(Left to right) A sitemap of the Burnham Hollow neighborhood showing the cul-de-sac (upper left) where new homes will be built and the formerly proposed road to the Ernst Road PUDD (in dark green). Image provided by Bill Chase; and an aerial view of the Ernst Road Planned Unit Development District (foreground) and the Burnham Hollow development in Wilton. Photo by Super Source Media LLC.
WILTON – At the Wilton town board meeting on May 3, there was a short public hearing focused on removing a road for the Ernst Road Planned Unit Development District (PUDD), so that a separate Burnham Hollow project could proceed.
Ryan Riper, the Wilton director of planning and engineering, said the cut-through road would have been private and not a town road.
Luigi Palleschi of ABD Engineers reviewed the Burnham Hollow project for the board members and the public, on behalf of North Manor Development. It consists of adding six houses in a cul-de-sac.
Riper called the town board vote a “legislative action,” adding that there is no current application pending for the Ernst Road PUDD. He said that project consists of two buildings each with eight apartment units, and confirmed that the PUDD was first proposed in 2009.
“There’s going to be a utility easement from Burnham Hollow into the Ernst Road PUDD, to allow water and sewer,” Riper said, upon questioning from a resident. The Burnham Hollow developer will grant that easement.
The board later voted unanimously to amend the Ernst Road PUDD, removing the road through the Burnham Hollow property. Construction on both projects is expected to start later this year.
Only one local woman questioned the board on the matter.
“The last thing I need now is another road on Ernst Road,” said Ilse Latour, a 29-year homeowner on Ernst Road.
“Traffic on that road is horrendous. They come around the corner from Route 9 and they fly down the road...You go out to get your newspaper and your mail, you’re lucky if you’re going to stay alive,” she added.
“Now, I’ve gotten to the point where I hold on to my mailbox, with the post, that I don’t get hit in case I can’t see a car coming. I shouldn’t have to go through this,” Latour said.
Latour explained that her husband passed away last year and can no longer speak up at Town Hall on such matters.
“Now, I’ve got to go over and fight by myself,” she said. “As long as there’s no other road, I think I can live with this.”
Wilton Supervisor Art Johnson pointed out that no new road would be created for either project.
In other business, the board heard from Joe Reinhardt who spoke on behalf of “a total of 17 veterans here in Wilton,” and questioned proposed changes to the “eligible funds veterans’ exemption.” He said it was passed in the 1980s and was different and older than the “standard” exemption for veterans.
“My main purpose tonight is to, really, make the board aware of the situation. By confronting this situation now, you’re going to save . . . a huge tax increase” for veterans. He said wants the town board to “craft the proper legislation.”
Wilton Town Clerk Sue Baldwin explained that the issue Reinhardt discussed involves changes to the Saratoga County property tax assessment (Wilton does not have a town tax). New York State is proposing a 25 percent reduction in that specific veterans’ exemption but the town board may consider a local law opposing it, she said.
“We certainly support our veterans, and we certainly want to make sure that you get whatever exemption you are entitled to. We will take the appropriate action to do that,” Johnson responded.
In photos: Ballston Spa resident Frank Rossi Jr. addresses the Milton Town Board on Wednesday, April 25, 2018; and the crowd at the May 1 special meeting. Photos by Larry Goodwin.
MILTON – The political wrangling in Milton over the town’s controversial purchase of former Boy Scout property off Route 29 will finally end on Friday, May 11.
A law firm in Troy representing the Boy Scouts’ Twin Rivers Council has given the town until 1 p.m. on May 11 to finalize a contract for the $1 million Boyhaven land deal, according to Acting Milton Attorney Thomas Peterson.
The town already has received $500,000 that was borrowed for that specific purpose.
During a special meeting this week, the Milton Town Board voted unanimously to set a second special meeting for 7 p.m. on Monday, May 7, as multiple outside groups scrambled to raise the other $500,000 before the end of next week.
“We’ll move forward as if we’re closing on the eleventh, or the deal is no longer on the table,” offered Milton Supervisor Scott Ostrander, after the town board had emerged from a 25-minute executive session on Tuesday evening.
“Failure to close on this date will result in a breach of contract, allowing the seller the right to cancel without penalty,” Peterson said, reading from an April 30 letter that was sent to the town by the law firm of Martin, Shudt, Wallace, DiLorenzo and Johnson.
Meanwhile, Saratoga Preserving Land and Nature (PLAN), Friends of the Kayaderosseras and other groups are attempting to fill a funding void that was left by an anonymous donor, who rescinded an offer last week to help Milton officials by giving the Twin Rivers Council $500,000 toward the Camp Boyhaven purchase.
Milton Planning Board Chairman Larry Woolbright, a key supporter of the effort for more than a year, posted the following statement on the Saratoga PLAN website (https://www.saratogaplan.org):
“Saratoga PLAN is working with Friends of the Kayaderosseras and other community members in the town of Milton who wish to preserve Camp Boyhaven as a public recreational and natural area,” he wrote.
“If you are willing to help by pledging a donation or by pledging a substantial low-interest loan please let us know the amount on the form below,” Woolbright advised. “Names will be kept confidential, but the number of pledges and total dollar amount pledged will be tracked and used to demonstrate public support to the town board.
“We are not collecting funds at this time,” he added. “We are only soliciting pledges of donations or substantial loan amounts, but if the deal closes we may need the money quickly.”
According to Milton Councilwoman Barbara Kerr, the funds already raised have reached nearly $100,000. She said that “certainly shows where the people’s heart is.”
Still, at the town board’s April 25 meeting, Ostrander was joined by Councilman John Frolish and members of the public in criticizing any town expenditures in the land deal.
“I’m not comfortable,” said Frolish, “with laying out $500,000 in town funds…I’m sitting here in facilities that have every roof in this place leak. And we’re going to sit here and spend a million dollars, and we aren’t ever going to address these problems. I think we need to address our essential services first, and not look at just kicking away $500,000.”
Frank Rossi Jr., who attends most public meetings in Ballston Spa and Milton, claimed that he reviewed both the town’s contract with the Twin Rivers Council and applicable state rules, saying there are “a lot of open questions in this entire process.”
“This is a lot of damned money to spend,” Rossi argued. “You are underfunded on this project in the first place, for the removal of buildings, etcetera…there is a shell game going on. There is a lot of due diligence that was missing in this project.
“This is not just a $1 million situation,” he added. “This is probably a $1.25 million situation at the end of the day.”
Despite the opposition voiced by Frolish and Ostrander, Kerr said there are two separate accounts for parks in Milton with a total of about $260,000 currently available.
In addition, she noted, state agencies have partnered with the Nature Conservancy and intend to buy a portion of the 300-acre property. The forested land contains a mile of the Kayaderosseras Creek, which ultimately feeds the western side of Saratoga Lake.
“I really hope it goes through,” Kerr said. “We could pull this off and then sell the land and pay back most of the money.”
Saratoga PLAN Executive Director Maria Trabka reported this week that raising the additional funds is not the “primary hurdle.”
“We are brainstorming,” Trabka explained, and “everybody is doing their best to find a solution” that will satisfy all interested parties.
“To be continued, in short order,” she said.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – John Grady thinks that people appreciate seeing classic cars as much they enjoy helping out aspiring students.
Grady is the chief organizer of the Saratoga Classic Car Show, which is now in its fourth year.
The retired business teacher also sits on the committee that oversees scholarships awarded to students at Saratoga Springs High School, who are the primary beneficiaries of any proceeds from the event.
“It’s a way for car enthusiasts to get together for a good cause,” Grady said this week.
Each year, Grady said, the school district’s scholarship fund awards roughly $15,000 to local seniors who are preparing for college and other students. After the awards are determined, the fund needs to be replenished, he added.
The car show makes use of his extensive experience teaching sports marketing and entrepreneurship as well.
According to Grady, somewhere between 100 and 200 vehicles are expected at this year’s show. It has been scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 6 and will be held at 3 Blue Streak Boulevard on the high school campus.
There is a $15 registration fee. The promotional flyer indicates that there will be awards given and a Chinese auction, and that food and hot beverages will be served.
DJ Andy Narzynski also will provide musical entertainment.
Want Ad Digest, Mangino Buick GMC, Albany Saratoga Speedway, Michael’s Automotive in Ballston Spa and Versatile Trailer Sales are the listed sponsors of this year’s Saratoga Classic Car Show.
For more information, call Grady at 518-583-8914.
(Left to right) Ballston Spa Fire Department Volunteer Owen Cobart at a firefighter recruiting drive on Saturday, April 28; and Olivia Rose commanding the Eagle Matt Lee ladder truck. Photos by Larry Goodwin.
BALLSTON SPA – The Village Board approved a $4.4 million spending plan for the 2018-19 fiscal year Monday night, relying on higher rates charged for water usage and reduced expenses to lower a 26 percent property tax hike that was originally projected.
The board unanimously approved the budget with a 17.5 percent property tax increase. Ballston Spa Mayor John Romano said that two of those percentage points account for the establishment of a $25,000 “contingency reserve fund for future village needs.”
The tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value will increase from about $82 to $96, or $6.87 lower than the original projection from Village Treasurer Christopher Hickey.
Romano and others also praised Trustee Robert Cavanaugh for his review of water-usage rates. The mayor said village water customers are now subject to “an increasing use scale” for semi-annual usage amounts that exceed 30,000 gallons.
Eliminating vacant positions in village departments further lowered costs. Romano also consented to cutting more than $13,000 for “family events” that he long favored, including an Easter egg hunt and a winter festival near Village Hall.
In photos: Milton Planning Board Chairman Larry Woolbright addresses the Town Board on the Boyhaven real estate contract; and Acting Town Attorney Thomas Peterson and Supervisor Scott Ostrander. Photos by Larry Goodwin.
MILTON – Months of delay have endangered carefully laid plans for Milton to finalize a contract with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for a purchase of the former Boyhaven property in the northwestern part of town.
On Wednesday night, Milton Planning Board Chairman Larry Woolbright, who has worked diligently for a year in his free time to secure the real estate transaction, made clear his displeasure with the inaction by the Milton Town Board.
Woolbright explained that a donor, who pledged $500,000 toward the purchase insisting on strict anonymity, had decided to rescind that offer due to apparent attempts to reveal his identity.
Plus, Woolbright said, the BSA Twin Rivers Council has communicated to him its intention to instead award a developer the Boyhaven property contract.
Supervisor Scott Ostrander claimed that negotiations are ongoing between Milton Town Attorney James Craig and the Twin Rivers Council legal team.
The town board agreed to continue this week’s meeting in a special session at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 1 as a means to possibly formulate a new contract with the council.
Ostrander started by reading a letter from the Saratoga County Water Quality Coordinating Committee, part of the Soil and Water Conservation District.
The committee supports the town’s Boyhaven land purchase, noting how the property off Route 29 in Middle Grove is a “regional treasure.” The letter called it “one of the least developed areas of the greater watershed” and added that Milton’s purchase would “help to permanently protect the water quality of the Kayaderosseras Creek and Saratoga Lake, also regional treasures.”
Councilwoman Barbara Kerr then requested that Ostrander allow Woolbright to speak, acknowledging how “there are people here who are concerned about it and want the latest news.”
“For the past year, I have been trying to facilitate the purchase of that property by the town for use as a passive recreational park. Boyhaven is a beautiful place, consisting of almost 300 wooded acres and a mile of the Kayaderosseras Creek. It would make a spectacular park that would offer tremendous recreational opportunities to countless generations of Milton residents,” Woolbright said.
“I want to stress that everything I have done has been as a private citizen; I volunteered to help the town board with the tasks that needed to be done,” he continued.
“When the Boy Scout council announced their intention to sell the camp in April of 2017, it represented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to preserve this beautiful spot. The town’s proposal was to pay $500,000 for a property that had appraised at $1,040,000. The council chose the town’s proposal in July 2017, despite having an offer of more money from a developer, because the majority of the council members wanted to see it preserved.
“The sales contract with the town required a closing before the end of 2017. Now, nearly four months after that deadline, we still have not closed,” Woolbright said.
There were loud murmurs in the room when he explained that a BSA official informed him that the Twin Rivers Council had decided to sign a new contract with a developer.
“There’s really no excuse for the town’s inaction,” Woolbright added. “It has been nine months since our proposal was accepted. There have been multiple resolutions concerning the project, all passed unanimously by the town board—up to and including one to borrow the $500,000, which I understand is now in the town’s bank account. There also have been considerable funds expended on appraisal, survey, environmental testing and other such expenses.”
The discussion Wednesday was further soured by Woolbright’s next revelation.
“The other thing that I want people to know, is that the sale to the town depended on the generosity of an anonymous donor, who promised to give another $500,000 to the scout council. This civic-minded individual expressed from the very beginning that his name not be made public,” Woolbright said.
“I have told no one the name of this individual, and I will not do so now or in the future. I regret to inform the board that the donor has now taken his offer of support off the table because of attempts to discover his identity. I am very sad that some people refused to respect his desire for privacy,” he added.
“At this point, the situation looks pretty bleak to me,” Woolbright concluded. “If there is any way for the town to salvage this opportunity at the last minute, I urge you to take it.”
Councilman Benny Zlotnick asked if there is any chance the donor will reconsider.
“My best guess is that he will not reconsider,” Woolbright later responded.
Zlotnick went on to compare the current situation in Milton to a previous effort to purchase Boy Scout land and expand Wilton’s Wildlife Preserve and Park.
“This happened many, many years ago at Camp Saratoga,” Zlotnick said, after fondly remembering his own early Boy Scout relationships. “They did the same thing. The council sold it for funds they needed, but the Town of Wilton had the foresight to turn it into the Wilton nature preserve. It’s open seven days a week, 365 days a year. People go up there and they walk and they bike and they cross-country ski.”
Zlotnick elicited rounds of applause for criticizing those who are attempting to expose the anonymous donor; and for seconding a motion made by Kerr to authorize a new contract for the land purchase.
“I think we have to put a better offer on the table for the scouts, and hope they go with it,” Kerr said.
She mentioned that $548,000 in contractors’ fees is coming in. Together with the $500,000 bond, that covers the new offer even without the donor, Kerr said.
Acting Milton Attorney Thomas Peterson, who sat in for Craig due to a reported illness, said the resolution would not be legitimate without “a source for those funds.”
Both Ostrander and Councilman John Frolish questioned the board’s ability to authorize the $1 million expenditure.
Peterson said he actually spoke with the Boy Scout council attorney, who explained that he saw no issues about closing on the Milton deal “in the next couple of weeks.”
Milton is “still bound by the existing contract,” Peterson added.
Kerr complained that Craig “has given us several ‘the end of this week, the end of this week, the end of this week,’ and we thought we were going to meet this deadline and it’s not happening.”
Twin Rivers Council Commissioner Drew Chesney was present at the meeting in Milton on Wednesday. He reported that there would be no “immediate action.” But without the donor’s money, he added, the council may vote to “open up the bids again.”
“Our president wants a closing date. That’s what the council wants, and we want it soon,” Chesney said.
During the lengthy public comment period, a man who owns property that borders the Boyhaven land, James Lestrange, called what is happening in Milton “absolutely inexcusable.”
“I’m just sick and tired of all of it—of government not being responsive to the needs and the wants of the people,” Lestrange said.
In photos (left to right): Ballston Spa Trustee Shawn Raymond, Mayor John Romano and Trustee Noah Shaw. Photos by Larry Goodwin.
BALLSTON SPA – In advance of a special budget meeting that has been set for next week, village officials voted unanimously on Monday to exceed the state-mandated 2 percent cap on increases to property tax rates.
A final vote regarding the 2018-19 budget was scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, April 30 in Village Hall at 66 Front Street.
Ballston Spa Mayor John Romano indicated that the Board of Trustees and other village officials are still reviewing the proposed $4.3 million spending plan ahead of a May 1 deadline. The next fiscal year starts on June 1.
Previously, a 26 percent increase in the village property tax rate had been discussed, but Romano said that rate was lowered. He declined to provide details, as negotiations are continuing this week among village officials.
In recent weeks, the mayor said, a number of reasonable ideas have been proposed to address a budget gap that exceeds $350,000, as described in a March 20 letter by Ballston Spa Treasurer Christopher Hickey.
There will be neither services cut nor village employees laid off, Romano said.
He added that some of the financial difficulties the village is now facing could be traced back to a previous decision to lower the property tax rate.
Trustee Noah Shaw pointed out how it was “lost” in recent discussions that property owners are taxed the most not by the village, but by the Ballston Spa School District.
Currently, according to Romano, a village property valued at $180,000 pays $3,345 in school taxes; $482 in county taxes; $117 in town taxes; and $694 in village taxes each year.
In addition, at the meeting Monday night, two resolutions presented by Trustee Shawn Raymond were tabled due to the absence of Village Attorney James Fauci.
Raymond is proposing to create a new electronic filing and correspondence policy in Ballston Spa, according to the official meeting agenda.
After May 1, Raymond wants “all public documents” made accessible in a digital format, including “reports, correspondence, meeting minutes, proposals, bid documents, contracts and other public documents.” Copies of those documents would be emailed to the trustees and archived in Village Hall as well.
Raymond is also proposing to “alter the procurement policy regarding services contracts,” the agenda states.
The new policy would require that any contracts exceeding $5,000 annually be subject to “request for proposals (RFP)” guidelines, in which “three or more” proposals are reviewed and the lowest bidders chosen.
BALLSTON SPA – Village Trustee Robert Cavanaugh announced this week that two separate events have been scheduled for Saturday, April 28 involving the Ballston Spa Police and Fire Departments.
A police official will be on hand Saturday to accept unused pharmaceuticals from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Local residents can discard prescribed pills that are no longer needed at the department’s headquarters, located at 30 Bath Street.
In addition, Cavanaugh said, the Ballston Spa Fire Department will conduct a volunteer recruiting drive from approximately 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Eagle Matt Lee firehouse, located at 35 Washington Street in the village.
The recruiting drive will include various demonstrations of fire department activities as well as refreshments. More information is available at http://emlbsfd.com/.
An aerial view of the Adirondack Trust site on Maple Avenue in Wilton. Photo by Super Source Media LLC; and a rendering of the new branch provided by the Adirondack Trust Company.
WILTON – With construction of a new bank branch expected to start in about a month at the intersection of Maple Avenue and Northern Pines Road, the Adirondack Trust Company (ATC) has agreed to settle a minor dispute with local residents that emerged recently over sidewalks and lighting.
The dispute involved a previous town approval of zoning rules that define the area as a hamlet, according to local resident Eric Rosenberg, who has repeatedly raised concerns about the matter at recent Wilton Planning Board meetings.
Jonathan Lapper, an attorney with the Glens Falls firm Bartlett, Pontiff, Stewart and Rhodes who represented Adirondack Trust at the board’s April 18 meeting, confirmed this week that bank officials agreed to add sidewalks and “fancy streetlights” in the new design.
“It was really a win-win,” Lapper said, adding that he expects construction to start within a month. “That’s a really important branch.”
In early 2017, a fire destroyed the previous Adirondack Trust building.
Jonathon Tingley, the attorney with Tuczinski, Gilchrist, Cavalier and Tingley in Troy who represented the residents, did not return a request for comment.
An email sent to Saratoga TODAY in early April by former town councilwoman Joanne Klepetar, a member of Concerned Citizens of Wilton, included the open letter addressed to the Adirondack Trust Board of Directors that elaborated on the group’s concerns.
“We recognize that ATC is a leader in the community and their leadership is necessary in order for Wilton to grow in the direction intended when hamlet zoning was established,” Klepetar wrote.
She claimed that the bank was “not planning to follow the hamlet guidelines which include sidewalks, street lighting, parking on the side and rear of the building along with a design that compliments others in the hamlet.”
Klepetar added: “We ask that ATC create the cornerstone building that depicts the essence of the walkable, livable, historic and unique area that Wilton's hamlet strives to be. This will enhance our sense of community and promote growth.”
According to Planning Board Chairman Michael Dobis, the resolution passed on April 18 included a provision that a certificate of occupancy for the new bank branch “would not be issued” until the satisfactory installation of sidewalks and lighting are verified.
Dobis added that he would thoroughly review the amended site plans.
Adirondack Trust Executive Vice President Charles Wait Jr. agreed that the agreement will be “good for the town of Wilton, and good for us.”
In photos: Malta/Stillwater EMS Executive Director Scott Skinner showing off his squad's newest ambulance. Photos by Larry Goodwin.
MALTA – On a Tuesday evening, the siren noise of a passing ambulance filtered through an open window in the Malta Town Complex during a routine monthly meeting of town planners.
According to Scott Skinner, executive director of Malta/Stillwater EMS a short distance south, that same vehicle was racing on Route 9 toward a stock car driver at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway who had a heart attack and required prompt medical attention.
“We took good care of him,” Skinner said.
That particular emergency on April 24 brought the ambulance service one notch closer to 1,200 response calls so far this year.
Skinner, who gave a presentation to the Malta Town Board the night before, is projecting that his EMS squad will handle more than 3,600 total calls in 2018, with 3,000 of those requiring trips to area emergency rooms.
“Our call volume is increasing every year,” he reported, noting how two-thirds of the calls fall into the category of “advanced life support.”
On May 7, the town board is expected to vote on a resolution that would start the process of creating a new EMS district in Malta, as neighboring towns have done.
The goal is to shift roughly $500,000 that Malta currently pays Malta/Stillwater EMS out of its annual budget to the Saratoga County property tax levy paid by town residents.
Malta Supervisor Vincent DeLucia said the proposal, whether it is approved by town voters in a special referendum next November or the town board, will not exceed the state-mandated 2 percent cap on property tax increases.
Many details still need to be considered, DeLucia added, such as the establishment of a formal map of the EMS district, the actual equipment used and staffing levels.
At present, Skinner told the town board members, Malta/Stillwater EMS has an annual budget of $2.4 million.
In a brief tour of the Malta/Stillwater EMS headquarters at 2449 Route 9, Skinner demonstrated an electronic lift that alone costs $20,000. It aids staff members in moving patients in and out of the squad’s newest ambulance, which he said had a price tag of $176,000.
“Anything medical is expensive,” he admitted.
DeLucia said the Town of Stillwater provides an additional $200,000 of support each year, based on the fact that Malta generates substantially more EMS calls than Stillwater due to the proximity of I-87 and three senior housing complexes.
Malta Comptroller Kevin King explained that the EMS operation obtains a large amount of its funding through bills that are sent for medical services provided.
“Our growing town has growing needs,” King added, noting how the $500,000 paid to the EMS location now could be easily redirected to maintenance projects on 70 miles of town roads or other departments in Malta.
In photos: Saratoga Springs High School alumna Jennifer Burt making a planetary point; and several images of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite that today is her specialty. Photos provided.
CAPE CANAVERAL – Jennifer Burt, who graduated from Saratoga Springs High School more than a decade ago, is part of a team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology preparing to study distant solar systems with the aid of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).
“Over the next two years, TESS is going to search for exoplanets across 85 percent of the sky, focusing specifically on the closest and brightest stars,” Burt wrote in an email that she sent this week from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
On Wednesday, she observed the successful second TESS launch attempt at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) facility in Cape Canaveral.
According to an April 18 report in USA Today, NASA partnered with the private company SpaceX to launch TESS as part of a two-year, $337 million project. Technical issues delayed an initial launch attempt.
Earlier this week, Burt’s role in the TESS project was first covered in a report by television news channel WNYT.
Burt, a Torres Exoplanet Fellow at MIT’s Kavli Institute, elaborated on the scientific data that TESS is programmed to generate.
“The mission is expected to detect thousands of exoplanets smaller than Neptune, and will be able to tell us both how large the planets are and how far away they are from the host star—that second bit of info then lets us calculate whether or not the exoplanets are inside the ‘habitable zone,’ or the region around the star where the temperature is just right for liquid water to be possible on the surface of a planet,” she wrote.
“My role in TESS actually comes after the mission detects these thousands of new exoplanets. I'll work with a variety of ground-based telescopes using precision radial velocity instruments to target the best and brightest TESS stars and measure the masses of the exoplanets that TESS discovers around them,” Burt said.
Determining the density of any newly discovered planets is “an important step in understanding what they're made of (metals, rocks, ices, gases, etc),” she continued.
“The most promising exoplanets, those with significant atmospheres around bright stars, will likely be targeted by NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope which is set to launch in 2020 and will have the ability to peer into the exoplanets' atmospheres, looking for evidence of the elements and molecules that we think might be crucial for letting life develop,” Burt wrote.
When asked how her interest in outer space had evolved from her early years in Saratoga Springs, Burt fondly remembered the guidance provided by retired science teacher Charlie Kuenzel before she graduated in 2006.
“I developed an interest in astronomy when I was a kid, thanks in large part to the dark skies outside of Saratoga and up in the Adirondacks, where my family had a summer cabin,” she wrote.
“I was extremely fortunate to attend SSHS while Charlie Kuenzel was still teaching, and more specifically while he first developed the school's NASA club. I was one of the inaugural members, and ended up as the president for a couple of years, and through that club I gained my first real experience with scientific research and realized that astronomy in particular could become a rewarding career, and not just a hobby,” Burt explained.
Today she encourages high school students to take advantage of local opportunities related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as a means to pursue similar research.
“In my mind, the ability to get the public interested in what organizations like NASA are doing is almost as important as the science itself,” Burt admitted. “For students who share a similar interest and want to help explore our solar system, our galaxy, or even the universe at large, I think that pursuing a career in a STEM field is a challenging but extremely rewarding pathway, and one that will open all sorts of interesting and exciting career opportunities as they move forward in life.”
For more information about TESS, visit the website https://tess.gsfc.nasa.gov/.