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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, October 16, 2008
Villagers speak out on bike and hike plans for Altamont
By Philippa Stasuik
ALTAMONT In the last two weeks, Altamont residents have had an opportunity to envision how they want their village to look ten, twenty, even fifty years from now.
On Monday, Oct. 6, the village held its first public meeting to discuss developing a pedestrian and bicycle master plan for Altamont. As part of a $27,000 grant received from the Capital District Transportation Committee, the village hired Alta Planning and Design, a consulting firm based in Schenectady, to help develop a plan to improve walking and biking linkage in Altamont and also to identify future funding for projects.
Around 40 villagers came to the meeting to listen, learn, and talk about ways in which the village could better serve those walking and on bikes.
Jeff Olsen, a representative from Alta Planning, started the meeting by asking the villagers to think about themes that go into improving the design of a town’s space. These themes included:
Connectivity, such as where the village’s neighborhoods lack connected pathways needed to make biking and walking easier throughout the village;
Accessibility and mobility, such as where people cross streets, and how they are getting up and down curbs, particularly the elderly, disabled, and people pushing strollers;
Safety, for street crossings and sidewalks near busy streets like Altamont Boulvard; and
Health, for instance, how to design a village space that will encourage walking and biking, which have both been in decline in recent years.
The meeting was organized so villagers could give their input informally and without the pressure of public speaking. At four tables, large maps of Altamont were laid down and people were encouraged to write their comments directly on the maps.
With representatives from the village, Alta, and the Capital District Transportation Committee circulating among the tables, residents were able to voice their ideas and concerns.
The table set up to focus on pedestrian issues attracted so many residents that they overflowed to the neighboring table. Lisa Peck, a resident on Sand Street, complained of walking to the town’s center along Altamont Boulevard: “I’m scared to death to walk my kids that way because cars are zooming by,” she said.
George Schiller agreed. “I’ve lived in the same house for 60 years and they’ve never done anything to Altamont Boulevard to improve it,” he said.
Olsen, who was listening to their concerns, called the Altamont Boulevard sidewalk situation, “a death by a thousand cuts,” referring to the decades of decisions that led to the unevenness of the sidewalk and its proximity to the road.
At the end of the meeting, Olsen summarized some of the things he learned from the community’s input. He said that there were two places in the village where pedestrians had been struck by motorists that did not show up in the safety data Alta had compiled. There were also places where small crossings could better connect neighborhoods.
Third, he said that crosswalks in the town are not adequately compelling motorists to stop for pedestrians. Finally, to improve the situation for cyclists in the village, education and encouragement programs are needed.
Although the mood of the villagers at the start of the meeting was somewhat anxious, the meeting ended on an upbeat note. The representatives from Alta left armed with feedback and experience from the people who intimately know the village, and the villagers left with a better understanding of what the village board is trying to achieve by pursuing the grant.
The next community meeting will be held in November, when Alta will present a plan based on a fusion of the community’s input and its own experience in urban planning.
Mayor James Gaughan was pleased with the outcomes of the first meeting. “Given the economy, given the fuel issues that are out there, given the philosophical shift in moving back toward a community- based model within government, we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.
The following evening, the village hall played host to the trustees’ monthly meeting. During the public comment portion, Robert Rabbin, who lives on the corner of Sand and Main streets, asked the mayor to clarify the situation regarding the potential bridge and sidewalk, which would help to connect Sand Street to the Altamont Elementary School.
Mayor Gaughan clarified that the Sand Street bridge project is a separate project from the pedestrian and bicycle master plan that had been discussed the night before. The bridge grant is called a spot grant, which means that it is an application for federal money for a limited scheme, which the mayor called a “surgically applied project.”
The village has requested $80,000 in an 80-percent reimbursable grant, which means that, whatever money the village receives, it will be responsible for 20 percent of the total cost. That figure will depend on how much the federal government awards the village, which may or may not be the full amount requested.
Gaughan went on to explain that, if the grant were successful, the village would, “address the issues that have been raised by residents on Sand Street that have to do with the sidewalk. I made a commitment to neighbors to make sure to involve them in specifics of the design stage so that their concerns would be legitimately addressed.”
Although the two grants for the bridge and the pedestrian and biking plan are separate, Gaughan described the two as having a, “thematic connection because they both have a pedestrian purpose.”
Jo Ann Mulligan, a sixth-grader at Farnsworth Middle School, was titled Mayor for a Day. Mulligan earned the title by reading the most number of books 98 during the Altamont Free Library’s summer reading program and cites Little Men, by Louisa May Alcott, as her favorite book of the summer.
Mayor Gaughan invited Mulligan to sit with the trustees at the meeting and, in referring to her achievement, said he, “believes in the importance of learning about the world beyond us.”
As honorary mayor, Mulligan shared some policy suggestions for the village, one of which was that children who attend Altamont Elementary School but don’t live in the village could swim at Bozenkill Park during designated days in the summer.
The mayor presented Mulligan with a book about America and two tickets to attend the New York Library Association Conference in November, courtesy of the village.
In other business, the board:
Adopted a law updating procedures and regulations on the village’s sewers and sewage disposal;
Hired James S. Corsaro, of Troy Archival Consulting who, for $975, will perform a general survey of the historical archives and artifacts found in the village museum; village clerk and other government offices; Altamont Free Library; and the Crounse House, on the outskirts of the village, purchased jointly by Altamont and Guilderland;
Approved the following candidates for membership to the Altamont Fire Department: Edmund Makowski of Danvers Road; Kelly Best of Altamont Boulevard; William R. Vinson of Western Avene, Katey Huggins of Dunnsville Road; and Timothy McIntyre of East Berne;
Approved the realignment of $2,000 in wages paid to Jeffrey Moller, assistant superintendent of Public Works, from health insurance buy-back adjustment to instead be included in his annual salary;
Amended the Village Personnel Policies to include a new section, providing for a leave donation program, whereby employees can donate vacation time to fellow employees who are on extended sick leave and have used up their own time sick leave time;
Approved the advertisement of sealed bids for a 1998 Ford F700 dump truck, which was formally used as a back-up plow. The sale is part of the village’s equipment replacement program and the minimum bid is $8,500;
Approved holding the Altamont Fire and Police Department Halloween Parade and Party on Friday, Oct. 31, at 6 p.m. The parade will start at Orsini Park and end at the Village Community Room;
Approved a request to dispose of various town records after the town’s museum and archives staff appraised them. These records include vouchers, ledgers, water and sewer ledgers and journals, water-meter cards, property tax assessment documents, and property transfer documents for various years between 1990 and 2002;
Approved the Altamont court records annual audit performed by Catherine Hasbrouck, the village treasurer. This was the second audit required under the New York State Unified Court System;
Met in executive session, after which the board approved a motion to acknowledge two certificates of occupancy from Guilderland’s building inspector for Brandle Meadows, a new senior housing complex just outside the village line on Brandle Road. The village will reserve the right to withhold consent of further certificates until outstanding action items are completed; and
After executive session, approved the request of Brandle Meadows for Altamont to accept two deeds of dedication, which transfer titles for Brandle Meadows’ pump station and water meter properties to the village.