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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, January 11, 2007

Renovations to Knox Town Hall considered — again

By Tyler Schuling

KNOX—At its first meeting of the new year, the Knox Town Board and concerned residents revisited the plan to renovate Town Hall.

The board has talked about renovations and expansions on and off for over a decade.

The town is now looking for a proficient grant writer and interested residents to serve on an advisory committee to aid the project.

The town hall was built in 1977. Renovations, which would have more than doubled the size of the current building, were most recently discussed over the past two years, but were abandoned after plans came back and the town board ruled the million-dollar price too high.

Nearly two years ago, the town hired Charles Sacco, of Sacco-McKinney Architects, to draw up plans. The plans, revisited Tuesday, would create a multi-use assembly space for the town court, board meetings (town, planning, and zoning), polling, and storage.

The plan, which would allow for future growth and expansion, also adds an elevator to the hall, makes the entrance more accessible, and makes the toilet facilities and access to all floors and spaces code-compliant.

Upgrades for the town court include an assembly space for town court providing security, a raised judge’s bench, bookshelves, files, and seating space.

Two conference rooms — one for the assistant district attorney and another for the public defender — would accommodate four to six people.

The plan would also consolidate all town records into one secure, fire-proof place.

In creating the plan, Sacco followed the Small Court Administration recommendations, Hammond said.

Planning board Chairman Robert Price was concerned about creating a raised dais for the town’s boards, stating that it would be "overbearing." Residents coming before the planning board or any of the town’s other boards would feel they were being looked down on, he said.

Price said he was "disturbed by the notion," and asked if a raised dais was mandated.

The plan, completed April 12, 2005, estimated the cost at $1.05 million, but the figure, Hammond said, isn’t accurate.

Hammond said that, when drawing up the initial plans, "We tried to be as efficient as we could"We’ll look at it again."

The estimate includes $189,000 in incidental costs. Hammond thought the figure high for "things happening."

Some items — the proposed driveway and landscaping — and costs in the estimate could be eliminated or lowered if town workers were used, Hammond said. Knox used town workers and volunteer labor when building its transfer station and park pavilion.

The parking and driveway paving, estimated at $30,000, could be done by the town’s highway department, he and Highway Superintendent Gary Salisbury agreed.

Resident Helene O’Clair speculated about the state college at Cobleskill doing the landscaping, which amounts to $35,000, as a school project.

"We can pull back," Hammond said of the plan’s cost estimates.

The plan also includes space for an ambulance with accessible toilets on the lower level, which amounts to $93,000. On Tuesday, Hammond said that the ambulance service, Emergency Medical Services, "went to other arrangements." Hammond added that the elimination of $93,000 from the initial estimate would probably also lower the incidental costs.

At the board’s December meeting, Hammond said, after the expansion was planned, he was "shocked into reality." Hammond, whose budgeting "held the line" for the town’s spending in 2007, also said he doesn’t like the town to be in debt. On Tuesday, he said that the town could keep the budget close if it uses borrowed money, but warned, "We can’t get crazy."

Hammond also said he thought fire-proofing the town’s records is important, and recalled Altamont losing its records in a fire 15 to 20 years ago.

The town’s capital reserve fund, used only for special projects, now amounts to about $260,000.

Resident answered

At its December meeting, O’Clair had recommended the town board revisit the plans to renovate town hall; O’Clair also said the town should have a committee to do some of "the legwork."

O’Clair told The Enterprise that her husband is handicapped and cannot enter town hall.

When the town initially looked to renovate town hall, O’Clair said, the town board didn’t talk to townspeople.

On Tuesday, O’Clair and the board made a plan to form an advisory committee.

Councilman Nicholas Viscio speculated at the December meeting that, should the board revisit the proposal for renovations to the hall, the public’s anticipation would rise. Before the board formed the committee Tuesday night, Viscio insisted the board first define the committee’s roles.

"I want us to define this committee," Viscio said. "I want to convene a committee that has a purpose."

After discussion, Viscio, working with O’Clair, came up with the roles for the advisory committee. The Knox Town Hall Renovation Advisory Committee will consist of five interested townspeople, and will:

— Review the plans and suggest alternatives;

— Work with the Charlie Sacco to determine the practicality of suggestions;

— Discuss and report findings to the town board; and

— Attend workshops with the town board members.

Viscio also recommended a deadline "where Charlie says ‘OK, I’ve got it," and arranging a schedule. Both will be determined at a later date.

The board voted unanimously to place an ad in The Altamont Enterprise, the official town newspaper, calling for interested residents to serve on the committee. The board also voted unanimously to place an ad for a grant writer.

Other business

In other business, the town board:

— Voted unanimously to authorize Kimberly Swain, the town’s clerk, to purchase a laptop computer not to exceed $1,200 in cost;

— Voted unanimously to authorize Hammond to pay Robert Aronson of Hilltop Computing $510 for annual maintenance of the town’s website this year. Paying early will result in 15-percent savings, and the town, rather than paying 12 separate monthly bills, will pay one;

— Heard from Hammond that he, planning board member Daniel Driscoll, and Highway Superintendent Salisbury walked proposed parking areas for two of the three Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy preserves in the town. Driscoll asked the board at last month’s town board meeting for the town’s help in creating a parking area for six cars at the conservancy’s latest acquisition along Bozenkill Road that was donated by retired University at Albany professor Steve Brown.

The parking area on Street Road, near the Winn Preserve, Hammond said, is immediately adjacent to the property, would require only a small amount of shale, and would provide space for six cars to parallel park. The work, Hammond said, could be done "in a very expeditious manner."

Albany County, Hammond said, owns the land along Bozenkill Road where Driscoll asked for the town’s help with a parking area. Driscoll, Hammond said, talked with County Legislator Alexander (Sandy) Gordon, and "the town won’t get involved";

— Heard from animal-control officer John Norray that he received 166 calls in 2006. The number, he said, is down from last year, but he drove 87 more miles.

"Every year there are stories," Norray said, adding that three dogs killed pigs and someone was bitten by a monkey. "If a dog bites someone, it’s costly, Norray said.

Norray encouraged residents with dogs and cats to take them to the Berne garage the first Saturday in March to get their animals’ shots. The cost, he said, is $5 for each animal; from 1 to 3 p.m. cats are given shots, and the dogs come after;

— Heard from Councilman Dennis Decker that Winterfest will be held on Jan. 27 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The "no snow date," he said, is Feb. 3, but, if there isn’t any snow on that day, "We will do something else";

— Voted unanimously to renew the highway department’s contracts for shared highway services with other municipalities. Highway Superintendent Gary Salisbury told The Enterprise that the department shares services with Berne, Wright, Westerlo, Rensselaerville, and New Scotland, but rarely shares with Albany County. Ninety-percent of the agreements between Knox and other towns, Salisbury said, occur in the summer months.

Cost savings, he said, come from not needing to rent or buy equipment. The towns, he said, swap equipment — trucks and rollers. Though it doesn’t work with the county as often, the town has borrowed Albany County’s tree truck and guardrail machine, and the county has borrowed the town’s loader and brush machine.

"It saves a ton of money," Salisbury said of shared services.

The Knox Highway Department employs seven highway workers, and the town’s road system consists of 36.45 miles.

Knox drafts law for cell phone towers

By Tyler Schuling

KNOX — Cellular phone reception is poor in Knox, often non-existent, and planning board Chairman Robert Price, concerned with resident safety, health, and welfare, is working to bring cellular reception to the town.

The plan, Price said, has been in the works for well over a year and will limit the placement of towers.

"We don’t want them all over town," Price said of cellular towers. Price called the towers "eyesores."

Price and long-time planning board member, Daniel Driscoll, are outlining an ordinance for the location and construction of a cellular tower.

"I don’t care about the kid text-messaging," Price said, adding that he is most concerned with 911 coverage and communication in case of emergencies.

Price spoke hypothetically and considered an elderly person falling and needing medical attention.

"They may have a cell phone, but it’s useless," he said.

The planning board, Price said, initially considered the highest point in Knox for the location of the tower, but abandoned the idea because reception wouldn’t reach into the town’s valleys.

Using an ordinance from the town of Mount Kisco (Westchester County) as an outline, Price and Driscoll are extracting its definitions, as well as drawing from other sources.

Mount Kisco’s ordinance, Price said, "looked good," and, in creating the ordinance, Price and Driscoll are using guidelines provided by the Federal Commissions Act and ordinances from the state’s Department of State.

Price and Driscoll, on a "board heavy with engineers," were given the task of completing the ordinance by the planning board, Price said, adding that it would be difficult to get each of the planning board members to agree on each point.

On Monday night, the ordinance was two-thirds finished, and Price was hopeful he would have it completed for a presentation at tonight’s planning board meeting at town hall.

"We’re using the best of our knowledge and common sense to put them down on paper," Price said of the definitions. The hardest task in creating an ordinance, he said, is being faced with a blank piece of paper.

The digital range of a cellular tower, Price said, is about three miles, but the coverage depends on the height of the tower. Price speculated that transmissions from a tower in Knox could possibly reach the town of Berne.

"The main thing is how high it is," Price said, adding that the Federal Aviation Administration requires a flashing red light during the night and a strobe light during the day on all towers over 200 feet.

"We don’t want that," Price said of a tower 200 feet tall or taller.

Price speculated an appropriate height for a tower in Knox would be 170 or 195 feet.

As the tower reaches higher, so, too, he said, do the costs.

"You might as well put it up as high as you can," Price said.

A larger tower covers more area, Price said, and would allow another carrier to colocate — put its antennas on the same tower.

The fire department, Price said, could also put its analog antennas on the tower.

Price said he doesn’t know who would be the first carrier, adding that carriers like Nextel, Verizon, and Cingular look at the population of towns to determine whether they will provide service. The provider asks and determines how many people in the town use cellular phones.

"It’s hard to say how many people would use it," he said, adding that the town is small and rural.

Price also said that a trend is changing, with upcoming generations abandoning land lines and using only cellular telephones.

"Every kid over the age of nine has a cell phone," Price said.

Last May, the town passed a moratorium on towers and wind turbines, and, Price said, rushed an ordinance through.

Price’s goal is to have the cell-tower ordinance completed in three months, he said, adding that his goal is "ambitious."

Though an ordinance may soon be completed, Price said it doesn’t mean a cell tower will be built.

Chess club seeks checkmates

By Tyler Schuling

HILLTOWNS — The newly-formed Hilltown Chess Club is moving into position to form a winning team.

Charles Eson, along with six other members, formed the club in December, and have some creative ideas for the future.

Eson hopes to hold a live chess game in summer months, where people, rather than ivory pieces, are moved around a large chess board.

"That would be exciting," Eson said.

The group, Eson said, will meet every first and third Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Berne Reformed Church.

The club held its organizational meeting at the church in December and looked over its meeting place, talked about beverages, money required, and possible conflicts with the church’s schedule.

"It’s a nice place to go," Eson said.

They also put an announcement in the Berne Reformed Church’s bulletin for interested individuals.

The Hilltown Chess Club, Eson said, consists of Hilltowners and is looking for more interested individuals. Ability, he said, isn’t a factor.

"We’re just looking for more people," Eson said. "Anyone, whether they’re a novice or an expert, is welcome," he said.

The chess club now has six or seven members, a good number to start with, said Eson, but he hopes to add to the club’s numbers and get the community involved.

He hopes the group will grow, and possibly meet weekly instead of bi-weekly.

Eson said he also plans to meet with other chess clubs.

Eson, Peter Henner and Richard Mahady, members of the club, plan on competing at the U.S. Amateur Team East Chess Tournament, held in Parsippany, N.J., in mid-February, and the small group is looking for a fourth player.

The tournament, he said, is well-attended, fun, and nearly 1,200 people (famous and beginners) attend the annual event. Eson said he hasn’t yet been to the tournament but that Henner has.

The Hilltown Chess Club will be meeting next on Jan. 18 at the Berne Reformed Church at 7 p.m.

There is no cost to join, Eson said; a small donation is suggested but not required each meeting for the use of the facility.

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