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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 7, 2008

GOP tabs Danz, hoping to recapture glory days

By Saranac Hale Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Republicans are hoping to energize their flagging party by building on momentum from the last election.

Just a decade ago, Republicans had a stranglehold on town government — the GOP had dominated for over a century — but the last 10 years have seen a dramatic shift to what had become an all-Democrat town board. Last November, though, a pair of Republican candidates for the board ousted two Democratic incumbents — one of them the party’s chairman and the other the longest-serving Democrat on the board.

"The Republican Party was very strong for a long time," said Ted Danz this week, "but it sort of lost focus."

Danz, a political newcomer, was named chair of the town’s Republican Committee last week. He replaces Barbara Davis who served for less than a year after Lee Carman left the post in order to focus on his re-election campaign to the Albany County Legislature last fall. Carman was also a short-term chair who took the post after Antonio Cortes stepped down, following a drunk-driving charge in 2006.

Danz made his political debut last fall in an unsuccessful run for the Albany County Legislature, but he came close to unseating long-time Democratic incumbent Bill Aylward. Asked if he would make another run for office in light of his new position, Danz said, "I’m keeping my options open."

The long-time Gardner Road resident said in September that, at age 60, he has time to give back to the community now that some of his five children have taken on a share of the work at the business he founded, Family Danz Heating and Air Conditioning.

Jeffrey Perlee, Cortes’s predecessor, stepped down as chair in 2003 when he made a bid for Aylward’s seat in the county legislature. He said at the time that it would be a conflict of interest to serve as the party chair and hold elected office.

Right now, Danz is focused on building up the party and recruiting good candidates for the next election. Democratic Supervisor Kenneth Runion, who is in his fifth two-year term, has run uncontested in the last two elections, will face re-election in 2009 and Danz wants the Republicans to offer a viable opponent.

"I want our party to rally behind this candidate," he said.

While the search for candidates is a priority, Danz is casting a wider net for committee members. Right now, the party has 14, he said, and he’d like to have 65.

"You want to get involved"" he asked. "Here’s your chance. We need you."

APD and FBI search house
A storm of rumors over Sand Street

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALTAMONT — A quiet dead-end street, with the elementary school on the other side of a trickling stream at one end, was abuzz with unmarked cars on Jan. 26 and the village has been rife with rumors.

"A search warrant was served at the residence," Altamont’s public safety commissioner, Tony Salerno, said of 103 Sand St. He wouldn’t comment any further on the nature of the incident because, he said, "It is an ongoing investigation."

Two Altamont Police cars and a handful of unmarked cars lined the street that Saturday night, said Sand Street resident Jana Grant.

"It’s an ongoing investigation," said Paul Holstein’s office at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "I can’t confirm or deny anything."

The couple who live at 103 Sand St., both in their late 20s or early 30s and the woman with a strong accent, kept largely to themselves and rarely had company, Grant said; the woman would sometimes walk her Jack Russell terrier along the residential street. They rent from Donald Jacques, who bought the property in 2001, according to the Guilderland assessor’s office. Jacques, who lives in Northville, declined to comment.

A tall, clean-cut man answered the door this week, but declined to answer questions.

Officers were on the scene for about three hours on Saturday night, Grant said.

Although Salerno wouldn’t comment on the investigation, he said, "Nobody’s in danger."

New hours for animal shelter

By Saranac Hale Spencer

GUILDERLAND — New hours of operation at the town’s recently-renovated animal shelter will soon take effect.

From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekends, someone will be in the French’s Mill Road facility so that people can drop by. Until now, if the animal control officer got a call and had to leave the shelter to attend to business, the shelter would shut, said Supervisor Kenneth Runion.

Now, the shelter will have a maintenance person on hand during business hours so that it can remain open while animal control officers are responding to calls.

"We’re just trying to make it more available," Runion said.

"Guilderhaven is delighted with the new hours," said Sue Green, treasurer of the local rescue operation that works with the town shelter.

The not-for-profit group raised almost $50,000 to contribute to the renovation project at the shelter, plus roughly the same amount in in-kind donations, she said.

"It took a good eight to 10 months to get it up to speed," said Richard Savage, Guilderland’s animal control director, of the renovations. "I just want people to come see it."

Robin Martin promises
New card and gift shop offers "exceptional customer service"

By Jo E. Prout

GUILDERLAND — Robin Martin is sincerely yours — the owner, that is, of the Sincerely Yours card shop that just opened in Carman Plaza.

Martin is not a newcomer to the business, or the town. A town resident for 18 years, she raised her children in the school district, and her husband works for the school district.

Martin has decades of experience with card shops. Her father owned a card shop in South Glens Falls, and, in 2005, Martin took over his shop and ran it under the same name, Sincerely Yours.

"I’ve always loved the gift industry. I was a sales rep for 15 years," Martin said. "I grew up with the gift industry."

Martin moved Sincerely Yours to Guilderland when the South Glens Falls lease ended in December. She wanted to be closer to home.

"I just wanted to have a happy place to come, and make someone else happy, too," she said. Shoppers "are going to get exceptional customer service. We have very nice gifts for an affordable price," she said. "Our Valentines are half off."

In fact, all cards in Sincerely Yours are half-priced, as they were in the Glens Falls store. Martin specializes in "things you don’t find in Hannaford or CVS," like Valentine birthday, pet sympathy, or secret pal cards, she said.

Regularly-priced gifts include gift books; bookmarks; wedding, baby, and gift wrap; Yankee candles; and helium-filled balloons for special events. Sincerely Yours also offers social stationery for weddings, bar mitzvahs, and anniversary parties. Martin also sells home décor, jewelry, clocks, and wind chimes, and she has special collections for pets and baseball items. Martin’s baseball collection features items for the New York Mets, the New York Yankees, and the Boston Red Sox.

"I think I have something for everybody," she said.

Any purchase can receive complimentary gift wrap, Martin said.

"I actually do more gift wrapping on Mother’s Day than Christmas, believe it or not," she said. Most people buy one item for Mom in May and need it wrapped, she said. At Christmas, people expect to do their own wrapping later, she said.

"I don’t want to be a pretentious gift shop," she said. "It’s not over the top. You can find something for any occasion, even if it’s just for yourself. I’m not here to compete with Target. I just want to make it convenient to people so they don’t have to go to the mall."

Westmere kids wowed by web creator
Kinney, like his popular cartoon character, charms with self-effacing honesty

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Jeff Kinney draws a mesmerizing Wimpy Kid.

More than 20 million viewers have followed the fate of his always-slightly-slumped middle-schooler Greg Heffley online at Funbrain.com. His handwritten diary, with a cartoon on every page, published last year — Diary of a Wimpy Kid — made the New York Times Best Seller List.

And Monday morning, a library full of kids at Westmere Elementary School greeted Kinney with cheers, and watched attentively as he created their favorite characters with a few deft strokes of his computerized pen.

"You think the Giants are big"" asked enrichment teacher Robert Whiteman, warming up the crowd of fifth-graders. "This man rocks your world."

Kinney, a gentle, almost quiet man, charmed the kids with a story that could have come from Greg Heffley. Kinney became a cartoonist because, he said, "I was trying to save face." As a freshman in college, he went to a meeting for the school newspaper. He wanted to help out so he said he could create a crossword puzzle.

"They laughed. So I said, ‘I’ll do cartoons’ to save myself embarrassment," said Kinney.

And he did. He created a comic strip called "Igdoof" for the University of Maryland’s Diamondback.

Kinney drew a quick sketch of the title character for the Westmere kids. As he drew on his computerized tablet, the image was projected on a large screen at the far end of the library.

"Oh, my Lord!" exclaimed one girl as Kinney drew the character’s huge eyes and ear, and duck-like nose. Kinney then drew the way Igdoof thought of himself. It looked like Greg Heffley, the wimpy kid of diary fame.

"I think there’s a lot of me in Greg," Kinney told his rapt audience. "A lot of characters in literature are heroic." Greg doesn’t always do the right thing.

Kinney related the story of Greg chasing the kindergartners with a worm on a stick and how his friend was going to take the blame for it. Greg talks to his mother who advises him to do the right thing.

"Greg does the right thing for himself," said Kinney. When his mother asks, "Did you do the right thing"" assuming that would be telling the truth, Greg says yes and she takes him out for ice cream. "There’s no adult around to change his reality," said Kinney.

"I spent a lot of time, trying to remember what I was like as a kid," he said.

Kinney provided a real-life example that inspired a Greg Heffley episode and cartoon. "When I was a kid," he said, "I was the slowest one on the swim team...I decided I could get out of it by hiding in the locker room. I would freeze to death in there. So I would cover myself with toilet paper."

He projected on the screen the drawing of a skinny boy, slouching and unhappy, wrapped in toilet paper as the Westmere kids giggled, some covering their mouths, others nudging their neighbors.

Kinney said later that, when his brother was on the swim team as a 6-year-old, he thought the starting gun had real bullets. "So he’d stay under water until he thought the bullet landed," he said.

World audience

Kinney began his talk by showing the kids a 77-page spiral-bound journal he kept. "I started writing smaller and smaller," he said, displaying a page crammed with tiny handwritten comments nestled together in cartoon-like bubbles.

His day job is developing new web games for Poptropica and Funbrain. So Kinney would write late into the night, developing the unfolding diary entries of Greg Heffley.

Kinney told the kids how he lives — with his wife and two sons — in a 250-year-old carriage house in Massachusetts.

"I worked on the book down in the basement at night. At three or four in the morning, I’d post and get e-mails from China or India," said Kinney.

"That’s really cool," he said of the instant feedback, comparing it to the sort of exchange typical of his childhood where you might correspond with a pen pal twice a year.

The Westmere students peppered Kinney with questions as they selected different topics — Jeopardy-style — from brightly-colored squares he projected on the library screen.

When the kids picked "Boys vs. Girls," Kinney projected two different cartoons for them to look at — one, a group of middle-school girls and the other of boys in Greg’s universe.

"The boys look a bit dumber than the girls do," observed one girl.

Kinney smiled and pointed out one boy’s huge nose and another’s crazy hair. "They all look different," he said.

For the girls, he pointed out, "The only thing different is their hair...In Greg’s world, they are all the same. They travel in packs; they go to the bathroom in pairs."

When the kids picked the "Digital Ink" category, Kinney told them how he used to pencil, ink, and then scan each of his drawings. "Each doodle would take one-and-a-half hours," he said. "With 2,000 drawings, that took a lot of time."

With his computerized pad, Kinney said, "I can draw right to the screen."

He illustrated this for the kids, showing them how ideas are expressed in cartoons. The shape of an open mouth, clear back to the tonsils, was easily identified as "yelling."

A dark twister-like squiggle over a character’s head was quickly read as anger.

Several interpretations were offered for star-like bursts — dizzy, shocked, having an idea.

"Dazed," intoned Kinney.

When the kids chose the square labeled "Von Idoten Umzingelt," Kinney asked for a volunteer to read the German; a fifth-grade boy obliged.

His book, Kinney said, is being translated into 20 languages, including Chinese, Russian, and Vietnamese.

The Germans, he said, have no word for wimp, so the title is translated as "Greg’s Diary: I’m Surrounded by Idiots."

In the Japanese edition, the characters, which Kinney drew with four fingers, will each be given five because, said Kinney, "Hundreds of years ago, a class that was discriminated against was called the Four-Finger People." He was told, "Careers would be destroyed" if the book were printed with four-fingered characters.

"I expect many other surprises," Kinney said of going international.

Kinney said he has gotten calls from television channels and movie-makers about turning the book into a film. "I don’t know how I feel about that," he said.

His second book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodric Rules, just being released, features Greg’s older brother, Rodric. And Kinney has planned his third book, which will center on a conflict Greg has with his father, who wants to send him to military school. He will sign a contract for five books, he said.

"I hope," Kinney said, "I have the good sense to quit when I run out of ideas."

Will GHS Lead the Way in engineering"

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — "Why not the best"" is the mantra of Project Lead the Way, Inc., said the vice president of the not-for-profit as he made a pitch to the school board here on Tuesday night.

The group has programs in 2,300 middle schools and high schools in all 50 states, said Niel Tebbano, and 700 more schools are joining. "We turn away foreign interests," he said since the point is to develop American engineers. A report from the National Science Board has said more United States engineering and science professionals are needed to stem the tide of work sent abroad.

The plan is to add a four-year sequence of elective engineering courses at Guilderland High School, which would cost $152,300 over the first four years. The school board will consider the proposal as part of developing next year’s budget, said board President Richard Weisz.

A year ago, a committee of high-school English and social-studies teachers came before the board with a proposal to create a writing center and to phase in a modified course load that would cost about $650,000 over three years — a plan the school board ultimately rejected.

The current proposal is in response to the school board’s goal, formulated last year, to improve technology education at Guilderland, said Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Nancy Andress.

Tebbano began his presentation with a story about Admiral Hyman Rickover, charged with developing a nuclear navy after World War II. He asked one of his young ensigns — James Earl Carter — to prepare a report and Carter was stunned when the admiral’s only question on the finished report was, "Ensign, is this your best work""

When Carter conceded it wasn’t and expounded on how it could have been done differently, the admiral asked, "Why not the best"" This, said Tebbano, defined the future president’s adult professional and personal life. Tebbano said the question is particularly important when working with young people.

Tebbano went on to describe how a blue-ribbon panel determined "educational intervention" was needed in the United States to deal with a shortage of qualified engineers, leading to the founding of Project Lead the Way. The program uses project-based learning and a relevant and rigorous curriculum, he said, so that students learn to think critically, collaborate, and solve problems.

"‘Why do I need to learn this and where will I use it"’ is seldom asked by students in our courses," said Tebbano.

Teachers assess their strengths and weaknesses before they teach the courses. They train for two weeks for each course they will teach and then continue their training through a web-based "virtual academy," or in university courses, he said. Since 1999, seven thousand teachers have been trained, he said.

Schools are evaluated on their compliance with the program’s policies. Graduates of the program are 10 times more likely to enroll in engineering courses than the national average and their grade-point average their freshman year of college is .2 higher, said Tebbano.

Engineering at GHS

Kathryn Perry, Guilderland’s technology supervisor, said the program is related to three of Guilderland’s priorities — professional growth for teachers, and problem-solving and using technology to communicate for students.

High school Principal Michael Paolino went over the courses the school would like to offer:

— Design and Development for Production (DDP), where students use computers to make three-dimensional sketches of models that solve problems;

— Principles of Engineering (POE), where students explore various technology systems and manufacturing processes; and

— Digital Electronics (DE), a course in applied logic, followed by either

— Civil Engineering and Architecture (CEA), which provides an overview of those two fields, emphasizing their interrelationship; or

— Engineering Design and Development (EDD), a research course in which students design and construct a solution to a problem.

In the first year of the program, 2008-09, Perry said, the school anticipates 120 students in six sections would take the first course, Design and Development for Production. The next year, in addition to 120 students taking DDP, another 20 would take Principles of Engineering, bringing the total number of students in the program to 140.

In 2010-11, the third year, 20 more students would take the third course, Digital Electronics, bringing the total to 160. In the fourth year, another 40 students would be added, taking either CEA or EDD, for a total of 180 students.

Expenses the first year would total $56,000, which includes $30,000 for equipment, $20,000 for training, and the rest for materials and software. In 2009-10, costs would total $44,000 — $20,000 for equipment, $11,000 for training and the rest for materials and software.

The third year, costs would amount to $12,000 and the fourth year would jump to $39,000 to handle increased staff, said Perry, which would account for $26,000 of that year’s expenses.

Board concerns

Colleen O’Connell asked how the new courses would differ from the current offerings with similar names.

"It’s those courses on steroids," said Tebbano. "The only similarity...is the title...We take the New York State syllabus and we ramp it up significantly."

Responding to a question from Denise Eisele, Tebbano said that, unlike with Advanced Placement courses, Project Lead the Way students only pay if they will receive college credit. If they score 85 or higher on the test, they pay $200 for college credit, through the Rochester Institute of Technology; the credits are transferable to other schools, he said.

Catherine Barber wanted to know if the new courses would replace other classes.

"You never want to take away from another program," said Perry, noting that Guilderland historically enrolls 120 to 140 students each year in Design and Production. "Down the road, it might become a concern," she said.

Vice President John Dornbush, followed by Peter Golden and Weisz all expressed concern that the students who are already taking four years of math, as Project Lead the Way requires, as well as a science sequence won’t have room in their schedule for the engineering courses, especially if they also take music classes.

"There is a choice process...the way the high school is currently structured," said Perry. Guilderland High School uses block scheduling.

"There’s got to be a way of integrating them, more like Tech High School," said Dornbush.

"We may have to think outside the box," said Paolino.

"The curriculum is designed for the top 80 percent of students," said Tebbano. "Whether they decide to go into engineering or not, they’ll be ready for college because of the critical thinking skills they’ve developed."

He also said, "An emerging trend, a number of juniors and seniors, especially young ladies, start [engineering courses] in their junior year...when they begin to take more seriously their academics." They realize, "Music may be great but it won’t get me into the college I want," said Tebbano.

He concluded by saying that schools like Duke, MIT, and Cornell are "recruiting and offering big dollars for scholarships to Project Lead the Way students."

No cluster for Schilling
Altamont zoning plan shot down, 3 to 2, by village board

By Zach Simeone

ALTAMONT— The vacant parcel of land in the center of the village can now be more densely developed. But that won’t happen any time soon.

After Tuesday night’s village board meeting, the 5.4-acre parcel off Schoharie Plank Road owned by Carl Schilling will be rezoned from R-15 to R-10, which lacks the multi-family designation he was hoping for.

That means residential lots can now be 10,000 square feet rather than 15,000. Following its adoption of a comprehensive land-use plan a year ago, the village board held packed hearings for four months on zoning changes suggested in the master plan. One of the most hotly-contested changes was to allow multi-family housing on the vacant land.

Schilling, a carpenter who inherited the land from his father 27 years ago, wanted to build clustered housing there, leaving much of the land open for public use. He had ice-skated there as a boy and played by the creek, he said. The park-like property is bordered by village houses, many of whose residents objected to the "M" designation.

"I was just disappointed," Schilling said yesterday of the board’s decision. "I still don’t understand why people don’t see the need. I don’t think anybody fully understands this, and yet everybody’s got a very big opinion."

The subject has been the source of animosity between Schilling and his neighbors. "I don’t know what to do. What am I going to do" Fight my way through neighbors’ fears"" asked Schilling. "I’m not going to fight fear with anger. I’ve got neighbors not waving at me, giving me dirty looks and everything; it’s incredible."

Proponents of the multi-family designation, including Trustee Dean Whalen, an architect who headed the committees that drafted the master plan and the new zoning proposals, said that further development around Altamont should have a village feel, rather than the typical cul-de-sac and cookie-cutter house design that has become the suburban status quo. Proponents also said the "M" designation would preserve open space as well as allowing for more economic diversity in the village.

After Mayor James Gaughan made the motion Tuesday night for the long-awaited vote, the board decided, by a vote of 3 to 2, against re-zoning Schilling’s land to R-10M. Whalen and Trustee Bill Aylward voted in favor. Gaughan and trustees Christine Marshall and Kerry Dineen were opposed. Marshall had served on the committee that proposed the zoning changes.

Soon after, Dineen proposed rezoning the land in question to R-10. The board voted in favor with what Mayor Gaughan called a "super majority vote," meaning a majority plus one. Whalen was the only member to vote against the R-10 designation.

"My sole purpose for going for the ‘M’ designation was because it gave me the greatest leeway as far as design," Schilling told The Enterprise yesterday. "The land for me is an opportunity to create something really beautiful. What they did is analogous to hiring a painter and preventing him from using red in it. It’s an artificial handicap. I thought that this would serve the village, but the board doesn’t agree, so what am I going to do""

The board, because of the new R-10 designation, was not able to vote on the new zoning law as a whole, though this was originally part of the evening’s agenda. It will reconvene on Feb. 13 at 7:30 p.m. for a resolution.

Village Attorney Michael Moore explained the reason for postponing the vote: "The governing state law, under which this new zoning law is being adopted, requires that, before a local law such as this new zoning law can be acted upon, it must be in its final form and on the desks of the board members for a period of either seven days if it’s personally put on their desk, or 10 days if it’s mailed to them," he said. "There was a change in the terms of the zoning map, which is part of the zoning law, and, in order to comply with the governing state statute, we have to change the map, put that change in the law, and put it on the board members’ desks for the required period of time."

The village will have to wait until next Wednesday for a final answer on the continuing zoning debate.

Other business

In other business, the village board voted unanimously to:

— Permanently appoint Lucas Oliver as a public works laborer following a satisfactory one-year probationary appointment, effective Feb. 20;

— Hold a public hearing on March 11 at 7:45 p.m. for authorization of a $59,447 bid award to the Phoenix Electric Company for installation of a wastewater treatment plant generator; and

— Conduct budget workshops on March 18 at 6 p.m.

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