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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 4, 2007

Candidates debate town-wide debate

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — The Republican challengers for two Guilderland Town Board seats are eager for a debate and say incumbent Democrats have put them off.

Democrats, meanwhile, say that the Republicans have been "historically uncooperative," and that arrangements for a debate should have been set up in July or August before the election crunch.

In a four-way race, Republicans Warren Redlich and Mark Grimm are challenging incumbent Democrats Michael Ricard and David Bosworth. Democratic Supervisor Kenneth Runion is running unopposed for town supervisor.

At Tuesday night’s town board meeting Redlich read a series of rhyming couplets, chiding the Democrats and pushing for a debate:

"Mike Ricard where are you now" Since you made your August vow. You said you’d debate on any topic. Now you run, fast as a rocket. Three dates we proposed for a debate. Your response, we still await. " It shouldn’t have to be this hard. Why won’t you debate us, Mike Ricard""

Redlich, who said he was inspired to write the poem while reading a Dr. Suess book with his daughter, read the couplets during the televised meeting to a mostly unamused board.

Grimm spoke before Redlich and called for a citizen task force to be created in choosing the next town police chief. Also, for the second town board meeting in a row he called for documents to be released surrounding the retirement of former police chief, James Murley.

Supervisor Kenneth Runion told Grimm, for the second time, that the public comment portion of the town board meeting "was not a political platform," and that his comments would be taken into the record.

Ricard said he would still debate Redlich and Grimm, but said a proper debate needs to be funded and set up by the political parties, and then sponsored by a neutral third party.

"There’s strict rules involving using the town hall for political purposes," Ricard said. "I’ll debate them wherever they want to debate, but logistics is not my problem."

Bosworth said yesterday that Grimm’s and Redlich’s negative approach to their campaigns were "unprecedented," and that "candidates should not be throwing stones at each other."

He said he has had no cooperation with the Republican candidates or their party chair, Barbara Davis, and added, "I think this all could have been avoided if they sat down in July or August and set this debate up."

Bosworth insisted that he is not trying to avoid a televised debate,

"I’m not opposed to TV," he said. "I sit there along with Mr. Ricard televised on the town board every month." Bosworth said much goes into a debate and that an agreed upon time, format, and financial sponsor were all necessary.

Redlich has been active in his challenges for a debate, particularly against Councilman Ricard, who had filed a lawsuit to remove Redlich from the ballot in August. Redlich and Grimm have asked the League of Women Voters to sponsor a debate among the four candidates running for town board.

"Right now I am hopeful we can get everyone together for McKownville," Bosworth said yesterday.

The McKownville Improvement Association holds a "Meet the Candidates" night in October every election year. However, some say that the event does not do enough and only serves to meet the needs of the members in the association.

The event is not televised like many of the meetings in Town Hall.

Supervisor Runion said that he would like to see "a traditional Lincoln-Douglas debate" in Guilderland, but that he doesn’t believe it has ever happened. He agreed with Bosworth, saying a lot of coordination and planning is necessary for such a debate.

Runion said that, in past debates, questions from the crowd included topics like favorite movies and books, and were not necessarily about local issues.

"I’d like to go head-to-head on the issues if I were going to debate," Runion said.

A flurry of e-mails have been sent by candidates, the League of Women Voters, and party chairpersons, but there’s been very little headway towards making a televised debate at Town Hall a reality.

The Democrats point to the McKownville event as the "traditional" forum for such a debate, while Republicans say the event is not a debate, but merely a "meet-and-greet" forum.

Maggie Moehringer, from the League of Women Voters of Albany County, told The Enterprise that Grimm had contacted her on Sept. 6 to sponsor a televised debate among Guilderland town board candidates.

Moehringer said she was "willing to bring together such an event," that dates for Oct. 22, 23, and 25 were possibilities for a town hall debate, but that she did not hear back from Bosworth or Ricard.

Bosworth said that he did originally receive Moehringer’s e-mail and that his challenger decided to call for a debate "only days before the primary."

He also said that the League of Women Voters were a volunteer organization and did not have funds to sponsor the debate.

Past debates on debates

Debate problems among town candidates have been extensively covered by The Enterprise in the past. The last formal televised debate was held at Town Hall in 2001.

In a déjà vu repeat of past years, the debate agreements of this year are eerily similar to the ones of the past.

In the 2003 town election, a debate disagreement arose between Supervisor Runion and his opponent, Republican Anthony Esposito. A week before the election, Esposito sent a letter to The Enterprise, Runion, and 450 Guilderland residents demanding a debate.

Runion responded by saying there was a debate in McKownville the week before, but Esposito didn’t show up. Tony Cortes, the Republican party chair, was there, along with every town Republican candidate, Runion said at the time, except for Esposito.

Esposito countered that this was not a formal debate; it was simply a meet-the-candidates event organized by the McKownville Improvement Association.

In 2005, it was between Republican town board candidate Ed Glenning and Bosworth.

Glenning and the other Republican candidate for town board, Michael Donegan, wrote a letter to the Enterprise editor in August of that year, asking for a debate, but with no specific time and place. Runion, who was also unopposed that year, said then that he couldn’t see why the Democratic candidates wouldn’t debate.

Bosworth responded through The Enterprise the next Thursday of that year, saying that the McKownville Improvement Association was holding a "Meet the Candidates" night, as it has in past elections.

Bosworth said at the time, while it isn’t an official debate, residents were given an opportunity to ask questions of all the candidates who attended.

The Democrats aren’t opposed to a debate, he said then, but, if invited to one, would need time to get organized and set rules both parties can agree on.

Now in 2007, town Democrats say Republicans are poorly organized and have a history of waiting until the last minute before demanding a debate. Town Republicans say that Democrats are simply hiding behind delay tactics and are afraid to debate them.

Both Redlich and Grimm insist that a televised debate is necessary, but added that they will both attend the McKownville event. Redlich added that he never had a problem debating Congressman Michael McNulty during the two times he ran against him.

"I debated Mike McNulty four times," Redlich said. "They are completely avoiding this debate"This is a classic example of someone speaking out of both sides of his mouth."

Bosworth responded through The Enterprise saying, "Candidates in congressional races have staff. It’s a whole different environment for a town race"I just don’t have the administrative staff to set these events up."

Bosworth concluded by saying he and Ricard will also attend the McKownville event, and that, as for a televised debate, "We’re hoping, we’re not closed"I never said ‘no,’ I just questioned if it could be set up in time."

The League of Women Voters says it is still willing to sponsor a televised debate.

Decision soon on 20 West

By Jo E. Prout

GUILDERLAND — Twenty West developers are 61 days closer to a decision on whether or not their vast residential subdivision on Route 20 will be approved by the planning board here. The board voted 5 to 1 to close the public hearing last Wednesday, rendering the board liable to make a decision within the next two months.

Planning board Chairman Stephen Feeney said that the board has 61 days to make a decision, but that, likely, the board will decide in two weeks at its next regular meeting.

Board members told Scott Lansing, of Lansing Engineering in Malta (Saratoga Co.), who represented Lou Masullo of Garrison Development, that parts of his design need to be changed before they approve his plan or give a negative declaration to New York State Environmental Quality Review Act. A negative declaration means in-depth environmental analysis is not needed.

Board member Lindsay Childs voted against closing the hearing and giving the board a deadline for a decision. Board members Terry Coburn, Paul Caputo, Michael Cleary, James Cohen, and Feeney voted to close the hearing. Board member Thomas Robert was absent.

"They’re forcing my hand on this," Feeney said at the agenda review before the meeting. He said that the board would keep the project moving, but that a decision could not be made for the project that night.

Twenty West would cover 181 acres, with 60 donated to the town, including prehistorically-significant land where the Vosburgh point was first identified.

The project calls for 74 lots, with the majority in a cluster plan with several long roads ending in cul-de-sacs. Four three- to five-acre "estate" lots are planned for Vosburgh Road within the same plan, Lansing said. He said that the plan would improve the dead end at Vosburgh Road by creating a cul-de-sac. Feeney had called Vosburgh Road sub-standard.

The project includes a keyhole lot, with a proposed home built behind two others. While Lansing described the lot as "private," Caputo said that the keyhole lot is "very much out of place."

Childs noted that the presentation Lansing read was a year old, and he asked about the lack of a trail on the plan.

Lansing said that the state’s office that handles historic preservation does not want a trail by the archaeologically-sensitive area. The office is also concerned that the town would clear the area for ball parks, Lansing said. He said that, by leaving the land unused but mowed to prevent tree-root damage, future excavations could be done at the site.

Feeney said that he did not approve of the planned cul-de-sacs, but that the hills and wetlands in the topography could impede street or pedestrian connections. He said that the infrastructure proposed would be costly for the developer and for the town, and that the plan has too many storm-water basins.

"We’d rather take five than six," Feeney said.

Roads and water basins will be turned over to the town after the project is completed. Feeney and the board members have continually pushed for changes in the plan, since it came before them in May 2004.

"I can’t make you submit it," Feeney said about the changes. "That’s their right," he told the board. He said that the storm-water basins and cul-de-sacs constitute "an ongoing expense and cost to the community."

Childs worried about the proposed Vosburgh Road lots, which are drawn as being adjacent to the wetlands on the site. Attorney Teresa Bakner said that the developer would put in landscaping along the edge of the wetlands and lots. "Is it because it’s a bigger lot"" asked Cleary.

Bakner agreed that larger lots command larger prices.

Childs suggested that a one-acre buffer be under town control between the four lots and the wetlands.

The board told Lansing to show more construction details, to reconsider the lot lines along the wetlands, and to consider installing a trail head at the Vosburgh lots.

"I feel strongly about the cul-de-sac. Why should the town take on all the infrastructure"" Feeney asked.

Historic home

Douglas Hewett represented Ernest Neverman about dividing 44.7 acres on County Line Road into three lots. Two lots would be cut off the front, if the plan remains unchanged. A house dating to about 1780 stands on one of the lots, and would be demolished, Hewett said.

The town of Rotterdam is across the street from the property, and Neverman hopes to use Rotterdam water, Hewett said.

The Nevermans want to sell a couple of acres, and the home is on their property, Hewett said.

"Personally, I’d hate to see it demolished," Caputo said.

"It’s an old house, and the Nevermans just want it gone," Hewett said. "They have no money. What would they do with it" Basically, they are looking to reduce their tax base."

The board told Hewett that a phase-one archaeological and historical research study of a property is typically required for town subdivisions. Lot three would become a building lot if lots one and two were cut off from it. Building envelopes and the archaeology study would need to be submitted to the board, members said.

"This is becoming a very big project, and it may not be worth my time," Hewett said. "The house itself"I don’t understand the issue there."

"It’s going to come down," Feeney said. "We can’t make you save it. [A study] could cost a few thousand dollars. [Neverman] is free to sell it to somebody. He’s creating three lots."

Cleary said that he would vote to grant concept approval, but Coburn and Caputo said that they would not approve the concept because of the possible significance of the house.

Coburn told Hewett that some organizations buy old homes to disassemble and reassemble elsewhere. Other organizations document buildings well before the buildings are razed.

The board told Hewett that the Nevermans can submit documentation on why they believe the house is not significant if they want to continue the application, or that they can withdraw the application.

Other business

In other business, the planning board:

— Voted unanimously that it found the final environmental impact statement filed for the Woodsfield project on Lydius Street complete. Woodsfield encompasses lands identified as Pine Bush;

— Told applicant Larry LeFevre, of Rotterdam, that his request to re-subdivide two lots on 4.8 acres on Gipp Road was moot. The two lots had been questionably merged into one tax lot. The two lots are already existing, the board said after a records search, and no further subdivision is required. For sale or building purposes, LeFevre may need a variance, the board said;

— Approved the application by Black Creek Associates to divide 36.84 acres into two lots. Paul Sciocchotti of Black Creek said that 6.94 acres, on which there is an existing home that may be razed, will be kept and that 29.9 acres are under contract to be purchased by the nature conservancy. The almost 30 acres will eventually be part of the Albany Pine Bush, Sciocchotti speculated;

— Approved a request by Brian Jackson to divide 8.9 acres at 5899 Ostrander Road into two lots. The western piece with single-residence homes will be 2.91 acres, and the remaining southerly portion will be undeveloped, Jackson said;

— Approved a four-lot subdivision of 14.7 acres at routes 158 and 20 for applicant Lisa Romano; and

— Sent an advisory opinion favoring a zoning change for eight condominiums on 3.2 acres on Ashford Drive to the zoning board of appeals.

GCSD audit reveals no material weaknesses

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The school district got a good report on how it handles its finances, according to a required audit on the 2006-07 school year prepared by Dorfman-Robbie, Certified Public Accountants. No material weaknesses were identified in the 50-page report.

"We’re very pleased to have an unqualified opinion, which is the highest opinion," said Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders this week.

"It's great"" said board member Hy Dubowsky just before the board unanimously accepted the audit. "I'm going to go to bed tonight and not worry about that."

In presenting the report to the school board last Tuesday, Rick Bingham of Dorfman-Robbie said that the audit found one instance of noncompliance and one insufficiency.

The school district's unreserved, undesignated fund balance was outside the state's limit, which restricts it to an amount not greater than 3 percent of the budget for the upcoming school year.

Sanders said $2 million of Guilderland's excess fund balance will be used to lower borrowing costs if a $27 million bond issue is passed in November to upgrade the elementary schools, improve technology and safety, and move the district office to the high school. That leaves about $240,000 in excess that has to be addressed, he said.

The audit also says that Guilderland does not currently prepare full financial statements in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.

"This basically says we don't have a CPA on our staff," said board President Richard Weisz, who also heads the board's audit committee. "We have to use you to do it," he said to Bingham.

Weisz asked how many other schools had the same deficiency.

"Out of the nine we do, only one is not receiving that comment," Bingham responded.

Several other problems were also outlined in a Sept. 18 letter to the board from Dorfman-Robbie.

New reporting requirements set up by the Government Accounting Standards Board say that, by the year ending on June 30, 2009, the reporting of liabilities pertaining to post-employment benefits must be done on a current basis. An actuarial calculation should be done in anticipation of the change, the audit says, and the district is taking the appropriate actions to ensure financial statements are in compliance.

"We’ve contracted with the Capital Region BOCES for that service," he said, referring to the Board of Cooperative Educational Services. "That’s well underway. We’ve been sending them data."

Sanders added, "The entire cost is fully BOCES aided." Guilderland gets about 60 percent back in state aid from BOCES expenditures.

Also, while going over the extra-classroom fund, Dorfman-Robbie noted several places where signatures, either of the student treasurer or faculty advisor, were missing on requisition forms. The firm recommended the advisor be reminded of the requirement and that the request forms be reviewed by management.

"Those accounts are audited every year by Dorfman-Robbie," Sanders said this week of accounts for student organizations. He added that now, someone from the district’s business office will conduct periodic reviews of the accounts throughout the year. Also, he is holding a meeting with all club advisors in October, Sanders said, to go over the roles and duties of the faculty advisors and student treasurers.

Finally, Dorfman-Robbie said that the district does not have a well-defined, written disaster recovery procedures.

"The time to make contingency plans is before disaster strikes," the report says, "so that personnel will be aware of their responsibilities in the event of an emergency situation that precludes the use of the existing facilities."

"We've been looking at templates," Sanders told the school board, and talks are ongoing with the Capital Region BOCES. "That's our backup site," said Sanders.

The district already has handled a minor emergency. About a year ago, Sanders said, the district's server went down so Guilderland used BOCES servers to do its payroll.

Sanders explained this week that data is archived from the district office — it’s backed up every day — and stored off-site at Farnsworth Middle School.

"If both our school and the middle school were destroyed," he said, "BOCES would have a copy of the data".BOCES is working on its own backup plan, reaching out to other BOCES across the state."

Dorfman-Robbie acknowledged "the cooperation and the professional conduct of the business office personnel" and thanked the district staff "for the courtesy received during the course of our audit."

Bingham commended Sanders and Joy Pierle, chief accountant, "for their professional conduct."

Sanders, in turn, recognized Pierle and the business office staff.

The board’s audit committee met on Sept. 27 with representatives from the state comptroller’s office to review its preliminary report, completed in March. Sanders said he expects the comptroller’s audit, which is similar to those being conducted across the state, to be released in early November.

With $27M bond vote in November
School board talks technology

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Six million dollars of a bond vote slated for Nov. 13 is geared towards improving technology and safety in the Guilderland schools.

An often-divided school board supports the $27 million plan and all nine members spoke enthusiastically last Tuesday about their own views on technology in the schools.

If you want teachers to infuse technology into education, said Gloria Towle-Hilt, herself a retired teacher, "it must be accessible."

Vice President John Dornbush said the use of technology as a tool fits in with the standards; he referred to this as the "internal piece."

The "external piece," he said, are the linkages with the community, such as the Nanotech College.

Peter Golden said that, in parts of India, students learn from an on-line MIT curriculum. He suggested, "Look around and see what are they using in these places where our children are competing with their children."

He recommended looking at both high-level computer programming and hi-tech web design.

Colleen O'Connell said she had reflected on how she acquired her own computer skills at Hamilton College, from which she was graduated in 1982.

She said learning the fundamentals, basic computer skills, still serves her well, even as the technology has changed.

"I wasn't taught facts [but] over-reaching concepts," she said.

She also said it was important to integrate technology into subject areas and to offer instruction to teachers. "It has to start with real support in the classroom," said O'Connell.

Catherine Barber said she had noted inconsistencies in the way different teachers use technology: Some teachers have websites and want their student to e-mail assignments while others "don't do that at all," she said.

Denise Eisele spoke of the use of technology for children with handicaps. She described an autistic child who couldn't speak using a keyboard to write poetry.

She said it takes not just hardware but vision to adapt technology to meet students' needs.

Eisele said she would like to see technology serve any child with any level of need, whether highly intelligent or severely handicapped.

"A huge component is the willingness"to attempt it," said Eisele.

"I see technology really as a means to an end," said Hy Dubowsky. He referred to Alvin Toffler’s 1980 book, The Third Wave, describing agrarian society, which was replaced with the Industrial Revolution, and now the Information Revolution.

Dubowsky called technology a sophisticated tool that students need to know how to use. "One thing America always had was intellectual capital," said Dubowsky. He said the board supports the staff in its use of technology and concluded, "I hope we can bring the community with us."

"The fundamental thing that has to be done is curriculum development," said Barbara Fraterrigo.

She said it is important not just to have the hardware but to have the vision to allow the staff to grow.

"I share the board's excitement," said President Richard Weisz. He had asked board members to outline their goals for technology teaching in the year ahead. Weisz went over three different aspects of technology in the schools, the first being curriculum.

Every Guilderland graduate should have prepared a website, said Weisz.

"I'd like to see international collaboration as part of our curriculum," he said, using technology to help kids learn about the world. "We need to explore other cultures and other ways of looking at things."

Secondly, Weisz said, technology should be used to develop critical thinking, which has kept the United States in the forefront.

"Just because the computer says it, it isn't necessarily so," Weisz said. "Kids have to understand both the power for good and the power for evil in communications."

Third, he said, the district should explore distance learning, and not just for what used to be thought of as the smart kids.

Distance learning, he said, could solve budget problems. If just three or four students wanted to learn something the school doesn't offer, they might be able to do it through distance learning, he said.

Education used to think of itself like a castle, surrounded by a moat, said Weisz, but now technology allows interaction with the community.

Similar schools

The board debated, at times quite heatedly, a proposal by Golden to require "similar schools" comparisons be shared with the board and the public and that similar-school rankings be included Guilderland's report card, which annually compiles data from required state testing. The education department has grouped similar schools from across the New York, based on district resources, student needs, and numbers of students with limited English proficiency.

Several board members strongly objected, saying the report card usually includes such data but it wasn't available in time for last year's report; they also said the data is readily available on-line.

Barber objected to the "antagonistic nature" of Golden's approach. "You're making this adversarial and it doesn't need to be," she said.

"You are engaging in the politics of a manufactured controversy," O'Connell told Golden.

Several other board members argued in favor of the proposal.

"You never know where you need to go unless you know where you've been," said Dubowsky.

"It's important to establish a baseline to celebrate triumphs and improve where it's needed," said Fraterrigo. She also noted that the board had a tradition of agreeing on information it wants, so as not to burden administrators unnecessarily.

Weisz said the challenge for schools is figuring out what the state data means and the education department has no response.

The board will vote on Golden's motions at its next meeting, on Oct. 9.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Heard that the public can make suggestions for the 2008-09 budget at 7 p.m. on Oct. 9, during a session before the regular school board meeting, which is held in the high school's large-group instruction room;

— Approved raises for substitute aids and cafeteria monitors to $8 per hour;

— Accepted the donation of a piccolo by Kathy Buttridge; and

— Heard that the Guilderland Music Faculty and Friends Recital will be presented on Thursday, Oct. 25, in the high-school auditorium at 7 p.m. There is no admission but donations will be accepted for Compassion in Action, which offers health care to local people who need it.

#1 School
Altamont Elementary named a Blue Ribbon School

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Altamont Elementary School received national recognition this week as a Blue Ribbon School and its principal is crediting the entire community.

The Guilderland school is one of 16 schools state-wide and 287 schools nation-wide to be so designated by the federal Department of Education.

"Altamont is a great school because of the sense of community it has, with the students, teachers, staff, and parents all working together," said Principal Peter Brabant. "To me, it’s just a wonderful place to drive to every morning, at the base of the Helderbergs, to see the balance between joy and learning and the caring for one another."

Brabant got the word Friday from the Department of Education that Altamont Elementary would be on the list of Blue Ribbon Schools announced Tuesday by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

Did he keep the news quiet till Tuesday"

"I didn’t even come close," Brabant said with a laugh that turned into a cough. He was home Wednesday, sick with pneumonia, but eager to talk about his school’s virtues.

"I called the staff together on Friday," said Brabant. "Everybody was just elated."

Brabant dispatched letters to his colleagues and to the parents of every student in which he quoted Secretary Spellings: "It takes a lot of hard work by teachers and students to become a Blue Ribbon School, and it’s a privilege to celebrate their great efforts."

Each state can nominate schools that are "dramatically improving" or, like Altamont, that are "high performing," in the top 10 percent of all schools in the state based on test scores, according to the federal Department of Education.

A large part of the application involved putting together data on Altamont test scores, said Brabant, crediting Mary Helen Collen, the school district’s data coordinator, for her work on assembling that data. The federal No Child Left Behind law, of which the Blue Ribbon program is a part, requires states to administer tests in English and math; New York tests students in third through eighth grades.

In the 2005-06 school year, 81 percent of Altamont’s students met or exceeded state standards in English and 93 percent in math. Over the past three years, 96 percent of Altamont’s fourth-graders met or exceeded state standards in the science tests and 98 percent of the fifth-graders did the same in social studies. By fifth grade, over 90 percent of Altamont’s students have scored at or above state standards on tests in the four core areas.

Brabant, who is in his third year as Altamont’s principal, credited his predecessors, especially former principal, Susan Tangorre, now the assistant superintendent for human resources.

"An award of this caliber includes both past and present teachers and administrators," said Brabant.

He also said, "Altamont Elementary School is a Blue Ribbon School in a blue ribbon district. This couldn’t happen without the leadership of the Guilderland administration and its emphasis on staff development."

Brabant and an Altamont teacher will travel to Washington, D.C. on Nov. 12 to accept a banner and plaque on behalf of the school. An assembly will be held at the school to celebrate the honor, he said.

"We work together"

The application process was lengthy and involved and the staff handled it through teamwork.

Brabant was contacted last November by the State Education Department, saying Altamont Elementary School had qualified to enter an application. He met with the school’s teacher leaders and union representative and they decided to proceed.

"Everyone in the building worked on the application," said fifth-grade teacher Yvette Terplak. "There were so many facets, we broke it down into small tasks."

Faculty members, working as a team, reflected on such aspects of the school as its history, curriculum, and assessments.

"We had to paint a picture of Altamont," said Terplak.

Third-grade teacher Dana Doak said the process wasn’t arduous. "We do this every day," he said. "We try to educate the children to the best of our ability; we try to get them to do their best work."

This involves activities outside of the classroom as well. Doak himself volunteers every year to be the target in a "Soak the Doak" game at the school’s well-attended Carnivale.

Activities like the Carnivale, which involve the entire community, are part of the learning process at Altamont, said Terplak.

"What we do here," said Doak, "is we try to facilitate learning in an enjoyable way for the kids. We work together with the kids and each other."

"Guilderland as a district fosters leadership in all of us," said Terplak. "All of our schools work at it."

Fifth-grade teacher Allan Lockwood said that the model the Guilderland School District uses, with teachers as leaders, developing curriculum, fosters excellence in learning. He said of the Blue Ribbon designation, "It could have been any one of the elementary schools in the district."

He concluded, "We’re all grateful our work and effort has been recognized."

Historic Altamont"
Villagers protest proposed zoning law

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALTAMONT — A call to preserve village character has been misconstrued and made into a plan to set a wealth standard, say critics of the newly proposed zoning law. Drafters of the law say that the intent was to give the village’s planning board a guideline to follow.

A public hearing was held on Tuesday night for the law, which was written after the village’s comprehensive plan was adopted last winter, the plan recommended an overhaul of the village’s zoning regulations. Dozens of citizens crowded into a cluster of tightly packed chairs set up in the middle of the village hall meeting room to voice their concerns Tuesday.

The most hotly contested part of the proposal was the 10-page section towards the middle of the 158-page document, laying out requirements for the new Historic Overlay District, which covers most of the center of the village.

Most of the dozen people who spoke worried that the new terms are too restrictive. One section states: "Exterior changes such as changes in siding material, paint color, style of window, doors, architectural features," will require a Historic Design Review by the village’s planning board.

"I don’t think you have the right to do that," Charles Ciaccio, of Lincoln Avenue, told the village board. It was one of several comments on restricting homeowners’ decisions, like paint selection, that drew applause from the audience.

The document was meant to serve as a guideline for the planning board, which will become the lead agency in matters once covered by the zoning board of appeals if the law is adopted, said Trustee Dean Whalen, an architect who chairs the committee that drafted the law. The committee will regroup and amend that section, he said yesterday, following the comments at Tuesday’s meeting, which he said were "very well thought out."

"I was a little discouraged," Whalen said of the flood of negative feedback on the plan, but he was pleased that so many people participated.

"Our ideas and observations were so misunderstood," said Melanie Jakway, of Maple Avenue, on Tuesday. She had participated in planning discussions held by the committee to get input from village residents and feels that their desire to preserve Altamont’s community spirit was misconstrued and represented as a set of standards that residents must meet, calling some requirements "a financial drain."

After she read from a prepared statement, Jakway called for a public referendum, rather than a board vote, to approve the proposed law, for which she received enthusiastic applause.

"There is no likelihood of a referendum," Whalen said yesterday. He hadn’t been opposed to it at the meeting, but said that, afterwards, he learned that a public vote on the law wouldn’t be legal.

Jeff Perlee, a local landowner, echoed other residents’ concerns at the meeting when he warned the board of the need to maintain economic diversity in the village. He urged the committee to consider the unintended consequences of some regulations, saying, "It might end up as a nice looking, but yuppie, ghetto of sorts."

Some residents who live within the proposed historic district but have newer houses told the board that they were worried about the effect it might have.

"It doesn’t say that, because your home is in a historic district, you have to make your home historic," Whalen said yesterday.

"Obviously, something has to change," he said, regarding the proposed historic district.

After residents had finished commenting at Tuesday’s meeting, Trustee Kerry Dineen said that she didn’t disagree with anything that was said, pointing out that she, too, is a resident of the village and did not sit on the committee that wrote the law. Trustee William Aylward also said that there were some parts of the proposed law that need to be amended. Trustee Chris Marshall, who has worked with the committee since she was elected to the village board in March, said to the crowd, "I think you’ve spoken pretty clearly." Mayor James Gaughan played the role of moderator during the hearing and said that discussion would continue through November.

Some residents also disliked the proposal to change the fairground’s designation to Planned Unit Development. Edna Litten, of Main Street, asked that a piece of the fairgrounds be preserved for use as a park if the land is ever sold for development.

"Given the size of the parcel, there is a real sense that it should be planned," Whalen said in January of the way the Altamont fairgrounds should be developed, if, in fact, they are. He wants to make sure that further development around Altamont has a village feel, rather than the typical cul-de-sac and cookie-cutter house design that has become the suburban status quo. Changing the fairground’s zoning designation was recommended in the village’s recently-adopted comprehensive plan.

At Tuesday’s meeting Joan Kappel, of Main Street, offered several critiques of the zoning law, but said, overall, "There’s too much good stuff to just throw it away."

Other business

In other business at the Oct. 2 meeting, the village board:

—Heard from Linda Cure, who works with senior citizens in the village and park programs, that this year’s farmers’ market was a success. There were new vendors this year, she said, and she’d like to get feedback to make improvements for next year’s market. Also, she said, entertainment for village seniors has been successful with performances by several area musicians;

— Heard from Donald Cropsey, the village’s building inspector, that there is a new state building code. There is a three-month grace period before it must be enforced, he said;

— Heard from Timothy McIntyre, superintendent of public works, that the village’s leaf vacuum will begin making its rounds on Oct. 10 to clean up yard refuse — it will continue through Nov. 30;

— Heard from McIntyre that most of the aggressive flushing to clean out the village’s water system is complete; there will likely be one more round at the end of November;

— Heard from McIntyre that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will give the village roughly $72,000 for repairs that are necessary after flooding in the village last spring;

— Heard from Norman Bauman that the neighborhood association will be meeting on the last Tuesday of every month, he encouraged residents to attend the Oct. 30 meeting;

— Voted unanimously to refund $412.50 to Noah Lodge for an error in the reading of his water meter;

— Voted unanimously to block off Grand Street to Fairview from 3 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 21 for a neighborhood party;

— Voted unanimously to hold a Halloween parade to travel down Maple Avenue and end in a gathering in Orsini Park on Oct. 31 at 6 p.m.;

— Voted unanimously to pay the engineering firm Barton & Loguidice $14,200 for services regarding the village’s water and sewer systems; and

— Voted unanimously to be lead agency in the adoption of the village zoning changes.

Going Out for gospel
Card deals with lament, worship in book and song

By Tyler Schuling

ALTAMONT — Eugene Peterson came to a realization one day that caused him to cry uncontrollably.

Following his mother’s death, he traveled to Montana for her funeral. As the first-born child, he was appointed to conduct the funeral services. Because he had been living in Maryland, he did not know the members in the congregation except for his immediate family and a few old friends.

He began to read the same scriptures he had read eight months ago when his father died but stopped when he realized that his parents, who had been a barrier against his own death, were gone. He was next in line. He then sobbed for some time before regaining his composure and going on.

After the service, he didn’t want to talk to or see anyone and ducked into a small room. A man he didn’t know came in and sat down next to him.

"He put his arm across my shoulder and spoke some preacher-ish clichés in a preacher-ish tone. Then, mercifully, he left," Peterson wrote in the forward of A Sacred Sorrow, a book by contemporary Christian singer and author Michael Card.

Card will be performing a concert at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Altamont on Sunday, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m.

In A Sacred Sorrow, Card studies lament and its place in worship.

"There’s a lot in my life that intersects with the idea of lament," Card said in a phone interview from Tennessee. "I talk a lot in the book about the fact that I’d always had difficulty connecting in worship settings until I realized that lament was a necessary part of worship," Card said. "I think that was a big piece of the puzzle for me."

Card said there is a right and wrong time to comfort others. "Unfortunately, it’s different with probably everybody," he said.
"I see what’s missing"

Card’s career spans over 25 years. He performs 100 to 150 concerts each year. He has his own radio show, In the Studio with Michael Card, and has recorded over 20 albums. Author of many Christian books, he has also written for magazines.

He recorded the famous song "El Shaddai," awarded Song of the Year at the 1983 Dove Awards. Throughout his career, he has received numerous awards for his work in radio, music, and print.

Card said he gets his ideas for his songs from all different places.

"They come from needs that I see when I’m being part of a community. They come from my own questions and the things I struggle with," Card said.

He always tries to go back to the Bible to get direction for his lyrics and subjects and to base his understanding as much as he can on the Bible, he said.

Card credits William Lane, his professor at Western Kentucky University, for inspiring him and getting his career off the ground.

After graduating, Card and Lane were friends for 23 years before Lane died in 1999. Lane was the first to ask him to write a song, and, had Lane not asked, Card never would have written music, he said. Card wrote a book about Lane — The Walk.

Card, 50, lives with his wife and four children in Tennessee.

He is motivated by being a gadfly.

"I look at Christian culture and see what’s missing and where people can be helped and lament was definitely something the church in America needed help with," he said.

Redemption through suffering

"I think a lot of people are intimidated by suffering, and they want to comfort and help to make the suffering stop so they’re not intimidated," Card said. "You have to have the sensitivity to sense when people are ready to hear a word of comfort. I think most of the time, they’re just wanting you to enter into that suffering with them, which is what I see most clearly in the life of Jesus.

"I think he redemptively enters into the suffering of the world. He doesn’t come and fix things. He comes and experiences a life of suffering, which is climaxed on the cross, and he suffers intensely. If the gospel is right, that suffering had a redemptive purpose to it. I think suffering can be a redemptive experience.

"We don’t have answers for a lot of the most intense suffering. I think the wrong thing to do is to go in there because you feel threatened, because you want to be the answer man, and, in this particular situation, like the death of a child or some innocent suffering, you don’t have the answer," he said.

In A Sacred Sorrow, Card cites the Old Testament character Job.

"I think Job is a paradigm for innocent suffering," Card said. "There’s different kinds of suffering.

"There’s suffering that you experience because you deserve it. If you go out and get drunk and wreck your car and break your neck, you’ve done something to deserve that," he said.

Job is important because he’s an example of someone who suffers although he’s totally innocent, Card said.

"He didn’t do anything to deserve what he got. And I think that question of innocent suffering is such a vital question to the world. I think that’s why we keep coming back to Job again and again and again."


Michael Card will be performing at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Altamont on Sunday, Oct. 14. Tickets are $15 and still available. Tickets will also be available at the door.

For more information about the concert or to purchase tickets, call 861-8862 or 861-6371. The concert will begin at 7 p.m., and doors open at 6:15.

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