Malta Pointe residents speak out at the town board meeting on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018. Photo by Larry Goodwin.
MALTA – Lacking steady supplies of water in their homes since New Year’s Eve, a couple dozen residents from a mobile home and apartment community off Route 9 crowded into Malta Town Hall Monday night to demand better responses to the problem.
“We want answers,” concluded one of the first women to speak.
For more than an hour, Malta Supervisor Vincent DeLucia allowed residents from the Malta Pointe community (also called Malta Gardens) to express their frustrations about faulty water pipes underground that apparently failed during the New Year holiday.
The issue dominated the Malta Town Board’s first official meeting of 2018.
“This is a cataclysm. This is a water failure,” explained Ron Simoncini, a spokesman for the Solomon Organization, the New Jersey-based firm that manages the community. He was invited to address the residents’ water woes at the Jan. 8 meeting.
Simoncini waited patiently before making his own comments and answering questions from the people of Malta Pointe. He assured them that finding prompt solutions is a “corporate priority” at Solomon.
“We want this fixed as fast as humanly possible,” Simoncini said. “There is no budget for this. We’re spending what it takes.”
Residents expressed anger mainly about an ongoing lack of water or water pressure in their kitchens and bathrooms, complicating their basic daily activities; as well as difficulties many have experienced in communicating with Solomon officials.
One woman simply displayed a small glass jar filled with cloudy water, saying it looked so questionable even after being boiled.
“We can’t create the water. We don’t have a municipal water supply,” DeLucia told the affected residents.
DeLucia also made a point of telling Simoncini that many Malta Pointe residents had contacted town hall, noting how the individuals at the back of the meeting room Monday were “a small representation” of those with water problems.
After Councilman Timothy Dunn had scrolled through a computer file and reviewed the original planning documents for Malta Pointe, he noted how Solomon is required by specific town code to provide adequate water supplies to the residents.
The Malta Code Enforcement Office issued at least one notice of violation to the firm.
Simoncini acknowledged repeatedly that Solomon officials intend to comply with the legal requirements within 14 days. He added that more than a dozen people met this week on site to discuss the issue, including staff members of the New York State Department of Health (DOH).
Jill Montag, a DOH spokeswoman, confirmed in an emailed statement that a meeting occurred Tuesday regarding “long-term steps to address the water system’s ability to keep up with water demand.”
Montag indicated that DOH officials are working with Solomon “to have them develop additional source water either on site or by connecting to a neighboring water system.”
She added: “The Department will continue to work with Malta Gardens and take all necessary steps to ensure that this issue is resolved.”
“I have high-quality water” with pressure exceeding 70 pounds per square inch, offered Marissa Mackay, owner of Saratoga Water Services, a company that has supplied developments in that part of Malta with water for decades.
Mackay attended the meeting Monday and stated that her goal is not to promote her business, but “to make sure that people are taken care of” in the community.
She said Saratoga Water Services already has suitable pipes installed underneath a fire hydrant located off Knabner Road, which is the main drive to the businesses, apartment complexes and mobile homes in Malta Pointe.
Mackay offered Simoncini her company’s contact information and urged him to discuss a possible connection of pipes. “If you’re going to be chasing water-main breaks, I think it makes sense,” she said.
Simoncini did not return a follow-up call for comment.
Installing commercial water pipes generally costs $100 per foot, Mackay explained, adding that many “technicalities” make even a rough estimate difficult for the actual needs in Malta Pointe.
The total cost to Solomon, Mackay said, would be “less than developing two new wells.”
WILTON – At its first monthly meeting of 2018, the Wilton Town Board approved a measure to purchase Traver Road property in case future plans develop to expand the town complex.
The resolution authorized a purchase price of $160,000 for the parcel at 15 Traver Road owned by Martha Kilburn, stating the land will be used “for town purposes.” Last year, the same property had been assessed at an amount totaling $8,000 more.
Town Clerk Sue Baldwin indicated that the board has no current plans for any specific use.
Wilton officials are reviewing plans to build a new Town Court and expand a portion of Town Hall at 22 Traver Road.
A new facility for Wilton seniors also is planned for town property on Northern Pines Road, following a demolition of the existing structure named after Lillian W. Worth.
BALLSTON SPA – The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors will vote next week in favor of moving forward on construction of a new public safety complex near the existing Sheriff’s Office and county jail.
Supervisors agreed this week that the proposed $32 million project on County Farm Road meets the standards of being an “unlisted action” under the state Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).
The county is acting as lead agency on the project and also will issue a formal “negative declaration,” which indicates it will not have adverse impacts on the environment, according to SEQRA rules. Construction is expected to start this spring.
As first proposed more than 10 years ago, the new complex will consolidate the administrative operations of Sheriff Michael Zurlo’s department and multiple county agencies involved with public safety. The existing county jail will not be affected.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Members of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce are calling a proposed change to state labor rules the “death of common sense” in relation to small businesses.
Specifically, the chamber opposes a “call-in scheduling mandate on private and nonprofit employers,” as described in a Jan. 5 email alert.
“If approved by the New York State Labor Department, the draft rules would require workers get an additional two hours’ pay for shift assignments given without at least 14 days advance notice,” the chamber wrote. “As a result, this rule will essentially penalize any employer that calls-in an employee to work any shift that becomes open at no fault of the employer.
“We’ve heard from more chamber members than usual on this issue who are [concerned] about the costs, the paperwork, and the loss of flexibility they will have in filling open shifts,” the chamber added.
When reached for comment, Chamber President Todd Shimkus called it “one of the least popular” state proposals he has “ever seen.”
The Labor Department officially published the call-in rule change in late November, initiating a public comment period that was extended to Monday, Jan. 22.
In a posting this week on its Twitter account, the chamber welcomed an extension of the comment period, but added: “What small employers need is for this #deathofcommonsense proposal to be permanently rejected. Just say no now!”
Business owners from across New York were invited to participate in a related forum in Albany on Thursday, Jan. 4 that was organized by state senators.
“If this rule becomes law in New York, we will have the most restrictive, burdensome call-in pay regulation in the nation,” argued State Sen. Chris Jacobs (R-Buffalo) at the outset of the forum. Jacobs is calling on state officials to rescind the measure.
The proposed call-in rules “simply ignore the reality of operating and growing a business,” testified Unshackle Upstate Executive Director Greg Biryla. “This impacts businesses everywhere.”
Cullen Burnell, a Labor Department spokesman, responded in an email: “We remain confident that at the end of the robust public participation process that has included several meetings and direct input from countless stakeholders and the public, new fair and balanced rules will be finalized to ensure workers are protected.”
Burnell did not respond to a request for more detailed information.
Chef Julia Sanzen prepares and presents the Farmers Hardware Impossible Burger. Photos by www.photoandgraphic.com.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Chef Julia Sanzen, a self-described “non-vegetarian,” was more than happy to join her vegetarian partner Tyler Russell last summer as they ordered special plates in a vibrant city eatery.
Sanzen and Russell, co-owners of Farmers Hardware at 35 Maple Avenue, traveled in July to a popular New York City restaurant, where the California-inspired “Impossible Burger” was on the menu for the first time.
For more than an hour, the entrepreneurial couple waited in line to order the meatless burger. They were equally eager to taste its distinctive blend of water, wheat and potato protein, plus coconut oil and other plant-based compounds that closely resemble those found in typical meat.
“This burger is the real deal and we believe it’s going to be well received by both herbivores and carnivores alike locally,” Russell said in a prepared statement.
“It’s scary how spot-on the look, texture, smell and taste is,” added Sanzen, who plans to formally start serving her Farmers Hardware version of the Impossible Burger at a 6:30 p.m. launch party on Thursday, Jan. 11. “It even bleeds like a beef burger.”
Various delays meant that Sanzen and Russell were unable to offer the Impossible Burger last spring, as planned, when they first opened their Maple Avenue brunch hall—in a brick warehouse utilized long ago for storage by the Serotta bicycle family—ahead of the horse-racing season.
It was only a few weeks ago, according to Russell, that Farmers Hardware “received news” that a steady supply of the product for their dining customers could be provided by California-based Impossible Foods.
“I was in the car the next day picking up two cases in Jersey City for Julia to recipe test with,” Russell said.
Jessica Appelgren, a spokeswoman for Impossible Foods, indicated that her company’s relatively new burgers are produced in a large Oakland facility and distributed frozen nationwide to hundreds of restaurants.
The Impossible Burger accounts for about 30 percent of the new customers in whichever establishment it is served, Appelgren said. There are many discerning consumers, she added, who “love” the eco-friendly practices that are a common feature of this and most other vegetarian food products.
“It’s hugely popular,” Appelgren assured. “This is people’s go-to burger.”
“In development since 2011, the Impossible Burger cooks, smells and tastes like ground beef from cows—but is made entirely from plants,” Sanzen and Russell reported in their statement. “The Impossible Burger, which debuted in July 2016 at Chef David Chang’s Momofuku Nishi in Manhattan, won a 2017 Tasty Award for best food startup.
“The Impossible Burger is produced without hormones, antibiotics, cholesterol or artificial flavors,” they added. “It uses about 75 percent less water, generates about 87 percent fewer greenhouse gases, and requires around 95 percent less land than conventional ground beef from cows.”
Renee Farley. Photo by Larry Goodwin.
MALTA – This week, one military veteran braved the frigid air and crawled under his mobile home to inspect ductwork after his heat failed to work.
In early December, the strut on another veteran’s car was so severely damaged that it ruined one of his tires, too.
Six days before Christmas, a young military couple—both active-duty National Guard—were struggling with money problems that made it difficult to afford gifts for their two children, who are 5 years and 8 months old.
All year long, situations like those arise suddenly for local veterans and military families.
That is when Renee Farley and the other volunteer members of the Malta Veterans Appreciation Program (MVAP) immediately send “call to action” alerts by email and through social-media; or directly provide whatever assistance is needed.
In recent weeks, Farley and the MVAP volunteers were prompted by such circumstances to step up their efforts; and the related alerts to help people whom Farley calls “hometown heroes” were answered.
After New Year’s Day, Farley personally intervened in the case of Leroy, the veteran whose heating system was somehow compromised in the midst of the cold spell.
With the help of her son and another young man, Farley temporarily patched heating ductwork that was damaged—possibly by animals—underneath Leroy’s mobile home. Then she issued a call to action for a permanent fix.
In the case of Mike, the veteran with a disabled vehicle, Farley said there was “a united front” by Stacy and Jim Fantauzzi of Northeast Fire Protection Systems in Ballston Spa, who bought two new front tires; Lake Auto Parts in Burnt Hills, which donated a new strut; and Mark’s VW and Import Service in Mechanicville, which donated the garage space and a couple hours’ worth of labor to get Mike and his family back on the road.
“We got all the parts and we did all the work,” offered Mark Thompson, owner of Mark’s VW and Import Service. “We were happy to fix it for him.”
Bryan Haas, a retired Sgt. 1st Class in the U.S. Army and secretary of the five-member MVAP Board of Directors, met with Haley and Jordan, the National Guard members, during their time of need. He said Haley had provided a list of preferred items.
“I got every single thing they asked for,” Haas said, “plus a ton of food.”
The MVAP program, according to Farley, donated more than $500 in groceries and a gift card so Haley and Jordan would find it easier to enjoy the holidays with their kids.
“I have a Chevy SUV. I filled it up twice,” Haas continued. “We slam-dunked it. They actually told me it was the best Christmas they had since they’ve been married.”
In addition to the MVAP network, Haas said crucial assistance was provided by the Veterans Miracle Center in Albany.
“When we do those calls to action, the response is phenomenal,” he added.
The MVAP volunteers also work to ensure that local veterans can manage regular trips to medical appointments and the routine activities of daily life.
The group is coordinating on ongoing fundraiser for the proposed expansion of the veterans’ memorial walkway in front of Malta Town Hall.
Memorial bricks can be purchased naming individual veterans and their military branch; the bricks will be a permanent part of the display, which includes a small piece of steel from the World Trade Center.
Farley said the military veterans thusly memorialized do not have to be local.
For more information, visit the website www.maltavets.com.
In photo gallery: The local and state leaders invited to read the Bill of Rights in Ballston Spa on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017; and (left to right) We the People Founder Robert Schulz, Upstate Conservative Coalition President Ben Potiker, and Stand Up and Sing for America Founder Judith Whitmore. Photos by Larry Goodwin.
BALLSTON SPA – In the words of Judith Whitmore, the officials and citizens who joined together last week in a county office-building auditorium did so because “they really care about America.”
Amidst the normal bustle of a Friday night before Christmas, Whitmore, the founder of Stand Up and Sing for America and vice-chair of the group We the People (WTP-NY), had organized a “Bill of Rights Day” on Dec. 15 in concert with WTP-NY Founder Robert Schulz and Upstate Conservative Coalition President Ben Potiker.
Two years ago, a similar event was held in Queensbury. Schulz and Whitmore both indicated afterward that Bill of Rights Day ceremonies would be organized in Ballston Spa and statewide every December.
It was on Dec. 15, 1791, according to Schulz, that lawmakers in the state of Virginia had finalized the process of ratifying the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Pastor Earl Wallace of Liberty Christian Fellowship in Clifton Park said it is important “to keep alive the concepts” in the Bill of Rights. He was invited to the Saratoga County office building on West High Street to read the First Amendment aloud, and then put a small flashlight inside a star-themed “luminary” on a table next to the podium.
That same routine was repeated for the other amendments, which were read by State Sen. James Tedisco (R-Glenville); National Guard Sgt. Brandon Moseman; Sheriff Michael Zurlo; District Attorney Karen Heggen; Assistant Public Defender Oscar Schreiber; Wilton Judge David Towne; State Supreme Court Judge Martin Affredou; County Clerk Craig Hayner; and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (D-Round Lake).
Whitmore asked the crowd of about 50 people to join her in giving “love and energy for America” through patriotic songs as well. Pocket Constitutions were handed out and coffee and snacks were offered at the end.
“As we celebrate this anniversary, we should give thanks for our constitutional, democratic republic, and commit to become better informed about our rights,” stated Schulz in his opening remarks.
“So long as we are committed to the principles underlying our Constitution and Bill of Rights,” he added, “we will know the blessings of liberty no matter the immensity of our problems, whether it be world peace, foreign conspiracies, rising crime, racial strife, climate change or the decaying hearts of our great central cities.”
(Left to right) 25-year Saratoga County employees Joanne Monaco (Social Services); Gay McKinney (Clerk); D'Arcy Plummer (Treasurer); Valerie Dussault (Real Property); J. Wes Carr (Youth Bureau); and Frank Blaisdell (Animal Shelter); Stillwater Supervisor and Board Chairman Ed Kinowski; 30-year employees Darryl Tree (Sewer District); Beatrice Tree (Social Services); Steve Dorsey (County Attorney); and Sandra Cross (Aging); and 35-year employee Elaine Pratt (Clerk of the Board). Photo by Deputy Board Clerk Therese Connolly.
BALLSTON SPA – The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors presented “longevity awards” this week to a small group of the county’s 1,100 employees, and bid farewell to four of its own members whose terms neared an end.
“The longer you have, the greater your service to the people,” observed Board Chairman Ed Kinowski, the Stillwater town supervisor, after calling out the names of 10 county employees and inviting them to be part of a group picture. Kinowski gave them small gift bags and formal proclamations.
Kinowski also pointed to the work of outgoing Supervisors R. Gardner Congdon of Moreau; John Collyer of Providence; Dan Lewza of Milton; and Peter Martin of Saratoga Springs—“each of whom is leaving to enter a new phase of life and embrace all the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead,” Kinowski said.
“Your contributions to the county as supervisors have been very numerous,” he continued. “You’ve been creative and innovative in your approach to solving problems, always looking for the best ways to achieve goals.”
Kinowski singled out Collyer for his “hard work and good sense of humor”; Martin for “helping to make all of our residents safe” in his new role as public safety commissioner of the city; Lewza for his “special interest in the county airport, and being sure that residents in the Town of Milton had minimum negative impact”; and Congdon for his “desire to best serve the residents of the Town of Moreau” during his two separate terms of office, spanning more than 40 years.
On behalf of his colleagues, Saratoga Supervisor Thomas Wood praised Kinowski for his efforts as board chairman. Kinowski is expected to continue as chairman through 2018.
“During this past year you have been diligent in performing your duties,” Wood told Kinowski. “You’ve been constantly on the go, attending and participating in meetings on all kinds of topics and subjects. You never shied away from difficult and controversial issues, always tackling them head-on, taking your time, involving other supervisors, gathering all the facts and making a decision—and, most importantly, having the courage to stand behind it.”
Kinowski “represents and personifies the very best of Saratoga County,” Wood added. “We are all honored and privileged to have worked with you this year, and wish you the very best next year in your continued service to the county.”
The Malta Planning Board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. Photo by Larry Goodwin; and a site map of the proposed Red Pine Grove complex in Malta. Provided by Project Manager John Romeo of Insite Northeast Civil Engineering Design.
MALTA – Nearly 20 local homeowners spoke at a public hearing of the Malta Planning Board Tuesday night, making clear their concerns about a proposal involving 15 acres of forested land between Ellsworth Commons and the Cramer Woods neighborhood.
A majority of residents called upon by Planning Board Chairman William Smith stated their opposition to Conifer Realty’s proposed Red Pine Grove complex. It would include 12 three-story “workforce housing” towers, as the firm calls them, and a separate apartment building with 70 units for senior citizens closer to Route 9.
Rockrose Way homeowner Cliff VanGuilder was among the first to speak. In a letter, he urged planning board members to “be careful in deciding whether this development is actually needed, and whether it is sustainable for the tax base.”
As 9 p.m. approached, more than a dozen residents had criticized the Red Pine Grove proposal. They alleged that town officials are not properly studying impacts on local traffic and schools, among various other matters.
Smith said he would leave open the public hearing. The planning board is expected to revisit Conifer Realty’s proposal at its next meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 18.
The same land, on the eastern side of Route 9, had been previously chosen for the Malta Crossings proposal, which included a mix of residential, retail and a hotel.
“It was a pretty aggressive design,” observed David Bogardus, a consultant to Conifer Realty. The overall density of the Red Pine Grove buildings “has been significantly reduced” by about 50 percent, he added.
Brian Donato, senior project director at Conifer Realty, responded to many of the residents’ concerns, including the need for more local housing complexes.
Conifer Realty is in the process of building the Blue Heron Trail residential towers a few minutes west in the Town of Ballston.
The company would not advance its Red Pine Grove proposal, Donato said, if “we didn’t think there was a market for it.”
Death Wish Coffee Co. Owner Mike Brown answers questions from local veterans; and Nick Casey (as Santa Claus) and Stillwater Supervisor Ed Kinowski at Saratoga Coffee Traders. Photos by Larry Goodwin.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – This week, local military veterans shared holiday cheer as they celebrated the one-year anniversary of a social event held every Tuesday at Saratoga Coffee Traders, specifically for them to make new friends.
Amy Hughes, program coordinator for the Veterans Peer Connection in Ballston Spa, first organized the coffee meet-up in early November 2016. In the course of almost 60 weeks it was canceled only one Tuesday due to bad weather. “We had ice,” she said.
Hughes said 15 or 20 veterans regularly show up between 5 and 7 p.m. each week to mingle at the coffee shop, located at 447 Broadway. On the Tuesday before Christmas, though, a boisterous crowd of 30 veterans filled the small back room for the occasion.
Stillwater Supervisor Ed Kinowski, chairman of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors and a veteran himself after 38 years of service in the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard, was in attendance with his wife.
Also invited was Death Wish Coffee Company owner Mike Brown, who explained to the crowd that he opened Saratoga Coffee Traders in 2008 before developing his own unique vision for the coffee industry. The veterans applauded his company’s success.
“We do love your coffee,” one man confessed.
Afterward, Brown said it surprised him “how big this is,” noting how Death Wish Coffee Co. offers discounted products to military veterans and strongly supports local firefighters and law enforcement—whose members are often veterans, too.
“This means more than you can really put into words,” offered Nick Casey in his Santa Claus costume. He served in the Air National Guard and met Kinowski during that time.
Casey described the coffee meet-ups on Broadway as “vets for vets,” noting how in the early weeks only two or three people attended.
“I came looking for help and now I’m helping,” he said, after making his rounds with hearty exclamations of “ho-ho-ho.”
Will Ryan, who served in the U.S. Army for eight years, explained how Hughes connects individual veterans in an ongoing mentorship program. He said mentors offer to help struggling veterans with trips to grocery stores, the filing of paperwork for healthcare at the Veterans Administration, or whatever they need.
“I volunteered for the military. I love to serve,” Ryan said. “I wanted to work with veterans, so this is what I found. It just made sense that I would come here to Amy’s program.”
Tory Landry reported that he has served in the National Guard for 19 years, and now works out of the Watervliet Arsenal. He has attended all of the coffee meet-ups in Saratoga Springs, while serving as a mentor for veterans who are deemed “high risk.”
Landry routinely meets with incarcerated veterans at the Saratoga County jail.
“Nobody wants to ask for help,” Landry observed. Veterans “join the military, they succeed in that aspect, so asking for help is tough to do.” But the mentors, he added, can help to “open a dialogue.”
“Saratoga County seems to be very good at establishing that core support foundation…to allow all these events to happen,” Landry said.
The Veterans Peer Connection, a Saratoga County agency supported through New York State grant funds, pays the tab every Tuesday at Saratoga Coffee Traders.
The agency organizes numerous activities throughout the year as well. It has scheduled a free event for veterans on Thursday, Jan. 18 at The Comedy Works, located at 388 Broadway.
Sandy Arnold, who served in the U.S. Army and Reserves for more than 20 years, sat at a table Tuesday night with several more women veterans. She praised the coffee meet-ups arranged by Hughes and the role of Veterans Peer Connection in general.
“It’s really nice. I’ve made a lot of real friends,” Arnold said. “We’re there for each other.”
For more information, call 518-884-4999 or visit the website https://veteranspeertopeer.org/.