Larry Goodwin

Larry Goodwin

Friday, 20 October 2017 10:24

Ayco Plans Move to Colonie

Front photo: Outside of the Saratoga Springs office, by www.photoandgraphic.com; and a rendering of the proposed Ayco offices in Colonie provided by Tara Ryan, the company’s vice president of communications.  

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Ayco officials announced this week that a location has been selected in the Town of Colonie for construction of a regional corporate headquarters.

The final design and development approvals are pending in Colonie, officials say.

Still, starting about two years from now, all jobs in Ayco’s offices at 321 Broadway in Saratoga Springs are expected to be transferred to a modern, 150,000-square-foot office structure built at the site of the former Starlite Music Theater near Adirondack Northway Exit 7. 

Tara Ryan, Ayco’s vice president of communications, indicated that the company employs a total of 870 people in the Capital Region. She declined to share the precise number of people who work in the Saratoga Springs office.

Ryan added that “a multitude of factors” led to the decision among corporate officials to select the Colonie location.

The financial planning and investment firm’s offices, which serve clients worldwide, are currently separated among the Broadway location and two other buildings in Albany and Latham.

In a statement, Ayco President and CEO Tim O’Hara said: “We’re excited to progress our plan to consolidate our people in the Capital Region. We believe this will allow us to better serve our clients and increase opportunities for our associates to collaborate and connect.”  

The statement from Ayco reported how “initial moves into the building would begin no earlier than late 2019,” and that company officials are expecting to add 160 new jobs within two years after that date.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen, a strong supporter of Ayco expanding their offices on Broadway, responded to the announcement in a hopeful tone. 

“We are pleased that Ayco will still have a significant presence in the city, but very disappointed, despite all our efforts, that they have decided not to build an expanded structure to their current location in Saratoga Springs to meet all their needs,” Yepsen said, in a statement provided by her executive assistant Lisa Shields. 

“I know their employees love the quality of life, working and living in our city,” the mayor said. She added that the opening of new corporate offices for Ayco in Albany County “will be a very different experience.”

“This is a loss for Saratoga Springs, but I am confident we will partner with other great companies in the future,” Yepsen said.

Thursday, 19 October 2017 17:32

Longtime Wilton Supervisor Challenged

In photos: Wilton Supervisor Arthur Johnson prior to a recent meeting of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors, by Larry Goodwin; and Nancy Dwyer during a break from her political campaign in Wilton, by www.photoandgraphic.com

WILTON – Since the first week of June, a real estate broker and former math teacher has knocked on hundreds of doors at homes in Wilton to garner support for her campaign to unseat longtime Republican Supervisor Arthur Johnson.

“Knocking on doors energizes me and is my most favorite part of campaigning,” says Nancy Dwyer, who started a new line on the Nov. 7 election ballot called Public Servants. A sample ballot for the Town of Wilton provided by the Saratoga County Board of Elections also lists Dwyer on the Democratic line for supervisor. 

“I love meeting the people of this town and the one thing that stresses me the most is the time constraints prohibiting me from knocking on every door,” Dwyer added, noting how there are more than 11,000 registered voters in Wilton.

Johnson has run unopposed for supervisor since 2002, after serving as the town’s deputy supervisor in his seat on the Wilton Town Board. Prior to that, he served as the town assessor for nearly 15 years.

“My long-term goal is to build on our successes, provide quality of life, plan for the future and make Wilton the best place to live,” Johnson said.

Both candidates were asked to provide emailed responses to questions about this year’s contested election.

In addition to her recent professional work as a licensed real estate broker, Dwyer taught math classes in the Ballston Spa Central School District for eight years and has volunteered or raised funds for such groups as Sustainable Saratoga and the South Glens Falls Marathon Dance.

Dwyer, who received an endorsement by the Democratic Party, said she devised the Public Servants line out of a strong belief that elected officials should “work for the people, not party, not special interests.” She claims that 23 percent of voters in Wilton are like her in preferring “no party affiliation.”   

Dwyer said that message “is really hitting home with people regardless of their registered party affiliation.”

Moreover, considering in particular Johnson’s tenure as supervisor, Dwyer said that many residents told her the “lack of competition and accountability” in Wilton has resulted in widespread “complacency.” 

“Proven leadership skills developed as a math teacher, business trainer, realtor, treasurer, business owner, board member, community volunteer and fundraiser prepare me well to be able to pull people together, facilitate communication, manage employees, prepare budgets and negotiate the various issues that a growing town and county face,” Dwyer concluded.

“New energy does not translate into more energy,” Johnson responded. “I am at town hall every day working diligently for our residents on a full-time basis.”

“I agree that there is some voter complacency and that can be for a variety of reasons,” the supervisor continued. “I would like to think that it is because the residents are happy and satisfied with no apparent need for changes.”

Johnson indicated that he is “not sure” about the reasoning behind the lack of accountability that Dwyer mentioned. “The entire town board has been responsive to the public,” he said.

Johnson pointed to a recent finding that Wilton’s official town website, in terms of “information and ease of searching,” ranked higher than most others in the Capital Region.

“As far as I’m concerned,” he added, “the town is open and transparent and accountable to the residents.”

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In photos (left to right): Milton Councilman Benny Zlotnick; Supervisor Dan Lewza; Councilman Frank Blaisdell, Councilwoman Barbara Kerr and Councilman Scott Ostrander. Photos by Larry Goodwin. 

MILTON – In a crowded meeting room Wednesday night, Milton officials took three controversial votes related to a development proposal on Hutchins Road, the purchase of former Boy Scout land and a town-wide property tax hike to solve budget problems.

Tom Samascott, owner of Malta Development and the popular Winner’s Circle apartment complex on Geyser Road, was present as the Milton Town Board voted 3-2 against his proposal to build 83 apartments for people aged 55 and up in a 14-acre wooded parcel off Hutchins Road.

Samascott’s project was first proposed nearly a year ago. However, stiff opposition from more than 100 local residents in the neighborhood’s existing single-family homes apparently resonated with Councilmen Frank Blaisdell and Scott Ostrander, and Councilwoman Barbara Kerr, who voted against changing the current residential zoning for the creation of a Planned Development District (PDD).

A 4-1 majority was required to pass the PDD resolution, according to Supervisor Dan Lewza, who voted in favor along with Councilman Benny Zlotnick.

“This has been a great struggle for myself,” offered Blaisdell, when Deputy Town Clerk Mary Ann Mevec had called on him to cast his vote. “But I’m a strong supporter of open spaces, low-density housing and well-settled communities with a history of caring for each other.”

Blaisdell continued: “I’m concerned that the proposed building is not appropriate for the area—and regardless of the age of the people that will potentially occupy it, the addition of 150 to 200 people in that area would be more density than we could ask the area to support. I’m voting no.”

Kerr raised similar concerns about the “density” of the apartment complex.

Zlotnick expressed disbelief that his fellow board members would turn down the offer by Samascott to spend $432,000 for an extension of water lines to homes on Red Oak Lane and White Oak Path, which are located about a quarter mile from Hutchins Road.

“The town of Milton board in the past made some mistakes or errors and people couldn’t have water,” Zlotnick said. “We have an opportunity for this developer to put something in with roads that we don’t have to pave, snowplow or pick up leaves on. We have a chance for people to get water at no cost to the town, and very little costs to residents on those two streets.”

Malta Development, Zlotnick added, has “offered us hundreds of thousands of dollars in free services to the town, and I think it’s very short-sighted to vote no. I vote yes.”

Ostrander voted against the resolution without comment. Prior to the vote, he said the decision should not be based on extending water lines only to two streets, when there are other areas of Milton that need better water service. 

“Thank you all, for all of your time,” Samascott said, before abruptly leaving the meeting room with his son Wayne.

The second resolution taken up by the board was approved 5-0. It dealt with a proposed $500,000 town expense for purchasing the former Boyhaven property off Route 29.

In effect, the resolution empowered Milton Town Attorney James Craig and the town engineer to begin the formal process of finalizing a contract with the Boy Scouts of America Twin Rivers Council, which selected Milton’s bid for the 300-acre property earlier this year.

A separate resolution would be required to approve the finalized contract. Town residents have 30 days from now to collect approximately 900 signatures and force what Lewza called a “permissive referendum” allowing the town to borrow the money. 

Most of the people in attendance Wednesday night favored the Boyhaven purchase at the scheduled public hearing for the resolution.

Milton Planning Board Chairman Larry Woolbright again called it a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to acquire valuable land—otherwise, he said, developers would quickly purchase it.

“It will be a development, and then it will be beyond our reach,” Woolbright said.

Jason Miller, who oversees buildings and grounds and is one of four people on the Milton Budget Committee, argued that “nobody has put forth any plan” in recent months to address how exactly the town can pay for the Boyhaven land.

“Before we move forward with a purchase, we need to do our homework,” Miller said.

The board members voted in favor of another resolution that would allow the town to exceed a state-mandated 2 percent cap on property tax increases, due to serious budget problems that Milton is facing.

If approved, the property tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value in Milton would increase to $.66 from the current amount of $.33.

Lewza criticized members of the media, the public and even other town board members for presenting incorrect numbers about the proposed tax increase and the tentative $7.7 million budget for 2018, singling out those who post on social media accounts.

He produced a copy of his own property tax bill to demonstrate that the rate hike would amount to an increase of about $85. 

The town’s budget committee will meet for a workshop that is open to the public on Tuesday, Oct. 24 at 6:30 p.m. The full board will hold a formal public hearing for the tentative budget on Wednesday, Nov. 1 at 6:35 p.m. 

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Thursday, 19 October 2017 16:36

Luther Forest Residents Have a Say on Logging

MALTA – On Tuesday, as the sun dropped below the tree line in Luther Forest, several dozen local homeowners appeared in a clearing off Fox Wander Road to voice their concerns about logging operations that began in April.

Luther Forest is known for streets designed with distinctive “loops” that reduce through traffic and maximize residents’ exposure to densely forested “common” areas, complete with recreational trails. Most of the tree cutting has taken place in those common areas at the behest of the Luther Forest Corporation.  

“My number one thing is the safety of the kids,” stated Wineberry Lane resident George Fredericks. He said chainsaw crews have left behind many trees—or “leaners”—that pose risks of falling on children and adults who use the recreation trails. “I want cones out when you’re in there,” Fredericks insisted.

Marissa Mackay, a part owner of the Luther Forest Corp., is the granddaughter of Carol Luther, the last surviving descendant of the family that started planting trees on the barren lands of Malta and Stillwater south of Saratoga Lake nearly 120 years ago. 

Mackay had organized the 5 p.m. gathering on Oct. 17 to address the slew of complaints from residents regarding dangerous trees as described by Fredericks, and significant damages to trails reportedly caused by heavy machinery in the common areas. 

“Luther Forest Corporation began in 1898,” Mackay said in a prepared speech. “We are, as my great- great-grandfather was, stewards of the land.”

The company she now runs, Mackay continued, “maintained the timber rights and development rights, among others, in the deeds to all of the common areas to assure the residents that purchased homes here would not have the risk of a neighbor building in the center of their loop.”

She quoted from the official pamphlet that was provided by Luther Forest Corp. to homeowners when the neighborhood was originally built more than 40 years ago. It said the company “will continue harvesting, pruning and reseeding the forest in keeping with the soundest practices of timber, wildlife, watershed and recreational management.”  

“This is not a new operation that is taking place presently, nor is it an operation that will disappear,” Mackay said. “The sustainable forestry practices that occur in one area are typically every 10 to 15 or 20 years, depending on forest growth and species of timber. It is a labor of love and respect for my roots.”

Mackay went on to say “no paycheck could cover the amount of disappointment I have in the humanity of some residents in this development who have stooped to certain acts like putting water in our machinery, or beer cans and notes of harassment towards my crew. This is vandalism. It’s illegal.”

Chuck Gerber of Saratoga Land Management, which performs most of the tree cutting in Luther Forest, joined Mackay in her presentation. The company continuously harvests trees on the 3,500 acres of property that are still owned by the Luther and Mackay families, down from an original holding of 7,000 acres.

If there are problems with trees left behind, Gerber told those gathered, “we will take care of it.” He offered his phone number and contact information to Fredericks.

Similarly, Mackay made it clear that her phone line is always open to homeowners. 

Other residents requested that work crews place better signage near active logging operations. Still others asked to be provided with maps of precise cutting locations ahead of time, and how long the logging would last in general.

Gerber and Mackay explained that unpredictable market forces influence what types of trees Saratoga Land Management crews can harvest during any given week. That, in turn, determines where in the common areas the crews can cut—and for how long.  

Juliana Ellsworth-Howe, another Wineberry Lane resident who posted graphic videos of the tree cutting sites on social media in recent weeks, admitted that “it kind of came as a shock in the community” when logging crews started their work in April.

She said “it probably would have taken away some of the anger” if the “science of forestry” was explained to homeowners earlier in the process.

There are three separate homeowners’ associations in Luther Forest, which Mackay said bear responsibility for communicating to residents the particulars about her company’s legal rights to cut down trees in common areas. She said repeated attempts were made to inform the associations (HOAs), or their respective management companies, before the cutting had begun.  

In June, the Fox Wander West HOA filed suit against Luther Forest Corp. in Saratoga Supreme Court in relation to the alleged “hazardous” trees and damage to trails.  

“I love living here, don’t get me wrong,” Ellsworth-Howe informed Mackay. “We don’t know who to believe. It’s not a personal attack on you in any way. We’re stuck in the middle right now.” 

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Marissa Mackay on a pile of harvested red pine; and scenes from a recent tour through Luther Forest given by Mackay. Photos by www.photoandgraphic.com

MALTA – In recent months, a legal dispute has been escalating between Luther Forest homeowners and the company that literally created the forest in the towns of Malta and Stillwater more than a century ago.

The Luther Forest Corp., managed by siblings Marissa and Cailean Mackay, has long retained the legal rights to harvest mature stands of trees in the 335 acres of “common areas” scattered throughout the Luther Forest neighborhoods.

Marissa Mackay says “sustainable” logging operations take place in those common areas roughly every 15 or 20 years. A new round of tree cutting began in April, she explained, and is expected to continue through the winter.

In recent months, though, a number of Luther Forest homeowners have expressed opposition to the Mackays’ logging operations. Some have made appearances at Malta Town Board meetings to voice complaints, only to be told by officials that the town has no legal right to intervene. 

The Fox Wander West Homeowners’ Association has filed suit against Luther Forest Corp. in Saratoga Supreme Court, claiming that the company is liable for “hazardous trees” left behind as well as damages to recreational trails caused by heavy machinery during the logging operations.

Penny Kretchmer, the association’s president, did not return repeated requests for comment.

A woman answering the phone for Walsh and Walsh, the Saratoga Springs firm that represents the Fox Wander West association, said attorneys there “prefer not to comment.”

On the neighborhood association’s website (http://www.foxwanderwesthoa.com), “an important message about trees” is on the front page: “After reviewing the deeds and original offer documents for the forest,” the message says, “it's clear that The Luther Forest Corporation is responsible for hazardous trees.”

Video messages on Facebook, under the title “Save Our Forest,” have been appearing in recent days condemning the Mackays’ logging operations.  

“Farming trees right up to someone’s property line and leaving nothing left but a huge mess is not respectful,” posted one “Save Our Forest” commenter. “Destroying our trails that have existed for decades and leaving the repair costs for the residents is not respectful…We are tired of being disrespected.”

Mackay disagreed, noting how, after logging in Luther Forest common areas began in April, she had communicated promptly with about 50 homeowners to address concerns regarding fallen trees near their property. “I made a point to be available,” she said.

Mackay has organized a forum on Tuesday, Oct. 17 at 5 p.m. for residents to get more information about the logging process in Luther Forest. It will be held at 2 Fox Wander Road, in one of the first areas cleared of trees this year.

Previously, Mackay said, letters announcing the start of logging operations were sent to each of the three main neighborhood associations in Luther Forest. This is the “loudest” residents have ever been about the tree cutting, she added. 

Heidi Brooks, who recently resigned as vice president of the Fox Wander East Homeowners’ Association, opined that its directors “are keeping a lot of information from the homeowners.”

Brooks has communicated regularly with Mackay, attempting to clarify the process for other homeowners.

Yet Brooks also expressed concern for damages to trails, and for veterans in Luther Forest who are sensitive to the “loud crack” and noticeable vibrations of a tree falling. 

“I think that people forget that a forest isn’t meant to be a park,” Mackay said this week in response to such concerns, during a tour of the “logging headers” in common areas that recent work crews created as staging areas for fallen trees. “When you decide to go walking in the forest, you might have to step over something—like that root I just caught my toe on.”

“The tops of the trees and the stumps have a lot of nutrients in them. We want them to stay here and rot, and feed what’s left,” Mackay added, as she walked the same trails that were created by her grandparents as part of a legal agreement with the original Luther Forest homeowners’ associations. 

She explained that Luther Forest Corp. is harvesting trees year-round on 3,200 more acres owned by the Mackays, down from the original 7,000 acres belonging to their ancestor Tom Luther.

“We almost always have a crew on property somewhere,” Mackay said. “It just so happens that we have a lot of neighbors over in this neck of the woods.” 

The company that cuts down most of the trees is Saratoga Land Management, which was started by Mackay's grandfather and later managed by her father, Alexander, a retired certified forester who now lives in New Hampshire.

Mackay said the cutting crews approach every tree they harvest as seasoned professionals. “I can probably put a can down, and they can drop it on the can,” she said. “They’re good at what they do. That’s why they do it.”

She also hopes Luther Forest residents will understand the long-term role her family has played in preserving the health of the area’s trees, albeit through the constant logging.

“You come in and you do that selective harvest to try to make sure that you allow the species that are more desirable, that are stronger in this environment, the proper space and nutrients that they need so you can have stronger species be the ones that are regenerating and surviving,” Mackay said.    

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Thursday, 12 October 2017 15:38

Wellspring Eyes Grand Prize

 

In photos: Karen Charbonneau and Paul Budlong promoting their respective causes in the Saratoga Springs City Center; a scene from the “Girlfriends Helping Girlfriends” social mixer to benefit Wellspring held at Longfellow’s on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, both by www.photoandgraphic.com; and Karen Totino in her Green Conscience showroom at 33 Church Street, by Larry Goodwin.

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The staff and supporters of Wellspring on Broadway—the largest organization in Saratoga County working to end domestic violence and serve those affected by it—are in the midst of an ambitious fundraising campaign, which features events at various businesses in and around the city.

The goal is to raise enough local money to qualify for a $100,000 grand prize provided by the Allstate Insurance Foundation.   

The foundation’s “Purple Purse Challenge” awards a total of $700,000 to groups nationwide after the completion of similar campaigns through October, which is known as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. 

Maggie Fronk, the executive director of Wellspring, said that many years of raising awareness in local communities has led to “a better understanding” of domestic violence. “Folks are coming in to get the help they need,” she said.

However, Fronk noted, “we still see a problem.”

In its literature, Wellspring defines domestic violence (also known as “intimate partner violence” or “relationship abuse”) as “a pattern of coercive behavior/tactics used by someone against a current or former intimate partner, dating partner, or spouse in an attempt to gain or maintain power and control.

“Types of abuse can include physical, sexual, psychological and economic abuse. These same behaviors can also be perpetrated against family members.”

Paul Budlong, the director of development at Wellspring, reported that the agency serves nearly 800 domestic violence victims in Saratoga County every year. Individuals and families are assisted through the process of obtaining legal restraining orders or finding various types of temporary housing, he said.

In the 2016 Allstate competition, Budlong explained, local fundraising efforts for Wellspring resulted in a fifth place award.

Fronk said that amounted to roughly $26,000, in addition to local donations of about $51,000. The agency’s funding is provided mainly by such donations along with federal, state and local grants, she added.

This year’s scheduled events included a “Girlfriends Helping Girlfriends” evening at Longfellow’s on Oct. 11; an event at Nanola on Oct. 12; a book club gathering at Northshire Bookstore on Sunday, Oct. 15 at 4 p.m.; a “karma cycling class” at Saratoga Cycling Studio on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at 5 p.m.; and a beer tasting and dining benefit at Kraverie on Saturday, Oct. 21 starting at 4 p.m. 

According to a statement, real-estate agents Karen Charbonneau and Karen Totino are also teaming up next week for a reception to benefit Wellspring. They will announce the formation of their new Saratoga Home Team venture as well.

“Domestic violence is a huge contributor to family homelessness,” stated Charbonneau, a licensed associate real-estate broker, U.S. Army veteran and former youth sports coach. “Karen Totino and I are honored to be able to combine the launch of our real estate team with support for a vital community charity like Wellspring, that provides resources for those experiencing abuse.”

Totino is the owner of Green Conscience Home and Garden at 33 Church Street, where the Saratoga Home Team ribbon cutting and Wellspring reception will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 17 starting at 4 p.m.  

“One of the Saratoga Home Team’s core values is to bring compassion to our business and our clients,” Totino offered in the statement.

Fronk expressed gratitude for all of the businesses and local individuals who are rising to meet this year’s “Purple Purse Challenge,” despite a seemingly endless barrage of negative media headlines from around the country.  

“Every day we see how kind, compassionate and generous people in our community are,” Fronk said.

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A view of the William S. Kelley Park from the Michael A. Spensieri Park in Ballston Spa; and Friends of the Kayaderosseras founder Ruth Dibelius. Photos by Larry Goodwin.

BALLSTON SPA – Village officials approved a preliminary proposal Monday to lease a parcel of land in the Michael A. Spensieri Park to the nonprofit group Friends of the Kayaderosseras.

If formally starts a process through which the Friends of the Kayaderosseras can start raising funds and eventually prepare site plans for construction of a headquarters there. The group has lacked actual meeting and storage spaces since its creation 13 years ago.

“You’ve been a good friend to the Friends of the Kayaderosseras from the beginning,” Ruth Dibelius, the group’s founder, told Ballston Spa Mayor John Romano.

On its website (https://kayadeross.org), the group’s stated mission “is to promote awareness and appreciation of the Kayaderosseras Creek… and to inspire action to preserve and protect the creek, its tributaries and its watershed as habitat for fish and wildlife, and as a recreational and scenic resource for residents and visitors in surrounding communities.”

The Kayaderosseras Creek flows through the Town of Milton before winding through the Village of Ballston Spa and making its way east to Saratoga Lake. The village swimming pool at Spensieri Park and the William S. Kelley Park are popular attractions largely because of their location along the creek’s banks.

Romano indicated that numerous discussions regarding the project have taken place recently among village officials and Friends of the Kayaderosseras members.

After a formal resolution is prepared and approved by the village board, the land could be leased to the group for 99 years at $1 per year, Romano said.

Village Attorney James Fauci said any structure on the site would be built “completely at the expense” of the nonprofit group. The mayor explained that the construction would occur toward the rear of the parking lot at Spensieri Park.

Richard Bashant, the current Friends of the Kayaderosseras president, appeared before the village board to express his appreciation for the political support, calling Spensieri Park “a logistically important place.”

Currently, Bashant reported, the Friends of the Kayaderosseras operates on an annual budget of $10,000 and has about 350 active members. 

The group engages in various activities, he said. It has a fall cleanup of Kayaderosseras Creek scheduled on Saturday, Nov. 4, with a meeting point in Kelley Park. 

Aside from Romano, the other village board members present expressed support for the group’s plans as well.

Trustee Noah Shaw admitted that he and his son have enjoyed several adventures together on the Kayaderosseras Creek.

There are not likely to be “negative” consequences for entering into a lease agreement with the nonprofit group, Shaw said, though he did request that Fauci explore all available leasing options.

Trustee Stuart Hodsoll praised the Friends of the Kayaderosseras, saying its members’ “contributions are immeasurable and they continue to grow.”

In the early days of establishing the group, Dibelius recalled, she received a phone call of encouragement from former New York Gov. George Pataki. That was when Friends of the Kayaderosseras meetings were typically held in her living room with maps strewn about the furniture, she said.

Dibelius opined that there are “many people who deserve credit” for expanding the group’s network of volunteers since its founding in 2004.

Dibelius added, “It seemed the world was waiting for somebody to save the Kayaderosseras Creek.”

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Thursday, 05 October 2017 18:21

‘Know Your Roots’

Photos of Christina Myers and her Old Saratoga Mercantile by www.photoandgraphic.com

SARATOGA – Christina Myers has worked hard all year, only to be comfortable in her apron as she starts her new job: running a humble little store in the countryside that offers fresh meat, fruit, cheese and vegetables to shoppers alongside an assortment of wholesome products. She calls it Old Saratoga Mercantile.  

“I want to be my neighbor’s place to be able to come and get good stuff,” Myers said earlier this week, before her first customers of the day (two young ladies) started browsing the widely varied items displayed on her tables and shelves.   

Myers has operated her market just west of Schuylerville for nearly five weeks, and she is planning a formal ribbon cutting and grand opening event on Sunday, Oct. 8, starting at 11:30 a.m. Individual items will be raffled off every hour and, toward the end, one person will be awarded a large care basket prepared by Myers herself.

Myers is a seasoned journalist and an exceptionally talented writer. Yet, in November of last year, she and her husband Tim finalized a real estate transaction for the 5 acres of property at 1120 Route 29 on which she decided to begin this new endeavor. The couple will eventually build a house 350 feet back from the highway.*

In consultation with members of the Pitney Meadows Community Farm in Saratoga Springs, Myers reported that she plans to have a “high tunnel” installed to produce her own fruits and vegetables on site as well. 

“We hope to be growing year-round ourselves,” she said.

Last spring, the Town of Saratoga Planning Board issued a formal approval of the business in a 5-0 vote, according to minutes of its May 24 meeting. The approval was conditioned on the installation of fencing near the parking lot and a “driveway apron” for safer access from Route 29.

Myers said about 30 feet of the gravel driveway is being paved this week, since some rocks are finding their way into the busy roadway. “I obviously want my customers to be safe,” she said, adding that the planning board “gave us a year” to make any necessary improvements.

On her business cards, Myers promotes her simple slogan for Old Saratoga Mercantile: “Know Your Roots.”

In an era of hyper-commercialization, during which most foods take weeks to process and transport before they hit grocery store shelves, Myers is basically offering area residents healthier, fresher alternatives as a means to support the local economy.

Aside from getting her hands on drywall and plumbing, and generally taking on the laborious task of fixing up the main building on her property, Myers spent the early months of the year reaching out to local farmers and other small business owners to gauge their interest in supporting her “Know Your Roots” concept.

She quickly discovered “this could really happen,” she said. “There are so many people who are passionate about what they do.”

So far, Myers has made agreements with 42 area vendors to supply Old Saratoga Mercantile. Her Internet blog (http://oldsaratogamercantile.blogspot.com/) lists such notable names as Cake by Alissa, Noelle Jackson Soaps, Hand Melon Farm, Earthly Remedies by Erin, Argyle Cheese Farmer, Grillo Essentials, Saratoga Spicery, Parvisani and many more.

Old Saratoga Mercantile’s beef products are delivered by a Schoharie County farm, and Myers said she recently contacted a Fort Ann business to supply kombucha tea.

Myers also stays true to her rural roots in Lewis County, New York, near Watertown. Yancey’s Sugarbush, a fifth-generation family of syrup producers, regularly delivers glass jugs of tasty maple syrup adorned with Old Saratoga Mercantile labels.     

“I want people to think of me as their local grocery store,” Myers says. She does carry a number of products from reputable national companies, such as Equal Exchange teas and Dr. Bronner’s hemp soaps, house cleaner and toothpaste.

She also offers healthy snack and beverage items and “touristy” merchandise that may appeal to bicycle riders and passersby on that stretch of Route 29 west of Schuylerville. 

Myers said customers, indicating the potential popularity of her type of stock, already have purchased every different item in the store.

“I know what kind of store I want to go into,” she concluded about the whole concept. “I want you to know the face. You’re buying it from your neighbor.”

* Due to an editing error, a reference to Myers's journalism experience was omitted in a previous version of this article and all print copies of Saratoga TODAY.  

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Thursday, 05 October 2017 18:12

City Boutiques On Guard For Rise in Theft

Gallery photo shows Lifestyles and Caroline and Main owner Heidi West as she demonstrates the ease of committing a larceny. Photos by www.photoandgraphic.com

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Heidi West is quite familiar with the methods used by thieves who target retail business on Broadway, especially boutiques like hers that specialize in designer clothing and accessories.

West, the owner of Lifestyles and Caroline and Main, has dozens of security cameras situated strategically in both shops to record almost every larceny that takes place.

“We see people stealing from us all the time,” she says. “We know who you are. Why do you keep doing it?”

According to an email summary of a Sept. 20 meeting sent by Maddy Zanetti, president of the city’s Downtown Business Association (DBA), a number of DBA members indicated that theft and shoplifting were “up this summer.”

“It definitely seems to be a growing issue,” Zanetti said this week, during a brief break from serving her customers at Impressions of Saratoga. “We’re hoping it’s not something that continues.” 

Zanetti said that DBA members—there are approximately 200—have noticed more seemingly professional thieves make off with merchandise from Broadway boutiques.

West expressed caution about stirring up fears of a larger trend, but knows for sure that theft is affecting hers and many other businesses. “If someone says they don’t have an issue, they just don’t know,” she said.

“The police are very good working with us. They get down here very quickly,” West added.

West said she has filed two separate lawsuits against apparent thieves that are currently making their way through the courts. One involves felony grand larceny charges because a sister and brother team allegedly stole more than $1,000 of merchandise.

“If you catch someone, you need to go through the system,” she advised. “It teaches somebody not to shoplift in Saratoga.”

Laura Farrar-Pileckas, owner of Violet’s in the Collamer Building, said diligent efforts by her employees have ensured that this year was relatively mild theft-wise compared to previous years.

Ultimately, according to both West and Farrar-Pileckas, security cameras are not enough. The employees of Broadway businesses are the owners’ best guard against these types of problems, they indicated.

“We notice if one dress is missing here,” Farrar-Pileckas said. “We have a great staff.”

Farrar-Pileckas recalled an incident in which one woman took full advantage of a busy moment in the store, when every employee was helping other customers. The woman brazenly stole a designer handbag off its shelf holder and stuffed it inside the bag she was carrying, and managed to exit the store before anyone noticed.

In another incident last year, Farrar-Pileckas remembered, one keenly observant employee went to the Saratoga Race Course and spotted a dress that was stolen from Violet’s earlier in the day. She said the alleged thief—whom she described as an attractive brunette in her ‘30s—was seen in the store again not too long afterward, so it became necessary to confront her.

Farrar-Pileckas said a chase ensued on the sidewalks, and that she caught up with the woman to demand payment for the stolen dress. The woman pulled out a wad of cash and did pay the $300 cost.

“I just walked back in with the money,” Farrar-Pileckas said about her return to Violet’s, which elicited smiles of relief among the ladies by her side.  

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Thursday, 05 October 2017 18:11

Malta Leaders Review Town Budget

MALTA – The Malta Town Board will spend the month of October reviewing a $10 million tentative budget plan unveiled this week, which calls for slightly less spending than the current fiscal year.

As the town’s official budget officer, Malta Supervisor Vincent DeLucia wrote in his summary that “a fiscally conservative budget” has been prepared “that funds core town responsibilities for road maintenance, fire protection, ambulance services, local courts, planning and code enforcement while staying below the state 2 percent tax cap and maintaining the town free of general town-wide property taxes.”   

At the Oct. 2 meeting, though, DeLucia praised the efforts of Malta Comptroller Kevin King and his dependable knowledge of the town’s numbers.

“Much of the credit goes to Kevin King,” the supervisor said.

The tentative budget calls for $10,009,215 in spending, less than the current level of $10.1 million. It can be viewed on the town website (http://www.malta-town.org).

The largest expenditures, according to DeLucia’s summary, are $7.4 million for the general costs of operating town government, including the Malta Highway Department and the service it provides for 77 “lane miles” of roadway. The “fire protection district” costs exceed $2 million.

DeLucia further indicated that an expense of $36,000 from “recreation mitigation fees” was necessary to cover debt incurred through development of the Malta Community Center on Route 9, but that the payment would not impact the town’s fund balance.

The tentative 2018 budget represents roughly $243 in property-tax spending per town resident, compared to $253 in 2017. Malta has a "general town tax levy" and additional levies for fire protection and the town library that total more than $420,000, the supervisor's summary states. 

According to King, Malta employs 43 people full time and an additional 27 people on a part time or seasonal basis.

DeLucia explained on Monday that employees in every town department have “really had to tuck it in” by cutting back on spending. Early last year, he said, the town was forced by severe inclement weather to incur extra costs, which in turn necessitated the elimination of several town positions.

Earlier this year, town officials were voicing concerns about the budget outlook in Malta due to an apparent decrease in sales tax revenues, which fund a large part of the town’s expenses. But King reported that, in recent months, “a big change in the allocation” of those revenues from Saratoga County made a noticeable difference.

“The economy is the driver, both locally and countywide,” he said.

King shared figures showing how the sales tax allocation in September alone surpassed $419,000, bringing the total revenue generated this year by purchases in Malta businesses to $2.8 million. In March the allocation was $336,000.    

DeLucia added that town board members will meet several times in the coming weeks with King and other department heads to discuss potential modifications to the tentative 2018 budget. He expects a final budget to be approved in November. 

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