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SARATOGA SPRINGS – History came alive recently for students at Saratoga Springs High School (SSHS).
In the intimate setting of the SSHS teaching auditorium, a little over three classes worth of local students gathered for an assembly on May 24 where seven members of the Adirondack Chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association came to share stories from their times serving their country. In attendance to share their stories were Bruce Blackie, Roger Calkins, Eugene Slavin, Paul O’Keefe, Edward Bushey, William Reid, and Robert Garland. After each speaker rose to give the audience a salute, Blackie spoke first, introducing the group’s intention to shed a light on what many have termed the “Forgotten War.”
“What we wanna do is put a personal face on what you read in the history books,” Blackie said. He continued, noting the historically significant facets of the Korean War: it was the first war in American history with no formal congressional declaration to mark the country’s entrance into it, and it ended not with a victory on either side, but with a ceasefire that holds to this day.
Calkins spoke next, first noting how each speaker had lived through WWII, which ended just five years before the start of the Korean War, and how at the time the feeling of peace was such that few thought that it would ever end, let alone so soon after. He then took students through the shape of the lands controlled by the North and the South over the course of three years, starting with the divisions of the country made by the United States and the Soviet Union after WWII, see-sawing back and forth from Northern to Southern control, before finally ending with the current dividing line at the 38th Parallel, currently known as the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
“It all happened very fast,” Calkins said.
O’Keefe spoke next, bringing a much more personal angle to his talk, telling the story of how he came to be involved in the war, and how things went for himself and his friends afterwards. O’Keefe graduated from Mechanicville High School only four days before the war began. Alongside himself, a good friend of his from school, Raymond Waldron, was also drafted, and he told the audience to remember that name, as he would be coming back to it. Before basic training, O’Keefe had never held any sort of weapon before.
“Not even a BB gun,” O’Keefe said.
Speaking of his time on the battlefield, he noted how the life of a soldier felt like being an animal.
“Your home is now a hole in the ground,” he said, telling the students about foxholes.
Coming back to his friend Waldron, O’Keefe told the story of how surprised he was to see a friend from home in the army with himself. Later on, he told students about how Waldron went on to attend Ithaca College, and eventually became a coach and respected athletic director at SSHS, despite at one time being among their bitter rivals on the sports team in Mechanicville. Waldron’s esteem within the community was so great that a street was named after him, Coach Waldron Way, just off of Washington Street in Saratoga Springs.
O’Keefe concluded his portion by highlighting the some of the graduating Blue Streaks who would be going on to attend military academies in the fall, including student athletes Hunter Choy and Will Navin, who were in attendance.
After each speaker had told their stories, they opened up the floor for student questions. Choy and Navin each came with the kinds of specific questions befitting soon-to-be members of the Armed Forces. Choy asked about the tactics employed by the forces they interacted with in Korea, to which many of the men recalled the overwhelming numbers mobilized by the Chinese, who fought on the side of North Korea alongside the Soviet Union. Navin wanted to know about the public’s perceptions of the war at the time, which according to the men was something like ignorance, as many people seemed unaware of the war. Upon returning home from combat, a few speakers recalled how many people at home were not aware that they had been gone for so long on account of the war.
Along with sharing stories from their times in the service, the speakers also stressed how important it is to honor those servicemen and women who were not lucky enough to come back, an appropriate message so close to Memorial Day.
“It is a day to remember those who never got to take their uniforms off,” O’Keefe said about the upcoming day of remembrance.
All photos by www.photoandgraphic.com.
SARATOGA COUNTY – Voters across New York State took to the polls at their local schools to vote on proposed budgets, board of education elections, and the odd proposition. Across the board in Saratoga County, budgets were passed and propositions were approved. Here are some of things that area voters decided to approve:
Saratoga Springs City School District:
-$122,712,342 2017-18 budget: Passed
-Purchase of six 66-passenger school buses, four 30-passenger buses, one 23-passenger wheelchair bus and one SUV: Passed
-Establishment of Capital Reserves Fund to ““finance future construction, general improvements, reconstruction and renovations”: Passed
Ballston Spa Central School District:
-$90,340,742 2017-18 budget: Passed
-Purchase of buses and vehicles, $907,000: Passed
-Public library funding, $55,650: Passed
-Creation of Ballston Area Recreation Commission, $30,000: Passed
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District:
-$64,492,019 2017-18 budget: Passed
-Creation of student-held school board position: Authorized
Schuylerville Central School District:
-$34,849,537 2017-18 budget: Passed
-Bus leasing proposition: Passed
-Schuylerville Public Library funding: Passed
South Glens Falls Central School District: -$57,842,074 2017-18 budget: Passed -Purchase of five buses, one with wheelchair option, and one vehicle: Passed
Galway Central School District: -$21,058,918 2017-18 budget: Passed -Proposition to purchase four school buses: Passed
Mechanicville City School District: -$25,480,499 2017-18 budget: Passed -Proposition to purchase school bus: Passed -Sale of 0.44 acres of land on Elizabeth St. to Saratoga County for $1,000 for expansion of the Zim Smith trail: Approved
SCHUYLERVILLE – Continuing the trend of raising money to fight cancer last weekend, the Schuylerville Youth Lacrosse team hosted a benefit shootout to raise money for the family of community member Mike Podkladek, who is currently in treatment for a brain tumor. The event was held at Schuyler Park on May 13, and the team estimates that anywhere from 700 to 1,000 people were in attendance. In all, over $8,000 was raised for the Podkladek family.
Mike Podkladek, along with wife Beth, is a member of the Schuylerville community and the parent of three – Jordan, Callie, and Braden. In the past, he has frequently volunteered in his children’s sports, including softball, football, hockey, and lacrosse. In November of 2016, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor that required surgery. After having his initial tumor removed, pathology reports came back which said that he had Grade 4 Glioblastoma, an untreatable cancerous brain tumor. He has since been fortunate enough to be entered into a clinical trial at Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City, where he and his wife travel to for treatments every other Tuesday.
The event saw 14 5-6 grade youth lacrosse teams from across the area in attendance. During the scheduling meeting back in March, Schuylerville coach Wayne Durr asked the others teams if they would be willing to attend the event. Upon hearing that it would be a benefit, many local programs cancelled their round robins in order to attend. Teams from Ballston Spa, Burnt Hills, Columbia, Glens Falls, Queensbury, Saratoga Springs, Scotia, and Stillwater made it to the event. Each team competed in three games and took part in a “Fastest Shot” competition.
The Podkladek family is still accepting donations from the public through a GoFundMe page. Any readers interested in donating to the family should go to www.gofundme.com/mike-podkladek-family-support-fund.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Officially known as MB 360, the Saratoga-Skidmore Consulting Partnership (SSCP) offers invaluable benefits to both Skidmore College students and local businesses. Headed by Colleen Burke, SSCP gives students from a variety of degree paths hands-on experience working as consultants for local businesses.
For the businesses themselves, they gain insights from a diverse and often international pool of young minds. Students in the program come from degree paths as varied as business management, English, psychology, and more, as well from countries all over the world, like Japan, Swaziland, Haiti, Germany, and Brazil.
As a manager in the program, Maya Reyes has been with SSCP for two semesters. During her time, she worked with Saratoga TODAY to help the publication stream-line its visual identity, as before, the design would vary significantly from page to page. Reyes and her team helped the paper develop its “blue box” strategy, making it cohesive across the whole publication.
“We undertake a lot of market research, including extensive focus groups and group surveys, so we learn how to do those things at a professional level,” Reyes said about the academic benefits of the program.
Robert Pierce is another student who has been with the program for the last two semesters. Among the projects he has been a part of, perhaps the biggest was with Death Wish Coffee. After the local extra-strength coffee company landed a commercial during Super Bowl L in 2016, the company’s national profile grew exponentially. Pierce and his group helped the company scale its practices to help meet higher demand while staying as efficient as before.
Pierce also worked with Battenkill Valley Creamery – run by Skidmore alum Seth McEachron – to help the company develop new growth strategies that focused on telling the company’s history.
“This course has been everything for me,” Pierce said. “It’s all I talk about in job interviews, it’s all employers ask about, and... I can talk about this course for hours on end. Professor Colleen Burke has been the most supportive figure in my life, in regards to job hunting, motivating me, and helping me find my true skills.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS – In a talk full of warmth, humanity, and disarming humor, Holocaust survivor Hedi McKinley spoke to an audience of Saratoga Springs High School students about the horrors she escaped and about the things she hoped people would take away from her story.
The school’s Loewenburg Auditorium was packed for the assembly on May 16. According to Ron Schorpp, a teacher who helped bring McKinley to the school, eight classes had confirmed that they would be coming beforehand, with an estimated 12 showing up in total. In addition, students had permission to leave their classes to attend if they wished.
McKinley was 18-years-old in Austria when she remembers the Nazis arriving in her hometown, noting that November 1938 had been the coldest month for the country in 20 years. Around 10 p.m. one night, she answered the door to find two boys, about 16, ordering them to get out. While they were told not to bring any of their possessions, McKinley managed to hide the house keys in her bra, which she credits with saving her life. With the help of her then-boyfriend Max – being half Jewish and half Catholic, he was permitted to wear a Nazi armband and stay safe on the streets – she fled to England, where she had been able to secure a travel visa by writing letters to names in a phone book asking for a job as a scullery maid. While she made it safely out of the country, she would lose at least 12 family members to the Holocaust.
In one of her moments of unexpected humor, McKinley noted how she had a rough time making it as a maid at first.
“I couldn’t do anything,” she said. “I couldn’t even boil and egg.”
Later, thanks to an American uncle, McKinley was able to come to America, albeit without Max, who deemed the country “fascist.”
After finishing her story, McKinley took questions from the audience, most of which were about her life since making it to America as a refugee. She talked about returning to Austria and her hometown, a painful trip which she nonetheless makes frequently. Since she now receives sums of money from the Austrian government as recompense, she prefers to give the money back to the people of Austria. On these return trips, she spends the money on “whipped cream and chocolate cake,” as well as Austrian white wine, which she recommended heartily. She also told her story of visiting Max years after leaving him to go to America, humorously noting that he married a woman who “looked just like” her. Ultimately, she was glad not to have married him. One of the biggest eruptions of laughter from the assembly came when she recounted first seeing Adolf Hitler in a procession through her hometown.
“He was not a very good looking man,” she said.
Photo header by Thomas Kika.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A handful of senior athletes from Saratoga Springs will be embarking on an exciting new journey next fall.
Saratoga Springs High School (SSHS) seniors Matthew Chmiel, Hunter Choy, Dane Feldhaus, Will Navin, and Gregory Polmatier will each be attending military academies this coming fall after graduation. Chmiel, a member of the Varsity Tennis team, will be attending the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado; Choy, a member of both the Soccer and Track & Field teams, will be attending The United States Military Academy in West Point, New York; Feldhaus, a member of the Varsity Football team, will be attending the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York; Navin, a runner with both the Cross Country and Track & Field teams, will also be attending West Point; and Polmatier, a member of both the Varsity Lacrosse and Boys Volleyball teams, will be attending the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
Chmiel is a three-year veteran of the Varsity Tennis team at SSHS. Last year, he and the rest of the team made it all the way to claim sectional titles. He currently plays doubles. He first started considering pursuing a military career after high school only a few years ago while witnessing a friend go through the application process. Not having any military history in his family, it was not something he ever thought about in his youth. He attributes his decision to apply to the Air Force Academy to his interest in studying aeronautical engineering, as well as to a general interest in military aircraft.
“I’m very excited,” Chmiel said. “I’m humbled to have the opportunity. It was such a competitive process. I know that there’s gonna be a lot of work ahead of me, but I’m ready to put in whatever it takes.
As a member of the Varsity Soccer team, Choy made it to the position of Captain after serving as the starting goalkeeper. He has also competed in Track & Field events. Attending the Military Academy at West Point has been an almost life-long dream for Choy, ever since he read a biography of General George S. Patton in second grade that inspired him to serve his country.
“I’m super excited. It’s been a long time coming,” Choy said. “It’s been a very long process and I’m extremely humbled to be able to pursue this career in the army.”
Feldhaus’s athletic history at SSHS began on the freshman baseball and football teams in ninth grade, and since then he as played on both the JV and Varsity football teams. For a long time, he knew that he wanted to get involved with either the Navy or the Marine Corps, but was never sure in what way. Having been urged to study engineering by his mother, he found the Merchant Marine Academy at a college fair, and found that it satisfied both goals, to serve his country and to study engineering.
“It’s been a long process, maybe like a 13-month application. It just never really seems to end,” Feldhaus said. “So, I’m really excited to get there and get it going.”
Navin has been involved with the track team since his freshman year at SSHS. Over the course of his varsity career, he has been the Captain of the Track & Field team, competed in the Suburban Council All-Stars team two years in a row, and set a school record in the 4x800 meter relay. West Point has been his goal since elementary school, having always wanted to serve his country from a young age.
“It’s hard to believe it’s still true,” Navin said. “I really can’t believe it, and I’m really excited.”
Polmatier has been involved in athletics since seventh grade. His varsity career began in his sophomore year when he joined the Varsity Lacrosse team. He has since served as the Captain of that team in both his junior and senior years. He also played on the Varsity Volleyball team in his junior and senior years, serving as Captain for the team as a senior. He believes that his love of sports and his desire to attend the Naval Academy in Annapolis are tied up in the same principles.
“When I’m having the most fun ever is when I’m competing with a group and working hard,” Polmatier said. “And that’s kinda the core of what the military is, just teamwork and relying on that person next to you, which is why I have a fondness for sports, and what’s led me to my interest in the military academies.”
Each of the student athletes said that they intend to continue on with athletics while attending their respective schools.
All photos by Thomas Kika.
SARATOGA COUNTY – On May 16, residents across New York State will be able to vote on the proposed budget for their local school districts. In the interest of helping potential voters in the Saratoga County area make an informed decision, we have gathered together information about what will be on the ballots for a number of major local school districts.
Saratoga Springs City School District residents will be voting on four major things: the 2017-18 budget, the Board of Education election, and two propositions. This year’s proposed budget amounts to $122,712,342, which calls for a 3.64-percent spending increase over last year. According to the district’s website, this proposed budget was designed to “preserve the outstanding quality of education for students within the district.” On the Board of Education election ballot are three candidates running for three-year terms: Anjeanette Emeka, who works in academic affairs at SUNY Empire State College, Jennifer Leidig, President and CEO of Ambiance Commerical Systems and Vice President of Ambiance, and Dr. Stephan Verral, a Board Certified Dermatologist in private practice at Gateway Dermatology in Glens Falls and Malta.
Proposition Two will authorize the district to spend $1,075,000 on six 66-passenger school buses, four 30-passenger buses, one 23-passenger wheelchair bus and one SUV. Proposition Three will authorize the creation of a “Capital Reserve Fund” to, according to the district website, “finance future construction, general improvements, reconstruction and renovations.” The fund would pull from existing funds and would not result in a tax increase.
Ballston Spa Central School District residents will be voting on a proposed 2017-18 budget, to fill three Board of Education seats, and on additional propositions. This year’s proposed budget is $90,340,742, and represents a 2.1-percent spending increase, which would result in a 0.6-percent tax increase across the district. On the Board of Education ballot, voters will chose between candidates Michael O’Donnell, Katie Thimineur, Lillian McCarthy, and Jeanne Obermayer to fill three seats. Propositions on the ballot this year include a “School Vehicle Replacement Proposition” that allows the district to spend up to $907,000 to purchase and replace buses and vehicles, permission to collect $55,650 for public library funding, and $30,000 for the Ballston Area Recreation Commission.
Schuylerville Central School District residents will vote on a proposed 2017-18 budget, to fill two Board of Education seats, and on a few propositions. This year’s proposed budget is $34,849,537, representing a spending increase of 2.1-percent. The district’s website claims that this budget will allow for the continuation of programs and services for students, and for the continued “investment in literacy and technology with the continuation of a literacy coach and technology integration specialist.” On the Board of Education ballot, voters will choose from Stanley Barber, Michael Bodnar, and Veronica Wood to fill two seats. Additional propositions will include a proposition for bus leasing and another for the Schuylerville Public Library budget.
Finally, voters in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District will vote on a 2017-18 budget, on three Board of Education candidates, and on an additional proposition. This year’s proposed budget is $64,492,019, which will represent a 2.48-percent spending increase. The Board of Education ballot will include candidates Peter Sawyer, John Blowers, and Don Marshall. Proposition Two would authorize the district to create a new Board of Education position to be held by a student from the high school.
The state-wide school budget vote will take place on May 16, from 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. Visit your district’s website to find out where your polling place will be this year.
MALTA — On May 2, endorsed Republican candidates Saratoga County Clerk Craig Hayner, Sheriff Michael Zurlo and Coroner Susan Hayes-Masa held a press conference at the Hyatt Place Hotel to formally kick off their re-election campaigns.
A former councilman in the Town of Halfmoon, Hayner, 49, was first elected as clerk in November of 2013. A lifelong resident of Halfmoon, Hayner has extensive corporate business
management experience and is a small business owner of Hayner’s Ice Cream Hall of Fame.
Zurlo, 63, a Saratoga County native was first elected sheriff in 2013. Prior to that he served as a senior inves- tigator, patrol deputy, crimi- nal investigator, sergeant and lieutenant since he first joined the Saratoga County Sheriff ’s Office. He has also served as the Town Justice for the Town of Stillwater.
Accredited by the New York State Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners, Saratoga Springs resident Hayes-Masa, 62, was first elected as County Coroner in 2013. Working for the Saratoga County Coroners office since 1995, Hayes-Masa is a certified surgical technician and has the completed the Medical Examiner/Coroner 101 Course.
Hayes-Masa is also the director of donor services at the Lions Eye Bank.
A small parcel of land which sits at a key intersection on South Broadway may soon belong to the city. The property, which once sited a gas station, sits at 209 South Broadway - adjacent to a Dunkin’ Donuts shop - and has been vacant for a decade.
The city first considered using open space funds to purchase the 0.2-acre parcel in 2008 and subsequently develop a pocket park that would feature equine sculptures. Earlier this year, in her State of The City address, city Mayor Joanne Yepsen reported that the Open Space Committee was still actively working to acquire the parcel.
A Memorandum of Understanding issued last week noted that the property owner, David Eshaghian - doing business as the Crown Oil Co. – desired to gift the parcel to the city.
“He spent a lot of time in the city when he was a kid,” Mayor Joanne Yepsen reported. “This will be a nice new gateway to the southern portion of the city.”
The one condition attached to the gift by the owner is that a memorial plaque be placed at the site in honor of his mother. A recent appraisal set the value of the parcel at $340,000. It has not yet been decided how the city may use the parcel in the future, but an open space area such as a pocket park or small pavilion seems most likely.
The City Council unanimously voted Tuesday night to enter into a memorandum of understanding – an intention to enter into a contract. Because there had been a gas station on site for decades, the premises will first be inspected prior to the council voting on whether to accept the gift.
Madigan: City 2016 FY Year Ends in A Strong Position
Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan reported Saratoga Springs closed the 2016 fiscal year in a strong financial position.
Unaudited year-end figures reveal a moderate annual operating deficit of $1.056 million - in large part driven by a $750,000 payment to settle a suit filed by The Anderson Group more than 10 years ago, Madigan said. The unaudited operating deficit, excluding this payment, was $306,000, or 0.695 percent of the $44 million 2016 Adopted Budget.
Actual 2016 revenue collected totaled $42,691,435. Actual 2016 expenditures totaled $43,747,818.
“The City Departments did a good job managing their 2016 budgets and I hope to see similar results for 2017,” the commissioner said, in a statement.
Unaudited figures indicate the city’s unassigned, unappropriated general fund balance is $9,009,362. The city has 3.3M in restricted (assigned) fund balance in the form of a retirement reserve, insurance reserve, capital reserves, tax stabilization reserve, and other miscellaneous reserves.
The Water Fund ended 2016 with a positive assigned unappropriated fund balance of $2.9 million - the fifth consecutive year the water fund reported an operating surplus. The Sewer Fund has an assigned unappropriated fund balance for 2016 of 1.8M. This is the seventh consecutive year that the sewer fund reported an operating surplus, Madigan said.
Vandalized Statues Restored and Returned to Congress Park
The “Day” and “Night” Urns and “Pan” statue in the Italian Gardens have been restored and were installed in Congress Park last Friday, said Department of Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco. The urns and statue were vandalized last year.
The Day and Night Urns - inspired by the individual marble reliefs “Day” and “Night” by artist Bertel Thorvaldsen - were originally placed in Congress Park more than a century ago. Improvements were made in the urn bases to increase stability for the cast-iron pieces, along with new drainage to prevent long-term water damage. Additional stability was added to the base of the Pan statue to prevent any future vandalism, Scirocco said.
How To Grieve Your Assessment
Finance Commissioner John Franck announced a "How to Grieve your Assessment” class will be held 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday May 9 in the City Council Room.
Residents wishing to grieve their assessment must submit an application with documentation to the Assessment Office prior to Grievance Day, which is Tuesday, May 23. For more information, and to download a Grievance Packet, go to: http://www.saratoga-springs.org/DocumentCenter/View/4213.
Preservation Foundation Honored for 40 years of Preserving Historic City Sights
City Mayor Joanne Yepsen presented a proclamation on behalf of the city to honor the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation and recognize the organization’s 40 years of preserving the architectural, cultural and landscaped heritage of Saratoga Springs.
“Had it not been for their efforts over the years, many of the historic sights and places we take for granted today would be known to us only through old photographs and memories,” Yepsen said. “In preserving our past, they have also preserved our identity. Their work is an indispensable part of what makes Saratoga Springs one of our country’s best known and loved places.”
Bike to Work Day May 19
The Capital Region “Bike to Work Challenge” will take place in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady Counties on Friday, May 19. Trophies will be awarded in each county to both small (20 or less employees) and large organizations with the largest number of riders, and to the person who rides the longest distance.
The Municipal Challenge will award a trophy for the highest percent participation for any municipality in the region, in which the mayor or supervisor rode to work.
Bike to School Day will take place May 10 and, by county, the school with the most participating students will be awarded a trophy. For more information or to register, go to https://capitalmoves.org/b2w518/
The Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 8 at City Hall.
The Planning Board will hold a meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 11 at City Hall.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Classic builds and vibrant colors returned to Saratoga Springs High School (SSHS) this past weekend for the third annual Saratoga Classic Car Show, held on April 30.
Hosted by former SSHS business teacher and classic car enthusiast John Grady, each year the show raises money for the SSHS scholarship fund. The fund provides graduating seniors with $15,000-$20,000 each year. According to Grady, the show raised $750 for the fund in its first year, and $1,000 in the second. Some of the cars at this year’s show included a 1976 Corvette Stingray belonging to Ron Delaney, a 1970 Volkswagen Baja Beetle belonging to Wendy Davis, a 1948 Austin A40 Devon belonging to Dave Insognia, and many others.
All photos by www.photoandgraphic.com.