BALLSTON SPA — In recent weeks, a dispute has been simmering between two local mayors regarding the recreational trail project planned for the north side of Geyser Road over the course of many years.
During both village board meetings in April, prompted by comments from the public, Ballston Spa Mayor John Romano voiced his concerns about the trail project. They center mainly on increasing public access to a forested, 75-acre area located between Geyser Road and Rowland Street that supplies the village’s water.
“The whole idea is I don’t want any access” to the watershed land, Mayor Romano said at the April 24 board meeting.
At the April 10 meeting, Romano said a general lack of consideration for the village’s watershed represented a “major error” in the project’s state-mandated environmental review process.
Romano also expressed concerns about the removal of some trees on village property along Geyser Road that will be a necessary part of the trail project. He claims a deadline of March 31 to commence tree removal passed without proper input from the City of Saratoga Springs, whose border ends at the Town of Milton line on Geyser Road.
“There’s really been no communication and no information with respect to the project,” Romano said.
Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen strongly disagreed.
She said a meeting took place in Ballston Spa between herself, other city officials and Romano on March 27, during which the "entire project" was reviewed. Romano acknowledged that meeting but offered no additional comment.*
“This has been going on for 15 years,” Mayor Yepsen said during an interview in her city office. “It’s been vetted with federal and state standards over and over again.”
Yepsen said the city is “not going to cut any trees down” until “the Village of Ballston Spa decides to cooperate.”
The city is preparing letters that will be sent to property owners on Geyser Road, including Ballston Spa, discussing monetary compensation for any parcels of land that will be affected by the trail project.
State officials are “looking at this as a package deal,” Yepsen added. “They have approved it all.” She noted how the trail project is directly related to infrastructure and traffic signal improvements planned for the intersection of Geyser Road and Route 50.
Yepsen said there is “lots of support” for her vision of connecting 23 miles of recreational trails in and around the city, which includes the Geyser Road trail.
Yepsen cited the work of Molly Gagne, president of the city’s Southwest Neighborhood Association (SNA), as one of the main reasons for the growth of that support. The SNA’s members reside primarily in parts of the Geyser Crest neighborhood that are within the city’s borders.
“It’s one of the most popular initiatives that I’ve seen since I’ve taken office as mayor in 2014,” Yepsen said.
“The Geyser Road trail will be a multi-use trail, allowing for both pedestrian and bicycle access,” the SNA explains on its website. “It will be the first link from a neighborhood located within the suburban outskirts to downtown Saratoga Springs.”
Dozens of citizens, though, have signed petitions opposing the project and presented them to city officials. A public hearing was held in January, during which petitioners raised concerns about a recreational trail anywhere near the Grande Industrial Park.
“This segment of roadway is extremely busy and heavily used by tractor trailers and other large commercial vehicles, making it one of the most traveled commercial road segments in the City of Saratoga Springs,” the petitioners wrote to Yepsen and other city officials. “Encouraging bicycle traffic and pedestrians, children and their families on this roadway segment is ill-advised.”
Still, Mayor Yepsen said she is determined to see the Geyser Road trail project through.
“We are reaching the finish line at this point,” Yepsen said. “I’m so excited this is going to happen.”
* [Author's note: All print editions of Saratoga TODAY, and a previous version of this online story, omitted a reference to the March 27 meeting.]
WILTON — At its meeting on April 26, the Wilton Planning Board approved new construction in Commerce Park on Ballard Road and set a public hearing for the conversion of a Route 50 building into a facility for batting practice.
According to Lucy Harlow, the board’s executive secretary, amendments were approved to the original site plans of Granite and Marble Works, Inc. and KLN, LLC.
Granite and Marble Works plans an 8,500-square-foot addition at its 8 Commerce Park Drive location, which necessitated an adjustment to the property line as well.
KLN plans to add 9,600 square feet of space to its 12 Commerce Park Dr. location.
The board also gave initial approval to a proposal by Bret McArthur, owner of the Slugger’s Den at 175 Ballston Avenue, to convert the building at 4252/54 Route 50—north of the retail district—into another local site for indoor batting practice.
“It’s nothing that major,” McArthur said when contacted about the plan in March. He said the facility “will be a good fit” for Wilton.
The Slugger’s Den is open to members and non-members, and lists rental rates online between $25 and $80 for 30- or 60-mintue practice sessions for batters.
Harlow said the Wilton Planning Board set a public hearing on May 17 for McArthur’s site plan.
BALLSTON SPA — During a regularly scheduled meeting on April 24, Ballston Spa Mayor John Romano reported that the state of New York—as part of its budget process—is requiring all counties to review how government services can be shared.
“Nobody’s speaking about it yet,” Mayor Romano said.
Romano went through a long list of examples to prove how Ballston Spa has been sharing services with the towns of Ballston and Milton, plus Saratoga County, for years.
“We, in turn, help them out when they need help,” Romano said, referring to Milton road construction crews who sometimes assist in patchwork on village roads.
Romano requested that the four trustees on the Village Board submit their suggestions about shared services to him by May 12.
By September 15, according to Romano, Saratoga County is required to convene a special shared-services panel that will conduct a public hearing on the matter no later than October 15.
Saratoga County Administrator Spencer Hellwig did not return a request for comment in time for publication.
In a summary posted online, the New York Department of State explains that the shared-services requirement is “designed to generate property tax savings by facilitating operational collaboration between local governments.”
The department says “the chief executive officers of each county (outside of New York City) will: establish a shared services panel; develop a county-wide shared service property tax savings plan; save taxpayer dollars, engage the public and have the opportunity for state match funding.”
The Department of State reports that the shared-services measure is part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “commitment to reducing property taxes and incentivizing local government modernization.”
In other business on April 24, the Ballston Spa Village Board unanimously approved a measure that will allow a developer to tap a water main on Rowland Street north of the village.
Romano informed the board that a 20,000-square-foot commercial building is being planned for long-vacant land between the Ballston Spa National Bank and Cumberland Farms. On a daily basis, he said, the development is expected to use an estimated 2,500 gallons of water.
Water is pumped from a watershed farther north to Ballston Spa by a 20-inch water main along Rowland Street, to which the developer will attach a 2-inch line.
The mayor said the state Department of Health mandates various conditions on any tapping of 20-inch water lines. In this case, a booster pump must be installed in the development; the village must issue a $1,500 permit; and village officials “must witness the tap,” Romano explained to the board.
Trustee Noah Shaw expressed his concerns about an unrelated measure involving village water lines and the firm CHA Consulting, Inc. (formerly Clough, Harbour and Associates).
Romano presented to the village board a measure that authorized the expenditure of nearly $17,000 for water pump and motor maintenance and “related work that has to be done” by CHA.
Shaw claimed that the village board received no prior notice of that measure’s terms, though he agreed to vote in favor.
“The next time, I’m voting no,” Shaw said. “On these kinds of things it requires more process.”
[Gallery photos by PhotoAndGraphic.com, depicting contractors at work and the interior or exterior of new manufactured homes at Brookview Village.]
GREENFIELD CENTER — A community of manufactured homes on Route 9N is expanding with the addition of 64 lots in the back of the property.
Stephen Sacks moved to Saratoga County from New Jersey because he believes in the value of the homes offered by UMH Properties at Brookview Village.
UMH representatives “really do care about giving people the American dream,” Sacks said, during a tour of the work site. He was recently appointed as the property manager at Brookview Village.
First established in 1968, UMH Properties is a real-estate investment trust that owns and operates manufactured homes in seven states.
This week, contractors fused together individual halves of several new units after they had been transported separately across state lines on flatbed trailers.
The manufactured homes feature modern exterior and interior designs, standardized by companies such as Titan Homes, Redman, Eagle River and Skyline.
Sacks said the transportation of manufactured homes itself proves their durability in the natural elements.
“We think we’ve got a beautiful, affordable, high-quality product,” offered Sam Landy, the chief executive of UMH Properties in Freehold, New Jersey.
Landy said family members, who travel to Saratoga Springs several times during track season each year, happened to get stranded at a Brookview Village guest house during Hurricane Irene in 2011. The storm allowed them to experience first hand, he said, the difference between traditional “stick-built” houses and manufactured homes.
The 64-home addition at Brookview Village will take place in three phases, bringing the total number of lots to more than 200. The newer units will range in price from $100,000 to $150,000, Sacks said.
“These are so well built,” Sacks continued, noting how an added feature will be the new development’s distance from Route 9N and its woodsy surroundings. “It’s very quiet. It’s very peaceful. I think people are going to love living back here,” Sacks said.
Landy said the completion of all 64 lots depends on real estate market conditions and actual sales. With all taxes and fees included, a typical monthly lot lease could total approximately $1,500, he said.
After the real-estate market crash of 2008, Sacks explained, UMH Properties secured agreements with various credit companies that specialize in leasing manufactured homes. They include First Credit Corp., Northboro Priority Funding and Triad Financial Services.
He said a Skidmore College graduate recently put down the first deposit on a manufactured home in the new section of Brookview Village. UMH Properties is “not a company just looking to make money,” Sacks added. He said the company had installed three separate water wells and dependable sewer systems on the property, and is always willing to assist the community’s leaseholders in the case of emergencies.
Sacks also said the company is allocating $50,000 for a necessary rehabilitation of the mailbox area, which will include the installation of more lighting and protection from the elements for residents of the community.
[In photos: NameBubbles labels on kids' items (photo by Alyssa Watroba); Michelle Brandriss and her son Cooper; and Dr. Richard Kim in his Care Lane practice (photo by Larry Goodwin)].
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Michelle Brandriss devised a simple way to help active kids everywhere prevent the loss of personal items: by sticking her company’s durable name labels on backpacks, clothes, drink containers, or whatever their little hearts desire.
Dr. Richard Kim, a California native, reports that he was so impressed by the Adirondack Park that he decided to transplant his family here as a means to help upstate New Yorkers stay healthy through vigorous activity.
On May 2 in Albany, the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) will recognize both Brandriss and Dr. Kim for the commercial success of their ideas. Her popular Ballston Spa company is NameBubbles, while Kim runs Kinetic Sports Medicine on Care Lane in Saratoga Springs.
Local representatives of Bank of America Merrill Lynch and the Adirondack Trust Company, respectively, nominated the two businesses for that honor.
A total of 14 other Capital Region businesses will be awarded along with NameBubbles and Kinetic Sports Medicine, during the SBA’s Small Business Week luncheon at the Albany Marriott. The event will be emceed by anchor Jim Kambrich of the television news station WNYT.
Brandriss explained how she began printing her NameBubbles labels for kids in 2009 and selling them primarily online. The company “started off very modestly,” she said, “in my basement.”
A career in advertising, which required frequent travel, was seriously cutting into the quality time Brandriss had with her toddler son Cooper and husband David. So she chose to focus instead on building NameBubbles.
At the time, she remembers, it appealed to her how all sorts of “mommy blogs” were being created through which mothers nationwide shared experiences. “The Internet has been a really freeing place,” Brandriss said, where “you can really make things happen.”
By late 2015, her label-printing operation needed to expand into a spacious building on Science Street in Ballston Spa. Brandriss said she plans to utilize the village property—situated on a steep hill behind Saratoga County administrative offices—until she retires.
“We’ve continued to grow. I’ve always had an amazing team of people,” Brandriss said of her 19 employees. “I feel very lucky.”
“New York state is only 10 percent of our business,” Brandriss added. “It’s been fun getting to know parents from all over.”
Kim said Kinetic Sports Medicine, which first opened in 2014, is based on a “long-term vision and goal” that grew out of his medical education in Albany. Today he employs an office manager and a part-time assistant in the effort.
Kim holds several other titles such as team physician of the U.S. Rugby Eagles and Saratoga Rugby Club, and clinical assistant professor in sports medicine at Albany Medical College.
“The job search after sports medicine training left me believing that patients could have a different experience with not just sports medi- cine, but with regards to maintaining or returning to active lifestyles,” Kim explained in an email.
“The practicing model is very much about prevention being the cure,” Kim said, when asked to describe his business philosophy in general. “Today our society is battling heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, etc. A key element in preventing or treating these conditions is through activity.”
Kim added that “being innovative, creative, traditional, non-traditional to overcome limitations from activity is essentially where we come in.”
“The Capital Region is now home to me, especially Saratoga,” Kim said. “Not only is the backdrop of the Adirondacks stunning, but my life is well invested and rooted into this region. There are eventual plans to have a presence in other regions but Saratoga will always be home.”
WILTON — At the request of town board members, Comptroller Jeffrey Reale is researching the means by which “community solar” arrays can be installed for more energy efficiency in Wilton.
“The town is very interested in joining in on a project that is both ‘clean energy’ and can save the town money in the future,” Reale wrote on April 11 to Jeffrey Conrad, president of the advisory firm Solomon Energy.
Town officials are considering the construction of an additional building at their Traver Road complex, so Reale explained in his letter that he “can envision our electricity usage going up considerably over the next two years.”
At the monthly Wilton Town Board meeting on April 6, Reale was asked by Councilwoman Joanne Klepetar and Supervisor Arthur Johnson about his previous attempts to study the installation of solar panels on town property.
“It’s still worth pursuing,” Reale responded, noting how the size of any solar array must be sufficiently large enough to qualify for state funding.
Conrad at Solomon Energy wrote to Reale that the state Public Service Commission “made significant adjustments to the crediting aspects of solar which will once again make projects financially viable for customers in the state.”
Details should be finalized by “late summer or early fall,” added Conrad.
Still, once solar panels are installed, some municipalities and even solar companies are “having a hard time” connecting to the electricity grid, Reale said.
He cited as an example the Town of Halfmoon, which was awarded a grant in 2014 to install a large solar array at a water-treatment plant but has been unable to supply the electricity generated as originally planned.
Halfmoon Supervisor Kevin Tollisen did not return a request for comment.
“You’re at the mercy of National Grid,” Reale said. “They don’t connect it to the grid so you can’t take advantage of it.”
[In photos: The slope behind Skidmore’s Bernhard Theater under which geothermal pipes were installed. Levi Rogers (at left) and Paul Lundberg in one of Skidmore’s geothermal control rooms. Photos by Larry Goodwin.]
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A gentle slope on the campus of Skidmore College—one that leads down to a pond rippled by two fountains—naturally hides the evidence of previous construction.
Several years ago, contractor machines had made a mess of it by digging straight down 450 feet to install a field of five-inch-wide pipes, which supply a sophisticated geothermal heating and cooling system at the college.
The lush green grass behind the Bernhard Theater building now makes the clean-energy infrastructure impossible to see.
Last year, another large geothermal installation was completed on campus after Facilities Services crews had ripped up a portion of the Palamountain parking lot, in preparation for construction of a Center for Integrated Sciences.
“Nobody really knows what we’ve been doing here for a long time,” stated Paul Lundberg, the assistant director of Facilities Services. Lundberg is widely considered on campus to be the most enthusiastic promoter of geothermal energy projects.
Lundberg is happy to explain how “closed-loop” networks of pipes circulate famously pure local water for indoor climate control at Skidmore. The goal is to get “the best bang for your buck” in terms of energy consumption, he said.
“Geothermal heat pump installations use the constant temperature under the ground’s frost line to renewably heat and cool homes and businesses without producing greenhouse gases on site,” the New York Geothermal Energy Organization (NYGEO) states in a summary of the technology.
Lundberg admitted that he was eager to attend the NYGEO conference this week at the Radisson Hotel in Albany. In 2015, the same conference—nicknamed “Geopalooza”—was held at Skidmore College.
In 2012, a national academic association recognized Skidmore with an award for the operation of its geothermal energy system.
Before giving a brief tour of one of the system’s two main “nodes,” or control rooms, Lundberg had joined an interview with Karen Kellogg and Levi Rogers, who direct and coordinate various activities through Skidmore’s Sustainability Office.
Rogers said his office works with “a large group of people on campus” who are united in their support of Skidmore’s environmentally sustainable projects. These include the promotion of solar power, ambitious recycling and composting programs, and the annual maintenance of a thriving community garden on campus.
Many students are currently participating in Earth Week activities, which include an off-campus March for Science starting at noon on Saturday in Congress Park and a film screening about the Hudson River on Monday at 7 p.m. in the Emerson Auditorium.
Kellogg, Lundberg and Rogers sat down together outside a coffee shop on the second floor of the Case Center, as Skidmore students and faculty were socializing or studying intently nearby.
Kellogg explained that, at present, geothermal energy heats and cools nearly 40 percent of the square footage inside all of Skidmore’s buildings. That includes the Arthur Zankel Music Center, Tang Teaching Museum, the Northwoods and Sussman student apartments, and numerous other structures on campus.
More geothermal projects are being planned to increase the college’s overall energy efficiency, she said.
Lundberg described how Skidmore’s geothermal system (in scientific terms) is able to store heat energy very efficiently due to a large underground formation of Dolostone, which he called “near perfect for optimum heat exchange.”
“We’ve done our homework,” Lundberg added.
Rogers pointed out that Skidmore utilizes all of the geothermal power generated on site, which he said eliminates any need for the college to participate in complicated “renewable energy credit” markets.
“I really do think that sets us apart from other institutions,” Rogers said.
According to John Manning, a spokesman for Earth Sensitive Solutions in Skaneateles, New York, a firm that has partnered with Skidmore to install geothermal pipes, emissions of greenhouse gases are “going to be a growing concern” in the years ahead.
Manning said the New York Energy Research and Development Authority is close to finalizing economic incentives that could spur more commercial and residential projects statewide similar to those being completed at Skidmore.
“It’s good to see geothermal finally catching on,” Manning said. He called it “the best sustainable way to lower our carbon footprint.”
MALTA — Fewer than 10 percent of Malta’s residents participated in a water survey mailed last year by town officials, who are considering the installation of more water and sewer lines in several parts of town.
“We don’t have water out here and it’s something that everybody takes for granted until it happens to them,” said Councilman Craig Warner, chairman of the 11-member committee that has studied the matter since April 2016. “That’s what I found out.”
The committee’s four-part mission consists of identifying water needs throughout Malta; accessibility and priority needs, and the associated costs; potential funding methods; and analyzing the grant process to obtain funds.
At the April 17 Malta Town Board meeting, Warner gave a presentation regarding the water survey. Of more than 13,000 town residents, roughly 600 had responded.
“It was a very controlled survey,” Warner said, noting how multiple responses from property owners were not allowed.
Warner explained that residents on Knapp Road have significant difficulties drilling wells for water due to excessive shale deposits underground.
Malta Supervisor Vincent DeLucia said homeowners in the nearby hamlet of Maltaville, in particular, have been“suffering”without sufficient water “for quite some time.”
“There are several places in the town of Malta that need water,” the supervisor said.
The current task is to build upon a previous study that focused on Maltaville, according to Warner. He said a final report should be prepared by June.
His committee established six separate “areas” of Malta; the largest includes Round Lake and extends north along the Town of Stillwater border. A majority of respondents live in Area 2, which goes from the southern end of Saratoga Lake west to Route 9.
Nearly 475 people rated the town’s water “average, low or very low” quality, the survey results show. A total of 576 people expressed a “desire to migrate to municipal water.”
According to DeLucia, there are water and sewer lines already installed along Route 9 to an apartment complex just south of the Malta Drive-In movie theater. New commercial development all along the Route 9 corridor is adding pressure to extend those lines farther north, he said.
In general, DeLucia added, it costs about $1 million per mile to install water and sewer infrastructure. It gets more expensive if rock formations impede progress.
Warner indicated that the town received two bids for further study. A bid by the Chazen Companies came in at $13,500, while Delaware Engineering’s bid was $22,320.
The town board has yet to choose the winning bidder to proceed. Warner estimated that the process of selecting contractors and securing the proper funds would be drawn out for another four years.
“If you guys can design a better mousetrap, we’re all ears,” stated Councilman Timothy Dunn. He had addressed his comment to Joe Lanaro and another representative of the Chazen Companies.
“I’m looking forward to working with the town to move this project forward,” Lanaro responded.
[In photos : Joyce Ure in the Cudney’s plant on Aletta Street; Gatha Fair explains the dry-cleaning “ATM” at the Weibel Avenue Cudney’s; employee Priest Franklin at a shirt-press machine; the Weibel Avenue location as decorated with wall art by Cudney’s driver Steve Burr. Photos by Larry Goodwin.]
SARATOGA SPRINGS — After twenty years of dedicated effort, Joyce Ure is more than ready to take the helm of Cudney’s Cleaners.
“I am so thrilled. I’ve known her since she was a teenager,” stated Lynette Whaley, whose father James Cudney started the popular dry-cleaning business in 1952.
Ure is “very organized and efficient,” Whaley added.
On April 14, Ure finalized paperwork at the Adirondack Trust Company that officially makes her the new owner of Cudney’s.
Cudney’s, which operates in five locations spread across the city and Wilton, claims a solid reputation as “Saratoga’s eco-friendly dry cleaner.”
Ure first met Whaley and started working at the business in 1997. She said Cudney’s customers will notice very little difference in the day-to-day operations.
For about 10 years, Ure has basically managed Cudney’s while Whaley focused on her role as director of personnel development at Saratoga Springs High School. Ure lives in Northumberland with her husband Joe and one of their two sons.
Whaley said she plans to retire from the school district this summer to spend more time with her family.
Ure realized long ago how much customers appreciate the dry cleaning and laundry services provided by Cudney’s. “We’re all so busy,” she said. “It’s worthwhile and it’s convenient.”
With support from 28 employees, including her mother Sandy Pellock, Ure is confident that the laundry needs of 3,000 active customers will be met as professionally as ever.
The business invested in computer software, she explained, that tracks each individual clothing item dropped off with bar codes, as well as modern machines that keep the garments moving and maximize employee health and productivity.
Cudney’s even purchased machines that bag the final product. Such technology has “made our lives a whole lot easier,” Ure said.
“It’s my baby,” offered 42-year Cudney’s employee Nancy Bean, referring to the conveyor machine. “It beats bagging.”
In the Cudney’s Weibel Avenue location, Ure said apartment renters in the area find the dry-cleaning “ATM” machine quite convenient whenever employee Gatha Fair locks the main doors. That machine has 24-hour access.
Plus, according to Ure, the chemical solvents now used in dry cleaning activities are far safer for the environment than they were years ago.
“The thing that I like most is that I do something different every day,” Ure added, noting how it’s not uncommon for her to leave the management duties aside and hop in one of Cudney’s trucks to deliver orders.
“We’ve always given back to the community. That’s what keeps me coming to work every day,” Ure said.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — With Tax Day right around the corner, many of us are reaching into our pockets to pay off Uncle Sam. To relieve taxpayers of the stress associated with meeting the federal deadline, Kona Ice will be hosting its fourth annual National “Chill Out” Day.
On Tuesday, April 18, an island-inspired truck will be parked at the Holiday Inn in Saratoga Springs from 12 to 3 p.m. to hand out free cups of tropical shaved ice and complimentary Hawaiian leis to all who stop by. The refreshing treat will ensure that there is no taxation without relaxation this tax season.
National “Chill Out” Day is one of the many ways Kona Ice is encouraging the nation to take a step back, relax and enjoy a Kona. It is one small, yet powerful, way the brand hopes to put a smile on people’s faces. Through partnerships with schools, youth sports leagues and other neighborhood organizations, Kona Ice has given back more than $40 million to the communities it serves.
For more information about booking Kona Ice for a fundraiser or event, visit www.kona-ice.com.