gipp Road.

"It was productive," Lawlor told The Enterprise. "It was done in case anyone might have seen anything because sometimes people witness things they are not even aware of."

Checkpoints were made on busy Western Avenue during the morning commute, roughly around the same hours the attempted robbery took place. People were asked to slow down or pull over and asked if they regularly drive past the bank at that time, and, if they do, they were asked if they noticed anything unusual the day before.

Lawlor would not specify what information was collected through the roadside interviews, but repeatedly said that the results were "very productive."

The Guilderland Police Department is encouraging anyone with information regarding the incident, "no matter how insignificant it appears," to contact the police at 356-1501. All the information, police say, will be kept in strict confidence.

Jaws of Life extracts cop after three-car accident

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — A police car was hit in a three-car crash in the midst of rush-hour traffic on Route 20 Tuesday night.

The accident, on the town’s major thoroughfare, between Johnston Road and the Crossgates Mall entrance closed that section of Route 20, causing traffic to be re-routed through the mall.

Two Guilderland Police officers were treated for minor injuries at St. Peter’s Hospital after being hit; the driver was removed from his cruiser with the Jaws of Life.

Justin M. Goodman, 19, of Albany, struck 20-year-old Natalia K. Parachini, of Altamont, while driving west and attempting to make a lane change on Western Avenue, police say. Goodman’s car then crossed over in the eastbound lane of traffic and struck a Guilderland Police patrol car, according to the accident report.

Officers Tylor Stevens and Charles Tanner were on routine patrol when Goodman’s vehicle struck the driver’s side of their cruiser, according to Guilderland’s deputy police chief, Carol Lawlor.

"Stevens was driving when they were hit and the air bag was deployed," Lawlor said. "He had to be cut out with the Jaws of Life."

As a result, the patrol car suffered "substantial damage" and both lanes of Western Avenue were shut down, Lawlor told The Enterprise.

The eastbound and westbound lanes were diverted through Crossgates Mall, Lawlor said, adding, "We were able to open up both sides in about an hour." Western Avenue was eventually re-opened one lane at a time, first the westbound lanes, then the eastbound lanes.

Most of the department’s vehicles are sent to Auto Cosmetics in Altamont for repair, Lawlor said.

Stevens and Tanner were released from the hospital with minor injuries, and Goodman and Parachini did not report any injuries resulting from the accident, according to police.

Drugs and alcohol were not a factor in the accident, Lawlor said. The investigation is continuing and vehicle and traffic charges against Goodman are pending.

Water to spring in rural West End

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — Water will one day flow in parts of the largely undeveloped west end of town.

The town board on Tuesday unanimously approved a $7.1 million plan to allow Delaware Engineers to bring water to Chandler Road and Wagner Road, and extend water lines into Church Road, Route 158, and Grant Hill Road.

The multi-million dollar proposal breaks down to $2.4 million for the Chandler Road extension; $1.8 million for the Wagner Road options; $2.1 million for Route 158; $500,000 for Church Road; and $300,000 for Grant Hill.

The individual customer costs are as follows:

— $456 per-year cost for customers hooking into the system;

— A $9.87 increase for existing customers; and

— A $1,750 one-time hookup fee.

The average Guilderland resident pays about $120 a year for municipal water.

"This estimate appears to be comparable to other water-system extensions," said Supervisor Kenneth Runion. "Chandler and Wagner roads are areas with very poor water."

It will "optimistically" be a two to two-and-a-half years before people can actually have water in their homes, according to Delaware Engineering, and the estimated costs include everything from planning to construction.

Runion told The Enterprise that looping the water extensions into the west end will not only improve residents’ water there, but will improve the rest of the system’s water as well.

"This looping helps to alleviate many of the problems you have with water," said Runion, stating lines that don’t loop tend to have higher levels of contaminants.

"Homes without a hookup could be right next to each other and one have a well that gives 50 gallons a minute and be crystal clear," said Runion. "The other house could have a well that only gives two gallons a minute and be full of sulfur."

There will be more than 100 new customers connecting to the West End Water System.

Board member and town Democratic chair, David Bosworth, questioned Delaware Engineering’s representative on how they came up with their particular options.

"We had to pick a cutoff point for the water extensions. Certainly we wanted to best serve the community," the engineering representative answered. "We could have just kept going and going," and it wouldn’t be financially feasible.

A possible interconnection with the town of Rotterdam was suggested during the meeting.

Runion later told The Enterprise that there has been no formal talk on such a deal between the two municipalities. He said he has talked to previous Rotterdam supervisors about the possibility in the past, but that "there have been some recent changes" in Rotterdam and he has not recently been in contact with town officials.

Currently, Guilderland has municipal water interconnections with the city of Albany and the town of Bethlehem; the Voorheesville interconnection is under construction.

These types of connections allow towns to still have water when there is a water main break and other similar emergencies.

"Interconnections benefit both municipalities," said Runion. "They are encouraged by the state comptroller."

Detailed maps of the new water extensions are available on the town’s website.

Community support

Several dozen residents came to the town board meeting from the extension areas, in support of bringing water to their homes.

One man from Wagner Road asked the board if adding municipal water to the area would open the proverbial floodgates for development in a predominately rural area.

Runion assured residents that the plans would stay true to the Rural Guilderland Comprehensive Plan.

"The West End Study ensures future growth will not be spawned by water systems," Runion said during the meeting. "Depot Road has seen no major growth issues"We can still maintain moderate levels of growth with a water system in the West End."

The supervisor also sites sewer service not being provided as a hindrance for development in the new water districts.

"Having water on Wagner Road has been an ambition for a very long time," said Jim Bruce from Wagner Road. "I can’t speak for everyone here, but I think everyone on Wagner has been waiting for this"I’m very much in favor of this proposition. Tomorrow is my birthday and I would very much like to have this as a present."

Stewart Dean of Wagner Road agreed.

"I figured out long ago that the existing water pressures are too low for my house because of the elevation," Dean told the board, and added, "The fire hydrant at the end of the line would give me a bigger discount on my fire insurance too."

Brian French who lives on Gay Lane, spoke at the meeting as well because he is buying a piece of property for his grandfather on Chandler Road.

"I grew up over there and some people don’t even have washing machines," said French. "I think it’s an issue of who has water and who doesn’t have water"Some people don’t have any water and need to have it trucked in"to do daily chores."

One woman asked about other extension projects.

"How much did existing residents have to pay for other extensions in town"" she asked. "If this extension is so great for all residents, shouldn’t the rest of town shoulder more than just 10 bucks a year""

Runion responded by saying the comptroller would not grant a water extension if a customer has to pay more than around $560 a year for regular use.

When the meeting was over many residents walked up to the town board members to personally thank them for their decision.

Other water works

The board also ended the prohibition of car washes connecting to municipal water and awarded the material bid for the Voorheesville-Guilderland Water District 72 extension, and awarding a $105,000 bid for a Water and Wastewater Department emergency van.

The new van will replace its current 1974 van. The money is coming from the department’s "capital reserve account," Runion said, which it has saved over several years in anticipation of a new van purchase. The old van will either be auctioned off or given to another department.

Additionally, Edward Zyniecki was provisionally appointed as environmental science technician as part of the town’s newly created department of Community Environment. Runion said that the town has been mandated to develop a storm water program.

Runion said the town will have to detect "illicit storm water discharge" in every stream and ditch in the designated area. This duty will be covered by the new Department of Community Environment.

Other business

In other business, the town board unanimously:

— Permanently appointed Carol Lawlor as deputy police chief from the Albany County Civil Service List;

— Permanently appointed Rodger E. Stone as zoning inspector from the Albany County Civil Service List;

— Awarded bids to Long Heating Incorporated for the town’s diesel fuel as recommended by the highway superintendent. Long Heating was the lowest bidder;

— Tabled the approval of the new employee manual until the Sept. 19 meeting; and

-— Met in an executive session to discuss a real estate contract negotiation and to discuss a tax certiorari settlement. The town decided to purchase a former plant shop across the street from Tawasentha Park for $175,000 for the Department of Parks and Recreation which will move from behind town hall. The department’s former space will be converted into office space for the town.

"We’re always looking for more office space," Runion said.

The tax settlement between the town and Fountain View, a senior residential complex off of Route 155, resulted in a $139.42 refund in town tax.

Gifts make for more bearable rides

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — While most seven-year-olds play with toys on their birthdays, Guilderland’s Sarah Mahar gave her presents this year to the Western Turnpike Rescue Squad.

Sarah, whose birthday was last Thursday when she spoke to The Enterprise, brought several boxes of stuffed animals to the rescue squad with a little help from her mom, Mary Mahar.

And this isn’t her first charitable contribution either.

Sarah and her two friends, Victoria Keating and Erin Pratt, gathered and donated books to the Saint Madeleine Sophie School’s library in memory of Lindsey Plant, a third-grader who died suddenly late last Spring.

"Today’s her birthday," Mary Mahar said of her daughter on Thursday, "and she took all of her presents and the stuffed animals she got from friends and family and we brought them down here.

"The three girls are all Girl Scouts together and they brainstorm together," Mahar added about the girls’ charitable contributions.

With a constant smile, Sarah excitedly skipped around the ambulance with her little brother, Nick, before rescue workers Gerard Burgess and Paul Deyss brought over the boxes of various brightly-colored stuffed animals.

Sarah was allowed to sit on the stretcher inside of the ambulance, and, of course, every kid’s favorite part, sound the siren, after dropping off her donation.

The stuffed animals are stored in the ambulances and given to children and even the occasional adult, according to Howard Huth of the rescue squad’s board of directors.

"Every ambulance has two or three stuffed animals inside and the kid’s job is basically to name the stuffed animal before the ride is over," said Huth. "Mostly kids won’t let you go near them. The stuffed animals provide for a good patient communication tool."

Huth said the stuffed animals also work well with elderly patients suffering from dementia because of their tactile characteristics.

The animals are also used on other adults, too, like, say a New York Giant.

Huth told The Enterprise that during the Giants’ summer training camp at the University at Albany, one football player was taken to the hospital by the rescue squad.

"Sometimes the adults who act like kids get them," said Huth. "A New York Giant was given a bear."

The football player, whom Huth did not name, was in "obvious pain," and was given a bear so he could take out his aggressions on something other than the walls of the ambulance. The stuffed animals can be practical, but they can also be used for humor to smooth over stressful situations, said Huth.

"They’re a very effective tool," he said, before repeatedly thanking Sarah for her generous toy donations. Huth added that he encourages everyone to give back to their community by volunteering time, money, or donations to their local rescue squads.

‘Come hell or high water’
Village to build pipeline

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALTAMONT — The Village will lay pipe for the new water project as scheduled despite the lack of easements from some property owners along Brandle Road.

"I was, honestly, predisposed to grant the easement," Fred Crounse told The Enterprise in a phone interview from the Netherlands on Wednesday. He no longer plans to.

Crounse owns 1,760 feet of property that fronts Brandle Road, he said, the largest piece that the pipeline must go through. He decided not to grant the easement because of the "cavalier treatment" the village board showed to Brandle Road residents at Tuesday night’s village board meeting.

Crounse is in the Netherlands doing work for NATO as a contract cost analyst; "I know about contracts," he said.

After months of legal battles, this spring the water-strapped village settled with Nancy and Michael Trumpler to buy about five acres from them on Brandle Road where engineers had drilled and found water.

The Trumplers had objected to Altamont’s plans to give water to a developer, Jeff Thomas, which violated a long-standing moratorium prohibiting the use of Altamont water outside of village limits.

Thomas has proposed a senior-housing complex, also on Brandle Road, which would draw water from the village. Thomas dropped his $17 million suit against the Trumplers after the settlement.

"The incentive for signing the easements escapes me," said Pam Crounse Jones, addressing the board on Tuesday night. Jones, Crounse’s sister, is also a landowner on Brandle Road. A waiver of the hook-up fee has little appeal for most Brandle road residents, Jones said, because they live outside of the village limits so they have their own wells and would have to pay double for the metered village water, since they don’t pay village taxes. She requested another question-and-answer session for residents because more concerns had come up since the initial Aug. 22 session.

Altamont’s mayor, James Gaughan, responded that he would be willing to have another question-and-answer session about the easements. Soon after, he said, "Moving forward with no easements. This is what I recommend." The board voted unanimously to make Friday morning, Sept. 8, the deadline for residents to agree to the easement.

On Aug. 1 the village sent a letter to residents along Brandle road asking for a five-foot easement, for the new water main that will run along the road. It offered to waive the $450 tap-in fee for landowners who would grant the easement.

In a second letter to residents, following the Aug. 22 informational meeting, the village wrote, "If the requested easement is not granted, the village will be forced to move the water main to a position in the right-of-way that requires us to repave portions of the road in front of your property, which will be a significant added expense to the village."

The letter went on to say, "In this case, the village will not waive the $450 tap-in fee, and should you or a succeeding property owner request water service in the future, it would be subject to the normal application process with all fees and assessments normally applicable with no guarantee of service."

"To me, that sounds like coercion," Jones told The Enterprise. She said that she and some of her neighbors will probably sign the easements because they feel that they have no choice.

Four of the 12 easements requested had been granted as of Tuesday night.

"I felt like I was rushed through," Jones said. "Like I was not allowed to speak." Some of the questions that she would have liked to ask the board were: What will Thomas be charged to hook up to the water system, since he is outside of the village limit" Will the seniors who live in his complex be charged the double fee for water that non-village residents have to pay"

Gaughan had said earlier in the meeting, during his mayor’s report, that he met with Thomas and his engineer as well as the village’s engineer to discuss the water project. He told The Enterprise yesterday that he began having monthly meetings with the engineers and Thomas three months ago "to keep him apprised of where we are, so we can move in lockstep." He expects to have the water project completed in the winter

The village will run the pipe adjacent to the road past the properties where the village was not granted easements, cutting into the pavement by one or two feet, according to Gaughan. He said, after talking to the village’s engineers at Barton & Loguidice, that he expects the project will cost $15,000. Of having only a handful of easements granted, he said: "We will move forward whether we have 100 percent or not."

"It was fait accompli," said Crounse. "They are going to do it come hell or high water."

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Heard a report from Trustee Dean Whalen on the progress of the comprehensive planning committee. The group is now meeting on a weekly basis and plans to have a full draft plan completed by October;

— Held a public hearing on the extension of the moratorium for six months, until April 1, 2007, at the request of the comprehensive planning committee. No residents spoke and the board passed the extension unanimously;

— Heard from Keith Lee, the mayor’s partner, that he met with Carl Schilling, a builder who has volunteered his skills, to site the pavilion for the Maple Avenue park. Lee reported that they expect to break ground in the next few days;

— Heard From Gaughan that he is seeking additional funding for the Altamont Seniors program;

—Heard from Timothy McIntyre, who heads the village’s department of public works, that Route 156 will be closed a quarter of a mile outside of the village, between Mountaindale Court and Brandle Road, on Sept. 11 so that a box culvert can be replaced. He expects the project will take about a week.

Also, he said that there has been a lot of work on the sidewalks on Lincoln Avenue and there will soon be work done on the sidewalks on Grand Street;

—Heard from Altamont’s public safety commissioner, Anthony Solerno, that there was a "graffiti issue" on Monday morning; six people were arrested. He thanked three parents for their cooperation and reported that community service would be the punishment for the nefarious painters;

—Heard from Norman Bauman that he would like to organize a neighborhood watch program in Altamont. The first meeting for the group will be on Sept. 23 at 11 a.m. in the village hall;

— Voted unanimously to approve a concept for a stained-glass cupola on the gazebo in Orsini Park. Edward Cowley, the local artist who designed the plan, spoke to the board about the project, explaining as he gestured to a sketch of the plan, "These would be geometric shapes, simple shapes, in bright-colored glass." He expects that the project would take about a year;

— Voted unanimously to "approve tap-in fee waiver and maintenance of benefit assessment fee for certain Brandle Road residents," according to the meeting agenda;

—Voted unanimously to adopt a revised village emergency plan, which will allow the village to apply for Homeland Security grants, according to Gaughan.

"It’s not easy to navigate through," said Trustee Bill Aylward of the document.

"It has to follow a federal outline," Salerno said, explaining why it’s complicated.

Aylward also expressed some concern over educating village residents on the new plan, which is something the plan itself requires, he said. Gaughan suggested coming up with a plan to let residents know about it; and

— Voted unanimously to junk a broken 1997 Dodge Intrepid police car.

Officer Davenport suspended for 30 days

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALTAMONT — Joshua Davenport has been suspended again.

This time, the part-time Altamont police officer will be suspended for 30 days without pay; in January, he had been suspended for a week, without pay, following a harassment complaint.

"There are various instances, I’m talking in the plural, not just one," Guy Roemer, the village’s attorney, told The Enterprise yesterday when asked if this latest suspension was related to a January complaint lodged by Colin Abele.

A former Ketchum’s convenience store clerk, Abele wrote a letter to the editor in January that said: "Officer Davenport has repeatedly and consistently used foul, abrasive, and threatening language when approaching me at my place of employment."

Abele also alleged that Davenport had threatened to give him traffic tickets for things he hadn’t done. "He informed me the reason he had lied about this was to ‘remind’ me who held the ‘upper hand’ in the village," wrote Abele. "Because I had been ‘runnin’ my mouth about the cops.’"

After looking into the complaint, Alatmont’s public safety commissioner, Anthony Salerno, said, "Some things have been substantiated" They have been addressed," although he declined to say what was substantiated and how it was addressed. Davenport was suspended for a week and was then reinstated and has been working on patrol in the village.

After going into an executive session at Tuesday night’s village board meeting, the board voted unanimously to bring disciplinary charges against Davenport, an action which was recommended by Salerno.

Davenport could not be reached for comment.

"The village is taking a position that discipline should be undertaken," said Roemer, who said a hearing should be held within the next 30 days.

Salerno, Roemer, and Altamont’s mayor, James Gaughan, all declined comment on what led to Davenport’s suspension or why the village is seeking disciplinary action, but, Roemer said, "unless he resigns, we’ll proceed."

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