SARATOGA SPRINGS – City entrepreneur Drew West admitted this week that he fully understood how it would be “a daunting task to go against a behemoth” like eBay Inc. in court.
Still, he said, “I couldn’t walk away from righting the wrong.”
Early this year, West, the owner of American Natural Gas on Railroad Place, partnered with his father, Albany attorney Thomas West, in filing a lawsuit against eBay in Saratoga Supreme Court for breach of contract and unjust enrichment, among several other claims.
Lawyers for eBay, based in San Jose, California, later petitioned to have the case moved to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York in Albany.
On Friday, Dec. 1, a motion by eBay to dismiss the lawsuit was denied by U.S. District Judge Mae A. D'Agostino. The Wests are seeking $25 million.
Cory Daniel Struble, a New York City attorney representing eBay for the national law firm Quinn Emanuel, deferred comment to California attorney David Grable with the same firm. Grable did not return a call for comment.
The pending lawsuit relates to communications that occurred several years ago between Drew West and eBay executives; and the contested use of “an internet auction valet,” as described in the judge’s decision, “a service that simplifies the process for sellers on virtual marketplaces.”
Drew West has found financial success in such “valet” services for 20 years, D’Agostino explained. West and eBay first reached an agreement to collaborate in 2007 and the company formally hired him as a consultant in 2011, she added.
The lawsuit alleges that, by October 2014, eBay executives were taking commercial advantage of a “business plan” that West had previously presented to them without his consent, according to D’Agostino’s decision.
“It was a simple contract case,” explained Thomas West, noting how eBay executives were “fascinated” by his son’s ideas as well as his “knack for moving merchandise.”
Thomas West said the legal victory on Dec. 1—in which all four claims made “survived” eBay’s motion to dismiss—allows the “discovery” phase of the legal process to begin and a potential trial by jury, during which both men say they will be vindicated.
“I think the merits are there,” added Drew West. “We’re just looking for our day in court.”
Cliff Seguin with the ruins of his Operation Adopt A Soldier storage shed. Photos by www.photoandgraphic.com.
WILTON – Cliff Seguin said that he will not let the destruction of monsters, fog machines and other props interrupt his nonprofit group’s mission of lifting the spirits of U.S. soldiers during the holidays.
A storage shed owned by Seguin’s Operation Adopt A Soldier, situated near Gavin Park, was destroyed in a fire on Sunday. It was being used to store electronics and props valued at about $3,000, which the group utilizes for haunted hayrides given in the park each autumn.
“We’re going to come out of this stronger than we were,” offered Seguin, when contacted this week for comment. He said the shed was not covered by insurance.
Lt. Jeff Brown of the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office said there was no “cause” found in the ruins of the storage shed, which did not have electric service.
“It’s definitely a suspicious fire,” Brown said. “We’re investigating it as an arson.”
Seguin, who founded Operation Adopt A Soldier in 2004 along with Dominick Commisso, explained that the group’s volunteers are in the midst of sending hundreds of holiday packages to active-duty military personnel and would not be deterred by the blaze.
“We’re doing it all for the soldiers,” he said.
For more information, visit the website www.operationadoptasoldier.org/about-us.
Matt Jones in his West Avenue office. Photos by www.photoandgraphic.com; and a rendering of the proposed Red Pine Grove complex in Malta, provided by The Jones Firm.
MALTA – The real-estate firm that is currently building 140 residential units at the intersection of East Line Road and Route 67 in Ballston is advancing a separate proposal with Malta town officials, involving 15 acres of property located off of Route 9 between Ellsworth Commons and Cramer Road.
Previously, town officials had approved plans for the Malta Crossings development on the same land, which included a hotel and residential units.
Conifer Realty, a Rochester-based company, has renamed its new proposal as the Red Pine Grove complex.
The property would be subdivided into two separate parcels of about two and 13 acres. The larger parcel would be mostly residential, and Conifer Realty currently has no plans to develop the smaller one near Route 9 due to the presence of archeological remains.
Matt Jones, the Saratoga Springs attorney representing Conifer Realty, said Red Pine Grove will be the “only workforce housing development in Malta,” similar to the firm’s Blue Heron Trail complex going up a few minutes west in the Town of Ballston.
Conifer Realty’s proposal in Malta calls for 12 three-story apartment buildings with a total of nearly 100 units; and a three-story “senior housing” structure close to Route 9 with 70 units, according to minutes of the June 20 Malta Planning Board meeting.
The firm also will build a senior clubhouse, a separate clubhouse for families, a maintenance garage, a sewer-pump station, and a storm water treatment area.
There will be a 144-foot “buffer” of trees to lessen any visual impacts on homeowners in the existing Cramer Woods neighborhood, according to the planning board.
In November, Jones and his associates appeared before the Malta Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to request variances for eight-foot ceiling heights on upper floors of the senior building; and an increase in that building’s frontage length to more than 227 feet.
Both requests were denied by the ZBA, since Malta town code specifies nine-foot ceilings and a maximum frontage of only 120 feet.
The planning board is expected to consider Conifer Realty’s amended design plans again at a meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 19 in the town complex.
Jones said the firm is reviewing engineering aspects of the project and would submit a final site plan to the planning board for approval no sooner than January. Construction is expected to start in summer 2018, he added.
On Wednesday, though not required by town planners, a public forum was organized by Conifer Realty to hear concerns from local residents about the Red Pine Grove project. It was held at a similar property owned by the firm on Waite Road in Rexford.
Jones said a number of neighbors’ concerns were identified and that Conifer Realty planners will consider them as the proposal moves forward.
Mary Mahoney, a retired state worker and Luther Forest resident for 30 years, addressed the Malta Town Board on Monday, Dec. 4 after being granted the opportunity to do so by Supervisor Vincent DeLucia.
She criticized town officials for even considering the Red Pine Grove project and, in general, approving so much construction.
“We need housing,” Mahoney admitted, but added that the town also needs more “bus service” and “social planning.”
Many residents in Malta, Mahoney told the board, think town officials favor the profit motives of developers over the needs of long-term residents, without regard for proper planning, traffic impacts or light and sound pollution.
Most recent construction projects, she added, end up looking like “barracks” filled with people who “live on batteries.”
When DeLucia politely requested that Mahoney conclude her comments, she inspired a few chuckles in the room, saying: “I won’t bother you anymore on this subject if you change your evil ways.”
Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen joined Heather Mabee (center) and other members of the Daughters of the American Revolution for a memorial ceremony at the Congress Park War Memorial on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. Photo by Larry Goodwin.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – With a December chill in the morning air, members of the Daughters of the American Revolution gathered Thursday at the Congress Park War Memorial for an annual wreath-laying ceremony—at the precise moment in 1941 that Japanese fighter planes had begun a devastating attack on the U.S. Navy base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
“This is important, to remember this day,” explained Heather Mabee, a principal organizer of the event and the local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter.
As of July 2017, nearly 76 years after that fateful morning thrust the United States into World War II, Mabee reported that there were still a handful of survivors who served on the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor. “The ship was most heavily hit in the raid,” she said, reading from a prepared statement.
The surprise Japanese attack, which started at 7:55 a.m., damaged or destroyed 20 U.S. ships and 300 aircraft; it also claimed the lives of more than 2,400 U.S. military personnel and civilians, while injuring almost 1,200 individuals.
“More than seven decades after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared Dec. 7, 1941 as ‘a date which will live in infamy,’ tangible proof of the day’s events are still visible at Pearl Harbor,” Mabee continued. “Machine-gun strafing holes from Imperial Japanese fighter planes still dot the now-unused runway at Ford Island and airplane hangars at Hickam Air Force Base. Oil, sometimes called ‘black tears,’ still seeps up from the sunken USS Arizona, beading the surface of the water at the battleship’s memorial.”
Similar wreath-laying ceremonies are held nationwide each December, Mabee said, to recognize the U.S. Navy ships and people lost at various battle sites in Pearl Harbor.
Professor Andrew Corbett. Photo provided.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Modern technology definitely helps Andrew Corbett, PhD, to maintain his notable reputation at Babson College in Massachusetts.
Typically, from Labor Day through early May, the Saratoga Springs resident serves as the Paul T. Babson Chair of Entrepreneurship at the college, located near Boston, as well as the chair of its Entrepreneurship Division.
In an email this week describing his travel routine, Professor Corbett said he either commutes on the Massachusetts Turnpike “once or twice” each week during academic semesters at Babson; or he utilizes “digital assets,” often by teaching courses online in “the comfort of my attic office right here in downtown Saratoga.”
Previously, Corbett taught aspiring business owners for about a decade at the Lally School of Management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy.
Brianna Radicioni, the spokeswoman for Babson College, issued a statement recently describing how Corbett had received a positive recognition in an academic journal for the overall usefulness of his research. “Yes, he makes that drive all the time,” she confirmed.
The Journal of Small Business Management, in a September study titled “Contributing Forces in Entrepreneurship Research: A Global Citation Analysis,” had named Corbett among a list of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurship Researchers in the World.”
“The study performed an analysis of all entrepreneurship articles published in leading entrepreneurship and management outlets from 2002 to 2013,” explained Radicioni. “It calculated the volume of work done by professors around the world together with each article’s citation impact (a measure that shows how much a researcher’s work is used by other scholars, entrepreneurs and practicing managers). The study concludes that Corbett ranks 20th in entrepreneurship research impact globally.”
“As a research scholar, Andrew Corbett continually creates impact above and beyond his role as chair, professor and mentor to Babson’s Butler Launchpad accelerator,” offered Babson College Dean of Faculty Bala Iyer. “This global recognition as one of the top 25 contributing authors to entrepreneurship research is well-deserved—one that brings great pride to the entire Babson community, especially its Entrepreneurship Division.”
Aside from the significance of his achievement, Corbett was asked how his work at Babson applies to Saratoga County residents who plan to start their own businesses.
“One thing that we can learn from the canon of entrepreneurship research is that many of the myths people hold are just not true,” he said. “The United States is a country built upon a strong work ethic and the concept of rugged individualism. But that concept of individualism sometimes gets stretched a bit too far in the popular and mainstream press.
“So we see stories on Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk of Tesla, Bill Gates, or Oprah and they are seen as Superman or Superwoman. And, obviously, that is not true,” Corbett added. “The myth of the single, super-entrepreneur is just not accurate.”
Corbett calls Saratoga Springs “a wonderful example of some of my work examining entrepreneurial ecosystems: a system of businesses and institutions that co-exist and co-evolve for betterment of all.”
The “anchor” businesses in the area, such as Saratoga Hospital, Skidmore College and SPAC, combined with the more recent presence of GlobalFoundries, all serve to “create more opportunities,” according to Corbett.
Corbett says his “methodology” proposes that “anybody can be an entrepreneur” with a proper focus on basic realities. “What do you know? Who do you know? What are you interested in?” he advises. “Don’t follow the latest trends or hottest industries, per se, but follow your interests and abilities.
“Think about it as testing your hypothesis with some first potential customers,” he said. “Small steps, small actions. Learn and readjust. It is an act, learn and build model.”
While Corbett sees “a growing opportunity for businesses that can help serve the semiconductor industry,” local entrepreneurs also may find success in technology, design, analytics and advertising, he said, “particularly in the medical area.”
Corbett singled out Fingerpaint on Broadway, noting how “anchors like those both create and attract superior individual talent that often can spin-off on their own to fulfill other growth needs.”
In photos: Sally Ellms (in red apron) enjoys taking part in the process; and Christmas trees being loaded at Ellms Family Farm. Photos by Chip Ellms.
CHARLTON – It is an annual holiday ritual that Chip Ellms has grown accustomed to: dozens of people descending on his family’s property to fill a FedEx trailer full of Christmas trees, which are then shipped to those serving in the military.
“We really have a lot of help,” Ellms said this week, more or less recovered from the flurry of activity on Monday at his Charlton Road farm.
As part of a national Trees for Troops program organized by the FedEx Corp. and the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, more than 150 trees—donated by the Ellms family as well as other local farmers and businesses—were tied up and stacked for delivery to Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
“It brings people a little bit of home,” Ellms said.
For 27 years, Ellms has been selling Christmas trees grown on his family’s roughly 220 acres of property. It was in the early 2000s, he remembered, that a group of New York farmers decided they would start lifting the spirits of U.S. troops with tree donations.
Then FedEx signed on to provide key logistical support.
The Christmas SPIRIT Foundation serves as a liaison between tree suppliers and the U.S. Defense Department to determine where the shipments go each year, Ellms said. One farm in Ohio supplies most of the trees that are sent overseas, he added.
Ellms indicated that he and his wife, Sally, were joined in the Nov. 27 loading by their children Garth and Ashley Ellms DiPaola; active-duty personnel from the 109th Airlift Wing at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Glenville; students in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake School District; Girl Scouts; and for the first time, he said, Patriot Guard Riders.
“It’s really my favorite part of Christmas,” offered Sally Ellms.
The young ladies present donated star-themed Christmas ornaments cut from “retired flags” that were previously flown at various municipal offices, according to Chip Ellms.
In a prepared statement, the FedEx Corp. and Christmas SPIRIT Foundation reported that the Trees for Troops program has been organized for 13 years. This year, a delivery “milestone” of 200,000 trees will be surpassed.
The shipments reach every branch of the military, directly impacting service members scattered across domestic and international bases.
“The Trees For Troops program is about more than just delivering trees—we are delivering a piece of the Christmas spirit to our U.S. military and their families,” said Mike Ducker, president and CEO of FedEx Freight. “To be able to say we’ve helped bring more than 200,000 trees to so many of our heroes is an honor, and it shows our appreciation for the sacrifice these men and women and their families have made for our country.”
WILTON – Construction of a new Cumberland Farms store at the intersection of Daniels Road and Maple Avenue is being held up by an environmental cleanup at the site.
Wilton resident Ross Galloway, the site acquisition and development manager for First Hartford Corp. in Connecticut, confirmed last week that a real-estate transaction has not been finalized for the property.
The state Department of Labor is conducting “oversight” of a cleanup project whose completion is required by the current property owner, he explained.
Soil and water tested clean at the site but certain amounts of asbestos and lead paint were found in the debris of a home that was destroyed by fire, according to Galloway.
Previously, Galloway had expected construction of the new Cumberland Farms to start in September, following the issuance of final approvals from Wilton town officials.
“We just want to make sure it’s all clean,” he said.
For more information about asbestos, visit the website https://www.maacenter.org/asbestos/.
Ready for the road in Wilton (left to right): MaryAnne Tagliento, Susie Barber, Thomas R. Drew Sr. and Robin Corrigan. Photo by Larry Goodwin.
WILTON – Earlier this week, Robin Corrigan admitted her relief in knowing that her 2004 Cadillac will no longer be used to transport local seniors to and from the Lillian W. Worth Senior Center on Traver Road.
“It costs me, big time,” Corrigan said.
For the last two years, the senior center director was using her gas-guzzling personal vehicle to transport Wilton residents each week to the cozy space in the town complex.
Of the seniors who gather there regularly for coffee, cookies and games, among other activities, most drive themselves in their own vehicles. Still, a handful do rely on rides.
In September, the Wilton Town Board authorized the purchase of a new van for $37,000 to be used exclusively for that purpose, ensuring that Corrigan is able to remain at the senior center on the days it is open.
On Tuesday, Corrigan and several others took a break from the action inside the senior center to demonstrate the functionality and comfort of the handicap-accessible van that was purchased. Next week, the white Dodge BraunAbility officially goes on the road.
Secretary to the Supervisor Nancy Riely has reviewed the experience and credentials of several driver candidates. She said Federal Bureau of Investigation background checks are part of that process.
Soon, Riely added, Wilton town logos will be affixed to the vehicle.
Corrigan’s husband, John, has been selected as the main driver of the van. Yet several other individuals are being considered as well, including Ann and Charles Collins and Lynn Green, according to Corrigan.
A maximum of four people are allowed in the van for any given trip. At present, only three Wilton seniors require transport each week to and from the Lillian W. Worth center, but that number usually increases in bad weather, Corrigan said.
She added that the main driver should expect to make three separate trips with seniors in the new van, especially on Tuesdays.
BALLSTON SPA – In a small village, a $50,000 increase in the annual cost of health insurance for employees may seem excessive.
Yet local industry analysts say that is among the lowest amounts possible in the long-term trend of escalating health insurance costs.
On Monday, the Ballston Spa Village Board unanimously approved a measure that enables Mayor John Romano to prepare the 2018 contract renewal with MVP Health Care for the village’s employee health-insurance policy.
In its “schedule of salaries and wages” in the current village budget, Ballston Spa lists more than 90 employees, including many different part-timers such as crossing guards and library staff.
The village Police Department alone has six full-time employees and about 18 officers who work part time.
Romano reported that the MVP policy cost would rise from $486,341 in the current contract to $536,382 next year, or an increase of more than 10 percent.
The renewal contract has to be finalized before Dec. 31, he said.
The village has long opted for the most “reasonable” insurance rates for its employees, Romano added, citing the goal of keeping out-of-pocket costs low for them.
“It will be a topic of conversation come budget time,” offered Trustee Noah Shaw, during the discussion prior to the board’s vote.
Shaw indicated that there is no $50,000 “cushion” in the $4.1 million village budget to accommodate the insurance increase.
“Your renewal is the lowest,” offered Richard Schultz, the village’s health insurance broker, who attended the Nov. 27 board meeting.
Schultz said the village’s MVP plan is “by far” the most affordable in comparison to similar plans offered by the region’s three other major insurance companies: BlueShield of Northeastern New York; CDPHP; and Empire BlueCross BlueShield.
“This is the best plan out there in terms of benefits and costs,” he explained.
Schultz said “any health-care encounter” by employees—filling a prescription, a routine doctor visit, a sudden trip to the emergency room, etc.—drives up costs in the annual policy of any municipality.
The rate increase in Ballston Spa is simply part of a trend that has lasted for about 12 years, according to Schultz.
“All the plans across the board, across the entire spectrum, have seen double-digit increases,” he said. “There’s no way to soft-sell or sugar coat it.”
Schultz pointed to more than 60 New York State mandates that complicate healthcare decisions at the local level. Those mandates contain provisions that must be included “in every single health insurance policy,” he said.
Kelly Smith, vice president of sales at MVP Health Care, said efforts are being made at the federal level to allow out-of-state companies access to New York’s health insurance marketplace, which currently excludes them.
That type of change may drive down overall costs, she said, but New Yorkers would most likely find that cheaper policies equal less comprehensive insurance coverage.
“Our regulators simply won’t allow those types of policies to exist in New York,” Smith said. She called the New York healthcare market “robust” and “below where the national average is” in terms of increased costs for consumers.
For every $1 spent by the village, according to Smith, 85 to 90 cents “cover pure health care costs,” including upwards of 30 cents just for prescription drug coverage. She said the recent popularity of expensive “specialty drugs” has further complicated the matter.
“We have a very large problem in this country with pharmaceutical spending and how to control costs,” Smith explained.
For its prescription coverage, Smith said MVP partners with “the largest purchaser of pharmaceutical drugs in the country,” CVS Caremark, and “constantly” seeks ways to lower costs for consumers.
In addition, Smith said, MVP staffers work directly with hospitals to ensure that patients are not “being re-admitted to the hospital for the same condition.”
It is more than likely that 20 percent of the employees in Ballston Spa “are driving 80 percent of the costs,” Smith continued.
Ultimately, she said, people “need to take some accountability” for reducing insurance costs by living healthier lifestyles.
“We want people to go to the doctor for preventative health,” she added. But patients also should fully consider where they obtain medical care and the specific services they choose to utilize.
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Melanie Foundation Founder and President George O’Donnell (center, in glasses) was joined by his son Kennan, Vicki and Steve Merola, Saratoga Senior Center Executive Director Lois Celeste, volunteers and patrons at the check presentation on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017. Photo by www.photoandgraphic.com.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – If Melanie Merola O’Donnell is watching from somewhere up above, chances are she is very impressed by the throngs of people who conquer racecourses on city streets and through the state park every September in her memory.
A special type of gratitude should be reserved for the “incredible group of young women” who organize the annual event, says her mother, Vicki Merola.
On Wednesday, Nov. 22, a $15,000 check was presented to the Saratoga Senior Center from proceeds generated by the Sept. 17 Half Marathon and 5K Run and Walk, which for 12 years has been promoted by Merola O’Donnell’s family and friends.
The Saratoga Palio: Melanie Merola O’Donnell Memorial Race happens on the third Sunday every September, starting at the City Center and finishing in Congress Park. The half-marathon participants run through most of the Saratoga Spa State Park.
The event was first organized in 2006 several months after a drug-impaired driver reportedly caused a motor vehicle crash that took the life of Merola O’Donnell, a city native and mother to 21-month-old Kennan at the time.
At 33 years old, Merola O’Donnell was a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at a New Hampshire graduate school; she also was actively involved in local, national and international efforts to provide rape and domestic violence services and disaster relief, according to her January 2006 obituary published in the Times Union.
Her husband, George O’Donnell, promptly established the Melanie Foundation after his family’s tragic loss. The nonprofit raises money for the Palio event in September and for college students who specialize in mental health, as well as for community donations.
The Melanie Foundation board chose the Saratoga Senior Center as the recipient of this year’s main award because it serves seniors who have been “marginalized,” Vicki Merola explained, when contacted this week for comment.
The Saratoga Senior Center, located at 5 Williams Street, “is trying to do a lot of positive things in the community” on matters often perceived as not “popular,” she added.
Merola called her daughter Melanie “a classy lady” who left behind numerous close friends in the community. Several of those friends now serve on the foundation board with Merola or on the Palio race committee.
A family friend named Mimi, who is close to her other daughter Michelle, initially devised the idea to organize an athletic race every year, according to Merola.
A number of dedicated women “are doing a good job of making this a classy event,” Merola said, considering the logistical challenges involved in such planning.
The next memorial race for Merola O’Donnell is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018.