Why do we have multiple youth football and basketball programs in our community that essentially split our talent pool in half and cause us to have competition and consistently [Read more…]
Swimming Under the Stars is an annual event that offers resident families of Ballston Spa the opportunity to take a nighttime swim in the Village Municipal Swimming Pool.
Live music, free food, beverages and snacks from the outdoor barbecue courtesy of the Ballston Spa Fire Police, and kids will have the chance to roast marshmallows.
Participants under the age of 17 must be registered by a supervising adult upon arrival. The first 275 attendees will receive a free t-shirt.
BALLSTON SPA — On Saturday, April 23, 2016, the Ballston Spa Rotary Club organized a community cleanup day in the Village of Ballston Spa. Participants did light cleanup, painting and repairing where needed in three of the parks in the village, including Kelley Park, Brookside Museum and Wiswall Park.
Many local groups, such as Interact Club, the Boy Scouts, F.A.N.S. and a parents group, as well as private citizens, also participated. The village supplied the necessary paint and supplies.
BY DAN SABBATINO
A bid has placed to purchase the house at 48 Ralph St., a residence again, this year, cleaned up by the Village of Ballston Spa due to non-compliance with a number of village safety codes.
According to information from a representative at the Real Property Tax Service Agency in Saratoga County, a bid has been placed through the county, now the sovereign entity regarding the property, although specifics will not be available to the public until the deal is completed and the approved by county officials. No transaction is final until it is approved.
“I’m aware that someone had put a bid in,” said Village Mayor John Romano, who said he sympathizes with the difficult situation.
The house went up for bid in September.
Susan Sokowski, who lived in the house, was cited numerous times over the last few years for safety code non-compliance, and the village brought the house to code at Solkowski’s expense.
A number of health and safety violations have been cited, including a structurally unsound garage, garbage and waste material in the yard and overgrown vegetation.
Sokowski and her council have been afforded a number of opportunities to come to the village board and address the matter, and in August, a postponement on the clean-up was scheduled. Sokowski, nor her lawyer, attended the meeting.
Romano said several church groups have been working with Sokowski to help address some of the issues.
“It’s comforting to know people have been working with her,” he said.
He also said Sokowski was a frequent victim of vandalism and mischief, noting passers-by often throw fast-food wrappers and other debris in her yard.
“This is not an easy thing to do,” Romano said in an earlier interview regarding the decision to move ahead to clean the property. “She’s a nice individual, she really is, but we have to consider the best interests of the village as a whole.”
At press time, where Sokowski, will live is a matter of speculation, as well as the price of the home.
Romano said more information will become available once the county, the lead agency in the sale of the home, makes the transaction final.
BY SAM CAPUANO
News has been a little slow around here the past few weeks, so I thought it might be a chance to answer some of the questions in the ol’ Village Voice Mailbox lately.
Q: Where has the Ballston Spa football team been?
A: Well, due to some tough scheduling, they have been all over the Capital Region, having played three straight games on the road. Fortunately, they have won all of those, to go along with their thrilling come from behind win over Guilderland in their home opener four weeks ago. As such, they now sit undefeated, and tied at the top of the Empire Division with mighty (and unscored upon) Shenendehowa. The Scotties will play host to the Plainsmen this Friday in what is clearly the game of the week in local high school football. It will also be the last chance to see Shen’s classy Head Coach Brent Steurwald, who is stepping down after 45 years on the job. Unless, of course, these two teams meet up again in The Super Bowl. I have a feeling it will be a fun night at The House on Friday.
Q: What’s up with 17 Low St; why is it still vacant?
A: Ah, you mean what everyone still refers to as the Manna’s Property? I wish I knew. It has been vacant well over a year, even though it was sold in May. When I spoke then with new building owner Tara Stone, she was excited about the possibilities for the property, telling me she was hoping to have someone use her new building as a banquet facility, similar to how it was used prior. Here’s hoping there will be something in there soon, as it is quite possibly the best location in the village for a business, due to the parking lot.
Q: Why didn’t the Democrats put up a candidate for Supervisor in Milton?
A: An excellent question, especially given their strong showing in the election two years ago. I guess they were waiting to see who won the Republican primary. The timing of their caucus the next day was not a coincidence. If Frank Thompson had won, I think the Dems would have put up a candidate for supervisor, especially since Dan Lewza already had the Independence and Conservative endorsements. A three-way race would have been intriguing. But, Lewza won the Republican vote easily, which must have satisfied the Democrats. Immediately after the election results were announced, in talking to people at the Republican Primary, I got the sense they also did not think there would be any opposition for the supervisor’s post in November. There will, however, be a few Democratic candidates on the ballot in November for other positions, including their 2009 Supervisor candidate, Meg Stevens, who is running for Town Clerk this time.
Q: What’s the latest with GLOBALFOUNDRIES?
A: Well, after a pretty smooth first year or so of the construction phase, the past few months have been a bit rockier. In June, GLOBAL expressed a desire to build a second chip manufacturing plant in the Luther Forrest Technology Campus, right next to the current building. They asked New York State for $1 billion in enticements to do so. Given the current condition of the state’s economy, Governor Cuomo said no. Shortly thereafter, there was an incident in which a former employee got past the new security firm on site and assaulted a worker. Most recently, there have been several complaints from their Malta neighbors about the incessant noise of the construction project. Seems the workers are not using the entrance they are suppose to use, too. So, while the final impact of GLOBAL will no doubt provide untold benefits to the local economy for years to come, it hasn’t been smooth sailing lately.
We’ll end the letters session, with this missive sent in from a concerned reader in East Glenville:
Q: Dear Sam, have you been eating right? You look a little pale in your column picture.
A: Uhm, thanks for the concern, mom. I’ll try to mix in a few more fruits and vegetables.
BY RICHARD HALLETT
Residents who like to travel around town on their bicycles will soon have several new places to park them.
At its Monday, April 25, meeting the Village Board approved a request by the Ballston Spa Business and Professionals Association to install six bicycle racks at various downtown locations.
Tentative locations of the racks include Wiswall Park and the Iron Springs on Front Street, both ends of the Tedisco Trail, and the public parking lot on Malta Avenue. Each rack holds seven bikes.
Village Mayor John Romano said the purchase and installation of the racks would not exceed $1,400.
“I think this is a great idea,” said Romano. “It encourages people to exercise more and it will bring more activity into the downtown area.”
Also, the board honored a request by Saratoga Bridges to permit its singing group, “One Voice,” to perform on two occasions at the gazebo in Wiswall Park.
The group has performed in the past in front of Creative Endeavors on Front Street during the village’s First Friday celebrations and will use the gazebo on similar occasions on Friday, May 6, and September 2.
Romano said the switch in venues was requested because the singing group has grown to 15 members, a size too large to perform comfortably on the limited space of a storefront sidewalk.
Established in 1984, Saratoga Bridges is a local community-based home that provides support services to residents with developmental disabilities.
The board also agreed to retain the services of the Selective Insurance Company as the carrier of village’s comprehensive liability insurance program.
Romano said the plan would cost the village $92,575, up four percent from a year ago. He said the village is required to renew its comprehensive insurance program every year on Sunday, May 1. Selective Insurance has been the village’s carrier since 2004.
“Nobody can compete with Selective,” said Romano. “And considering the cost of doing business today, I think a four percent increase is more than reasonable.”
Finally, the mayor said this year’s annual Easter Egg Hunt was a huge success, and on behalf of the board expressed his gratitude to the Saratoga Jaycees and the volunteer committee for their efforts in sponsoring and running the event.
“It was so mobbed we ran out of food!” said Romano.
Village Trustee Stuart Hodsoll also issued a reminder hydrant flushing would begin Friday, May 6, and continue for two to three weeks until completed.
The next regular village board meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 9, at 7:30 p.m. at the village office building on 66 Front St.
Living in a place like our community means enjoying a multitude of blessings, not the least of which is having the pleasure of electing our very own friends and neighbors to represent us in local government. In exchange for the honor of serving they promise to listen to our concerns and address them in an effective and timely manner.
Most of the time that’s exactly how it works: we go to our local officials with some problem or concern, they look into it, and then someone is tasked to take the appropriate action. It’s a system that we have become accustomed to seeing work relatively well.
But in the case of Dave Avenarius of Cunningham’s the system has apparently broken down. Four times last year the basement of his building on East High Street flooded with backed up sewage. According to Avenarius, the village failed to respond to his repeated calls for action, although the sewage was pumped out of the basement by village fire trucks on at least one occasion. He claims the damage caused by the flooding cost him more than $11,000, and he has sued the village to recover the money.
For his part, Avenarius seems to be a reluctant litigant. “I’ve lived here all my life, I love this place,” he told the board, and made it clear he was “uncomfortable” filing suit against the village. We can certainly empathize.
Mayor John Romano appears to be sympathetic as well, although in his position he must tread lightly in the face of a lawsuit which, if lost, or even contested at trial, would negatively impact the village finances. But we think it clear he wants the situation straightened out, and we can imagine it would take little encouragement from anyone to motivate him to look into what happened.
And that is the heart of the matter. We do not know, at this point, why this obvious problem was allowed to get so far out of hand. And given the early stage of the legal side of this matter we do not think it fair for us to comment too harshly until all the facts are in.
But clearly someone along the line made the decision to either ignore an obvious issue or choose to see it as Avenarius’ problem rather than the village’s. Common sense tells us someone should have realized there was an ongoing issue after the sewer backed up a second time. That it happened two more times–the last just two days after Christmas–seems to suggest someone in a responsible position dropped the ball.
We have little doubt Romano and the board will do what they can to get to the bottom of an obviously unacceptable situation. We have no idea at this early stage whether the suit has merit, but it takes no great leap of imagination to guess there is some fire beneath the smoke. Lifelong residents like Avenarius rarely bring suit against their friends and neighbors; when they do one can believe they have good reason. Most likely, as Avenarius said, that reason has more to do with frustration than anything else.
At this very early stage, and with so little of the full story in hand, we have no way of knowing what the ultimate truth of this story will be. It could easily turn out the problem was not the village’s responsibility. But if that was the case it was not communicated to Avenarius-if anything, village fire trucks pumping out his basement would have led him to quite a different conclusion regardless.
The one thing we do know is one of our own felt compelled to sue the very people he, and the rest of us, count on to solve problems like these. At the very least we know one of our own felt his voice was not being heard. For that he has taken legal action as a last resort. A last resort that should not be reached.
BY SAM CAPUANO
Last Friday, I received a phone message to call someone, who we’ll call Ms. R, about something I had written a few weeks ago. Calls such as this are not uncommon, and when I had a moment I returned Ms. R’s call.
She did not like parts of the commentary about my adventures with Beatles’ Box Set. To refresh your memory, I purchased the set via eBay, and it turned out to be a bootleg. By the time I realized this, I had already put the whole set on my iTunes. I contacted the seller about the bogus nature of the item, sent it back, and got a full refund. And, as I wrote, I was quite pleased to ultimately get the entire set essentially at no end cost to me.
It was the latter feeling that upset Ms. R, and she told me so. She did not think I was setting a very good example for youngsters who might be reading. We talked for about ten minutes; she told me how she felt, and I said my piece. It was a very nice conversation, especially since I was getting scolded throughout most of it.
It got me thinking to the feedback I have received over the years about my writings, especially my commentaries.
When this newspaper hits the newsstands towards the end of the work week, I will typically hear from folks as I am out and about downtown. While people are generally complimentary, there are certainly exceptions. It is those exceptions which seem to stand out more.
I can remember one reader who did not like how I said the trees along Milton Avenue were not very well kept. Except I didn’t say it; I was merely documenting the opinion of someone I had interviewed. I used quotation marks and everything. Didn’t matter to this reader who started yelling at me one Saturday morning in the lobby of a local credit union. Wonder if the credit union’s surveillance cameras recorded the altercation?
A few years ago I wrote about the similarities between the Village of Ballston Spa and the fictional Village of Bedford Falls from the classic holiday film, It’s a Wonderful Life. As part of this, I opined (without mentioning names) how there was a someone in Ballston Spa who reminded me of the grumpy Mr. Potter from the movie. Three different people who thought I was referring to them, let me know they were not pleased. Since I was not referring to any of the three, it makes me wonder what type of bubbly personality these three curmudgeons had.
Occasionally, I’ll hear from a reader to correct an inaccuracy. This happened just a few weeks ago when I referred to Saratoga County EOC as government not-for-profit agency. I received a call from a retired EOC employee who politely told me I was wrong. And she was right. EOC is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit company. Considering my NIMBY rant against EOC, I was surprised this was the only feedback I heard on this one.
Perhaps the most talked about columns I ever wrote were the Ballston Spa Element series from a few years ago. I had so many people asking me about the local restaurant I was referring. I have to this day not revealed the place, but several of you thought you knew the one. One person was quite sure she knew, left a scathing message on my answering machine and demanded I returned her call. Within hours, I did, and did not hear back. A few days later, I called again, but again did not hear back. My caller was apparently too busy writing a letter to the editor of the Journal criticizing everything about me, it seemed, except my manhood.
But, back to my chat with Ms. R. I tried explaining to this kind lady how I did not mean to set a bad example. And how I was merely happy how a potentially rotten situation ended up working to my advantage. I told Ms. R my intentions are never to offend anyone with my columns.
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions, Sam,” she said.
Indeed it is, Ms. R, indeed it is. And, to the rest of you, keep those cards and letter and coming.
BY SAM CAPUANO
It’s been a few weeks since news of the potential sale of the Manna’s property on Low Street to Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council first starting generating discussion throughout our village. Those discussions have exploded over the past week, and I think it’s time to take a closer look at the issue than I did a few weeks ago in this space.
I am on record as being against EOC moving to 17 Low Street. So, it seems are a lot of others. It is not often an issue rips through our parts like this one. Perhaps it is because there is a related issue or two along for the ride.
I don’t think anyone is anti-EOC. They do fine work, and many have benefited from the services they provide. For those of you who have ranted on the blogs of this newspaper and a few of the dailies, please understand that. And, please understand this: EOC does not belong in the heart of the Ballston Spa Business District.
Even if they did pay taxes, it is not what any business district would want, as it is such a prime spot for more retail. Think of it this way: perhaps the most desirable retail spot in downtown Saratoga Springs is the Borders book store, due to its location, size, and adjacent parking spaces. The Manna’s site is the same in downtown Ballston Spa, for the same reasons. As was announced last week, Borders is closing. What do you think the reaction would be if a non-profit corporation for low income individuals, a corporation which pays no taxes, announced plans to move into the Borders space?
It wouldn’t matter, because it would not happen. Downtown Saratoga would not allow it to happen. EOC is currently located in Saratoga, but not in the business district. They are nestled in not too far from Broadway. And, if they were to find a similar building in Ballston Spa, near the business district, but not in it, very few, if any, would have any problems with it.
Then there is the issue of the property’s seller. This proposed sale has created a backlash against Ballston Spa National Bank. Full disclosure: I was a BSNB employee for over nine years at one point in my career. Because of this, I deliberately made no mention of them when last month I first wrote about my opposition to the potential EOC sale.
But, as this column in called The Village Voice, and the bank is now a large part of the biggest discussion going around said village, I would be remiss not to include them as part of this missive.
There are many people who are quite upset with the BSNB’s decision to agree to sell the Manna’s property to EOC. These people have said the bank owed it to this community to at least listen more carefully to the other offers which had been made on 17 Low Street.
This brings up an interesting question. Do they? Your columnist has been a banker for over 25 years. Some of those years were spent working to try to sell foreclosed property. Offers to buy foreclosed properties are not plentiful, especially on business foreclosures. Maintaining them is no day at the beach either. Heating bills and taxes need to be paid, driveways need to be plowed, and lawns need to be cut. Banks and credit unions do not want to be property managers.
So, given all of this, does BSNB owe it to anyone to do anything except to accept the highest bid? A growing number of local business people and property owners think so, and this is what really matters at this point. We bankers are always judged by our federal examiners by categories of risk. One of those risks is reputation risk. Fines can be paid, fraudulent employees can be fired, and bad loans can be charged off, but nothing stings as much as bad publicity. And, fairly or not, BSNB has been getting less than favorable publicity lately.
The movement of people against BSNB is also not happy with the latter’s recently announced move of their operations center to a location outside of the Village limits. My guess is this would not have created this type of stir if it had been announced last year, when the Manna’s/EOC issue was not on the table. Indeed, this newspaper covered the Town of Ballston meetings last year when BSNB was presenting their plan to move there, and the news barely created a ripple.
Now it has. The owners of several businesses and/or buildings in the business district, such as Coffee Planet, 199 Professional Building, Strolling Village Artisans and Stone Soup Antiques, which is next door to Manna’s, have, via newspaper blogs and elsewhere, publicly expressed their displeasure over the EOC sale and/or BSNB. I know of at least two meetings that have been held by different groups as to what they wish to do about the issue. I have yet to see a single business support the sale.
As my colleague Dan Sabbatino reported last week, the sale to EOC is not a done deal, as there would have to be a variance approved by the Village. And, as luck would have it, there are some village officials running for reelection. So, who knows, this may become a political issue as well. It’s become everything else, it seems, so why not?