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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, October 12, 2006
$18M budget proposal
Guilderland holds the line
By Jarrett Carroll
GUILDERLAND If you can remember what your tax bill was this year, then you wont have to get out your calculator next year, according to Supervisor Kenneth Runion.
With little over an $18 million budget proposed for 2007, Guilderland has again held the line on spending and continued to keep a lid on property taxes, according to the towns preliminary budget numbers.
"It will be the same impact as the year before on the tax bill," Runion said while describing what he called a "smooth" budget process for 2007.
The tax rate for the towns general fund will stay at 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
Despite facing unfunded mandates, increasing energy costs, rising retirement and benefits costs, and making standard pay increases, budget-framers say residents can expect to pay the same in taxes, even as the town increases services such as park improvements.
There are roughly 34,000 residents in the town of Guilderland.
"We’ve always been looking to create revenues to offset cost throughout the town," Runion told The Enterprise yesterday.
Describing it as a "maintenance budget," Runion said the town has also paid off some of its debt which has brought the debt service down.
Negotiating contracts to keep general increases in check and limiting over-time pay for police officers were some of the examples Runion used. Guilderland Police will receive a 4 percent pay increase in accordance with last years contract negotiation.
The town will use $2.5 million from its 2006 fund balance.
Two budget workshops have been held and residents can attend a public hearing at Town Hall on Thursday, Nov. 9, after which, the town board will vote on adopting a spending plan.
The highway expenses will remain at this years total, coming in at $3.8 million; the water budget is slightly higher than this year at just under $2 million.
"The water rate is up about 1 percent and sewer went up maybe 1 or 2 percent," said Runion.
Other increases in the budget include the major lighting districts throughout the town. Runion attributed the hike to increasing energy cost and to National Grid determining that some additional lighting was needed.
As for the ever-increasing cost of the retirement funding, Runion said it comes as no surprise, but the town is attempting to keep it in check.
"Retirements and health-insurance costs continue to go up dramatically. We’re still at over a million dollars on retirement costs," said Runion. "They’re all up a little bit retirement, health insurance, Social Security; they’ve all increased. It’s been the trend."
Health-insurance cost alone increased by 8 percent in next years budget, Runion said.
At a quick glance, the money budgeted for landfill services seems to be steadily growing. There was a $100,000 increase in the 2005 budget and more than a $70,000 increase in the 2006 budget. However, the costs are offset by the cash that trash creates, according to Runion; haulers pay a Capital Region consortium for recycled goods.
Also, he added, the towns hazardous-waste and electronic-waste days can bring the cost up some.
Spending will decrease next year in purchasing and communications, public health expenses, human resource expenses, and culture and recreation funding.
Although the total general government budget will decrease $90,000 from this year, the general government budget increased nearly a quarter of a million dollars between the 2005 and 2006 budgets.
As for the county-wide "temporary" 1 percent sales tax increases that keeps getting renewed, Runion said it’s most likely here to stay.
"I think it’s something that’s going to be relatively permanent. I have advocated to the county legislature that it should just make it permanent," Runion told The Enterprise. "The county budget and all of the municipalities rely on that tax to run."
Albany County has also recently chosen optical scan voting machines for elections in 2007. The federal Help America Vote Act requires updated machines and New York State left the decision up to the individual counties. The unfunded mandate was pushed onto municipalities.
The new optical scan machines, which work similarly to standardized test scoring machines where voters fill in circles to mark their choices, will have to be used in all public elections including school elections in 2007. The federal government is buying the actual machines, but towns will have to pay for extra staffing for new procedures and election standards, as well as for storage and maintenance of the machines.
Guilderland will have to pay $275,561 next year to meet the mandate.
"The unfunded mandate was passed down by the federal government onto the state, who passed it on to the county, who passed it on to the towns. We have no one to pass it on to except for the taxpayer. We’re last in the chain of government," said Runion. "The lever machines are probably the most reliable machines, and they’ll be gone forever.
Police investigator attacked in dispute
By Jarrett Carroll
GUILDERLAND A Guilderland police investigator was struck on the side of his head and attacked by a dog, police say, after he answered a domestic-dispute call on Church Road last Saturday.
Jason A. Rood, 26, has been charged with two counts of second-degree assault, against a police officer; third-degree assault, against the complainant; driving while intoxicated; and felony aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle; along with numerous Vehicle and Traffic Law violations.
Additional charges may be pending, police say.
Senior investigator John Tashjian was treated for minor injuries, police say, after Rood struck him with his cast-encased arm and after being bitten on his arm by Roods Staffordshire terrier, commonly called a pit bull.
Police say they received a call regarding an intoxicated man holding down a child.
"Mr. Rood was being held down by his wife because he kept hitting her and there were two children in the middle of the scuffle," said Sergeant Adam Myers of the Guilderland Police.
Roods wife is not being charged.
Myers continued, saying, "Someone from inside that house called, and when we arrived Rood took off on a little 50-cc mini-bike."
A short police chase then ensued, said Myers.
"He came up out of a field and two police cars were coming up the road when he tried to cross and go into the other field," Myers told The Enterprise. "He got stuck in the mud and that’s when the senior investigator tackled him."
Roods dog was following him on the mini-bike, police say, and, when Tashjian was struggling with Rood, the dog bit him. Rood refused to call off the dog, according to a police report.
An animal control officer took the dog away, police say, and, as the investigation continues, the police department is talking with the district attorneys office about adding endangering the welfare of a child to Roods charges.
Rood was arrested in May of last year for acting in a manner injurious to a child and second-degree unlawful imprisonment of a child, after Guilderland Police received a report that Rood was holding a five-year-old child, and that possibly a knife was involved.
Rood was stunned with a Taser gun after police repeatedly told him to release the child.
Rood was also arrested this past June for driving while intoxicated; operating a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol content of .08 percent; and third-degree assault, with intent to cause physical injury. He later pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and was sentenced to serve three years of probation and pay a $165 surcharge, according to court records.
Woman robbed in X-gates restroom
By Jarrett Carroll
GUILDERLAND A woman was pepper-sprayed and robbed while at Crossgates Mall on Friday, according to Guilderland Police.
At approxiatemly 4:50 p.m., a woman was in a restroom stall at the lower level of the mall near Macys, when, suddenly, police say, a woman forced her way in and sprayed the victim with Mace and demanded her purse.
The robber, described by police as a heavyset black woman in her 20s, was wearing a gray sleeveless shirt and had braids in her hair.
"Just as she was undoing her pants to sit down in the stall, a woman burst in and pepper-sprayed her, then took her purse and ran off," said Sergeant Adam Myers of the Guilderland Police.
The perpertrator could not be identified from surveillance tapes. "There was nothing clear from the video at the mall," said Myers.
A struggle ensued between the two women inside of the restroom before the robber fled the scene. The attacker then ran out the nearby mall exit with the victims purse.
"The victim was pepper-sprayed and couldn’t see anything," said Myers. The robber made off with the victim’s credit cards, money, and her identification, Myers told The Enterprise.
Guilderland Police are asking anyone with information regarding the matter to call the police department at 356-1501.
Gravel pit plans at crossroads
By Jarrett Carroll
GUILDERLAND An intersection may have to be rebuilt before a new gravel pit can open in town.
Last Wednesday, the zoning board tabled Charles Deschs application to open a gravel pit on Becker Road until its Oct. 18 meeting, when the board can address issues with the use of heavy trucks with the town-designated engineer.
Volmer Associates, the towns designated engineering firm, suggested that the intersection at Becker Road and Route 158 undergo either a full realignment or at least a modified realignment before Desch can proceed with his gravel operation.
Currently, the turning dimension of the intersection could be dangerous to heavy-duty traffic, according to reports given to the board. The speed at which people enter Becker Road from Route 158 was another concern raised by some residents attending the meeting.
"Not one of us up here are engineers, and certainty not traffic engineers. We have to rely on our town’s engineer," said Peter Barber, zoning board chairman. "We need someone to tell us if that is ok or not."
The town-designated engineer did not attend Wednesdays meeting.
The question of who would be responsible for a road realignment as well as any necessary repairs was also addressed.
"If he’s forced to do a complete realignment of the intersection, it won’t be possible," Desch’s representative told the board.
Several options were laid out between Desch and the board, including a complete overhaul of the intersection as well as some with varying degrees of modification.
Donald Cropsey, chief building inspector and zoning administrator, spoke with Todd Gifford, the town highway superintendent, who suggested that the town create an escrow account for Becker Road for future realignment or possible damages to the road. Gifford said that right now though, the money should not be necessary; the escrow account would only be a precaution.
Several residents in and around the Becker Road area spoke at the meeting.
"Even at 20 miles per hour, taking that turn"there is not enough room to stop," said Sue Green, who lives on Route 158. "It’s a tough road, and it’s got a lot of traffic."
Green told the board that in the 32 years she has lived there, she doesnt remember ever seeing anyone work on the road. She also said that, although the board was told Desch had all of the neighbors approval, she was never contacted, nor did she provide her written consent.
John Abbruzzese, who lives at 6677 Dunnsville Rd., and is a co-owner of the Altamont Orchards on that road, gave his approval for Deschs business proposal, but added that he did not believe Desch should have to pay for the road work.
"Everybody already knows that Charlie is the most talented bulldozer mechanic in this town," said Abbruzzese. "To me, it seems like it’s just as dangerous for a school bus full of kids going around that corner as for an empty tractor trailer"I don’t think it should be solely his responsibility."
Abbruzzese also told the board that he is personally aware of heavy traffic, and, as taxpayers, residents and business owners should not have to pay the entire cost of road work to live or set up shop in town.
"I just want to state that I have no objections to opening up a gravel pit there," Carl Peterson told the board.
Peterson, a farmer, owns property at 1102 Bosenkill Rd., next to Deschs.
"As for Becker Road with agricultural equipment"it’s almost impossible," said Peterson. "I think it should be left up to the DOT people," he said of the state’s Department of Transportation.
Jim Leonard, who has property at 129 School Rd. and has been a Guilderland resident for over 40 years, also spoke on Deschs behalf.
"The competition would be fine for this area. We only have one gravel company to choose from. Maybe a little competition can help keep the prices down," said Leonard. "I’m in favor of it and I wanted to go on the record for saying so."
The last man to approach the podium during the public hearing was Richard List, who owns a business in the town of Guilderland.
"I’m for Mr. Desch’s application," List told the board. "I’m a little disappointed that the TDE isn’t here to answer questions."
Barber agreed, adding that he believes the intersection is dangerous and needs to be realigned.
According to Gifford, there is a four-ton weight limit on Becker Road, but he told the zoning board that there is "a remote chance for damage" from a gravel business operating on the road.
The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation requires that a "rumble-strip style" apparatus be implemented to shake dust and mud from trucks before they enter Becker Road.
Mickey Ds to stay open all night
By Jarrett Carroll
GUILDERLAND The urge for burgers never sleeps.
Customers will be able to get fast-food 24 hours a day at the 1602 Western Ave. McDonalds without ever leaving their cars.
The zoning board last Wednesday unanimously approved amending McDonalds special-use permit to operate its drive-through window, with the stipulation that the board could rescind or review the amendment should noise or complaints become an issue.
Forty-two neighboring property owners were notified of the pending amendment.
Anthony Russo represented Doug Arnott who has been the franchise operator since 1988.
"There was a Denny’s operating 24 hours in the area, but now there is no place for kids to get a bite to eat after hours," Russo told the board. "There are a number of businesses in the area that are already open 24 hours"People don’t have normal business hours anymore."
Russo explained that the University at Albany is asking local businesses to participate with its "debit swipe-cards." The cards can be used as part of a student’s meal plan through the university, but can also be used at other participating businesses off-campus, which are then reimbursed by the university for food services.
He continued, saying that the McDonalds corporation is pushing all of its franchisees to operate 24 hours a day, and that the more money each owner makes for the corporation, the more money the owner makes in return. The restaurant is only trying to remain competitive, he said.
Russo also told the board that Arnotts lease with McDonalds was coming up for renewal soon and that his client has to be in full compliance with corporate mandates.
"Is there a possible way to turn down the drive-through speaker"" Chairman Peter Barber asked Arnott. "What may be an appropriate volume at noon may not be at 3 a.m."
Arnott responded that the speaker is adjustable and could be turned down at night.
Donald Cropsey, the towns zoning administrator, stated that there were no outstanding complaints against McDonalds and he was satisfied with its current landscaping.
Board member James Sumner said he was concerned with noise at the early hours because people live nearby and he was also concerned about three or four cars having a "3 a.m. rendezvous in the parking lot."
Arnott said that the Guilderland Police would be contacted about any after-hours loitering.
"My major concern is the congregation of college kids," said a woman who identified herself as owning an apartment at 539 Church Rd., which is directly behind McDonald’s. "I just don’t think it’s necessary to be open 24 hours."
Her neighbor agreed.
"The drive-through does make a lot of noise. You can hear it inside of the house," she told the board. "I don’t think having a place for college kids to eat after they’ve been drinking is a good idea. They will definitely congregate there"I am totally opposed to a 24-hour drive-through.
Russo said that having a 24-hour operation will actually help control late-night problems.
"At least there will be someone on-site to call the police at night instead of leaving it up to the neighbors," Russo said. "This isn’t a trend that is going to leave Guilderland."
Arnott reiterated that the police will be called if there are problems.
Barber suggested that Arnott close off the overflow parking lot connected to Church Road to eliminate late-night parking spots, but Cropsey explained that there are no left-hand turns allowed onto Western Avenue from the McDonalds drive-through.
"There were a lot of problems with Denny’s at three, four, and five in the morning with noise and congregating. There was a lot of activity," Cropsey said.
The two residents at the meeting also complained about diesel trucks "running all night long," and about gaps in the McDonald’s fence large enough for small children to fit through.
Barber told the women that, if there are any issues with noise or safety with the extended hours at McDonalds, they should call Cropsey. He added that the amended special-use permit could be rescinded if it is a problem.
Arnott said his lighting plan will not change; the lights currently run 24 hours a day because of security problems. Last year, all of McDonalds landscaping plants in the back of the restaurant were stolen, according to Arnott.
"I have a problem with a corporate franchise from some other city in middle-town America"who suddenly decides Guilderland has to be the city that never sleeps, and everyone has to do it," board member Charles Klaer told his colleagues.
Dog and Pony show
The board also approved a special-use permit for Martha Masters to operate horse stables on a 60-acre farm at 7296 Route 158. Masters asked to stable 35 to 40 horses, but told the board that she is currently planning on only having eight or nine horses.
She also told the board that she applied to the town of Rotterdams program to bring municipal water across the road. Masters said shell pay Rotterdam to hook into the system and pay for the water she needs for her horses, and that water would not be an issue. This will quell neighbors concerns about water conservation, she said.
Currently, residents in the area rely on private wells for their water supply.
"I don’t want to wake up one morning and look outside and see the wild west," one concerned neighbor told the board. He said he heard that Masters wanted 60 or more horses on the property, which Masters denied. People will be allowed to ride horses at Masters’s farm.
"Agricultural controls have sound business practices"people aren’t allowed to over-use the land," Barber told the concerned neighbor. "In many ways, the sound agricultural practices are in of themselves limiting," he said;
Scheduled a "vote only" meeting for Oct. 18, for Roger Carr’s special-use permit and area variance to have a dog kennel at his 6588 Route 158 home. Currently Carr owns five dogs, one of which is 15 years old and in poor health; town code states that anyone owning more than three dogs must obtain a kennel license to shelter them.
Neighbors were angry with what they called "extremely excessive barking" from three bloodhound hunting dogs in Carr’s backyard in an enclosed kennel. The two neighbors who spoke at the meeting said the barking dogs were ruining the neighborhood’s quality of life; they pleaded with the board that they "just wanted their neighborhood back."
Carr told the board that his dogs were being harassed daily by passers-by throwing rocks and rattling the cages, and that one of his "$5,000 champion hunting dogs was stabbed in the side" with some kind of sharp object. He currently has special collars on the dogs to prevent barking, he said.
"I’m not accusing anyone; I will let the cameras do the talking"and charges will be filed," Carr told the board when he was asked if one of the complaining neighbors was responsible for harming the animals.
Barber said that the kennel would have to be 300 feet from any residence in order to be approved. Cropsey responded to Barber, saying that there "was no way the kennel could get 300 feet from any spot on that property." They then agreed to measure the distance before their vote-only meeting.
Resident Sue Green, who is active in Guilderhaven, a not-for-profit group that helps animals in town, suggested to Carr that he move the dogs to his parents property on Becker Road, which would be much more than 300 feet away from the nearest residence and close enough to visit each day.
Green described bark-preventing collars on hunting dogs as "horrible."
In other business, the zoning board unanimously:
Approved a special-use permit and a 47.5-square-foot sign for Frank and Randi Dessingue for their Planet Beach tanning and spa business at 1800 Western Ave. in Cosmos Plaza. The Dessingues are opening a tanning and spa business at the former jewelry shop on the corner of the plaza;
Approved a 33.2-square-foot sign for Connie Ware at her Italian restaurant at 2026 Western Ave. The restaurant is currently under reconstruction at the site of the former Pheobes Florist; it was at the center of re-zoning controversy earlier this year; and
Approved two temporary banners for seasonal events at Stuyvesant Plaza. Barber told Cropsey he would like to "look into temporary banners becoming semi-permanent banners," referring to some businesses’ frequent applications for temporary banners.
At GCSD first budget session
Citizens urge saving and spending
By Melissa Hale-Spencer
GUILDERLAND The first volley in the school budget-building process has sounded. Nine citizens addressed the board Tuesday about a budget in the $80 million range that voters wont decide on until May.
Their suggestions ran the gamut from cutting costs by reducing health-insurance benefits to spending on items like musical instruments or foreign-language instruction at the elementary level.
David Langenbach, a one-time Guilderland bus driver who now works for neighboring Bethlehem, talked about how "tough" it is being on a contingency budget as Bethlehem is.
"I’m going to challenge this board and administration...to keep in mind the older, less financially fortunate in the district," he said.
Although the tax-rate hike for Guilderland was one of the lowest in the region this year, Langenbach concluded, "We can always do better."
Ray McQuade spoke about the importance of reducing health-insurance costs. "This is a crisis every business in the United States has addressed...We need to face it now," he said.
McQuade urged the board, "Reduce the benefit coverage for the purpose of dropping the premiums...Take the money you save and share it."
Since Guilderland workers pay 20 percent of their health-insurance costs, McQuade said that, for every $1,000 the district cuts, teachers would save $200. He said the money could be put in flexible spending accounts for teachers.
Second, McQuade said the board should address health insurance for retirees, saying board members might be surprised what such benefits will cost the district in five or 10 years as more employees retire early and live longer.
Donald Csaposs said "ditto" to most of McQuade’s points. While Csaposs said he didn’t know if the health-insurance crisis has been fully addressed in private industry, he concluded, "It’s here, staring all of us in the face."
He said of health insurance, "This is something that you have at least a measure of control over."
Csaposs also said he had long advocated a public session for input on the school budget in the fall, now in its eighth year. "I’m really glad you guys do this," he said.
But he went on to say that a half-hour isn’t enough. "You need to have more community input in the fall," said Csaposs.
Tim Burke said he got "a lot of flack" for supporting this year’s budget. He called the plan "a good first step," stating, "People are aware there was a crisis."
Burke called the "short school day" at the elementary schools "alarming" and urged the board negotiate "a better contract" with teachers.
In the wake of a transportation report that recommended reconfiguring school days for more efficient bus runs, a committee has been appointed to look at a variety of issues related to the length of the school day.
Burke went on to suggest "simple steps" that he said would cost little but improve learning. These included "zero tolerance" for the use of bad language and adopting school uniforms.
"I wouldn’t mind a dress code for some of the teachers also," said Burke.
Late in the evening, Peter Golden reported to fellow board members on the work of the business practices committee. Referring to the public comments on health-insurance costs, he said that the board had looked at that last year. And the district’s newly hired consultant "seems to be very aggressive," said Golden.
"We’ll be able to make some clear decisions," he said. "There should be some savings."
Five parents spoke about issues they believe are important to learning.
Karen La Freniere, who identified herself as the mother of three children in the district, said the elementary-school day should be extended from five hours and 45 minutes to six-and-a-half hours.
Guilderland, she said, has one of the shortest school days in the area. The added time could be used for academic intervention and for foreign-language instruction, she said.
Bridget Brown, who has a daughter at Altamont Elementary School, the smallest of the districts five elementary schools, thanked the board for restoring a social worker position at the school, which had originally been slated for a cut.
Brown said it "meant a lot to our community" and she said of the social worker, "That trusted ally within our school community is vitally important."
She urged the position be kept and said the decision should be based on the needs of the students not the number of the students.
Elizabeth Miller stood at the microphone with two other mothers beside her, all members of the support group for music in the schools.
A record number of students in all seven of the districts schools are participating in music programs this year, said Miller.
There is a "desperate need," she said, to repair and replace instruments so the superb program can continue.
Terri Standish-Kuon, the mother of an Altamont third-grader, raised three curriculum issues under the "umbrella of competitiveness."
She spoke in favor, as she has before, of the Foreign Language Early Start (FLES) program that would, for $160,000, provide some instruction for all elementary students.
The PTAs at the Altamont and Guilderland elementary schools now support after-school foreign-language programs, which cost $60 for six weeks, a price that is out of reach for some, she said. Instruction should not be a matter of socio-economic class, said Standish-Kuon.
While praising the "Everyday Math" curriculum, she said the reading curriculum does not currently reach every reader.
Finally, she suggested looking at research programs for the high-school curriculum.
Leslie Gohlke, with three children at Westmere Elementary School, told board members she regretted their cutting the assistant-principal post at the school. The two largest elementary schools, Guilderland and Westmere, had had assistant principals, posts that were cut last year as a cost-saving measure.
Gohlke cited a Pride survey that showed Guilderland has problems with drugs, alcohol, and violence; she said that an added administrator would help address these problems as well as continuing with the districts anti-bullying campaign.
She also said her daughters class size increased from 15 last year to 22 this year and that behavioral problems were more likely in larger classes.
Gohlke said that the Guilderland and Westmere schools have a "more transient" population and concluded that maybe the formula shouldn’t be exactly the same for staffing all the schools.
"This is just the beginning," said board president Richard Weisz, at the close of the comments. He reminded people they can speak at the start of any board meeting.
Grandpa Sy turns 85 as dozens of his kids celebrate
By Melissa Hale-Spencer
GUILDERLAND Seymour Bieber was engrossed on Thursday morning, teaching a lesson to second-graders at Pine Bush Elementary School. A vigorous man with kind eyes, he looked at ease in blue jeans and a cable-knit sweater as he sat in a chair with a group of children at his feet.
Suddenly, through the door behind him, the school principal, Martha Beck, entered, carrying a birthday cake. Bieber put his hand to his face in surprise, and later, as the children sang "Happy Birthday," he wiped tears from his eyes.
"That’s amazing," Bieber said several times, with a wide smile as shiny birthday balloons were tied to his chair.
The kids, and many in the rest of the school, knew the cake was coming, but kept it a surprise.
"He’s a sweetheart," said Sherry Sullivan, the security monitor who greets visitors at the school’s front door. "He doesn’t look 85; wait until you see him. Everybody loves him."
"He’s our Grandpa Sy," said Principal Beck, describing Bieber’s role in the school. Bieber’s own grandchildren attended Pine Bush Elementary and he began volunteering at the school seven years ago, she said.
"He’s so loyal and so reliable," said Beck. "He’s here twice a week, every week, right on time."
Three third-graders who had worked with Bieber last year were eager to tell The Enterprise about why they liked him.
"He’s really nice and he helps you a lot with your math," said Matthew Darby.
"He’s very generous," said Alli Reiner.
"He would read with us," said Amanda Warren, "and he’s good at it."
Alli, who was going to visit her grandfather in Pennsylvania soon, said she enjoyed having a grandpa at school.
"He’s not like an old person," she went on.
"He can walk good," agreed Amanda.
"He’s a strong man," concluded Matt.
The appreciation flows both ways. "I love the children," said Bieber, when asked why he volunteers.
He had had a grandchild in Crupi’s second-grade class who is now a junior at Guilderland High School. He has a grandson, a Guilderland graduate, who is now a student at the State University of New York College at Plattsburg. He also has a granddaughter at MIT, whom he termed "a certified genius."
"My grandchildren got a wonderful education here," said Bieber. "I have the ability to give something back."
Bieber is retired from his job as the supervisory special referee of the states Supreme Court.
"Because of my work, I was not a hands-on father," said Bieber. "I had a magnificent wife," he said, who was wonderful with their children. His wife, Rebecca, died in 1995.
Bieber, now, enjoys the hands-on interaction with kids.
He comes to Crupi’s classroom every Tuesday and Thursday, he said, and helps with "whatever she wants reading, spelling, math."
"By the end of the year, I really know the children," he said.
Bieber said he would recommend volunteer work at the school to "anyone who has an interest in children."
"We’re so fortunate to have him," said Beck.
"It’s the other way around," insisted Bieber. "They took a gamble on me."
During the party, Beck read a letter from Biebers sons and their wives Michael and Carole Bieber, and Eric and Susan Bieber and his grandchildren Jordan, Nicole, Alexa, and David Bieber.
"In celebration of Dad’s birthday and in proud recognition of his work," the letter said, the family donated $85, one dollar for each year of his life, to the school’s library.
Librarian Kim Harmon said that books bought with the money would be labeled as gifts. She asked Bieber what were his favorites, to purchase.
"He likes owls," suggested Crupi, noting Bieber has an owl collection.
"You’re the expert," Bieber said to Harmon. "You pick them out."
The classroom of kids, having enjoyed their birthday cake, chorused a loud "thank you"
"It’s amazing," Bieber said once again.
On the way out of the classroom, Beck described Bieber as "a consummate gentleman."
She concluded, "He makes us happy every time he walks in the door."
By Saranac Hale Spencer
ALTAMONT The villages police force is down one officer.
"I hereby resign from my post as a Police Officer for the Village of Altamont," wrote Josh Davenport in a letter of resignation dated Sept. 22. "I release the Village of Altamont and any and all of its employees from any claim or claims against them which I may have had," the letter concludes.
Davenport had been suspended for 30 days without pay earlier last month. After an executive session at Septembers village board meeting, the board voted unanimously to bring disciplinary charges against him.
"Unless he resigns, we’ll proceed," said Guy Roemer, the village’s attorney, last month. He would not comment on what Davenport was suspended for or what the disciplinary charges were going to be, though.
"There are various instances, I’m talking in the plural, not just one," he said when asked if the suspension was related to a January complaint lodged by Colin Abele.
When asked about Davenports resignation yesterday, Roemer said initially that the letter was sealed as part of a settlement agreement.
Later in the day, he said that there was no settlement. Mayor James Gaughan did not return calls for comment.
Citizens had complained two years ago about excessive police presence in Altamont. A new public safety commissioner, Anthony Salerno, was hired in 2005. Under Salernos leadership, the Altamont Police Department has been scaled back to seven officers, most of them part-time, and the commissioner.
Although nobody would comment on the cause of Davenports last suspension, in January of 2006 he was suspended for a week without pay as a result of a complaint from Abele. While working at Ketchums, the local gas station and convenience store, Abele said in a letter to the editor of The Enterprise that "officer Davenport has repeatedly and consistently used foul, abrasive, and threatening language when approaching me at my place of employment."
On hearing that Davenport had resigned from the police force, Abele was pleased. "I think this guy should be in a profession other than law enforcement," he said yesterday.
Although Abele initially had concerns over whether his complaint would be taken seriously by the department, he said that he had no complaints over the way it was handled. He said that the resignation of Davenport was good for Altamont. "He was a bad apple," Abele said.
Salerno and Davenport could not be reached for comment.
Over one trustees objections
New police procedures adopted
By Saranac Hale Spencer
ALTAMONT The villages police department is now working under standard operating procedures that only half of the village trustees said they had read before voting on the new procedures.
In a 3-to-1 vote, the village board adopted the procedures on a provisional basis. Trustee Harvey Vlahos was opposed. Mayor James Gaughan said that he wouldnt vote on the manual but he would have sided with the majority if he did. Vlahos proposed putting off the vote for a month since the whole board hadnt read the manual; the vote had been tabled at the September meeting for the same reason.
Although the roughly 400-page manual had been available for review at the village hall for weeks, it had only been effectively available for less than a week before the Oct. 3 village board meeting when each board member was given his or her own copy. Trustees Vlahos and Dean Whalen both said that they hadnt been able to read the manual.
Trustee Kerry Dineen, though, said, "To put this off again seems silly."
Anthony Salerno drafted the manual. The village board hired him in August of 2005 as Altamonts public safety commissioner after a citizens committee surveyed residents and decided the police department needed restructuring. Gaughan, Dineen, and Whalen all served on the committee before they were elected to the board.
Although Vlahos said that he had only looked through parts of the manual, he raised several questions about it. Among them, a portion of the manual says "funds seized through asset forfeiture" are to be accessed by the public safety commissioner or the mayor, rather than the village board.
Vlahos also questioned another procedure. "Officers are encouraged to be aggressive but courteous and respectful of constitutional rights," Vlahos read from the section on patrol operations in the manual.
He also read from another section on employee evaluations in the police department: "The review will be conducted by someone superior and then the evaluation will be reviewed and signed-off by the commissioner of public safety/chief." Vlahos then said, "We don’t have a lieutenant or sergeant" so basically it makes the commissioner judge, jury, and executioner."
"Without answering these questions, why would they vote on this"" Vlahos asked during a phone interview this week. He added, "Unless they didn’t read it."
In response to questions regarding the manual from Trustee William Aylward, the only board member other than Vlahos to ask questions, Salerno said, "I feel this is basically unfair."
"All of us campaigned on open government and I’m not sure what’s unfair about that," Vlahos said of Salerno’s reaction to questions from the board about the manual.
Salerno did not address any of the issues that Vlahos raised during the meeting and he would not comment on the manual or answer questions about it from The Enterprise this week.
"Just to be clear, we’re talking amongst ourselves and people are observing us," Gaughan said to Vlahos after he had voiced his concerns. He went on to say, "Raising these issues should be vetted carefully before we give opinions that may not be exactly correct."
"Two months ago, I asked Jim about this and he said, ‘This is all just standard stuff,’" Vlahos told The Enterprise. "Now that I look into it, it’s not all standard stuff. There’s a lot of really serious questions."
The Enterprise has filed a request for a copy of the manual under the Freedom of Information law, but was unable to obtain a copy before press time.
In other business, the board:
Heard from Whalen that the master-planning committee is nearing the finish of its draft plan and plans to present it to the board in the next couple of weeks;
Heard from Keith Lee, the mayors partner, that work started on the Maple Avenue park on Sept. 13 and the shelter may be completed this year;
Heard from Gaughan that the village is debt free as of this month. "We are A++ in the bond world," he said;
Heard from Gaughan that the village received a $580 check to cover the assignment of Altamont Police officers during the Irish Fest, which was held at the Altamont fairgrounds;
Voted unanimously to accept Steven Risco as a volunteer firefighter;
Voted unanimously to accept Barton & Laguidices recommendations for awarding bids on the villages water project.
The village has purchased a well site on Brandle Road and will be piping water from there to the municipal system.
Iota Construction Corp. will be doing the well site general construction for $246,091, Stilsing Electric Inc. will be doing the well site electrical construction for $131,950, and Highlander Construction Inc. will be doing the water main construction for $548,627;
Voted unanimously to set up a water-improvement reserve fund. "What we’re doing is setting up a reserve fund to hold funds coming in to basically pay off this project," Gaughan said. The project is estimated to cost $1.4 million overall;
Voted unanimously to authorize up to $500 for a structural engineer to evaluate the Crounse house on Route 146 at the edge of the village. The village and the town of Guilderland jointly purchased the historic house, which has been vacant and fallen into disrepair, from Albany County;
Voted unanimously to appoint Jean La Crosse, the village clerk, provisional court clerk until April of 2007; and
Voted unanimously to hold a Halloween party in the community room at Village Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 31. There will be a parade from Orsini Park at 6 p.m. that will end in the community room.
Skull Manor, Code Blue, and 3-D Chaos " Ultimate Terrors
By Rachel Dutil
ALTAMONT "Any open wounds"" asked Madame Lobotomy, an actor at the Altamont Scaregrounds, as she readied the crowd for its journey through Skull Manor.
Last Wednesday, Ultimate Terrors hosted a media night to promote the opening of its three haunted houses at the Altamont fairgrounds.
"If you wet your pants, we’ve done our job," she continued.
Whether or not anyone wet their pants is unknown, but screams ricocheted through the Scaregrounds.
Ultimate Terrors was the brainchild of Mike Maybee, a Guilderland native, who now resides in Slingerlands. Maybee is the assistant director for information technology for New York State.
Maybee said that the idea came from his understanding that multiple haunt events exist in other metropolitan areas, and the Capital Region previously had nothing of this caliber.
The site features three haunted houses: Skull Manor, Code Blue, and 3-D Chaos; a dark museum; a paintball shooting gallery; a sideshow; psychic readings; and airbrush tattoos.
The show, billed as "the scariest place in upstate New York," features three lead characters: Madame Lobotomy, Colleen the Sideshow Queen, and Dr. Henry Heckle.
"Our goals are to continue to grow and be the Capital Region’s ultimate haunt," Maybee told The Enterprise.
Ultimate Terrors opened to the public this past weekend. It will remain open Thursday through Sunday until Halloween.
Corpses awkwardly strolled through Skull Manor, searching for a resting place; while a man dressed in a hazardous materials suit stood guard at the gate that leads into Code Blues toxic wasteland.
Strobe lights flashed and monsters ran through the halls, screaming and growling. Surprise and terror lurked around every corner and hid behind every fake wall or doorway.
Maybee has about 80 employees working for the attraction. In order for things to run really smoothly, 65 employees on any given night are ideal, Maybee said.
The jobs range from directing traffic, to applying makeup, to acting, to bravely being a live target for the paintball-shooting aficionados.
The project really got rolling after Maybee got a great response from the Altamont fairgrounds in May, when he suggested renting some space for a haunted house attraction, he said.
Maybee hired Joe Manzo, founder of Dark Attraction Productions, to design the three houses. Dark Attraction Productions is based in Hesperia, Calif. Manzo has designed and built haunted houses since 1992.
Dark Attractions sent a team of employees and the set for the three houses by tractor trailer to the Altamont fairgrounds. Everything went together really quickly, Maybee said.
"Without the two main ingredients, you’re in trouble," Maybee said. "Location and materials."
"Science will triumph"
Scott Payne has been a professional performer for 25 years.
His "warped imagination" created the character Dr. Henry Heckle specifically for the Ultimate Terrors event.
"Because we are on a lighted stage, it is infinitely more difficult to be terrifying," Payne told The Enterprise. "So I am doing strange and creepy things," he said.
Creepy things include demonstrating the "slice-o-matic," and an ancient Egyptian torture device, using help from volunteers in the audience. Strange things include performing mesmerizing magic tricks, duplicating bottles and glasses with a quickness that is mind-boggling.
Payne has been intrigued by magic ever since his brother received a magic set as a gift when Payne was a child. He now teaches magic to children, at the Heldeberg Workshop.
Not only is Payne an actor, and magician, but he is also a professional makeup artist.
Ultimate Terrors uses four makeup artists, Payne said. Employees begin showing up about two hours prior to showtime, he said.
That leaves two hours for four people to do makeup for about 50 people, Payne said.
"There’s a lot that happens before the people are allowed in," he said.
"Let me just turn down my Halloween music," said Peggy Were, as she picked up the line to answer a few questions from The Enterprise.
Were plays Madame Lobotomy, a somewhat flighty lady, who searches for fresh blood to satisfy a craving at Ultimate Terrors.
"Madame Lobotomy is a mindless woman," said Were.
"It’s just like acting," said Were, of preparing both mentally and physically for her role as Madame Lobotomy.
Were lives in Clarksville and has been involved for 10 years with Clowns on Rounds a not-for-profit organization bringing professional entertainers dressed as clowns to hospitals and nursing homes around the Capital Region.
She joined the group after her husband died. She brought flowers from his funeral to local hospitals and nursing homes, and asked if there was anything else she could do to help them. She then got involved with Clowns on Rounds.
Her acting and role-playing has always been for charity in the past, she told The Enterprise. Clowns on Rounds is all charity, she said.
Ultimate Terrors marks her first paying role. It is involved with charity, though. A portion of all proceeds from Ultimate Terrors will be donated to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Capital District.
"They are really a brilliant organization," said Payne.
The charity allows the families of out-of-town patients to stay close to the hospital where they are receiving treatment.
Maybee and his group of talented employees hope that Ultimate Terrors will become an annual event. It is, after all, the first of its type in the area.
"I’m hoping we get to do it again next year," Payne said, before switching tones to the squeaky, high-pitched voice of Dr. Heckle.
"It’s just too much fun," said Were.
Ultimate Terrors will be open Thursday night through Sunday night for the remainder of October. The gates will open all nights at 6:15 p.m.; the houses open at 7 p.m. Tickets sales close at 9:30 p.m. and the grounds close at 11 p.m. on Thursdays and Sundays, and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Ultimate Terrors will also be open for Halloween on Monday, Oct. 30, and Tuesday, Oct. 31. Adult tickets cost $22, which includes admission to all three houses. More information is available online at: ultimateterrors.com
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