Abner Doubleday Classic yields only one real winner

BY DAN SABBATINO
dan@theballstonjournal.com

Assemblyman James Tedisco said despite however many runs are scored the real winner of the annual softball match between Saratoga County rivals Ballston Spa and Saratoga Springs is the Brookside Museum.

The Abner Doubleday Classic, now in its second year, was held at the Police Benevolent Association fields on Weibel Avenue in Saratoga Springs on Saturday, Aug. 4. Last year’s game was at Doubleday Field in Ballston Spa.

“Proceeds from this fundraiser directly support the education programs that Brookside offers to thousands of Capital Region children each year,” according to information from the museum’s staff.

Tedisco R-Glenville, who threw out the game’s honorary first pitch, said anytime two communities come together for a good cause the time spent is worthwhile. Tedisco, who was also last year’s guest of honor, said he was glad to be part of an event intended to benefit an organization, The Brookside Museum, which services a wide breadth of residents, including those from both localities.

The annual matchup between the two municipalities’ helps raise funds for the museum while also honoring the long-standing tradition of baseball in the northern Capital District.

Food and other concessions were offered to help raise money for the museum, and sponsors of the game were displayed on the back of both team’s uniforms.

Last year’s game resulted in Ballston Spa handily defeating Spa City, and this year’s games was on par with the previous contest. Ballston Spa won the game by a score of 15-3, with Ballston Spa scoring the maximum five-runs per inning limit several innings. The contest was seven innings total.

The match was held close until the fourth inning of this year’s game when Ballston Spa broke the game open in the top of the inning scoring five runs.

Ballston Spa Mayor John Romano was in attendance, and Milton Supervisor Dan Lewza, along with school district administrators, local athletes, media and residents, participated in the game. John DeGuardi, who graduated from Ballston Spa High School after playing quarterback for the football team and midfield for the lacrosse team, played a rare left-handed shortstop for Ballston Spa. DeGuardi said next year he is going on the play Division III lacrosse.

Lewza said he had not had a chance to get out and play too much softball lately but the fundraiser sparked his competitive edge, and he said he is considering getting back into playing softball. He quipped, though, playing on one of the warmest days of the summer was no walk in the park.

“It was the hottest the game I ever played in,” he said.

He said he was glad to participate in a game designed to raise money for the museum, since it plays such an important role in the county.

“Brookside is very important to both communities and to Saratoga County as a whole,” Lewza said.

Patty Tesch was team captain for Ballston Spa and Joe Templin was at the helm for Saratoga Springs.

“The Saratoga County Historical Society at Brookside is a non-profit organization located at 6 Charlton Street in Ballston Spa that inspires community memory by telling the story of Saratoga County through engaging exhibits and interactive programs. Brookside’s programs and services are made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of [Gov.] Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature,” according to information from the education institution.

For information, visit brooksidemuseum.org or call 518-885-4000.

Note: Dan Sabbatino played for Ballston Spa in the match, representing The Ballston Journal.

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Village All Set to Expand

Milton, Ballston Spa put annexation plan in motion; final vote slated for June 20 

BY BARBARA COOK
barbara@theballstonjournal.com

The village is on its way to growing by a little more than an acre, following a joint public hearing at the Milton town hall Tuesday evening.

A town-owned lot at the corner of Northline Road and Salem Drive is set to be annexed from the town to the village. Photo by Barbara Cook

Vacant town-owned land at the corner of Northline Road and Salem Drive is in the process of being annexed from the town to the village. Under town zoning regulations, the 1.3-acre parcel could only be subdivided into two lots, but under village zoning it can be divided into four.

Supervisor Dan Lewza explained that the town will benefit in the short term from the sale of the lots, while the village will benefit from adding them to the tax rolls and from water and sewer usage fees. “It’s a win-win situation for both municipalities,” he said.

“We’re (the village) at full build out,” said Mayor John Romano, “there’s no room for us to expand.” He explained that while municipal expenditures are increasing, the non-tax sources of revenue have been dramatically reduced.

“We have a duty to provide a high level of services at a fair, acceptable rate to our taxpayers,” Romano said. Not only will the village coffers benefit from the move, but the county and school will derive additional tax revenues as well.

Romano commended Lewza and the town board for the plan. “It is a very creative option and it’s exactly the type of thing that, as municipal leaders, our residents look to us for coming up with these ideas,” he said.

Town Engineer Brian Osterhout described the property and said that the size of the building lots, at a little more than one-quarter acre, will be consistent with those in the Colonial Hills development.

During the public hearing, town Building Inspector Wayne Howe said Salem Drive always looked unfinished coming out of Colonial Hills because there was such a large, blank area after the last house.

Aside from Howe, there were only two members of the public at the meeting. Neither chose to comment. The public hearing was advertised in two local newspapers in May and was on the town website as well.

At the conclusion of the public hearing, the village board voted on and approved three resolutions. The first was naming the village lead agency in the seeker process, the second was that there would be no negative environmental impact as a result of the annexation and the third was to proceed with the annexation.

The town board will vote on the annexation resolution at its next meeting, June 20.

Lewza said more municipalities should work together to “think outside the box” and come up with solutions for what is best for the community and taxpayers. “What we’re doing here tonight should be a model for how local government should be working for their people,” he said.

Summer Means Pool and Park in Village

The Village announces plans for swim lessons, skateboarding and hoops

BY BARBARA COOK
barbara@theballstonjournal.com

Summer is quickly approaching, and that means outdoor activities in Ballston Spa. Registration for swimming lessons is June 16 and 17, 9 a.m. to noon, Mayor John Romano announced at the village board meeting Tuesday night. Lessons are open to village residents or residents of the Ballston Spa Central School District who are at least three years old. Younger swim students must be potty trained.

Swimming lessons are rated in several categories, including some Red Cross level classes, according to Parks and Recreation Commissioner Courtney Mancini. Classes will be Monday to Friday, 8:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., followed by open swimming from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.. On weekends, open swimming will be noon to 8 p.m., subject to weather conditions.

June 18, 19 and 20, Sandy Stanislowski will provide lifeguard recertification training. There will be no open swim those days, but it will resume June 21.

Daily pool fees will remain at $2, but will increase slightly for season passes. They are $40 for an individual and $140 for a family of four or more.

The Ballston Spa Lions Club made a surprise donation to the village of $5,500 to purchase a lift for the pool. The lift is required under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the village board had approved the purchase at its April 23 meeting.

“You folks do not realize how important this is and what this means to us,” Mayor John Romano said. “We’re a small village, we don’t have a lot of money. When we were faced with that unexpected expense it was a struggle but we said we had to do it.”

As he accepted the check from Lions Past President Harry Peterson, Romano continued, “This contribution, and all the contributions that the club has made to the village over the years, has really made a difference. What you’ve done for this village will never be forgotten. Thank you for your generous contribution.”

Another popular outdoor activity is skateboarding, which the village has accommodated since 1997 with a skateboard park in Kelley Park. With the increased use of Kelley’s playgrounds, and beautification by Friends of the Kayaderosseras, Romano said it is time for the skateboard park to be relocated.

Over the winter Romano talked with representatives from the Ballston Area Center for Teens, and its board agreed to have the skateboard park moved to its facility.

“It’s a perfect match,” said Romano, “it’s a natural fit.” The center also offers afterschool programs for homework and caters to teens.

Once it is completed, the new skateboard park will be open Monday to Friday, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. and noon to 8 p.m. on weekends. During summer recess it will be open noon to 8 p.m. daily, weather permitting. Anyone using the park when it is not open will be prosecuted and probably lose their privileges to use it, according to Romano.

The vacant area that will be left in Kelley Park will be made into basketball courts.

All the fresh air will lead to some hungry kids. The First Baptist Church will offer free lunches this summer at several locations, including Kelley Park. “I think it’s a very compassionate initiative on the part of the church,” said Romano.

The next village board meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. June 11, at the home of Paul and Beth Farnan, 27 McLean Street.

Lewza Lights Flame in Milton

Lewza proposes local development corporation, sparks discussion over two days

BY BARBARA COOK
barbara@theballstonjournal.com

An economic development proposal by Milton Supervisor Dan Lewza ignited a wildfire that may still be smoldering.

At the April 18 town board meeting Lewza had his assistant, Teri Wilson, present information about local development corporations (LDCs). Following the presentation, members of the public and the board fired questions at Wilson, Lewza and town attorney James Craig.

Resident John Olenik challenged Lewza’s decision to have his “secretary” make the presentation instead of doing it himself. Lewza responded that Wilson is more than a secretary and that she has been involved with all the research he and Craig have done on LDCs.

When Olenik asked why the town needs to establish an LDC when it already has an economic development committee, Lewza said the two are very different entities.

“The economic development committee is to give suggestions on how we can cut through red tape, how we can move things forward, how we can bring business in and how we can bring people into the town,” he explained.

Craig explained there are grants that an LDC can apply for which are not available to municipalities. In her presentation, Wilson said some of the grants that would be pursued are the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Business Enterprise and Rural Community Development Initiative. Both help existing businesses grow and thrive, thus creating employment opportunities. Grant funds could be used to help businesses comply with the town center plan.

In response to a question from Councilman Joseph Miranda, Wilson explained there are three founders, or incorporators, of the not-for-profit corporation, who then appoint a board of directors. The board chooses a Chief Financial Officer and appoints a governance committee and an audit committee. All positions, including an appointed attorney, are volunteer.

Council members John Mancini said Barbara Kerr expressed concern about the same people serving in multiple town positions and the possibility of conflicts of interest. Miranda also had reservations on the issue of transparency.

Lewza pointed out that his administration has been marked by transparency. Every meeting will be open and residents encouraged to come to any and all town meetings, he said.

Resident Meg Stevens said she didn’t like the idea of town assets being passed off to a corporation the residents hadn’t voted for. She wants the town board to be in charge of town assets.

Some questions were answered in more depth at the next night’s economic development committee meeting.

The town is about a decade behind in economic development, Lewza explained, and needs to be ready when satellite companies feeding GLOBALFOUNDRIES move into the area. He said Milton is ideally situated in the middle of the western part of Saratoga County. “We have a golden opportunity here,” he urged.

The LDC board of directors and committees would be made up of town and village residents, with board members at every level of the corporation to provide checks and balances.

James Angus, vice president of community economic development for the Saratoga Economic Development Corporation, said LDCs are covered by the Public Authorities Accountability Act, so they must adhere to open meetings laws and report annually to the state.

Councilman Frank Blaisdell had asked the previous night about by-laws for the corporation. Lewza explained that most of the by-laws would be adapted from the Greater Glens Falls Local Development Corporation. He suggested that the three incorporators could begin working on the by-laws while waiting for the corporation paperwork to be approved and returned by the the state.

Mancini suggested that the town board and the economic development committee also participate in crafting the by-laws.

Ballston Spa Mayor John Romano said he has lived in the town and village his entire life, and has seen how unprepared the area is for growth.

“We’ve got a new supervisor who is working extremely hard to bring the town back to life,” Romano said. “Personally, I think the supervisor and the board are to be commended for looking for new and creative ideas to move this goal that everybody has forward.”

Lewza acknowledged Olenik’s comment from the night before, admitting that he made some mistakes in the presentation and that he should have provided more information to members of the board and public. He reminded the group that after only three months, he’s still new at his job.

At the May 2 agenda meeting, Lewza will explain the concept of local development corporations and why he thinks the town would benefit from forming one. Public comment will be welcomed. Lewza said he wants to make sure everyone is onboard with the idea and that the public has the opportunity to participate in town government.

Village budget gets green light from trustees

Budget adopted by unanimous vote; tax increase limited to 1.77 percent

BY BARBARA COOK
barbara@theballstonjournal.com

At Monday’s board meeting the village trustees approved the 2012-2013 budget as presented by Mayor John Romano.

The $3,682,779 budget calls for a tax rate increase of 1.77 percent, or $74.34 per thousand dollars of taxable assessment, to raise $1,172,046.

Resident David Beals commended the board on the small increase rather than waiting until a large one was inevitable. “It’s much better to have a 1 percent, 2 percent increase rather than wait, wait, wait,” he said. “From the public perception you’re doing it the right way.”

Three years ago the village reduced the tax rate by 10 percent, then had no increase for two years.

The budget was adopted by a unanimous vote of the three trustees at the meeting.

Later in the meeting, Romano said he had received a request from Ragnar Relay Adirondack to have one leg of its race route pass through the village.

Ragnar is an overnight running relay race covering 200 miles. The 2012 Adirondack race route will begin Sept. 28 in Saratoga, wind its way to Lake George, and end Sept. 29 in Lake Placid.

Romano said 300 relay teams of 12 members each are expected in the race. The route would enter the village on E. High Street, then follow Hyde Boulevard to Malta Avenue to the village pool on Ralph Street. The pool property would be a transfer point for the runners to pass the baton.

From the village pool the route will continue on Ralph Street to Saratoga Avenue, then to Route 50. The next staging area would be the parking lot at Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

The race organizers will provide insurance, portable toilets and trash receptacles at the exchange area.

“I think it’ll be exciting to see this race as it progresses and winds its way through the village,” Romano said.

The trustees voted unanimously to grant the race organizer’s request.

Mayor unveils tentative village budget

BY BARBARA COOK
barbara@theballstonjournal.com

Ballston Spa Mayor John Romano unveiled the village’s tentative budget at Monday night’s board meeting. With Ballston Spa facing huge increases in state mandates, the budget includes a small tax increase. It is the first tax hike the village has seen in several years.

The $3.7 million budget includes mandated increases of $31,000 for health insurance, $5,100 for comprehensive liability insurance and nearly $39,000 to the state retirement system.

Mandated contributions to the retirement system from the village have increased $110,000 over the past two years, Romano said. “That’s an incredible amount of money,” he said.

He said all the unfunded mandates are cumbersome and put a strain on everybody. “They are the items that are devouring municipalities’ budgets,” Romano said. “These unfunded mandates are the driving force behind these tax increases.”

The amount of the budget to be raised by taxes is $1,172,046, which represents a 1.77 percent increase in the tax rate, or an increase from $73.04 to $74.34 per thousand.

“When you really break it down, it’s really not a lot of money,” Romano observed, and gave two examples.

For a house valued at $171,000 the increase would be $15.60 a year, or $1.30 a month, which amounts to about 30 cents a week or four cents a day, he said.

On a house valued at $242,000 the increase would be $22.10 a year or $1.84 a month, about 42 cents a week or 6 cents a day.

Romano reminded the board that three years ago, “when the economy across the state and the country was tanking,” the village reduced the tax rate by 10 percent. The following two years, the tax rate didn’t increase.

“I’d say that’s pretty remarkable in itself,” he said.

Romano and the village treasurer went through the budget line-by-line together, looking back over a three-year period. Then, with surgical precision, they cut just a little from items all throughout the budget. “The process is not simple,” Romano said.

In the end, expenditures were reduced by $96,000. There is no provision in the budget for major equipment purchases, and debt service was reduced almost $51,000.

Employees have been getting raises all along, some contractual, Romano said. But he said the village is blessed to have a hardworking workforce, and it’s important to reward them when possible.

Full time employees will receive a three percent raise, and part time employees will receive an additional 10 cents per hour.

The tentative budget reflects a projected increase in sales tax revenue of $46,200. The village derives sales tax from throughout the county, and Romano said the good economic practices of the board of supervisors coupled with increased consumer spending have helped boost the sales tax revenue.

“And our own merchants are doing a great job of promoting their businesses and bringing people into the village,” he observed.

The village used to get other non-sales tax revenues from the state in the form of aid, but that funding has diminished even as state mandates have increased. The village is also still dealing with the loss of about $43,000 in water revenue after Angelica Textile Services left the village in 2010. Angelica used about 23 million gallons of water each year.

Romano said the cost of doing business has increased rapidly in both the public and private sectors, and municipalities have no control over many costs. The driving forces behind any local property tax increase include pensions, fuel, employee health insurance and other insurances. “And you don’t have a choice, you have to deal with it,” he said.

At the same time, people continue to want a high level of services, Romano said. He feels that the village still provides quality services despite making cuts. “We’ve been fortunate in that we haven’t had to cut personnel,” he said. He and the treasurer agonized over each cut they made, Romano said.

The public hearing for the budget will be April 9 at 7:15 p.m. at the village office.

Village gets film festival grant, appoints ethics board

BY BARBARA COOK
barbara@theballstonjournal.com

At the village board meeting on Monday March 12 Mayor John Romano delivered some good news to the trustees: a grant for $4,400 from the Saratoga County Program for Arts Funding was awarded to help fund the Ballston Spa Film Festival.

The village applied for the grant in September 2011 on behalf of the Ballston Spa Business and Professional Association, which sponsors the film festival. Romano commended the business association for the year round work it does promoting the village, including the film festival.

“It’s a very popular event that seems to continue to grow year after year and it brings a lot of people into the village,” Romano said. “You really get to see all the opportunities we have available and the businesses we have in the village.”

The Ballston Spa Film Festival is in its fifth year. Monthly showings of classic films will lead up to the festival August 3 and 4.

Romano also appointed an ethics board, noting that during a routine review of village policies it was discovered that the terms of every member of the board of ethics had lapsed. He said the code of ethics was adopted by the village before he or any of the trustees were members of the town board.

“It sets standards for all village officers, employees and officials, elected or appointed, and prohibits acts or actions that are incompatible with the discharge of their duties,” Romano explained.

Romano appointed the following new board of ethics members: David Beals, Michael Barabasz, Lori Riggs, Laurie Hersh and Lloyd Helman.

Paul Lasky, Jr. was appointed to the library board to fill the vacancy left when Courtney Mancini resigned to join the village board. The vacancy was advertised but no one showed interest or applied by the March 2 deadline. Romano talked to Lasky, a lifelong village resident, about the position and said he was “very enthused about becoming a member.” Lasky’s term will expire in 2015.

Trustee Robert Cavanaugh requested the purchase of replacement flags and poles, not to exceed $1,300. Trustee Stuart Hodsoll requested 20 new water meters at a cost of up to $2,700, and a two-way radio for the new village truck at a cost of $700 or less, including installation. Hodsell also said rock salt that was borrowed from the county needs to be replenished, at a cost of $6,000.

Romano requested a special meeting for the board of trustees March 20 at 9:45 p.m. to canvass and certify election returns.

48 Ralph Street has new owners, cleaner face

BY BARBARA COOK
barbara@theballstonjournal.com

The property at 48 Ralph St. in Ballston Spa has a new owner. Buell Avenue Properties of Albany purchased the property at the September tax auction for $17,375, according to the Saratoga County Clerk’s office.

The property, which was previously owned by Susan Sokalski, was cited last summer for numerous health and safety violations, including a structurally unsound garage, garbage and waste material in the yard and overgrown vegetation.

The house at 48 Ralph St. on Monday. New owners have already done extensive clean up. Photo by Barbara Cook

Mayor John Romano said he doesn’t know the new owners but has noticed a difference in the property. He said several dumpster loads of trash and debris have been removed and an old barn has been torn down.

“It looks like they’re making a good-faith effort to clean things up,” Romano said. “It looks like they’re starting to get ready to do some rehab of some sort.”

Sokalski was given several opportunities to bring the property into compliance, but eventually the village had to take over and clean it. It was not the first time; the village conducted cleanup work in 1998, 2000, 2004, 2006 and 2009.

The village keeps track of all costs associated with clean-up, including hourly rates for employees, benefits, and equipment, and bills the property owner against the property tax assessment.

“The property has been an ongoing problem for the village over a number of years and it looks as if the fortunes are being reversed and it’s going in the right direction,” said Romano.

Special public hearings were scheduled by the Village Board Aug. 15 and Aug. 22 to afford Sokalski the opportunity to argue her case as to why the cleanup of her debris-strewn property need not involve village public works crews. She requested a postponement of the first hearing and neither she nor her attorney attended the second one. The board then passed a resolution allowing the village to move forward with its own cleanup plan.

Romano said he didn’t know what had happened to Sokalski, but heard that she had relocated to Stillwater.

The site, across from Kelley Park and a stone’s throw from the village pool, had been deemed a public health and safety hazard. The clean up efforts benefit more than just the new property owners, said Romano. “It’s a good thing for everybody,” he said, “the neighbors, the community, for the area. It’ll make a huge difference.”

The house, built in 1900, is classified as a two-family dwelling, according to county tax records. It is situated on .62 acres and had a fair-market value of $64,516 on the 2011 Saratoga County tax roll.

Just passing through?

Sometimes locals find themselves in a jam local officials can do little about. Such seems to be the case with the residents o...

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A change In Milton

BY SAM CAPUANO sam@theballstonjournal.com Frank Thompson has overcome a lot in his eight years as Town of Milton supervisor....

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