By Jo E. Prout
VOORHEESVILLE — Celebrations and steady change defined the year for the village here, as residents marked elections, anniversaries, and new contracts and services, while seeking modern building access and noise reduction.
Voorheesville adopted a $1.99 million budget in 2012, raising taxes three cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The budget reflected part-time stormwater coordinator Gerald Gordinier’s retirement, and the part-time appointment of Code Enforcement Officer Glenn Hebert. Village services were kept at the same levels as 2011, but the budget showed that the village moved $2,000 from the ambulance fund to the fire department.
The village board did not fund a $60,000 salary for daytime professional paramedic coverage, as the volunteer ambulance squad had requested. Instead, the village entered a trial period for shared services with the Albany County Sheriff’s office.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said New Scotland Town Supervisor Thomas Dolin. The town and village both contribute to the ambulance squad’s budget, with Voorheesville providing about $53,000 per year. Full-time town emergency responders had been arriving at calls before volunteers, who stopped first at the squad house to get their emergency vehicles, Dolin said.
“This trial program is to have the sheriff be the primary responder,” Dolin said.
The sheriff’s office told the village board in July that it would send members to local meetings to increase village and department communications.
“We want the deputies to know the community, and vice versa,” said Sheriff Craig Apple.
A slice of that community voted Trustee Brett Hotaling into his board seat in March. Eighty-five residents showed up to return Hotaling to his uncontested seat held since his appointment the year before, after the death of his father, Trustee William Hotaling, who died in 2011. Brett Hotaling won his father’s remaining unexpired term.
Voorheesville has a population of 2,789, according to the 2010 federal census.
Village residents also turned out to honor the 50th anniversary of St. Matthew’s Catholic Church last April. Bishop Howard Hubbard celebrated the Mass for the 900 families who make up the parish. The church marked the year with a reception, its annual picnic, and a dinner dance.
The village revamped its contract to sell water to the town to provide for the Amedore Homes Colonie Country Club Estates neighborhood just over the village line, after years of delay on the project that the village considered dead. Amedore agreed to pay the village’s fee of $1,500 per unit for each of the 40 proposed homes, for a total of $60,000.
After seeking plans to renovate Village Hall on Voorheesville Avenue to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the village board agreed to spend up to $35,000 to widen entrances and add a downstairs restroom. The addition of an elevator to make the upstairs meeting room accessible would have cost the village $300,000, and building a new Village Hall onto the firehouse would have cost $1 million, according to the village engineer.
The firehouse, on Altamont Road, is ADA-compliant and can be used for large public meetings, said Mayor Robert Conway. He said that using the firehouse would be “less convenient, but we’re not spending 10 times as much.”
The less-expensive option would leave the courtroom upstairs without accessibility. In August, the board discussed dissolving the village court, which costs the village $8,800 per year. According to state law, Justice Kenneth Connolly would finish his term, which ends in 2014, if the village decides to dissolve the court then.
The village board and members of a committee to reduce train-whistle noise clashed throughout the year, as residents signed petitions and attended meetings to support the creation of a federally-acknowledged quiet zone in Voorheesville, while board members decried a lack of funds.
Residents claimed that train traffic in the village had increased to nearly 70 trains per day. The noise affects sleep and hearing loss, they said.
With quiet-zone supporters hoping for the installation of median markers, the village board requested a preliminary engineer’s report to study the installation of more-expensive quadrant gates, both of which are federally accepted ways to create safer train-track crossings so that train engineers can refrain from blowing horns.
In November, the report suggested that gates would cost more than $1 million, and that engineers from CSX railroad, which owns the tracks, would charge about $50,000 for a preliminary study.
“To spend $50,000 to get a number, that’s a hard pill to swallow,” Conway said.
Board members said that county officials did not want to install medians at the two village crossings, which are on county roads maintained by Albany County.
Residents said that they did not favor one noise-control method over another.
“We’re asking the board to work with us to resolve this problem. The question was, ‘What can we do in Voorheesville?’ ” said resident Steven Schreiber .
“The county owns the roads,” said Trustee Jack Stevens. “They don’t want it,”
“The county is public employees paid by taxpayers,” Schreiber said. “They are public servants. They have bosses, too.”