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Tuesday, 21 April 2015 09:24

Weekday Warriors

Dedicated Crew Completes Projects with Rebuilding Together Saratoga County

By Stephanie Hale-Lopez

Saratoga TODAY


SARATOGA COUNTY – There’s no doubt Rebuilding Together Saratoga County (RTSC) has made a tremendous difference in the community since its inception 12 years ago.


The organization partners with volunteers year round to ensure that homeowners in need can live independently in safe and healthy home. The volunteers strive to build healthy neighborhoods through RTSC’ s three programs: Home Repair – provides critical repairs for low-income homeowners such as weatherizing, plumbing and electrical repairs, patching and painting, cleaning, re-carpeting, siding and landscaping; Safe at Home – home safety assessments, safety and accessibility modifications for low-income homeowners who are older adults or are living with a disability; and Non-Profit Facility/Community Beautification – provides safe and welcoming spaces for communities to gather through renovation and beautification work for community centers, supportive housing facilities and outdoor community spaces. 


Michelle Larkin founded RTSC in November 2003 with an informational meeting. The organization has been growing ever since, boasting thousands of volunteers and completing thousands of projects. In 2014 alone, RTSC helped more homeowners in need than ever before, completing a total of 108 home repair projects – along with eight community space projects – a total of 116 projects. 


“The best part of it all for me is just knowing someone will be safer, warmer, dryer because of the work we do," said Larkin. "The hugs and thank you notes from the homeowners at the end of a workday make all of us grateful for the opportunity to help and make a difference in the lives of our neighbors."


While summer is the organization’s busiest time of year, RTSC does work on projects throughout the year – with the exception of winter, unless it’s an emergency – and Larkin says RTSC relies on a special group of volunteers to help year round. They’re known as Weekday Warriors. 


Weekday Warriors are a crew of volunteers who donate their time regularly – often on a weekly or bi-weekly basis – to help homeowners in need. I met with six of them: Betsy Miklas, George VanDeusen, John Grassman, Tom Disinger, Al Peters and John Maxam. 


“I like the idea of paying it forward. I’m retired, I have time, I like to help people and I’m a hands-on person,” said Miklas. “It keeps me busy. Right in our own backyard, there are so many people in need and so appreciative of what, to us, might seem like small things.” 

As the saying goes – in helping others, we help ourselves – that cannot be truer for the Weekday Warriors. While the focus of every project is to help homeowners in need, volunteers also benefit from the experience. 


“Other than being able to give back and the rewards that that provides, [RTSC] has also provided me with a group of people that I’ve gotten to know who are pretty fantastic. They’re wonderful friends,” adds Disinger. 


“It was about 15 years ago that I retired and my wife saw an article in the paper about [RTSC] and she mentioned that it could be something I’d be interested in,” added Peters. “So much of my life has been spent with paperwork and design and so on. [RTSC] has been an opportunity to work with my hands, be physical, give me purpose and give back to the community. It’s something that I enjoy doing.” 


Grassman has been volunteering with RTSC for nearly a decade. He first started with a couple of springtime projects and after that, he says he was hooked.


“I saw that it was a great way to help the community, we’re all part of the community here and it’s a way to help others right where we live,” said Grassman. “It’s a tremendous organization that has an impact. You look at a lot of other organizations and you invest your money and time into places and you’re not sure where it goes but here, you get the best bang for your buck. We go straight to the person’s home with the materials that we need to help them and it’s just amazing.” 


All six volunteers agreed that working with the homeowners and coming face-to-face with the problems/issues that need fixed is exhilarating…especially at the project’s completion, when you can see the final result and the impact it has on the homeowner. 


“There are certainly a lot of people in the area that need help fixing their places up,” said Maxam. “We see that on every job we go on. It’s astonishing how much people do need us.” 


“Its life changing for the people we help,” added Disinger. “Sometimes, I don’t think we realize the magnitude of what we’ve done.” 


VanDeusen adds that the work volunteers put in through RTSC is to improve what politicians consider to be affordable housing. 


“You hear a lot of talk on the political level about affordable housing, especially in Saratoga County. Saratoga Springs has a lot of big houses; it’s a very expensive place to live,” said VanDeusen. “But just outside of town are very poor communities. There are projects that we’ve gone on where grandma couldn’t stay there because there wasn’t a ramp or the floor was rotting out. When we repair that, we’re working on affordable housing.” 


Rebuilding Together Saratoga County is always looking for more volunteers and the Weekday Warriors say you don’t have to have any particular set of skills or experience. All you need to have is the willingness to donate your time; the rest can be learned. 


“You can always use that extra set of hands,” said Miklas. 


RTSC is hosting a group of Spring Rebuilding Days to complete various springtime projects and is looking for volunteers to help make a meaningful difference for neighbors in need. The Spring Rebuilding Days are Saturday, April 25 and Sunday, April 26; Saturday, May 2 and Sunday, May 3 as well as Saturday, May 9. 


For more information or to sign up to volunteer, contact Michelle Larkin at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 587-3315 and be sure to visit rtsaratoga.org. 

Friday, 17 April 2015 18:02

More Than A Comic Convention

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Those who attend the inaugural ChaseCon Expo next Saturday, April 25 at the Saratoga Springs City Center should expect more than just comics. Indeed, a broad cross-section of today’s pop culture in all its forms, utilizing a variety of media will be on display. You may not know where to go first!

“To my knowledge, no one has ever put on a pop culture expo.” Said Samuel Chase, the organizer of the event. “We’ve taken the popular ComicCon format and enhanced it with many other things to broaden the appeal to the entire community.”

Comics are certainly still a major centerpiece of the expo, with vendor tables and scheduled appearances by some of the leading artists (such as Mark McKenna, Paul Abrams, Kevin Conrad and sculptor Paul Harding) who have many credits from popular comic houses such as Marvel and DC Comics. But what makes ChaseCon distinctive are the additional range of subjects that the Expo embraces. Here are some of the highlights:

Celebrity Guest Appearances:

- Wrestling Superstar Brutus 'The Barber' Beefcake – a former WWF world tag team champion. In addition to his appearance he will also participate in a panel discussion on the subject at noon.

- Erica Schroeder – a major voice actress whose work is heard on well over 100 films, TV shows and video games. She is best known for her work on Pokemon, voicing several characters in that series’ video games, TV shows and movies; and as the voice of Monkey D. Luffy in the One Piece multi-media series. She will host two panels: A “reverse Q+A” with the audience and an Animation Voice 101 seminar.

- K.I.T.T. – Car buffs will enjoy the famous tricked-out car from the popular series Knight Rider, which will be on display for inspection, gawking and photo ops throughout the show.

- Six internationally famous cosplay (short for costume play) actors and actresses, including Kathrine Zan and Negative Stacy will be performing and judging a cosplay contest in addition to having tables at the event.

Movie Theater Room

Included in your admission, ChaseCon Expo will show popular movies all day, including the Wolverine Extended version, Final Fantasy VII and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Of particular note is the showing of two episodes from the second season of Epic TV Saga: Season II - a local show that was filmed in Warren, Washington, and Saratoga Counties. These episodes feature video game, TV and film parodies.


Attendees have the option of playing boards games such as Magic: the Gathering or Super Smash Bros. for free or can elect to sign up for a variety of tournaments (organized by Dirty Goblin Games of Queensbury) for a small fee.

Cosplay Contest

You can watch in the audience, of see if you have what it takes to be the best as you will be critiqued by some of the leaders in the genre in two categories:

            - Walk-ons – who will model an outfit along a runway and then answer the judge's questions

            - Skits – perform a two-minute mini show basically in character with judging based on performance.

The host of these contests is Ruby Rinekso. Scheduled judges are Kathrine Zan, Miggy Jagger, Undiesofwondy and Negative Stacey.

As you might expect, there will be a wide variety of memorabilia and other merchandise tables on the show floor. Franklin Community Center will also have a table to accept canned food and other donations. “This is one way we are trying to involve the entire community in our event.” Chase said. “We’re also hoping to have a major impact on the businesses in town that day. We have already had people buy admission to the Expo from as far away as Brazil, so we are optimistic that the entire community will benefit. 

Advance general admission to the Expo is $7, if bought online (visit chasecon.org) or $10 the day of the show. Special VIP ticket packages are also available at $25 and $50; both VIP tickets give the holder early access to the vendor/artist floor and other perks; the $50 VIP package also includes access to a special pre-event party at Bailey’s Café on Friday evening from 6 to 9 p.m. that is hosted by cosplay stars Kathrine Zan and Negative Stacy (non-VIP ticket holders can pay a separate $10 admission fee if space is available.)

“Even though we are providing a lot of entertainment, it was my priority to keep the ticket price down as much as possible,” Chase said. By comparison, he noted that the NYC ComicCon had regular admission prices of about $150, with VIP tickets in the $450 range.

The doors will open at the City Center on Saturday at 8:30 a.m., with activities running through 11 p.m. The show floor will open at 10 a.m. (VIP ticket holders will have access at 9:30 a.m.) through 7 p.m.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit chasecon.org

Friday, 10 April 2015 11:35

Take The Road To The Emerald City!

American Cancer Society’s Gala Of Hope 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Hall of Springs at Spa State Park will undergo a magical transformation to a land where dreams and wishes of a voyage towards a cancer-free world become possible on Saturday, Apr. 18. That is the evening of the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Eleventh Annual Gala of Hope. 


“This event is the American Cancer Society’s only premier black-tie event dedicated to raising awareness and funds in the fight against cancer.” Said Michele Mack, American Cancer Society’s Eastern Division Senior Manager for Distinguished Events. The proceeds that are raised go to fund programs such as the HopeClub, a support community for anyone whose life has been touched by cancer. HopeClub is the hub of all the American Cancer Society’s patient and family service programs in the Capital Region.


This year’s theme – “Road To The Emerald City” draws a parallel between the journey Dorothy, Toto and her friends experienced, with the road to a cure and the treacherous journey that anyone affected by cancer must take. Attendees will have the opportunity to enjoy a complete experience, replete with champagne, live and silent auctions, live music by the New York Players’ City Rhythm in addition to a gourmet dinner. 


The area’s businesses have donated extremely tantalizing auction packages for bidding, running the spectrum of every conceivable avenue of interest. Some of the many items that will be available on Saturday include: 


  • A custom emerald/diamond pendant donated by Hannoush Jewelers


  • Health/wellness package for two – donated by Vent Fitness, Complexions Spa and Fleet Feet. This includes gym membership, personal training, consultation with a nutritionist, sneaker package, spa membership, gym bag and more.


  • Yankees VIP tickets and transportation – donated by Classic Environmental. This includes four tickets to game in a VIP suite, luxury party coach transportation, beer/wine and food.


And rest assured, the above is but a small, yet representative sample of what will be available. 


“The American Cancer Society is truly honored to have so many local business leaders involved in our life saving mission,” Ms. Mack noted. “The Gala of Hope showcases the strength of our community and the passion that fills the room as we celebrate all cancer survivors and those we have lost.” 


During the evening, the Beacon of Hope Award will be presented to the Milot family and the employees of Protective Industrial Products of Latham for their efforts to raise awareness and money through community volunteerism, corporate support and ACS special events. Of particular note was their effort to design the first safety eyewear for women, which was branded with the American Cancer Society’s iconic pink ribbon—and a portion of proceeds are donated to ACS.  


Today, it is an unfortunate fact that it is a rare family whose lives have not been touched by cancer. With a cause this powerful and a mission so worth undertaking, it is not surprising that several local volunteers help to make up the Gala of Hope’s organizers: 


“I am honored to be among such committed and dedicated volunteers who give so much of themselves to truly making this event a wonderful success. Cancer has touched so many of us and we recognize that our strides do indeed make a difference. I march confidently with so many people in mind - both friends and family I have lost, as well as those currently and courageously fighting the fight.”

-Event Co-chair Christianne Smith, Owner of designsmith studio.


“This is my first year serving on the Gala committee and I’ve been deeply impressed by the dedication and motivation of this group of volunteers who so graciously give their time and talents and work so tirelessly to make this event such a great success year after year. I joined the committee because, like so many of you, cancer has touched my life and affected my loved ones and me very deeply. When it did, the ACS and HopeClub were there to provide support and to make things just a little more bearable.”

- Taunia Lin Kipp, Founder & Chief Technology Publicist at Competitive Velocity Business Solutions


There’s no greater calling than to unite with your neighbors throughout the region and join them on the Road to The Emerald City and the journey to support the fight against this insidious disease. 


For more information or to purchase tickets to the American Cancer Society’s Gala of Hope, visit acsgalaofhope.org or call (518) 220-6932.

Thursday, 09 April 2015 12:01

City Starts Second Century

“One Hundred Years is Only the Beginning”

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The city that has “history” at the core of its motto: Health, History, Horses, celebrated a major milestone on Tuesday, April 7 as a large contingent of citizens gathered to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Saratoga Springs. 


“One hundred years is only the beginning,” noted Mayor Joanne Yepsen, who noted how proud she was to be serving as mayor at this particular time. Looking forward, the mayor listed a number of significant centennial events to come during the year long celebration, including:

  • -June 1: Dedication of Centennial Park in Congress Park 
  • -June 22: A reenactment of the first city council meeting
  • -June 26: Rededication of the Spirit of Life and Trask Memorial


Everything surrounding this event touched upon the city’s rich history. The official act that made Saratoga Springs a city was signed into law on April 7, 1915 by Governor Charles S. Whitman, following a vote of the state legislature. Mayor Yepsen introduced some descendants of the first city council members, as well as former members of the council themselves, in addition current office holders (or their representatives) from local, state and national government.


The historic site of the gathering, the Saratoga Springs Visitor Center, was opened in 1915 as a station for the Hudson Valley Railway. It later became used as known as the Drink Hall in the 1940s, where people would gather to taste the waters from the city’s many mineral springs. 


Mayor Yepsen introduced Assistant City Attorney (and history aficionado) Tony Izzo, who further painted a picture of the fledgling city a century ago. Dressed authentically for a century ago (down to the bowler hat and pocket watch) Izzo stated that in 1915, a gallon of gas was 15 cents, a good steak might cost you 20 cents a pound, and one of the earliest ordinances the first city council passed was that “No chickens or pigs could run free in the City of Saratoga Springs. Izzo noted that this piece of groundbreaking legislation “…was still in effect today.” 


He also spoke about the architectural appearance of the city 100 years ago, saying that if you walked down Broadway, many of the buildings of that era, such as City Hall (which was originally Town Hall, built in 1871) and the Adirondack Trust building were standing at that time. However, once you got off Broadway the character of the city appeared to be much more agricultural in nature than it is today.


What followed could be called nothing less than a parade of proclamations, presented to the mayor from officials and representatives of political officials at all levels of government. Sean Shortell represented U.S. Congressman Paul Tonko and noted how, as a native to the area, he was thrilled to be here on this day. 


Mark Streb, Capital District Regional Representative for Governor Andrew Cuomo, took note of the large turnout at the Visitor Center, saying that he has been to several similar anniversary celebrations throughout the state, but none were as well attended. “The true greatness of a community comes from the people that live there,” he said. 

From the State Senate, Tom Lewis represented Kathy Marchione and Mike Manson spoke on behalf of Hugh Farley. 


Assemblyperson Carrie Woerner was in attendance. Her proclamation called Saratoga Springs “a place of singular renown.” County Supervisor Peter Martin then read portions of a proclamation from the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors. 


After the proclamations and ceremony, Mayor Yepsen reached back again into the city’s history – inviting attendees to sample the waters from the springs, as people did in the old Drink Hall – along with learning the details and history about each from expert Trent Millet, who leads tours of the springs and lectures on the subject. 


For a complete calendar of centennial events and more information, visit saratogacentennial.com

Wednesday, 08 April 2015 14:11

Skidmore Observes Autism Awareness Month

SARATOGA SPRINGSSkidmore College will again observe Autism Awareness Month with a program titled “Autism Awareness and Acceptance,” scheduled April 13-21 on campus.


The schedule is completely coordinated by students of Professor Rachel Mann Rosan in the course titled “PS 212B:  Developmental Disabilities and Autism.” Each year Rosan assigns her students the task of developing programming for the community to increase awareness about autism, including research and services that are available in the region.


All events are free and open to the public. 


Schedule of Events


Monday, April 13th at 6:30 p.m.

Susan Parrillo, Philosophy & Religion, Skidmore College

Philosophical Perspectives on Autism Spectrum Disorder 

Susan Parrillo will discuss various philosophical perspectives of ASD from the perspective of the philosophy of disability.

Tisch 301


Tuesday, April 14th at 6:30 p.m.

Valerie Bolivar, Ph.D., Wadsworth Center

Using Mouse Models to Test Hypotheses about the Etiology of Autism Spectrum Disorder 

Dr. Bolivar will discuss the current research on her laboratory examining autism-relevant behaviors in a variety of inbred strains of mice (e.g., BTBR T+ Itpr3tf/J, C57BL/6J, FVB/NJ).

Tisch 202


Wednesday, April 15th at 6:30 p.m.

Beth McLaughlin, MSE, LCAT, MT-BC & Karli Powers, MAT, Wildwood School

Infusing the Arts in Learning with Students on the Autism Spectrum

Attendees will learn how music & the visual arts are used collaboratively at the Wildwood School to engage students in experiences that enrich their learning while reinforcing academic, social, motor, & management skills.

Tisch 202


Thursday, April 16th at 6:15 p.m.

Julie Marks, Tara Ham, Loretta Longo, Laureen Faulkner, Sue Reiter

Panel Discussion with Parents

A panel presentation of parents sharing their stories of raising and loving children with ASD.

Palamountain 301


Sunday April, 19th from 12:00 –3:00 p.m.

4th Annual Autism Informational Fair & Carnival


Saratoga Bridges, Inc. & The Parent Network of the Capital Region With The Skidmore College Psychology Department  

Presented by: The Law Office of Wilcenski & Pleat, PLLC

Saratoga Springs City Center


Monday April 20th at 6:15 p.m.

Eric Olefson, Therase Faulkner, Melanie Hecker, Marcie Reiter

What is it Like to Have ASD?

Individuals with ASD will speak frankly about their experiences regarding all facets of life and their perspectives

Palamountain 301


Tuesday April 21st at 7:00 p.m.

Wretches & Jabberers

Growing up, two men with ASD, Tracy Thresher & Larry Bissonnette were presumed “retarded” & excluded from normal school.  Now able to communicate by typing, Thresher & Bissonnette put a new face of autism as they travel and meet others with autism in Sri Lanka, Japan, & Finland



Emerson Auditorium

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Saratoga Arts is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2015 Community Arts Grants for organizations and individual artists in Fulton, Montgomery, and Saratoga Counties. Twenty six applicants, including four for arts education programs and two individual artist grants, will be awarded a total of $78,894 to support community-based arts taking place in 2015.


On Wed. Apr. 8, from 6 – 8 p.m., Saratoga Arts (320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs) will hold a reception to celebrate the 2015 Grant Awardees. The public is invited to attend.


This year’s grant recipients and their funded projects will offer many opportunities to experience a wide array of artistic and musical events highlighting talented local and regional artists. Some events include: Hispanic Heritage Celebration and Dance Party at the Clifton Park - Halfmoon Library; Celebrating the Parks-Bentley Place Through the Centuries, coordinated by the Historical Society of Moreau, including a concert performance by Flame, a group of talented musicians from upstate New York who happen to have disabilities. 


The 2015 Saratoga County Recipients:


Asian Culture Inc., Clifton Park, 2015 Chinese Culture Dance Gala,  $2,500


Shawn Atkins, Saratoga Springs, The Forest Speaks, $2,500


Ballston Spa Film Festival, Ballston Spa, 8th Annual Ballston Spa International Short Film Festival,  $3,500


Clifton Park Public Library, Clifton Park, Hispanic Heritage Celebration and Dance Party,  $1,000


Friends of Saratoga Battlefield, Schuylerville, Music and Arts in the Park,  $3,000


Mechanicville Public Library, Mechanicville, Tunes at Tallmadge, $3,055


Historical Society of Moreau, South Glens Falls, Celebrating the Parks-Bentley Place Through the Centuries, $2,500


Jill Kovachick, Saratoga Springs, in partnership with Saratoga Springs High School, Ceramic Residency, $2,325


Saratoga Choral Festival, Saratoga Springs, 2015 Saratoga Choral Festival, $2,000  


Saratoga Shakespeare Co., Saratoga Springs, Artistic Salary Support for Love's Labor's Lost,  $5,000


Susan Shanley, Saratoga Springs, in partnership with Schuylerville High School, Animals, Animals, Animals Mural Project, $1,875


Spring Street Gallery, Saratoga Springs, Where Biology Meets Visual Art, $3,600 


Town of Corinth Youth Commission, Corinth, Summer Theatre Workshop 2015, $5,000

Friday, 03 April 2015 10:21

Grab Your Hat, Cat!

And Head To Saratoga Children’s Theatre’s Seussical Family Fun Festival 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – An evening of activities that the whole family can enjoy will await you at Saratoga Children’s Theatre’s (SCT) Seussical Family Fun Festival. The event will take place on Friday, Apr. 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Saratoga Music Hall, above City Hall at 474 Broadway, Saratoga Springs.


This event is to help fund a great cause and serves as the kickoff to a campaign to send SCT’s teen troupe to perform at The National Performing Arts Festival at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida next February 18 to 22. Admission to the festival is $15 for adults, $5 for kids and one child admission is free with each paid adult admission.  


A special appearance by the local family friendly music group Seth and the Moody Melix is part of the activities at the Music Hall. Their music was recently featured on the Food Network and they helped Chef Paula Deen during the first two dates of her live cooking tour in Tennessee. 


Now back home in Saratoga Springs, front man Seth Warden, a father of three, is busy with activities for his kids, which led to a desire to help SCT. 


“Our daughters have been involved in the Saratoga Children's Theater now for two years, and each year I’ve watched them become more and more confident and proud of the work they've put in with SCT,” Seth said. “It was really just a matter of time before SCT and Seth and the

Moody Melix became acquainted and we are thrilled to join them in their fundraising efforts.” 


Seth and the Moody Melix will be performing music from their debut CD; “Hi, Hello, How do you do?” along with a handful of new songs which will be featured on their second release which is anticipated to be released this summer. 


SCT’s teen troupe members, no doubt in full Dr. Seuss regalia, will administer the other activities including face painting, a cake walk contest and a dance party. Also, the entire teen troupe will perform the opening number from Seussical. 


In addition to the admission proceeds, the family fun festival will also have an additional opportunity to donate with a Disney theme. This will mark the debut of a Mickey Mouse pledge card – which will be placed on a traveling “wall of fame” that will tour with SCT throughout its performances and campaign events as they seek to fund their trip to Florida. 


This trip is certainly an ambitious undertaking. According to Meg Kelly, SCT’s executive director, the cost for travel, lodging and workshop fees to attend the National Performance Arts Festival is about $1,500 per child, with many members of the teen troupe in need of either full or partial funding to attend. 


But once there, members of the SCT teen troupe will enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience to perform before Disney casting personnel against other drama student groups and receive feedback from some of the best in the business. They will also have the opportunity to participate in workshops and clinics in areas such as audition and vocal techniques, stage movement and scene development.


During the Performance Arts Festival, the SCT teen troupe’s group performance competition will take place at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort Performance Hall, which hopefully will give them a “home-field advantage” of sorts. There will be opportunities for troupe members to participate in solo and duo competitions as well. 


At the end of the National Performing Arts Festival, an awards ceremony will take place at Disney’s Superstar Television Theater, with a showcase performance for the winning performers on The Waterside Stage at Downtown Disney. 

So the Apr. 10 Seussical Family Fun Festival is not only an opportunity for you and your family to have a great time, but a chance to help young performers who do so much to enrich the cultural fabric in our community “wish upon a star” and maybe grab a few for themselves. 

 For more information, visit saratogachildrenstheatre.org

Friday, 03 April 2015 10:08

Pain In The Pothole

City, County Try To Catch Up On Road Patch Up

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Take it from a person in a position to know:


“This winter was definitely worse than last year, which happened to be the worst in a long time.” 


So stated Commissioner of Public Works for Saratoga County Keith Manz regarding the current pothole outbreak through our region. Of course, anyone need only drive a couple of blocks to conclude the same thing. 


We are bouncing around, ruining alignments and losing hubcaps all over the place – increasing the stress of driving under less than ideal conditions. One who experienced this firsthand is lifelong Saratoga Springs resident Anne Proulx.


“In the beginning of February we were heading to Wal-Mart along Weibel Avenue. I made a turn and – boom – right into a hole.” She said. “I thought I was just running through some water, but I had no idea that the water was covering a huge gap in the road until I looked at it closely later on. I didn’t learn until I returned home that I had lost my second hubcap of the winter.” 


“The road in front of Saratoga TODAY (Case Street) is an absolute mess because of potholes every winter. I called and left a message for the head of the DPW a few months ago but never heard back or saw any progress.” Said Chad Beatty, Publisher of Saratoga TODAY.


“This road has been an ongoing issue. It’s ironic because the road leads into Fasig-Tipton. They do $20+ million in horse sales on a single summer weekend but there is a low budget road out front all year.” Beatty said.


Generally, winter potholes form after precipitation permeates the pavement, causing the soil and sub-base layers underneath to freeze and expand leading to cracks in the pavement. As thawing occurs, sub-base and soil recede, often leaving a hole underneath the cracked pavement, which breaks further under the weight of vehicular traffic. 


There you have pothole pain in a paragraph. Each pothole can deepen or widen over time as more vehicles travel over it if not repaired.


According to Manz, what makes this winter so tough is that we never really got a mid-winter thaw. “Consistent frozen ground is much worse than a typical freeze/thaw cycle,” he said. “Eventually the thawing occurs and leads to a more severe effect.” 


Kathy Moran, office manager for Saratoga Springs’ Department of Public Works (DPW) said that they have three crews out each day in the city: covering Geyser Crest, Westside and Eastside. They are marking locations and a truck is dispatched to nearby asphalt providers in the city (Pompa Brothers or Palette Stone) to employ a process called “cold patch,” which is a temporary fix until repaving can occur. 


Why this intermediate step? Manz explained that the ground should be above 40 degrees to properly repave the road’s blacktop. He estimates that it is about 32 degrees currently. In the short-term, the prospect is for the pothole outbreak to get worse. 


“There is certainly more to come,” Manz said. “A 55-60 degree day or two will make the pavement even more pliable” as the ground thaws further. In fact, the forecast on the day this issue is published calls for a high of 62 degrees, with rain.


Moran said that the crews are aware of most pothole locations by now, but if city residents want to report a particular pothole, they are welcome to call the DPW office at (518) 587-3550 ext. 2555.


Manz said that up to four of his eight crews are consistently out each day now, rotating through the county to make pothole repairs. He also noted that the county has a repair hotline to report potholes and other road hazards – (518) 885-9020. When they receive a complaint, they dispatch a foreman to inspect the location and, if deemed necessary, will divert a crew to that spot, usually by the next day. 


Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen doesn’t control the paving budget items under the city’s commission form of government, but she certainly hears about citizen’s discontent. 


“We do recommend that their first call go to DPW. Many people do call us though as a secondary measure, feeling that it will lead to a quicker response and we want to be attentive to that and not give them ‘the city hall shuffle.’” She said.  


Mayor Yepsen said she was pleased that some relief came from the state in the form of increased money from the Department of Transportation’s CHIPS (Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Plan) fund. A total of $40 million extra was allocated for “Extreme Winter Recovery” statewide, with the city receiving over $57,000 (Saratoga County also received over $209,000) according to the New York State Conference of Mayors website (nycom.org). This represents just under a 10 percent increase over the initial CHIPS funding levels. 


The money certainly will help this region recover from the ravages of nature’s wrath this past winter, but there is likely long road ahead to getting us all “patched up,” let alone paved. 


“There’s an image component, of course. You don’t want people to have a miserable experience driving around our city.” Mayor Yepsen said. “But even more important are safety issues, not to mention the potential for hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in damage to our citizens’ and visitors’ vehicles.”

Friday, 27 March 2015 11:52

“Success Feels Awesome!”

Saratoga Bridges Client is a Story of Triumph

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Meet Amanda Baillargeon. She’s got a lot of things going for herself: A sunny disposition, stunning artistic talent and a future that is brighter not just because of the assistance she was able to receive, but also because of her own drive. Amanda is an example that shows that people with learning disabilities can do more than just survive – they can thrive and achieve great things. 


As March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month it’s a perfect time to tell her story. A success story that exhibits how important local, not-for-profit social service organizations like Saratoga Bridges are to their client’s lives – enabling them to maximize their potential. How, in a proper nurturing environment, great things are possible. But that’s only half the story. 


The other half is the spirit of people like Amanda Baillargeon. You talk to her and you can’t help but be touched and inspired. 


She is an extremely talented artist, who has maximized her talents since coming to Saratoga Bridges’ Creative Endeavors facility in Ballston Spa in 2004. Amanda’s mentor was Barbara Grey. “I love it! I’m in my own world!” Amanda says with a smile, and given the chance to develop that world, Amanda has received great acclaim. 


Amanda said she gets her primary inspiration from photographs and Beatrix Potter prints. Her pieces have been featured in innumerable shows and exhibits. In particular, she has been recognized as a standout at the prestigious The Arc Otsego’s Voice! Annual juried art exhibition opening, which contains works by artists with developmental disabilities from across New York State.  Amanda’s watercolor painting ‘Love Birds’ was featured in Voice!5.  Her piece “Reflections” was selected for the cover for Voice! 6. She had a piece included in Voice!7.  At the Voice!9 Art Show, Amanda won 1st place for her painting “The Wait” and received a $300 prize. The painting sold during the opening reception for $125. Additionally, at the Creative Endeavors “Through My Eyes” juried art show, her piece “Garden of Wild Flowers” won 3rd Place and received $100.


“I’ve been her instructor for seven years, and Amanda has come incredibly far,” said Darlene Petralia, an instructor at Creative Endeavors. “Not just in her technical artwork abilities, but in how it has made a huge difference in her ability to relate and socialize with others. She has just really blossomed. I can see her developing a great following.” 


Art is a cornerstone of Amanda’s life, but her success is evident in other areas of life as well. She is particularly fond of swimming, receiving two silver and one bronze medal at the Special Olympics. You can find her at the Skidmore pool each week, and participating as a Walking Buddy at Saratoga Bridges, which pairs up an individual with a staff member. Amanda’s partner is Executive Director, Valerie Muratori. 


“Amanda and I have enjoyed being Walking Buddies. We motivate each other with the goal of staying fit even throughout the cold winter.” Muratori said. Amanda stated that they walk three times around the building each possible day, and with great pride noted that she has lost 30 pounds through her commitment to health and wellness. She is now a member of Saratoga Bridges’ wellness committee. 


The programs at Saratoga Bridges have also given Amanda the skill set to work in various capacities. She assists Bridges’ Communications Specialist Pamela Polacsek.


“Amanda truly makes my job rewarding. “It’s a sincere privilege to provide an opportunity for Amanda to fulfill her life’s aspirations, interests and dreams. It is especially rewarding to see her accomplishing some of these goals.” Polacsek said. 


Also, last July Amanda began working at TJMaxx. Since being trained and learning the requirements of the job, she works with a team as a backroom clerk to process new merchandise. “Saratoga Bridges is proud of our relationships with businesses throughout Saratoga County.  We work very hard to understand each of our business partner’s expectations so the best possible employee is placed in that best position. TJ Maxx is an prime example of a longstanding, strong supporter of hiring people with disabilities and for that we are most grateful.” Polacsek comments. “Also, Amanda has been a hostess at our two of our largest fundraisers - The White Party Gala and Travers Day at the Races.”


It doesn’t end there. Amanda is a 2011 graduate of “Bridges to Skidmore,” a modified college experience, and was a student mentor in 2013-14. Participants from Saratoga Bridges are brought to the Skidmore campus on a weekly basis and are paired with a Skidmore student for the duration of the semester. At the end of each semester, a celebratory luncheon is held. Saratoga Bridges participants invite staff and family. They graduate from the program after four continuous semesters of participation. Amanda credits her parents for their support in all these areas, “They’re my best friends!” She said.


Amanda is now living in a community-based home with five women in Saratoga Springs, where she enjoys activities like cooking, going to the library, movies and shopping. But though she has come far, Amanda is not without several goals for the future. 


With five women and three bathrooms in her apartment, it’s no surprise that she has a goal of getting her own apartment. Saratoga Bridges has access to six “supportive apartments” which would afford her more autonomy. Also, her big dream is “to start an art camp for kids with developmental disabilities.” She said. 


Once you get to know Amanda, you learn that you wouldn’t want to bet against her accomplishing anything she has her mind set to. And that’s why the work Saratoga Bridges does is so important. 


“Success feels awesome!” Amanda says.

Friday, 20 March 2015 10:59

Making the Case

Saratoga National Proposes ‘Destination Resort’

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Saratoga National Golf Club is proposing to expand its facilities over 15 additional acres on its property. This would provide additional amenities that would make it a year-round destination resort. They made their case for the expansion, supplemented with supporting data from business and civic leaders, at a panel presentation on Monday, Mar. 16 at the Gideon Putnam Hotel. 


However, in order for this plan to proceed through the city’s land use review boards, the City Council will have to approve a motion in the Saratoga Springs Comprehensive Plan for a zoning change: Making an “Open Space Resort Overlay” exemption at the site, as it is inside the city’s Conservation Development District, or Greenbelt area where this is currently prohibited. 


The plan, as detailed by Tom Newkirk, CEO of Saratoga National, represented what he called a “once in a lifetime opportunity” would add several new facilities, including: 


  • -A hotel with up to 100 new lodging rooms with related amenities
  • -A Spa and Fitness/Wellness center with expanded locker facilities
  • -Up to four golf cottage units for group overnight accommodations
  • -Up to 100 residential condominium units
  • -Connection to the Greenbelt Trail system and other nature trails
  • -Year-round amenities to attract destination tourism, such as winter sports and kayaking


Additionally, the plan calls for enhancements to existing facilities, such as Prime restaurant. 


In return for the ability to develop the additional 15 acres, Saratoga National proposed to put the remainder of its property, a total of 378 acres, or about 93 percent of their property (including the existing golf course) into a Conservation Easement Agreement that will prevent any future development or change to the current open space unless approved by both the city council and a (to be) designated environmental group.


Newkirk noted that 80 percent of his customers and revenues come from outside Saratoga Springs and that Saratoga National was not seeking any tax breaks. Their presentation listed the following estimate of potential benefits arising out of getting the Resort Overlay approved:


• Create an additional $10 million of economic impact within the City of Saratoga Springs

• Generate an additional $2.5 million in annual tax revenue

• Create an additional 260 jobs and payroll of $2.8+ million


Each member of the panel offered a range of perspectives that made a case as to why they felt this project deserved support.


Michael J. Toohey, Esq. brought up the ironic point that under current zoning, Saratoga National is permitted to build 50 to 73 houses on the property, which would obviously have a more intrusive visual and sprawl impact than what Saratoga National was proposing. This was not an option being considered at this time, Toohey noted, and the proposed development would be set back a minimum of 3000 feet from Union Avenue. 


Michael Phinney, president of Phinney Design Group, detailed the proposed phases in which the project would be rolled out. He also detailed how resorts in outlying areas of cities successfully interfaced with historic downtowns, citing Lenox, MA as an example. He emphasized the sustainable design of this project, with significant wetland remediation at its core. 


The need for a destination resort in Saratoga Springs to be competitive was emphasized by Todd Garofano, president of the Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau. He noted that in 2014, Saratoga Springs lost 20 group opportunities to neighboring destinations (such as the Sagamore in Lake George or Equinox in Manchester, Vermont) that were looking for a luxury golf/spa resort location. This resulted in the loss of 13,000 room nights and over $7 million in economic impact. 


Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, noted that both the primary and secondary target audiences that they have identified for external marketing have prime interests in the exact amenities the proposed destination resort would provide or enhance: Sports and cultural attractions including bicycling and resort golf opportunities. 


Jeff Olson, a principal at Alta Planning and Design, spoke about Saratoga National’s investment in a key link of the 24 mile Greenbelt trail system on it’s property and the benefits to all residents. Once completed, the Greenbelt trail system will place Saratoga Springs “at the hub of a county-wide trail system” that will yield health and mobility benefits for all residents in addition to economic ones. He concluded by asking if someone were proposing a major community asset, such as SPAC or Skidmore College today “would they be allowed to build it?”


And that is the ultimate question: will the City Council approve a zoning amendment that allows this project to even be considered? Right now, it’s a plan with admittedly widespread support from several sectors. But without a pathway to proceed, it stays on the drawing board. 


The public comments from the audience were mostly supportive of the project, with minor concerns expressed. For instance, Pat Izzo, a resident of Piping Rock Circle, was not opposed to the project, but felt that the traffic impact on the intersections of nearby Gilbert Road with Union and Lake Avenues should be addressed. 

But significant public comment against the concept of any encroachment in the Greenbelt led the City Council to unanimously approve a resolution prohibiting any Planned Unit Developments (PUD) in the Conservation Development District on Dec. 2, 2014. Whether they will consider a Resort Overlay proposal remains to be seen. 


A leading organization in opposition to any Greenbelt development is Sustainable Saratoga. Their representatives were invited to participate in Monday’s forum, but declined to attend. In a release, Harry Moran, chair of Sustainable Saratoga characterized the meeting as  “…a marketing event to launch a specific development project which is exactly the opposite of the comprehensive perspective we find appropriate for this level of planning.” Several members of Monday’s panel expressed regret that Sustainable Saratoga declined to participate, noting that they were seeking a balanced, open discussion on the topic. 



However, there is no doubt that the discussion is far from over, and ultimately this subject may do as much to define the character and direction of the current City Council as the casino issue. 


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