Changing Times in Saratoga County

Last week, Halfmoon Supervisor and Saratoga County Board of Supervisors member Mindy Wormuth, giving into the inevitable, announced she would not challenge Kevin Tollisen, an attorney and former town justice, in the Republican primary for her seat. Town Republicans had previously endorsed Tollisen for the office, dumping the incumbent in the process. In typical Wormuth style, she blasted the endorsement process, saying, “(i)t was very much of a backroom deal done in a style of deceitful political conduct that I do not approve of.”

Backroom deal? Perhaps. But, to be fair, Wormuth is probably qualified to make such statements, having shown herself to be something of an expert on the matter.  [Read more…]


Letters, We Get Letters

Dear Readers, incredibly, June is here, which means it’s been three months since we took a look at the letters in the ol’ Village Voice Mailbox. So, let’s give it a go!

Q: Dear Sam, Wiswall Park just isn’t the same without the huge tree in the middle, is it?

A: Well, no, it isn’t. But, is it a good thing, or a bad thing? I definitely have some mixed feelings about that grand old tree, which took a fatal tumble last month, the victim of bad weather. As an organizer of many events in Wiswall, I hated it. It got in the way of acts playing in the gazebo and cut down on the number of people who could attend such gatherings. That said, it sure was a highlight every December when Santa lit the tree after the Christmas parade. And, closer to home, for years it was my mother who took care of the flowers around the tree (and yelled at the kids stepping on said flowers during the events.) So, final verdict? We will agree with the questioner, it just isn’t the same.

Q: What’s the deal with Patti Southworth, I thought she was running for County Clerk?

A: She was, dear reader, she was. Southworth, the Town of Ballston supervisor, had previously announced she would not seek reelection so she could seek the county clerk position. Now she says she will look beyond Ballston, beyond Saratoga County, and on to New York State, either towards the state Senate or Assembly. Given the dysfunction that is Ballston politics, the mess which is the NYS Legislature would seem to be a perfect fit. However, I’ll believe it when I see it. She says she has received several calls from people urging her to go this route. Interesting. I do have to say it will be much harder for her to fire bookkeepers at the state level than in Ballston.

Q: Sam, any thoughts of Ingrid Melander’s passing?

A: When I saw Ingrid’s obituary in the newspaper last week, I was shocked, then deeply saddened. What a lovely woman. I had the pleasure to serve with her on the BSBPA board of directors for many years and marveled at her quiet efficiency. In more recent times, she would just seem to even more quietly come up from behind me with her beautiful smile, and chat about things. On a couple of occasions, she complimented me on something I had written. While such compliments are always nice, when it came from someone I respected as much as Ingrid Melander, well, it would give me a feeling of elation unlike few others.

Q: What’s the latest with Maplewood Manor?

A: Saratoga County’s nursing home has been in the news for pretty much the last year, and I am sure they would love to see that change. Doesn’t look like it will happen any time soon, though. The latest revolves around Carlton Decker, the 85-year-old resident who last December somehow ended up outside the building on a frigid night, and wasn’t discovered until morning. Decker died shortly after. Last week it was reported Maplewood, and Saratoga County, will be defendants in a lawsuit pertaining to this incident. Between this, and the potential legal issues they face as a result of another alleged negligence over 83-year-old Janice Woodley’s death (she was allegedly given insulin intended for another resident), the legal fees could add up. Wonder how many taxpayers who want Maplewood to stay county-owned have changed their minds?

Q: Sam, doesn’t the first weekend in June mean gargantuan garage sales in the village?

A: It sure does! If you are in the market for VHS versions of bad 1980s movies, mismatched china, or maybe a Spice Girls poster, this is the weekend for you. There will be cars trolling through the village probably as early as 7 a.m. on Saturday, looking for the best deals. Be especially aware of the shoppers with the fanny pack. These people mean business, and they will try to beat you up on the price, and if you by chance get between them and something they want, well, the results won’t be pretty.

To wrap up this letters session, we will address a pressing matter from a reader in Milton:

Q: Dear Sam, what are you doing this weekend?

A: Avoiding fanny pack-wearing garage sale shoppers.

Well that’s it for now. Until next time, keep those cards and letters coming!

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A Scouting Change, a Divisive Opinion

Memorial Day weekend is typically not a very newsy time, and as such the newspaper columns which follow are usually of the standard flag waving, parade marching, remember those who have fallen variety. So, on Saturday, I headed to Front Street for the Ballston Spa Memorial Day Parade, looking for something.

But while I was waiting for the parade to step off I checked my phone and saw a Letter to Editor on the Journal’s site which caught my eye.

The letter’s author was John Lombardo, and the subject matter was his, to put it mildly, displeasure with the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to allow openly gay scouts within their ranks. He called it “disgraceful.” The letter was quite passionate in expressing his views, certainly not politically correct (for these times anyways), and as such, sure to generate a bit of controversy.

Mr. Lombardo is a local scouts leader, and I interviewed him last October for a column I was writing on some of the good things our local scouts were doing.

As expected, Lombardo’s letter generated a firestorm of responses on the Journal’s Facebook page.

Many were appalled at what he had to say. Part of his missive mentioned he would reconsider having his family members continue in scouting due to BSA’s decision, fearful of having his own child alone with another gay scout.

The BSA has struggled with this decision for years. And yes, there have been some documented unfortunate incidents, in which young boys have been victims.

I was for many years a scout leader while my son was going through the ranks, and I can tell you, the application vetting process is arduous, as it should be. And strict rules? On one occasion, a neighbor called me and asked if I could drive his son, also a scout, to a scout pack meeting. Not surprisingly, I helped my neighbor and gave his kid a ride. Very surprisingly, I was reprimanded by my Pack leader for breaking the rule of being around a scout without another parent present. An innocent mistake on my part, but the rule is very understandable: they are trying to protect the boys.

And, to that end, openly gay scout leaders are still not allowed. When, and if, that policy ever changes will likely be more gut wrenching and divisive than the change they just made.

Now back to John Lombardo’s letter. Regardless of what I think of his opinion, I absolutely feel he has a right to it. And he has a right to express it in the Op-Ed section of a newspaper.

Several respondents were not happy with the Journal for printing these views. My question is, why? If at the same time a letter arrived from someone praising BSA for their decision, it would have been published as well. (To be fair, at first it looked as though it was our own editorial; even after this was corrected many were still honked off we published the letter.)

No, the reason for the anger was because in this age of totally polarizing views, people not only want their view to “win” (as in the situation with BSA changing their policy), they want everyone else to feel the same way. And if by chance someone does not, well then they are a horrid person. Sort of like having their cake and eating it too.

And guess what? There are plenty of people who feel the same way Lombardo does. And, there always will be. Gay rights have made enormous strides, and it appears there is more to come, probably quite quickly. What is not as quick, however, is for long held views and beliefs for some to change.

I applaud Lombardo for the courage to express such strong views and sign his name to it. Just as I applaud others to publicize their opposing view.

It also shows how much times have changed. A generation ago the courageous letter would have been in going public with a pro-gay stance. Now, the opposite is true, given the immediate backlash to the type of letter Mr. Lombardo wrote.

Meanwhile, back to the parade. The scouts, as always, were part of it, marching and looking proud in their uniforms. For whatever it’s worth, not a single thing looked different.

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Biking It in Ballston Spa!

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.

To contact Sam email

Meeting a (Super) Hero in Ballston Spa

The first Saturday in May has really become one of my favorite days of the year. The Kentucky Derby of course is contested, always. Some years, as in 2012, it is Cinco de Mayo, a fiesta grande. This year it was May The Fourth Be With You Day; this is either a new, clever play on words, or something thought up by a seemingly lisping Star Wars geek.

And to further the joyous occasion for geeks everywhere (your columnist included), it was Free Comic Book Day, which has now been in existence for more than a decade.

As I point out each year at this time–when I have an great excuse to write about my favorite works of literature–Free Comic Book Day is a nationwide event held in hopes of drawing new fans (read: young kids) into the wonderful world of comic books. Publishers provide comic book retailers with several titles from all genres, and customers get to choose three free books each.

Those of us in the 12020 are quite lucky to have Excellent Adventures Comic Books on Milton Avenue in Ballston Spa serving as one of those retailers.

This is due to the fact they have been around for well over a decade (not any easy feat for this profession any more), and also because they have participated in Free Comic Book Day each year it’s been around.

And so have I. As I walked into Excellent Adventures with my kids at 11 a.m., the “official” starting time, it was already packed. There were plenty of parents with their kids, some folks dressed up for the occasion in costumes, not to mention some great national comic book creative talent, such as Chris St. Pierre and Ron Marz.

This is all standard fare. This year, however, Excellent Adventures pulled out all the stops, as they managed to have legendary artist Joe Sinnott present. This kindly, 86 year old gent has merely been the best inker of comics for sixty years. If you have not heard of him, perhaps you may know of some of the characters he has drawn: X-Men, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, Spider-Man, and most famously, The Fantastic Four.

On the latter title, his bold embellishments of co-creator Jack Kirby’s pencil art set a standard which has yet to be matched. He worked on that particular book from 1965 through 1981. When he stepped aside from comic books in 1992, he took his brush and India ink to the Spider-Man Sunday strip. Fortunately for all of us, he continues there to this day. More often than not, the Spidey strip is the first item I turn to when the Sunday newspaper is delivered.

Sinnott was born in Saugerties, and still lives there. As I approached him Saturday, I was in awe, but he quickly brought me back to earth with his easy going style and ever-present baseball cap. He told me he loved both Excellent Adventures and the other shops he had seen in the village. And, bless his heart, he then reminisced with me about Bob Cousy; how the heck did he know I was a Celtics’ fan?

He was clearly at his happiest around the kids, though. Kids who could not possibly know about his legendary place in comic book history. I purchased a few signed prints of his work, and he made sure he signed some for my own children. As I gushed to my offspring when explaining about Sinnott’s career, they laughed at their dad’s hero worship, er, excitement. But, they clearly loved the artwork.

One person who knows all about Sinnott’s career is Excellent Adventures’ owner John Belskis. John and I have spent many a Saturday afternoon in his store chatting about comics, politics and/or baseball. Anyone who succeeds in this industry, the way John clearly has, needs to love it. He does. And he clearly loves Free Comic Book Day as throngs of excited kids streamed through his store.

And, in a nice touch, Belskis may have now even been immortalized by Sinnott. One of the giveaway books featured Sinnott’s newest creation, Captain EA. Appearing quite a bit like World War II era Captain America, Captain EA under the mask looks suspiciously like a certain local comic book store owner. I won’t say for sure, as secret identities are in place for a reason.

But, it is no secret how much I loved this day; one is never too old to be around comics, or to meet a hero.

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Gun control overload?


Gun control stories, while never too far from the news cycle, have been seemingly everywhere since the tragedy in Connecticut a couple months ago. I have jotted down a few words on the topic myself in this space; it has become the trendy thing to do.

Over the past few weeks, Governor Andrew Cuomo and President Barack Obama have seized the moment to push for more gun control. They are both smart politicians, riding high in popularity polls, and they are making their core constituency happy with such pushes.

And, meanwhile, last Saturday a huge gathering in our nation’s capital marched for gun control.

Closer to home, and in direct response to the fact the Newtown shootings were at a school, there was a forum at Ballston Spa High School last week to discuss the subject of guns and how we can keep our schools safer. Now, this is something we can sink our teeth into.

First and foremost, kudos to the BSCSD for having such a discussion, which is largely free of the politics exhibited by the governor and the president. The school safety issue is one in which any parent with school aged kids, such as your columnist, is particularly interested. There are several things we are concerned with during the day; whether or not our kids will be part of a tragedy at school should not be one of them. But the reality is, given the events of the past few years, the concern has to be there.

Can every school be safer? Absolutely. We can make any situation safer. The fact is, our schools are much safer now than when I was a student. But what is the correct and/or proper amount to spend for this safety?

The National Rifle Association has suggested guns in the hands of school officials would help solve the problem. At the risk of offending my friends on the right, let me say: no thanks. I do not want my kids to pass security checkpoints every day on their way to classes. And, if such guns would be in place, it would be a matter of when, not if, one of them wounds someone in the school.

In my day job, as an auditor, I have to assess internal controls at a financial institution and then make recommendations for improvement. Every one of those recommendations comes with some sort of a cost. This is not to say one should put a price tag on human safety. My co-workers daily realize they could be subject to an armed robbery. But most branches, especially in these parts, do not have armed guards. What we do is preach awareness and safety. And presentations from local police as to what we all can do to be safe are part of the picture, too.

At the high school forum, Shenendehowa’s respected superintendent Oliver Robinson said he was not in favor of school officials packing heat, and he suggested it might create too much of a sense of isolation. He said teaching our kids greater awareness would help. Indeed it would.

I don’t want to see our schools become fortresses. When I have to visit my kids’ schools during the day, there is a process involved. This includes being buzzed in, signing in, wearing a visitor’s badge, etc. It is a pain, which is exactly how it should be.

Last month, when I went to give my son some money as he was sitting in the student section in the bleachers at a high school basketball game, I was told by the faculty dude that adults were not allowed in that section. This is a nice rule, and not just because I didn’t have to give the boy any money.

Are these precautions going to stop some whack job, armed to the teeth, from coming into the school guns a-blazin’? No, it will not. Friends, I can’t think of anything that will. But, these are smart, prudent steps. And our kids are better off for it.

Unless our schools start to resemble the TSA line at airports, we will never have 100 percent safety. Do we want to subject our kids to this kind of regimen every day? I think not. And I am a firm believer that when and if we resort to this style of quasi-martial law, the bad guys win. We lose. And I hate losing. Especially to the bad guys.

A Ballston Spa Breakfast


Last week, Vicki and I met my parents for a Sunday morning all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet at the Ballston Spa Elks Club. I’m always a little leery about buffets, as some people tend to get, shall we say, carried away. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case this time, and no one treated the buffet as a trough. It was a fine time, and I managed to catch up with some locals I hadn’t seen in awhile.

Which is why I like eating breakfast in public. In many instances, such as the aforementioned buffet at the Elks, it is a chance to chat with friends in the community who may be out after church, or maybe just wanting to take get away for a bit. And no matter what, it’s not possible to cook a breakfast at home as good as the one you can get out in public.

Alas, the Elks only have their buffet once a month. Fortunately, there are several breakfast options for those wishing to eat the most important meal of the day on a more consistent basis without leaving the confines of the village.

A long time favorite is Coffee Planet, which just celebrated its tenth year in business. In those years, it has expanded its space, briefly offered some trendy beers, and now even has an ice cream station. But, throughout all of this, it’s still the place to go for morning discussion. Stop in there any morning and you can always see some sort of business meeting going on among those who are sitting, while others dash in and grab a cup to go. (If they’re smart, they’ll order the tasty egg and cheese on a bagel, too.) The Planet is at the figurative, and literal, center of the business district.

Another great option for the morning meal opened last year on Front Street. The Iron Roost offers a somewhat different approach than the Planet. First of all, everything is served on a waffle. Which is a beautiful thing. The location is prime, too. Grabbing a late morning Saturday breakfast in the summer while watching and listening to the music at the Wiswall Park Farmers Market across the street is a fine way to spend some time.

Both the Planet and the Roost have also become the trendy places in town to bring your laptop and get some work done (and maybe even write a newspaper column) while enjoying your breakfast and having a coffee or three.

One place which has been serving it up for longer than those two places combined is the White House. There are daily breakfast specials which, alas, I can not take advantage of because of my schedule. But I do love going there on Sundays. People are crammed in there, but somehow it doesn’t seem too crowded. People eating there are comfortable about their food, and about being in a familiar place. If you want to have a great breakfast in one of Ballston Spa’s most historic buildings, then this is the place for you.

Some like their breakfast served up with no frills, just tasty and hearty. If so, head just up the street from White House and stop in at Tresa’s Cafe. On their Facebook page, they’ve boasted of “The best breakfast in Ballston Spa.” Well, I will leave that designation up to my readers, but, Tresa’s is certainly in the conversation when it comes to that argument.

As someone who has to get to the day job in Latham early every day, I don’t always have the luxury Monday through Friday to stop into most of these places, as I typically blow through town before they open. Which makes the Russell’s Deli 5 a.m. opening time so nice. As anyone who has ever stopped into Russell’s can attest, it is impossible to leave there hungry. This would include consumption of “Russell’s Special,” egg on a roll with cheese and all kinds of meat. The deli also has some great sports pictures up on the wall, rivaling those of some sports bars.

Plenty of great choices to be sure, but wait, there’s more. This one is so new, I haven’t had a chance to try it yet: Good Morning, on Doubleday Avenue, which opened this month. The early buzz is good, so there is yet another option for us.

People can say what they want about us, but, we do know how to eat, don’t we?

It's just a fantasy


Recently, on a rainy night, 10 secretive individuals armed with brief cases silently filed into the D-Line Pub and made their way into the back room. A long table had been set up for the occasion. They acknowledged each other with head nods, and perhaps a handshake, as they sat down and removed their research papers.

The purpose of this gathering? Was it a board of directors meeting? Nope? Mafia leaders trying to settle a feud? Negative. These fine folks (which included your columnist) were setting up shop for a fantasy football draft.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, a group of (soon to be former) friends gather to select National Football League players in the skill positions (quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, etc), along with a kicker and a team defense. Each person picks a team of 14 players, from which seven are chosen each week, as you are matched up against another team from your league.

When it comes time for the game, there is a points’ system for each player, which factors in statistics like rushing yards, passing yards and touchdowns. The player with the most points wins.

For years, I had scoffed at such fantasy leagues. To me, the game had always been the thing. That is, winning and losing teams. Who cares what the individuals did? When I played ball, we were always told by our coaches that football is not an individual sport. Such naïve thinking.

Since I had never been involved in a fantasy league, I was the perfect choice for my league commissioner to ask to fill a vacancy. I was a great pigeon for the other nine, all experienced participants. Because, if I haven’t mentioned it before, some leagues, mine included, require an entrance fee, and it’s not pocket change. So, as much as I’d like to think I was asked to join the league because of me being a great friend, let’s not kid ourselves. I offered them the perfect characteristic for a new player: someone who was willing to pay the entrance fee, but one who had absolutely zero chance of winning.

There are an estimated 36 million fantasy football players in North America, and the key word for all of them is research. Prior to my draft, I had scanned the fantasy rankings on the websites of ESPN, CBS Sports and Yahoo. I then scratched out a few helpful suggestions prior to the picks. I felt confident until I saw the well-organized system of my opponents. One even had a color coded chart. Uh oh.

After the draft order was carefully and scientifically selected (we picked numbers out of a dirty Yankees cap) we were seated in our draft order. And then we were off and running. The one nice thing about having low expectations is I wasn’t getting too worked up about it. The only real emotion I showed was when someone knocked over my beer. But, there were actually stressful moments on the part of some of those around the table. That’s when I realized this is big-time stuff.

Then come the games each week. I selected my week one starters. Now, while I am an NFL fan, I usually don’t get too into it until the weather turns cold. As opening day was gorgeous outside, I chose instead to hop in my kayak and go for a paddle on Saratoga Lake. Then it happened. When I was finishing up around 4 p.m., I grabbed my smart phone and checked the scores. Actually, I didn’t give a rip about the scores. Instead, I checked the performances of those I had selected, which was followed by some cursing. And then came some of the same stress and heartburn I saw my opponents exhibit the night of the draft. Hoo boy, this could get addictive quite quickly I realized during the late games that day when I checked my guys. Who, needless to say, did not perform up to my expectations. Yet, they still got paid to play while I was left to wonder how I could have better spent my entrance fee.

But, it was only week one. Now I’m afraid there will be no more Sunday kayaking trips or hikes. I will now be one of those sitting in the places that have the NFL Sunday Ticket such as the D-Line or BrickYard Tavern, so I can watch every game, every week and follow my charges. Not quite like the fantasies I had when I was growing up.

The race is on


In 1987 I competed in my second and final 5k ever. Until last week, that is, when I somehow was entered in the SaratogaPalio 5k.

I was only running in it because my 14-year-old son, who was also running, wanted me to join him, and wouldn’t shut up until I did. Those of you with 14-year-olds know a parent will do almost anything to get a kid to shut up, even something as drastic as running a race.

“You’ve run 5k’s before, why can’t you now,” he kept asking. My response: “Because the last time I did one I was young and stupid, and, of those two, I am now only the latter.”

He continued. “I want to break the 20 minute mark. What’s your goal in the race, Dad?” Goal? I just want to ride home in my Chevy, and not the ambulance parked nearby.

Prior to the race, the emcee played AC/DC’s “Back In Black”, which I thought would be an appropriate wardrobe color for those attending my funeral, which most certainly would be taking place shortly after the race.

Now for the actual run. I only considered doing this race because of the fact downtown Saratoga Springs is relatively flat. I have covered Brookside Museum’s Jailhouse Rock 5k for years for the Journal, and have often exhausted myself just walking up the prodigious incline of Fairground Avenue, just so I can get to the race start for a photo. Nothing like that in my race, fortunately.

We took off at 8 a.m. sharp, all 1400 of us, from upper Broadway, and headed south. We certainly surprised a few folks who seemingly had not yet made their way home from their Saturday night. We went to North Broadway, and headed left onto Lincoln Avenue. All along the route there are lots of volunteers with orange flags, looking just like road construction workers, albeit with a lot more teeth.

Now, I would never knock volunteers, but each one of them is as bubbly as a beauty pageant contestant, and they all yell, “You can do it! Keep it up!” After countless times hearing this, especially as I grew wearier, I really just wanted to yell something like, “Kiss my meatloaf!”

It seemed like an eternity for me to reach the one-mile marker. Incidentally, I find it amusing they call the race a “5k” yet always have the markers in miles, namely because no one knows exactly what the hell a “k” is.

Of course we runners need some liquid replenishment during the race. If you ever want some amusement, watch runners, especially dopes like me, try to drink from a cup while running. We either miss our mouth, or worse, consume too much in stride and start to choke on it. The preferred method seems to be to just pour it on top of one’s head, similar to a baptism, and then just try to suck the water in as it streams down the face.

Anyways, from Lincoln Avenue we veered near the Saratoga Race Course. Alas the thoroughbreds have headed downstate for the season, so I couldn’t grab one to help me finish. We then ran towards, then through, Congress Park. As we headed in the homestretch, on High Rock Avenue, I heard the two people behind me say, “Hey, we can still beat the 25 minute mark!” Hmmm.

Now, I have no one to talk to because my son, who, you remember, needed someone to run with him, had long since dusted me. By this time, I imagine he already had a Gatorade in one hand and a bagel in the other. So I am on my own, and give it a bit of a kick to the finish. It wasn’t easy, though, because it meant for the first time in my life I passed The Ice House without stopping in for a beer. However, it was worth it, as I did indeed beat the 25 minute mark. Certainly better than I had expected.

However, there was a caveat with my better-than-imagined finish. My time surprised my kid as well. And now he wants me to run at least one 5k a month. Sorry, dude, once every 25 years is just about my speed.

The EOC strikes back

“It’s a legal matter, baby, a legal matter from now on.”
-Pete Townshend and The Who


Now it’s getting interesting.

The continuing efforts by Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council to relocate from Saratoga Springs to Ballston Spa have taken many twists and turns over the past few years. First there was the news last year of EOC’s sale contract agreement with Ballston Spa National Bank to take over the property at 17 Low St. (the once and future Manna’s).

The opposition to the move was much-publicized. So much so, in fact, the private nonprofit agency for low income individuals in the county decided to back down, and the deal fell through.

The reasons for the opposition were plentiful. Biggest one of all was the thought of another organization coming into downtown which is not required to pay property taxes to the village, a village which could sorely use the revenue (especially in such a desirable location). This issue incensed several, including the business owners who pay such taxes.

The subsequent sale instead to Tara Stone was cheered by many, as 17 Low remained on the tax rolls, and Ballston Spa had another retail spot. And that, we all thought, was that.

Then word came down earlier this year of yet another purchase agreement between EOC and BSNB, this time for the Hayner House on Bath Street. The building was most recently the operations center for BSNB until their move out of the village last year to the Five Corners.

In their effort to get Hayner House, EOC forced the hand of the village Zoning Board of Appeals by requesting a variance from the requirement of retail space in the first floor of buildings in the business district.

On July 25, the ZBA, by a resounding 5-1 vote, said no. At issue was whether or not EOC provided “vital human services.” Meaning, in the ZBA’s opinion, EOC’s services were not health-related, nor did they provide “other necessary human services.”

EOC disagreed, and is now suing the ZBA. Ouch.

Regular readers of this column know my feelings about this. I believe the business district belongs to retailers. While I will leave the definition of vital human services to the legal system, I continue to hold to the theory the continued improvement of downtown Ballston Spa will be led by new and vibrant shops, which generate sales tax revenue, and whose building owners pay property taxes.

I spent many years working in the Hayner House; it’s a nice parcel, in a decent location. And, with a parking lot behind it, it would prove to be a great place for a local retail business. So it’s not surprising to hear word of a few others who are interested in buying it as well, and would make it retail-oriented.

This is not meant to be anti-EOC. The services they provide are admirable, and many benefit from their work. As I was writing this column, I saw a news flash stating EOC is currently having a food drive in honor of the victims of September 11. This, like other services of EOC, is good stuff. Stuff they do all the time, and they have a well-earned reputation because of it.

And that is the no-win situation part of this. If EOC is successful legally and ends up relocating to Bath Street, they will possibly do so with a target on their back. Which is unfortunate, given the work they do. There is not likely to be a Welcome Wagon sent over to greet them, especially from neighboring business owners. Again, unfortunate, but that’s how it is.

I am frankly surprised EOC is taking the legal action, especially given their prior reluctance to push the envelope at 17 Low St. It is their right of course, but it makes one wonder what’s next. This is not like the recent court battle between Apple and Samsung, in which both parties have ample funds to prolong the legal process. This is a Village which would prefer to use its revenue to better the well-being of its residents, and a nonprofit which wishes to do the same for its clients. Organizations which would not appear to be prime candidates to square off against one another in a court room.

But it looks like that’s exactly what may happen.