City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Stewart’s Shops has acquired eight convenience stores, three car washes, a 75-plus dealer network and fuel distribution business, the company announced Nov. 13. The acquisition involves Red-Kap, a locally owned family run business.
The eight convenience stores are located across the Capital Region – including South Broadway in Saratoga Springs, and the car washes are currently located in Schenectady, Loudonville and East Greenbush, according to the Red-Kap website. Stewart’s plans to maintain the branding of the Mobil, Citgo, and Sunoco stations and will convert a few of the Red-Kap locations into Stewart’s Shops.
“From our humble beginnings in one gas station, Red-Kap has grown to be a multi-site convenience store and car wash operator as well as one of the largest gasoline suppliers in upstate New York,” Red-Kap principal Jon Kaplan said in a prepared statement. “Being acquired by Stewart’s is our final success. We have had a long and prosperous relationship with Stewart’s, during which we have grown to respect and trust them. We know that we are leaving our employees and customers in good hands and able to face the challenges of the future with Stewart’s and the Dake family. Knowing that Stewart’s is a locally-owned family business only adds to our contentment with this transaction.”
Red-Kap (Redmond-Kaplan) was initially formed in 1933. According to the company website, Red-Kap has more than 60 employees and sells more than 60 million gallons of gasoline and diesel annually, and includes a fleet of five 12,000 gallon trucks.
“Both organizations come from long local family histories that have helped form the communities where we live,” said Stewart’s Shops president Gary Dake. “The acquisition will add eight corporately run locations and a significant addition of gasoline supply and distribution to local stations. Stewart’s prides itself on vertical integration and support. In the age of Covid, with an ever-changing business climate, we look forward to extending this support to the Distributor/Dealer network.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — During the next five weeks, social behavior will play a critical role in determining how many people get sick and the ability of keeping schools and businesses open, state Gov. Andrew Cuomo explained in a series of press briefings this week.
“We are coming into the high social season, the highest socialization period of the year. How high will the infection rate go between now and New Year's Eve? There are more parties, people are shopping, students are coming home from college in states with higher infection rates, there are more family gatherings,” Cuomo said. “This is a toxic cocktail of dynamics and facts.”
New York is currently the fourth lowest state in the nation in infection rates, behind only Maine, Hawaii, and Vermont.
COVID infection rates have been on the increase, however, over the past few weeks. Cuomo said communities are facing a dangerous period because of the potential increase in social activity of the holiday season.
The results of people’s willingness, or unwillingness to maintain safety protocols likely will best be realized in reporting data from Dec. 1-10 – relative to potential Thanksgiving and Black Friday gatherings - and again from Jan. 2-10, the latter showing the results of the December holiday season and New Year’s Eve, the governor explained.
“The vaccine is starting to come in December, January depending on who you believe. It will be for first high need populations: nursing homes... I will wager you dollars to doughnuts it's six months at a minimum before you hit critical mass with the vaccine. You can't take six months of unrestricted increase,” Cuomo said.
Learning lessons in real time, the state has modified its focus of identifying problem areas in order to minimize spread of the virus, adopting a “micro-cluster” strategy. Test data, hospital admissions, and transmission rates are studied to closely monitor COVID impact trends, detect spread levels across the state and identify cluster “zones.” Those zones go beyond traditional geographic boundaries, such as zip codes and county lines. Once identified, restrictive protocols are then placed upon those zones, and cautionary warnings are issued in neighboring “buffer zones” to reduce the threat of viral transmission.
“A micro-cluster is small. It's your neighborhood. It could be a couple of miles in geography. It is literally your community. If we put in economic restrictions, we don't have to restrict everyone,” Cuomo said. “What people should be asking now is: What is my community's infection rate? Not what is the state rate, or even what is the regional infection rate, because it's different across the state.”
That information is not easy to come by on a daily basis, however. The state reports infection rates daily, seven days a week, but reports are provided most specifically on a county-by-county basis. The Saratoga County Department of Public Health Services makes its data public five days a week; they do not report on weekends or holidays. The county provides specific village, town and city number of infections, but it does not provide the number of tests conducted in those municipalities, so, whether the percentage rate is rising or falling in any given community cannot be easily determined.
Statewide, the rate of infection on average is about 3% positivity currently. In Saratoga County as a whole, the current 7-day rolling average infection rate is about 2.35%, climbing over 2% for the first time since mid-May.
How it works: Areas where a cluster of high infection rates occur are flagged into one of three category zones – yellow, orange, and red – with an increasing number of safety protocols implemented alongside the increase in COVID spread.
The state varies target metrics according to county population. Saratoga County is listed in Tier 2. Information specific to areas within Saratoga County is as follows:
YELLOW ZONE: 7-day rolling average positivity above 3% for 10 days. Precautionary/Buffer: put in place as a broader buffer area to ensure COVID outbreak is not spreading into the broader community, or is implemented independently based on the metrics.
Protocols - House of Worship: 50% capacity. Mass Gathering: 25 people maximum indoors and outdoors. Businesses: Open. Schools: Open, mandatory 20% weekly testing of students and teachers/staff for in-person settings.
ORANGE ZONE: 7-day rolling average positivity above 4% for 10 days. Warning/Buffer: put in place primarily in densely populated urban areas as a tight buffer zone around a Red Zone micro-cluster area, or is implemented independently as a focus area based on metrics.
Protocols - House of Worship: 33% capacity, 25 people max. Mass Gathering: 10 people maximum indoors and outdoors. Businesses: Closing high-risk, non-essential businesses such as gyms, personal care, etc. Schools: Closed, remote only.
RED ZONE: 7-day rolling average positivity above 5% for 10 days. Micro-Cluster: a focus area put in place to contain spread from a specific, defined geographic area.
Protocols - House of Worship: 25% capacity, 10 people max. Mass Gathering: prohibited. Businesses: Essential businesses open only. Schools: Closed, remote only.
To ease restrictions, there must be a decline in positivity in the daily 7-day rolling average over a 10-day period followed by a three-day period of maintaining a positivity rate below the entry level percentage of each zone.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Beatlemore Skidmania, the popular annual concert that features Skidmore students’ reinterpretations of Beatles classics, will be celebrated virtually this year as the Skidmore tradition celebrates its 20th anniversary.
The performance is set for release at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 20 and can be viewed on the Beatlemore Skidmania webpage or via Vimeo.
This year’s theme is “The Complete Beatles: ‘Please Please Me’ to ‘Let it Be.’ Interpretations of any song from the band’s vast catalog were considered. The concert is free to view.
Distinguished Artist-in-Residence Joel Brown worked with a committee of students to organize this year’s event.
Professor of Music Emeritus Gordon Thompson taught courses and led seminars on the Beatles, in which students analyzed music, compared biographical accounts and situated the band in the historical and cultural context of the 1960s. In connection with these courses, Thompson and his students developed “Beatlemore Skidmania,” which began as an informal, end-of-semester musical celebration. The two-day event has since become an important social and artistic tradition at Skidmore.
The students who organize and manage the concert each year recruit and audition performers, work with an art class on the design, selection and sale of posters and T-shirts, and develop a marketing and advertising plan. The design for the 2020 T-shirt and logo was created by Maddy Tyler, a senior at Skidmore. 2020 Beatlemore T-shirts can be purchased at skidmoreshop.com. Proceeds benefit Skidmore Cares, which supports community organizations in Saratoga County.
For More information, go to: www.skidmore.edu/beatlemore/index.php.
Evanescence will be hosting their first public performance of the COVID era, a livestream concert experience dubbed “Evanescence: A Live Session From Rock Falcon Studio,” at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5.
“Challenges. Pushing myself to the next place. At this point in my career, the challenges are the fun parts,” Amy Lee told this newspaper in an exclusive interview conducted just prior to the band’s last Saratoga appearance, which took place at SPAC July 28, 2018.
“It makes for a very high-energy, tightrope-like feeling and in a very beautiful way different every time. It creates these very raw, vulnerable and quiet moments where you have to just be so comfortable in your own skin that you totally focus and make beautiful music. That’s what makes it so exciting to me, to do something so different.”
In 2020, those creative challenges include writing material for a new album and showcasing that material in a COVID-era world.
The band postponed their massive 2020 international tour earlier this year, and safely assembled from Nashville, Sacramento, and Germany to perform live renditions of songs from their upcoming album “The Bitter Truth” for the first time, as well as some fan favorites and a few can’t miss surprises.
Advance early bird tickets are $9.99 and can be purchased at www.EvanescenceLive.com. Fans are encouraged to buy early before prices increase on December 1 to week of show pricing. The livestream will be available through Dec. 8.
BALLSTON SPA — The four-month-long search is over.
Daniel J. Kuhles, M.D. was appointed Saratoga County Commissioner of Public Health Nov. 17 by the county Board of Supervisors during their monthly meeting.
Catherine Duncan retired from her position as county Director of Public Health on July 31. The county began a job search while upgrading the position to Commissioner of Public Health with requirements that included being a physician currently registered to practice medicine in New York State and possessing two years of experience in administrative practice in a health-related organization or government agency.
The position carries a base salary of $132,446, and a term of six years. Job responsibilities include directing, managing and regulating the Department’s delivery of public health services throughout Saratoga County.
Kuhles is a resident of Saratoga Springs and his appointment is effective Nov. 24
In other county news, the Board of Supervisors announced a public hearing regarding the proposed 2021 budget will be held 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 2, with a potential vote to take place one week later, on Dec. 9. The proposed 2021 spending plan, which was released Nov. 5, is $340 million.
Due to public health and safety concerns related to COVID-19, the public is not permitted in-person access to county meetings. The meetings are broadcast via an audio signal and using a call-in number and access code. As such, audio quality – and ultimately the public’s ability to fully comprehend the board’s activities – is often poor.
Supervisor Matt Veitch reported the county is exploring the incorporation of a $350,000 audio/video system that would improve the quality of Saratoga County public broadcasts.
Supervisor Tara Gaston added that she will in the future advocate for the hiring of a public information officer who would coordinate communications coming from the county, as well as introduce to the county Board of Supervisors a program to empower women in government.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Help from above may soon come to Saratoga Springs.
The City Council this week gave the thumbs-up to a Letter of Intent for a local company pursuing a National Science Foundation grant. The grant would allow Big Rock Technologies to develop a smart-done medical supply innovation that If successful would provide the Spa City a cutting-edge component for public safety.
“Not only does it make police and fire operations more efficient, it brings incredible (drone) technology you can use right now, in the middle of a pandemic,” said Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton, who brought the proposal to the council table this week.
“What’s amazing about it is that it was developed for a pandemic and public health crisis but say there’s a fire - you send the drone out first to tell you where the fire started before the firefighters get there,” Commissioner Dalton said.
“You could have a drone dropping off tests or medicine to neighborhoods and not risk infection. You could send the drone out to a car accident and it puts out an immediate traffic alert, it can help for mass gatherings with crowd control, in sort of a nonviolent de-escalation method. To me it’s exciting and the future of public safety,” said Commissioner Dalton.
Area resident Adam Luaces spoke to the council regarding the company involved - Big Rock Mountain – and of Big Rock Technologies’ smart-drone medical supply chain innovations. The unmanned aerial vehicles are used to carry payloads, perform deliveries, and operate cameras to assess and execute specific, highly focused operational tasks.
“We would like to make Saratoga Springs our national testbed. We would like to build and manufacture the product at the end of the grant duration here in Saratoga County,” Luaces said, regarding the potential regional benefits should the company be successful in securing the National Science Foundation grant.
“The grant is a three-phase grant that will spread over three years and we would have this in 2022 in the area,” Luaces said. “The first part would bring $1.5 million into the area if all three phases were done here in the county, and that would allow us to open up to bigger grant programs like Smart City initiatives, and Smart NY tax abatement programs.”
The private-public collaboration could also potentially bring tech jobs to the city. The grant is a “pure grant,” meaning there is no financial match on the city’s end that is required.
Police are making use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or drones, during the COVID-19 crisis, according to Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), an independent research organization that focuses on critical issues in policing. The organization recently published a 128-page report on the use of drones by public safety agencies.
Specific examples of this type of drone operation domestically during the pandemic include the Elizabeth New Jersey Police Department’s use to disperse crowds and enforce social distancing rules and the Daytona Beach Florida Police Department’s use of two drones equipped with loudspeakers to communicate with the public without getting too close, according to the PERF report. Additionally, In the United Kingdom and across Europe, police are using drones to monitor people’s movements and enforce lockdown orders, and in Israel, police are using drones to confirm that those who tested positive for COVID-19 are self-isolating.
More than 1,500 state and local police, sheriff, fire, and emergency services agencies in the U.S. are believed to have acquired drones, according to a March 2020 report published at the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College. The specific breakdown by Public Safety Agency mission points to 70% of those used by law enforcement, 20 % by fire and rescue, and 10% by emergency management. And there are more - the tally consists only of publicly disclosed public safety agencies that are reported to own at least one drone and does not include agencies with undisclosed drone programs or federal agencies.
COUNCIL EXTENDS OUTDOOR DINING THROUGH NEW YEAR’S EVE
The City Council adopted a resolution to extend an ordinance through the calendar year that allows eating and drinking establishments to operate outdoor seating areas on public property.
The measure, first enacted in June, targets specific public property areas and requires a permit. The council reported “the permit procedure continues to have a positive impact on our city’s local economy.” The ordinance was extended to midnight Dec. 31, 2020.
BUDGET 2021 DEADLINE IS NOV. 30
The city’s proposed annual budget for 2021 seeks to adjust to a near $7 million shortfall, due to what councilmembers referred to as a “COVID economy.” The 2021 proposal stands at just under $41.9 million, compared to the $48.7 million budget adopted late last year, for 2020. On the table: a 6% increase in property tax rates – which would increase the property tax payment on a home assessed at $200K by $6 per month, or $72 per year – as well as potential layoffs and budget cuts across all departments.
The council has until Nov. 30 to make changes to the Comprehensive Budget proposal, or the one that was proposed on Oct. 6 will be adopted. That proposal may be viewed in its entirety on the city’s website at: saratoga-springs.org. As of Nov. 18, a city meeting has not been scheduled to take place prior to month’s end.
BALLSTON SPA - Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner has declared victory over opponent Dave Catalfamo in her bid for re-election to the 113th Assembly District.
“While we are still waiting for official results to be posted, my lead has widened to more than 6,000 votes as the County Boards of Election continue to count absentee ballots. I am humbled that the people of the 113th Assembly District have once again entrusted me to represent them in Albany," Woerner, a Democrat said, in a prepared statement.
“I spoke to my opponent and accepted his congratulations on my victory," said Woerner, adding “sincere and heartfelt gratitude to the army of volunteers who made all the difference in this race.”
The Election Night tally in the race for a seat in the 113th Assembly District had incumbent Carrie Woerner (DEM, IND, SAM) leading David Catalfamo (REP, CON) 23,519 (52.09%) to 21,617 (47.87%) with 45,154 votes counted. Absentee ballot counting began Nov. 10.
“This election is over. These are challenging times and I wish Assemblywoman Woerner all the best as she moves forward to represent the people of the 113th Assembly District," said Republican challenger Dave Catalfamo. “Although we have not yet received the final ballot counts, it was clear that our campaign would fall short of the threshold needed to win.”
Catalfamo extended his gratitude to supporters, his family, party members, and petitioners, poll workers and others involved in the election process. “While our voting system is imperfect, it is not rigged. This election result is fair, I accept it without reservation and I strongly urge all my supporters to do the same - but that is not to suggest there aren't problems that are undermining trust in our system,” Catalfamo added. The problems, he suggested, included: “big-tech must be checked, polling is fundamentally broken, our media all too often allows their passions or financial interest to override journalistic integrity and New York's campaign finance laws decidedly favor liberal groups.”
Woerner was first elected to the New York State Assembly in November 2014, having previously served as Round Lake Village Trustee and executive director of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation. She is the chair of the Subcommittee on Agricultural Production & Technology and a member of the Assembly’s Agriculture, Local Governments, Racing and Wagering, Small Business and Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development committees, as well as a member of the Legislative Women’s Caucus.
WILTON — Aldi, which counts 2,000 stores across 36 states, opens its newest store in Wilton this week. Located just off Lowe’s Drive, the grocer will be open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Headquartered in Illinois, Aldi has more than 2,000 stores across 36 states, employs over 25,000 people and has grown steadily since opening its first US store in Iowa in 1976. The company says its national expansion is part of its plan to become the third-largest U.S. grocery retailer by store count by the end of 2022.
“We are dedicated to providing the communities we serve the best groceries at the lowest-possible prices, and we look forward to introducing Saratoga Springs to their new neighborhood grocery store,” said Chris Daniels, South Windsor division vice president for ALDI, in a statement.
Regionally, Aldi sites stores in Queensbury, Ballston Spa, Clifton Park and Glenville, according to the company’s store locator. The first store opened in 1961 in Germany.
BALLSTON SPA — The counting of absentee ballots got underway Nov. 10 at the Saratoga County Board of Elections, with two local races still to be determined.
The unofficial tally of the Saratoga Springs Charter Proposition stands at YES - 5,186 (45.06%), NO - 6,324 (54.94%) with a total 11,510 counted on Election Day.
In the race for a seat in the 113th Assembly District, incumbent Carrie Woerner (DEM, IND, SAM) leads David M. Catalfamo (REP, CON) 23,519 (52.09%) to 21,617 (47.87%) with 45,154 votes counted.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — With the swift shearing of a green ceremonial ribbon, the long awaited City Center parking facility – and the 600-plus parking spaces it brings to downtown Saratoga Springs – was unveiled this week and announced itself open for business.
Through the end of this calendar year, the first four hours of parking is free of charge. Parking rates for 2021 will be free for the first hour of parking, and $1 per hour after that first free hour, with a $15 cap charge in the 12 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. period.
The $16 million multi-floor structure features secure covered parking for over 620 vehicles, four electric car charging stations, two green spaces, a pair of elevators and an open, flat, roof top area that can be used for parking and for convention related events.
A glass-enclosed pedestrian walkway extends over Maple Avenue, connecting the parking structure with the City Center complex.
The structure was unveiled Nov. 10 during a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by regional business and economic leaders and city officials. Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly city councilmember Anthony “Skip” Scirocco addressed the crowd.
“It is so exciting to bring this needed project to fruition, and to be part of the City Center’s continued growth, but the credit for this project also belongs to many current and former city council members, City Center Authority members, City Center employees, and members of the business community,” said Ryan McMahon, executive director of the Saratoga Springs City Center.
The City Center, located at the north end of Broadway, opened in 1984 and has served as host to corporations, New York State Associations, trade groups and northeast regional organizations, gate shows, fundraising galas and social events. The conference complex offers a total of 58,000 square feet of conference space when partnered with the adjoining 242 room Saratoga Hilton Hotel.
The development of an adjoining parking structure has been debated, often vehemently, for more than a decade and the project has undergone a multitude of suggested variations.
Community concerns targeted the facility’s size, its design, and its location atop prime city-owned land. Conversely, a large contingent of business owners have long advocated for its creation, reasoning that the additional parking spaces would increase the economic vitality for downtown retail shops and restaurant. And City Center officials have discussed the need of easy parking for potential clients to compete in a marketplace with other regional centers vying for convention business.
“You always want to improve your game,” Tom Roohan, chairman of the Saratoga Springs City Center Authority, told reporters at Tuesday’s ceremony. “In December 2013 we started this process, and I think we ended up with a great project with more than 600 parking spots, a well-lit, safe and secure parking facility that will help encourage companies to come into town.” During evening hours, a security guard will be on premise to offer an added layer of safety. A limited number of yearly parking passes are available for purchase from the Saratoga Springs City Center.
The structure, which stands one block east of Broadway, was developed atop a surface lot that saw the elimination of 188 previously free parking spaces. For the time being, parking continues to be free of charge in most of the other existing public parking areas downtown, as well as on city streets.