BALLSTON SPA – Community Alliance Church celebrated its newfound independence with a musical event Christmas Eve. [Read more…]
BALLSTON SPA – Community Alliance Church celebrated its newfound independence with a musical event Christmas Eve. [Read more…]
MILTON – The town is looking at a 6-percent rate hike for its insurance premium due in large part to two unforeseen incidents that occurred over the past year. [Read more…]
BALLSTON SPA – The Village Board on Monday voted to replace the control panel at the village water plant on Rowland Street in the town of Milton. [Read more…]
BALLSTON SPA — Last Friday was National Bike To Work Day, and one of my kids asked me if I was going to participate in the event. Well, my normal commute to Latham was out of the question, but we do have a branch office in Milton, so, why not? I save a few gallons of gas, avoid the daily pleasure that is the Northway, and get a little exercise.
Friends, I have not biked it to a job since I was in high school and worked at the Glenville Ponderosa Steak House. In those days I am sure I looked pretty snazzy heading down the road in my uniform consisting of an orange and yellow striped shirt and brown polyester pants, complete with a brown apron (the 1970s decade was a tough one for fashion). One day the apron strings got caught in my tire spokes and I went flying across Route 50, effectively stopping four lanes of traffic, and I think my heart for a moment as well. From then on I used my parents’ 1975 Ford Pinto (it was a tough decade for autos as well.)
Fortunately my wardrobe for work on Fridays now-a-days is a polo shirt and jeans; no loose strings for this guy. I pulled my bike out of the shed, wiped off a winter’s worth of dust and cobwebs, and it seemed ready to go; hopefully I was as well. Since there was no place to put my briefcase, I shoved my work documents into a shoulder bag and was all set to roll.
First off was Rowland Street, heading south to Northline Road. It’s mostly flat, so not a big deal really, until I got to the light. A pretty busy place during the morning commute, and following normal traffic laws seemed out of the question, so I finally cut behind a car on Rowland, and took a left onto Northline.
One of the things one doesn’t necessarily realize when they only drive a road is its incline. As I got onto Northline and started to head towards Route 50, I picked up speed. Quite a bit of speed. More speed than this very novice biker was used to. The hand brakes seemed to be working, even as I basically squeezed them for all they are worth as I sped down the hill.
There were quite a few other folks on bikes as well taking advantage of the whole bike to work thing; alas I was the only one with the look of panic on Northline.
But, I made it to the office and got to work.
At lunch, I decided to make the short trip into downtown Ballston Spa. Another first — I have never been there on two wheels. Doubleday Avenue has a huge shoulder, so I felt safe as I headed into the village. The wide bike lane gave way to sidewalks as it became Milton Avenue, so all was good. Then I had to cross near Ford Street. Not easy, so I got off the bike to cross at a cross walk. Because, as we know, every driver on Milton Avenue observes the New York State law which requires cars to stop for pedestrians crossing at the marked crosswalk, right? Yeah, dream on.
So, those stories you heard last week of the defiant dude walking his bike across Ballston Spa’s busiest street while putting his hands out to stop traffic? Believe them.
The ride back to the office was no problem. Again, I saw a lot of other folks on bikes, and each time we waved at each other, although I knew not a single one of them. At the end of the work day, a sudden feeling of dread overtook me. That steep hill on Northline I coasted down in the morning? Yup, had to schlep it back up on the way home. Somehow, I managed. The experience was actually an overall good one, although I am glad it is just a once a year event.
What’s next? Well, I saw some lucky folk who actually kayaked to work. Hmm…not a bad idea. And, given the traffic nightmare commuting over the Mohawk River has become lately, perhaps the trick is to go under the Twin Bridges instead of over it.
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MILTON — At the May 15 Milton Town Board meeting, a routine update on the proposed improvements to Burgess-Kimball Memorial Park and the development of a new town park on Rowland Street erupted into a heated exchange between Supervisor Dan Lewza and residents John Frolish and Jim McHale over the need for the improvements.
The new park and the upgrades to Burgess-Kimball are both part of the million dollar three-phase Geyser Road Project announced last year.
Lewza hopes the project will attract new businesses to the financially-strapped town, and he sees the parks as a big part of the picture.
“This is something I feel will bring money to the area,” Lewza said. “There could be all kinds of benefits for the town. This needs to be done. We need to start somewhere and I think we can do better.”
At the meeting, town engineers MJ Engineering gave an update on the proposals after an online survey was conducted to find out what local residents would like to see done regarding the parks.
According to Jackie Hicks from MJ Engineering, the changes to Burgess-Kimball Park will advance the strategic plan that Lewza proposed and help to enhance existing recreational facilities and increase public opportunities to access the facilities.
“The important piece of developing these concepts is really getting community feedback and understanding what it is the community would like to see in terms of recreation improvements,” Hicks said.
The changes to the previous proposal on Burgess-Kimball include the relocation of one of the softball fields to allow for a proposed fitness trail. The change was based on public comments that the fitness trail should be larger. Also a walking trail will be added to connect to the fitness trail.
“We tried to make it a mile long and call it ‘The Milton Mile’ but we’re a few hundred feet short,” Hicks said with a laugh. “People can just do a few more loops through the fitness trail.”
The pavilions would also be moved in order to make room for the proposed “Kiddie Land.” The proposed play area would feature organic and natural equipment, with the possibility of a water feature to be added at a later date.
After the presentation several audience members questioned the need for the improvements to Burgess-Kimball and the new park.
Frolish questioned how much the existing facilities were being used.
“My concern is with this plan, it’s nice to have a survey and everybody looks into the future and sees what they might want, but what about the people who are presently using the facilities and how are we accommodating those people,” he asked.
No softball fields were being removed, they would just be better, Lewza said.
“We want to make it a better facility all around,” Lewza said. “There will be the same amount of fields. We want to attract other leagues besides the Miss Scotties to these fields. It will bring more business to the town of Milton and that’s the whole point of doing this.”
Frolish also questioned the location of the fields, but Lewza indicated the positioning was in deference to the residents along the park’s property line.
“By cramming another field back in that spot, we don’t want to make it hard for the residents back there,” Lewza said. “We want to make it as convenient as possible to the residents back there. To put another field back there, it would be almost on top of the residents.”
Frolish wondered if the residents were even complaining about the location of the fields.
Lewza shot back that the plans for the park were well-thought out.
“I didn’t go out and poll anybody, but how would you feel if you had a softball field stuck three feet from your yard?” Lewza asked. “It’s not correct the way it is and that’s the reason why we want to change things around. If we’re going to be doing this, we’re going to do it correctly. We’re not going to be doing it half-assed like we did in the past. Those days are over.”
McHale questioned the need for the parks at all. The condition of existing parks is deplorable and they are seldom used, he said.
“You say you don’t have the time and money to fix what we have,” McHale said. “You want to build a $100,000 park and you can’t take care of what we have.”
McHale said even though the town currently has $400,000 for parks and recreation, no improvements are being made to the existing parks.
Lewza denied that was true. For instance, in Boice Park improvements have been made to the trail system by the town and Friends of the Kayaderosseras, he said. A timeline has been set to finish clearing the trails.
The rest of the parks will be addressed once Boice Park is finished, Lewza said.
“What the town has done in the past, we do one thing and then we move on to the next without completing the first thing,” said Lewza. “I want to make sure that Boice is completely done. Because we have a limited crew, I want to make sure we complete one thing and then move on to the next.”
McHale interrupted Lewza at that point to talk about Trieble Park.
“Trieble Park is a disgrace, the fences are down, there’s one little trail which is used as a public bathroom,” McHale said. “Rock City Falls Park is the same thing. We don’t have time, we don’t have money to fix what we have.”
Lewza said the county would be going in there very shortly to work on it, at which point McHale interrupted him again.
“Everything has been coming very shortly,” he said. “Let’s get first things first. Before we build the Taj Mahal let’s fix the pup tent.”
Lewza said the Boice Park improvements will be done by the end of June, and then Trieble Park and Rock City Park will be addressed.
“Just because we are doing these two different parks out here doesn’t mean we’re not going to be working on trails in the other parks,” Lewza said. “The current parks we have are finally going to be addressed. They haven’t been addressed in I don’t know how long. That’s why the parks are a disaster. We’re getting there, Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
McHale finally relented and backed down in his complaints.
“Fine, I will see you in June,” McHale said. “I will be here to see you.”
Also at the meeting, the board accepted the positive recommendation by the planning board for the Route 50 Transition Plan and the Open Space Plan to be attached to the Master Comprehensive Plan. A public hearing will be held on June 5 at 7 p.m.
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Monday evening’s information session on the Town of Milton’s Conceptual Strategic Plan for redesigning the town center offered few new insights. It did, however, give us a better idea of Supervisor Lewza’s long-range thinking, as well as provide an opportunity for members of the public to ask a few questions and give a little input of their own.
The immediate issues are the first couple phases of the development project: upgrades to the sidewalks on Geyser Road and a general makeover of Burgess-Kimball Memorial Park. Both projects are beyond question worth doing, and both will undoubtedly help to make Milton a nicer town. But it’s clear Lewza has his sights set on a more aggressive and comprehensive change than simply sprucing things up a bit.
That fact should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention for the past couple years; Lewza has made no bones about wanting to drive development in Milton rather than watch development simply drive by. But now the parameters of his vision are coming more sharply into focus.
For Geyser Road, the plan is to install new sidewalks, streetlights and some other infrastructure improvements, one side of the street at a time. No question that alone would help to make Milton more attractive, at least visually, and given the fact most of the cost will come out of a $1 million federal grant Lewza’s administration saved from withdrawal it comes at a nice price, too.
The work planned for Burgess-Kimball Park is likewise mostly along the lines of improvement and upgrades, and most of the cost is likewise going to come out of the grant. Certainly the park could stand to be spiffed up a bit, and town residents would benefit from having it be, well, nicer.
But Lewza isn’t just looking to apply a fresh coat of paint to Milton’s face. What he really wants is to see Milton catch up to neighboring Malta and Saratoga Springs, and eventually become a more modern small town and a more desirable destination in its own right. Not to mention one without a sales tax.
We think the supervisor is on the right track. And he and his administration rightfully deserve credit for rescuing the federal grant Milton was in imminent danger of losing right as he took office.
But as always with the issue of development, the question arises as to what happens to the businesses already here. Local businesses owned and operated by local residents to serve their friends and neighbors often are the first victims when large-scale growth becomes a priority. One only need to look at the historical effect of the introduction of, say, a Walmart to see how much it impacts the small merchants in the surrounding area. Often it spells doom.
In Milton, one of the first steps in building a vibrant and viable town center–something we think commendable, in principle–is granting permission to Saratoga Hospital to build a primary care center in the heart of town as part of a proposed building by Boghosian Brothers. It’s early in the process and the facility wouldn’t open until the fall, if it is in fact approved, but we think the time to start considering its impact is now.
And what is that impact? For local practitioners, it may be the loss of potential, or even current, patients and the income they represent. Or it may be nothing at all. The question is really whether Lewza and the board are factoring in those kinds of considerations when contemplating the introduction of new businesses not based in town.
For our part, we believe in developing the town center more fully. For far too long Milton has been a place people pass through on their way to somewhere else. To make it a place people go out of their way to visit would be a vast improvement, and all of us would benefit from the economic energy and prosperity being a true destination would generate.
But we hope in taking that step our leaders make and keep the process as thorough and inclusive as possible, consider all the angles, and ask all the questions of the people they represent, including local business owners. The temptation to develop for development’s sake is tough to resist. On it’s face, bigger seems obviously better. But that’s not automatically true.
Growth can be tricky. One only need to look at the difficulties Malta has had in digesting the massive changes of the past few years to see that. They’re just now finally catching up. In Milton, the wise course would be to get ahead early and bring residents, developers, urban designers and stakeholders into the process in earnest right at the beginning. Do that, and Milton might eventually be a paradise found.