Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
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SARATOGA SPRINGS – The mysterious man you may have noticed creeping across the fringes of city neighborhood lawns in the pre-dawn hours last weekend has been identified.  

“I cooked up an idea that I thought would be a little bit of fun,” admits Todd Shimkus, who in his weekday role serves as president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. “It actually turned into a lot of fun.” 

Shimkus and city resident Susan Halstead have engaged in a traditional April Fool’s Day duel that dates to Halstead’s time as chamber chairperson. At that time, Halstead contacted board members about a special Executive Session being called to inform them that Shimkus was embezzling funds. “He was on a golf course in Florida and his phone just started blowing up,” Halstead laughed.

“April Fool’s Day is her favorite day of the year and she is ruthless,” said Shimkus, who hatched his plan several weeks ago, by ordering political-style lawn signs to announce Halstead was running for mayor.  “I thought adding “A Vision for The Future,” was pretty funny,” Shimkus said, referring to the word-play that points to Halstead’s ownership of a local vision center.

“I identified friends of hers in the city and at five o’clock in the morning I got up, drove around and put signs in their yards. I didn’t tell anybody what I did and then (on Facebook) pretended to be in Virginia for the day.” 

Shimkus eventually fessed up, a day later. “She texted me and had a sneaking suspicion that it was me.” In November, city voters will head to the polls to elect a mayor for the next two years. Halstead was asked if she, after all, was considering tossing her hat in to the political ring. “De-fin-ite-ly NOT,” she said with a laugh. “It was a Todd Shimkus April Fool’s Day prank. And he paid me back big-time.”  

Who: Maureen Sager.

Where: Spring Street Gallery.

Q. What’s your day like?

A. I wear many hats. I’m executive director of Spring Street Gallery and right now we’re developing a show on birds that will open on April 29.

Q. What’s another hat you wear?

A. Project director at the Upstate Alliance for the Creative Economy. People tell me about projects they’re working on and we look for ways we think the creative industries can be developed in this region. And we’re finding lots of ways to bring business and arts organizations and parks organizations and others together, and to roll it into a vibrant, economically thriving way to address the creative industries and the arts.

Q. How big is the region you oversee as project director?

A. It’s eight counties, as far a south as Columbia and Greene and north to Washington and Warren counties.   

Q. Do you have a nickname?

A. Moe. Everyone calls me Moe.

Q. What did you want to be when you were a kid?    

A. A fashion designer. I had two aunts that went to Fashion institute of Technology and boy, that captured my imagination as I was growing up in New Jersey. I thought that was a very glamorous career.

Q. What was your first concert?

A. The Jacksons at Nassau Coliseum. I was like 10 years old. My mom wanted to do something exciting for us, so she took us to a Jacksons concert. It was on Easter Sunday. What was really embarrassing: we were in our Easter outfits. It was so bad. I never felt like a bigger dork in my entire life.

Q. What’s your favorite brush with fame?

A. I used to be in the entertainment industry and so many of my stories about famous people are not good. But, someone who delighted me goes back to my first job in New York, when I worked for management company for Kiss, the rock band. I saw them regularly at the time, but much, much later - about 13 years later, while I was working for a big record company, I ran into Paul and Gene in the elevator. I was thinking: should I say hi? Ah, they’re never going to remember a girl who worked for them that long ago, but I finally said, ‘Paul and Gene you probably won’t remember me…’ I thought they were going to blow me off, but instead, Gene says: ‘Paul! Look! It’s her!” Ha, they were so sweet about it. They didn’t remember me, of course, but they made good fun out of it, and I thought that’s the kind of famous person that I really appreciate. They were so generous in that moment, to acknowledge me and to give something back, because that’s something in that industry that’s so rarely done.     

Q. When did you move to Saratoga?

A. Twelve years ago.

Q. How has the city changed in that time?   

A. It’s changed a lot. My first couple of years here, I felt that I knew a small subset of people who I’d run into in town. I thought that was just a wonderful way to bring up my kids and raise a family. Now, I’ll sometimes go to an event in Saratoga and I won’t know anyone. And that’s also very exciting in a way, to have groups of people with such varied interests. I think Saratoga benefits from all these varied interests we have. 

 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – City residents and visitors alike will soon have a centrally located resource to bring their ideas to foster a better understanding of cultural differences, as well as express concerns about potential human rights violations.   

“Luckily, we’re a very safe city, but I’ve had enough proof and input from our citizens that we’re not immune to problems,” said city Mayor Joanne Yepsen, who after appointing five people to a human rights-focused planning committee is “moving forward to the next level” and coordinating a seven-person Human Rights Task Force.

“It’s hate crimes I’m most worried about: prejudice, not accepting one another as equals - basic human rights,” Yepsen said. “We’re going to be proactive but also in a reactive mode, too, if anything were to occur like the swastikas.”

Last November, spray-painted swastikas surfaced on city streets. Police conducted a hate speech investigation after a social media site that referenced neo-Nazis mentioned Saratoga Springs High School, and a senior class student of Jewish descent came upon anti-Semitic acts.  

“The idea of this human rights group came up a year ago. This is a need. It wasn’t because of the Trump election,” Yepsen told a group of reporters gathered in the mayor’s office, before the question could be asked. “It was more a case of: we need to be a better city. And being a better city means we take care of our citizens. I would like to have a resource to help ensure we can maintain our status as a community that fosters mutual respect and understanding among racial, religious and nationality groups in the city.”  

The Schenectady County Human Rights Commission served as an informational resource, said Yepsen, who also consulted with state legislators. The Schenectady Commission, which was established in 1965, is a policy-making body composed of 15 commissioners appointed by the County Legislature. The proposed seven-member Saratoga Springs task force will differ in regards to the amount of power it may wield.

“The Commission in Schenectady County can take calls and work on cases. We’re not going to be qualified to do that, but we do have a lot of organizations in town that are, and we can suggest a list of referrals – like EOC, like the Racecourse Chaplaincy, like the Legal Aid Society,” Yepsen said. 

“We depend greatly on people from other cultures to work here. Let’s face it, there are 2,500 different people working for the racing industry and many of them are Latinos. I think there are seven different dialects spoken on the backstretch alone and more and more of these families are settling in our city as community members. We also have a lot of restaurant workers who come here and try to make a go of it, so we’re trying to respond to their needs.”

The city’s Human rights Taskforce will focus mostly on education, programming and collaboration. The mayor cited the city’s annual series of public events and programs celebrating the work of Martin Luther King Jr. as a model of what can be done year-round related to human rights to foster a better understanding of cultural differences.

Anyone interested in joining the Human Rights Task Force can apply via the City of Saratoga Springs Board Application form on the city’s website. Deadline for applications is April 12 and Mayor Yepsen said she hopes to appoint members to the seven-person group at the April 18 City Council Meeting.   

 

Charter Review Commission Releases Charter Draft

The Charter Review Commission has released a draft of a proposed new Charter for Saratoga Springs city government. The 24-page document may be viewed at: https://saratogacharter.com/. A referendum will be held in November.

 

Upcoming Meetings

The City Council will hold a pre-agenda meeting 9:30 a.m. Monday, April 3, and a full meeting 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 4 at City Hall.

The Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) Technical Review Advisory Committee (TRAC) will hold a meeting 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 4 at Saratoga Music Hall.

 

The Design Review Commission will hold a meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 4 at City Hall. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Erica Morocco sat at the head of the table, her series of paintings sprawled across the tabletop. One featured a jump-roping owl. Another depicted a pink-glazed doughnut that looked good enough to eat. In the third, a cat bowed a violin and a cow leapt over the moon.  

“Be what you are and do what you like to do,” she says with encouragement. “If you like to paint, then paint. If you like music, make music.”

Morocco, who was diagnosed with Williams syndrome, lives by a simple motto. “Everybody is born differently,” she says. “You can’t change it.  My feelings are that people should be who they are.”   

Williams syndrome is a genetic condition that is present at birth and is characterized by medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning disabilities. The developmental disorder affects an estimated 1 in 7,500 to 10,000 people, according to The National Library of Medicine - a center of information innovation founded in 1836, and the world’s largest biomedical library.

Morocco grew up in the town of Malta, and in 2009 moved into one of Saratoga Bridges’ community-based homes in Saratoga Springs. 

Saratoga Bridges is responsible for the 24/7 care of over 830 individuals and houses 132 people in its 19 community based homes. The organization, which employs nearly 600 people, is marking this pause in time to take note of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and to bring intellectual and developmental disabilities to the forefront. The group has provided services and programs to people with developmental disabilities and their families for more than 60 years by promoting their abilities and achievements in every aspect of community life.

“I like living on my house because we go out in the community and I have more opportunities to do different activities,” says Morocco. who takes art classes on Mondays and Wednesdays. Thursdays are reserved for studies on the art of the collage, and on Fridays Morocco and the group of seven who share the home go out dancing and to sing karaoke. There are weekly trips to the grocery shop, daily house chores and free time spent volunteering for Meals on Wheels. Sports is also a passion.

“I play softball, do the long jump, the 50-meter run. I like to do all of it,“ says the 38-year-old, a pair of medals clinging to her neck chain showcase her abilities in snowshoeing and track and field.

Her art pieces have received awards in juried shows, and she uses the earnings of the pieces she sells to enable her to go traveling. 

“I sell my art work, saved my money and went on a tour. I’ve been to Florida, Chicago, and Boston. I visited museums and saw other artists’ work. I like traveling. I like vacations,” she says. “When I sell a piece of artwork, I feel happy inside because I worked had on it to get it to be good.” 

It is a long time removed from her younger days in school, when she was bullied and caused her to be upset. 

“When I was in school, when I was young, I got picked on,” she says. “You get older and you move on.”

Her advice to the world when meeting people with disabilities? 

“Just treat people they way that you would like to be treated,” she says.   

 

 The 28th Annual Palm Sunday Polka Benefit, with all proceeds to benefit Saratoga Bridges will be held 1 – 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 9 at the Saratoga Springs Knights of Columbus, located at the corner of Rt. 29 and Pine Road in Saratoga Springs. This year’s event will feature a “roasting” of longtime radio Polka personality Ernie Daigle. Seating is limited and advance tickets purchased by April 3 are $13 per person.  Day of tickets are $15 per person.  For reservations, contact Steve or Cathy Coblish at 518-899-3061 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  

SARATOGA SPRINGS - The Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation is kicking off its 40th Anniversary celebration by hosting the presentation Origins of Preservation: Urban Renewal in Saratoga Springs 1962-1986” 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 28 at Universal Preservation Hall, 25 Washington St.

Join Matthew Veitch, Saratoga Springs County Supervisor and Treasurer of the Foundation, as he explores the often controversial Urban Renewal Program and the origins of preservation in Saratoga Springs. This presentation will feature rarely scene photographs from the 1960s, '70s, and '80s of the areas impacted by the Urban Renewal Program.

Urban Renewal provided federal funding for cities to cover costs of acquiring slum areas to demolish dilapidated buildings, consolidate the vacant lots, and then sell those lots to developers to create new “modern” residential and commercial buildings.  When the Urban Renewal Program was approved in 1961 the city was facing an economic decline following the changes in tourism, the loss of the grand hotels, and gambling being illegal resulting in disinvestment in the existing building stock.  In 1962, the Urban Renewal Agency was formed to eliminate slums and blight, expand and strengthen the central business district, establish a central residential area, expand the tax base, provide off-street parking, and improve infrastructure and traffic patterns. 

Lasting from 1962 through 1986, the Urban Renewal Program resulted in the city’s largest urban change in its history.  It cleared the way for large development projects, such as the City Center and the Public Library which continue to provide tremendous benefit to the community. It also resulted in affordable housing projects and low-income housing as well as parking areas on Woodlawn Avenue and High Rock Avenue.  While the demolition of many historic buildings was unfortunate, it did result in an increased awareness about the need to preserve our community’s architecture.  Additionally, many feel the program ruined the very fabric of the community by displacing a large African-American community from the west side of Broadway.  “Today we are still affected by the Urban Renewal decisions that were made, some of which continue to benefit the city today while others still remain to be completed and the benefits have yet to be realized,” said Samantha Bosshart, the Foundation’s Executive Director.

The lecture costs $5 for SSPF members and $8 for non-members and will last approximately 90 minutes. For more information or to make a reservation, please call the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation (518) 587-5030, visit www.saratogapreservation.org or email Nicole Babie, Membership & Programs Coordinator, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Founded in 1977, the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation is a private, not-for-profit organization that promotes preservation and enhancement of the architectural, cultural and landscaped heritage of Saratoga Springs.  To learn more or to become a member, please visit www.saratogapreservation.org.

 

 

City Explains Immigration Enforcement Policy

After receiving numerous inquiries from local residents about how the city would handle issues related to illegal immigration and the level of its cooperation with federal officials, Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen asked Saratoga Springs Police Chief Greg Veitch to formally address the issue.

“Given the number of people who come to our city, especially in the summertime, and some of whom may have immigration statuses that are questionable, I thought I would talk to our police chief,” Mathiesen explained to the City Council this week. “We do want these people to feel as if they have the public safety department, the police department, fire/EMS department as a resource, and should not feel as if they may have immigration complications should they require those services.”

The responding two-page statement from Chief Veitch, which Mathiesen called “a reasonable and caring approach” and was read to the council Tuesday night, assures that the police department serves the entire community and recognizes the dignity of all persons, regardless of their immigration status.  However, it does not mean that members of the police department will refuse to cooperate with other law enforcement agencies such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or I.C.E. 

Veitch said with regards to the reporting of a crime or cooperation with an investigation, the department does not require or encourage its officers to investigate the immigration status of victims or witnesses of crimes, and that Immigration enforcement is not a priority of the Saratoga Springs Police Department. “However, should a federal law enforcement agency request assistance from the Saratoga Springs Police, we will provide assistance consistent with our policies and procedures, as we would for any other law enforcement organization needing assistance within city limits. “

Criminal offenders in custody, those who may be wanted by another law agency, or individuals verified to have a valid warrant from any federal agency, including I.C.E. will be detained by local officers in accordance with the law.  “We will not, however, detain any individual solely for a civil violation of federal immigration laws. Nor will S.S.P.D. detain any individual that would otherwise be eligible for release, simply for the purpose of notifying federal authorities or to check immigration status.”  

               

Council Revisits Affordable Housing Issues, Potential Solutions

A proposal for “inclusionary zoning,” first floated a decade ago but never brought to a vote by the City Council, on Tuesday night received the first of what is anticipated to be two public hearings.

The SPA Housing Zoning ordinance would require new housing developments and apartment complexes across the city to include some units deemed affordable to residents with moderate incomes.

“This is a work-in-progress,” city Mayor Joanne Yepsen said during Tuesday’s 60-minute hearing, “but it’s essential that we find a way to create more variety of price-points for housing.” The purpose of the hearing is to get public feedback regarding the proposal, which has not been finalized, Yepsen added.

There are various resident income target-points the city may choose to pursue – from “low” to “moderate” to “middle” income households; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sets the area median income for a family of four in Saratoga County at $82,000. As such, affordable units put up for sale that are made available to “moderate” and “middle” income households indicate thresholds respectively set at less than 80 percent, and at 100 percent, of that $82,000 median income.

The affordable-housing ordinance proposal applies to both rental and owner-occupied housing. Year-round city residents would have first opportunity to apply for the affordable units.

The ordinance would apply to new projects consisting of 10 or more residential units as well as to existing structures undergoing substantial renovation or conversion from nonresidential to residential use.

The ordinance stipulates that 10 to 20 percent of all new or newly converted units be set aside to meet the “affordable” criteria.  To compensate developers, the program would allow them to increase the density of housing projects by up to 20 percent

More than 400 municipalities across the country have adopted inclusionary zoning programs, Commissioner Mathiesen said, adding that any ordinance eventually adopted would only be one part of an overall strategy to meet housing needs. The City Council will continue its discussion of the topic at its next meeting, on April 4. 

 

Saratoga Springs Senior Advisory Committee Sets Goals for 2017

City Mayor Joanne Yepsen announced a new mission statement and work plan regarding the Saratoga Springs Senior Advisory Committee. Among the 2017 goals of the group is to: raise awareness regarding services available to senior citizens; address and advocate for senior concerns and support services, and to serve as a liaison between seniors, the mayor, and members of the City Council. The committee is comprised of eight individual members and representatives of up to seven area organizations.

In 2017, the Committee will advocate for special mobility needs of seniors, including a drive-up mailbox in the downtown area and additional handicap parking. Members of the Senior Advisory Committee are appointed by the mayor.

 

Public Safety Commissioner Mathiesen will not seek a Fourth Term

City elections will be held in November when all five council seats and two supervisor positions will be up for vote. Last week, Peter Martin – one of two Saratoga Springs Supervisors representing the city at the county level -  announced that he will seek to run as a Democrat for Commissioner of Public Safety. Current DPS Commissioner Chris Mathiesen will not seek a fourth term. Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee chairman Charles Brown said party members will vote on endorsements in May and that he was not currently aware of any other potential candidate seeking the Public Safety Commissioner seat on the Democratic line.

 

Urban Renewal

County Supervisor Matthew Veitch will present a program, titled “Origins of Preservation Urban Renewal in Saratoga Springs: 1962-1986,” at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 28 at Universal Preservation Hall, 25 Washington St.

The presentation about the often-controversial Urban Renewal Program will feature rare images from the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. Tickets are $8 general admission, $5 Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation members and can be purchased by calling 518-587-5030.

 

City Gifted “Grande Olde Saratoga” Painting

Grand Olde Saratoga,” an oil painting depicting a delivery by a horse-pulled Saratoga Vichy water company cart to the prestigious Grand Union Hotel, was gifted to the city by Sharon Miller. The 24-by-30-inch painting is valued at approximately $400 and was hung in the mayor’s office this week, following the acceptance of the gift by the City Council.     

 

Upcoming Meetings

The Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a meeting 7 p.m. Monday, March 27 at City Hall. Taking place among other items will be a consideration for coordinated SEQRA Review regarding the proposed Station Park mixed-use development on the city’s west side, adjacent to the railroad station. 

The Charter Review Committee will hold a public forum 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 29 at the Saratoga Springs Public Library. The Commission is recommending that a City Manager-Council form of government replace the current Commission form of governing. The referendum will be up for vote in November.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, 23 March 2017 16:27

Reality TV Star Comes to Saratoga

The long line of humanity stretches far as the eye can see. It flows past the rows of fiction titles and shelves filled with historical tales. It weaves beyond bookcases that cradle publications with lessons about eating well and losing weight. It crisscrosses through the bookstore’s neighboring café, curls around a table that boasts new releases and spills out the front door, eventually coming to rest in an adjacent alley on the north side of the building.

 The line is composed of 500 people who have come to “meet-and-greet” Theresa Caputo – author and TV star of the reality show “The Long Island Medium.” She said she had been given “The Gift” at a young age.

“I’ve been seeing, feeling, and sensing Spirit since I was 4 years old, but it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I learned to communicate with souls in heaven,” Caputo says.

She came to Northshire Bookstore Saratoga in between tour dates in New Jersey and Connecticut and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to promote the release of her fourth book, “Good Grief: Heal Your Soul, Honor Your Loved Ones, and Learn to Live Again.” Five hundred tickets were offered for the Saratoga Springs event. They were quickly gone. 

“We watch her on TV and love her,” said Lela Barber-Pitts, who made the journey from Schenectady to Saratoga Springs to meet Caputo, and who holds the last place on the long line. “I’m thrilled she’s come to our area.”

The cost of admission requires a simple process: purchase a copy of the new book and in exchange receive an autographed copy of the publication and a picture standing alongside the author.

Sunday morning, Caputo held court in the center of the bookstore, her Long Island accent fully engaged and her small black-draped frame accented by a gold neck chain that reads: Blessed.

The event guidelines for ticketholders are clear: all books are pre-signed by Caputo - which she does Sunday morning in the bookstore’s offices upstairs - with no additional personalization possible. Every fan gets a professional photograph taken of themselves with Caputo and instructions on how to retrieve it. Asking for a personal “reading” is not permissible; the line must be kept moving quickly. Do the math: 500 people in two hours’ time equates to four people per minute. It does allow for brief exchanges: “Hi. How are you? Nice to meet you. I hope you enjoy the book.”

Despite an understanding of event instructions, the mind inevitably wanders. Whether people are here for the TV star factor and in appreciation of Caputo as an entertainer, or believe she has a way to connect with those who have left this mortal coil, everyone has got someone who they have lost – an Aunt Mary, a cousin Bill, a mother, a father, a family pet – and some can’t help to thinking: wouldn’t it be nice to hear from them again.

“I hope my mother comes through. She was a feisty one, and she loved Theresa,” said Michelle Milks, who arrived at the bookstore two-and-a-half hours prior to the signing and scored one of the first positions on line.

“I’m hoping to get help in healing,” said Liz Witbeck, while waiting in line to meet Caputo. A few moments later, the two women engaged in a brief discussion and posed for a photograph together. Then Witbeck was on her way, book in hand and the trace of a smile on her face.

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, 23 March 2017 16:11

Record Club Finds New Home at Caffè Lena

SARATOGA SPRINGS -  The Rochmon Record Club has hosted monthly learning and listening parties featuring classic rock ‘n’ roll albums since last fall at Universal Preservation Hall.

 

With the Washington Street space set to undergo a lengthy renovation, Rochmon brainchild Chuck Vosganian announced this week – during a listening party that featured Queen’s “Sheer Heart Attack” – that the sound and vision show will be relocating to Caffè Lena for the foreseeable future.

 

Vosganian credited the local creative arts community for making the relocation to Lena’s café possible. The Rochmon Record Club series continues Tuesday, April 18 at Caffè Lena where the album focus will be on Jethro Tull’s 1971 album, “Aqualung.”   

Your fingers will have to start walking a little bit longer.  

Beginning on Saturday, March 18, residential, business and wireless customers within the existing 518 area code can begin the practice of using a new 10-digit dialing system. The new system, which becomes fully effective Aug. 19, requires callers add a 518 prefix to existing 7-digit local telephone numbers.  

The state Public Service Commission announced Saturday’s implementation of the start of “permissive 10-digit dialing” (518 or 838 plus the 7-digit local telephone number) as a way of preparing for the introduction of the new 838 area code.

Last September, the Commission approved a new area code to be added to the current 518 area code region to ensure a continuing supply of telephone numbers. The 518 region serves all or part of the 17 counties in eastern upstate New York, including Saratoga, Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, and Warren and Washington counties.

The new 838 area code will be “overlaid” or superimposed over the same geographic area as the 518 area code. Current telephone numbers, including current area code, will not change. However, all calls within the 518/838 area must be programmed to dial using 10-digit phone numbers.

As an intermediate step in the implementation of the new area code, the permissive dialing phase allows customers to dial either 7-digits or 10-digits (area code plus 7-digit local telephone number) on calls within the 518 area code; calls to other area codes must still be dialed as 1+ ten digits. The permissive dialing period will end on Aug. 19, at which time callers will be required to dial 10-digits (area code plus 7-digit local telephone number).

Beginning Sept. 19, customers in the 518 area code region requesting new service, an additional line, or a move in the location of their service, may be assigned a number in the new 838 area code.

The price of a call, and the price of other telephone services, will not change due to the new overlay area code. Calls to reach 911 Emergency Service will remain three digits, and existing 211, 311, 411, 511, 611, 711 or 811 services will remain three-digit dial numbers.

The Commission recommends that customers identify their telephone number as a 10-digit number (area code + 7-digit local telephone number) when giving the number to friends, family members, business associates and others.

Customers should also ensure that all services, automatic dialing equipment, applications, software, or other types of equipment recognize the new 838 area code as a valid area code. These include life safety systems, fax machines, Internet dial-up numbers, alarm and security systems, gates, speed dialers, mobile phone contact lists, call forwarding settings, voicemail services, and similar functions. Business stationery, advertising materials, personal checks, and personal or pet ID tags should also include the area code.

 

 

Thursday, 16 March 2017 12:21

Bank Blazes in Blizzard, Valuables Secure

WILTON - Scraps of charred wood and twisted metal slumped across the ravaged roofline of the Adirondack Trust Company bank branch on Route 9 after a Tuesday afternoon fire destroyed the 25-year-old structure. No one was inside the bank at the time.

“When we arrived the bulk of the fire load was heavily in the attic area and came down into the building the first 20 to 25 minutes we were there,” said Greenfield Fire District Chief Justin Burwell. The roof caved in, leaving in its wake a series of long glassless windows that exposed the collapsed ruins within. Bank officials posted a round-the-clock security detail on-site to protect valuables.

“They have a vault and the funds were secured,” said Chief Burwell. “And no, there wasn’t any money floating around or anything like that.” The chief said he’s been asked that question a lot.

Bank President Stephan von Schenk said he is confident the vault protected the belongings of the bank’s customers. “I was allowed in to the branch and made it to the vault, which appears to be structurally sound; it didn’t appear the sheetrock or the vault door had been touched by anything, so everything looks good. We’re very optimistic.”

All transactions prior to the fire, including those performed at the ATM, were processed successfully. Money and safety deposit boxes were inside the vault, which is being extricated and relocated by a Connecticut based company which specializes in such things, von Schenk said.  It is anticipated customers will able to access their boxes after that relocation takes place, which is expected to be within a couple of days. Customers with inquiries regarding their safe deposit boxes at the Wilton branch are advised to call 518-584-5844 ext. 473.

The bank branch is located at the Route 9 intersection with Northern Pines Road, just north of the city. The branch closed at 1 p.m. Tuesday due to extreme weather conditions.

The combination of cold temperatures, high winds and heavy snow made battling the blaze difficult, said Burwell, who had to call the state Department of Transportation in to plow the road as Winter Storm Stella pounded the region. Burwell estimated there were about 60 firefighters from eight area fire companies on scene battling the fire, with two more fire companies standing by to offer assistance. No injuries were reported.

No one was in the building at the time of the incident, which occurred about one hour after the bank branch closed. Von Schenk said it appears “an electrical incident” related to wiring in an outlet had caused the fire.

Bank officials said they plan to rebuild as quickly as possible at the same location. The company has temporarily extended the hours of its nearby Exit 15 branch; those hours are: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays in the lobby, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the drive-thru.  

The Saratoga Springs based Adirondack Trust Company employs about 250 people and was founded in 1910. It has 12 branch offices. The Route 9 branch building was constructed in 1991.

 

 

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