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Healthy Choices for Families

Town Board Minutes 2/15/2005


        Others present:  Helen Kopke, Town Clerk; Eric Dickson, Town Attorney; Richard Pollock, Superintendent of Water & Sewer; Frank Gavin, Superintendent of Highways; Kathy Matern, Town Planner; Paul Sebesta, Comptroller; and Kathleen Gansfuss, Director of Recreation.

        The minutes of the meeting of February 1, 2005 were approved as presented.

        Prior to hearing from the public, Supervisor Smith announced that the traffic study for the Paulson/Cerone Subdivision given to the Town lacked information that the Town felt important.  Counts were conducted at LishaKill and Consaul Road but not at Kalabian  and Liskakill.  Both of these roads feed into Lishakill and feed down towards this development.  DOT is also concerned about some of the methodology and also mentioned that the counts were conducted in mid-August which does not make sense given that school is not in session.  The Planner has written to the Engineer directing them to redo the traffic study.  
        At this time, Councilwoman Kasper made a statement that she had received many phone calls from Lori Drive residents.  She will not be able to call each one back individually and wanted to tell them her stand now.  She thanked the residents for their phone calls and zealousness.  They have shown government working at its best because they are taking such an avid interest.  
As head of Parks & Recreation the Paulson/Cerone property came to the committee with recommendations from the Planning Board.  There was a lot of discussion at the Planning Board with the result that there would not be a park.  At the beginning a park was proposed where the two subdivisions would connect but this was not a good place for a park.  The committee debated this a long time and sent their comments on to the Planning Board.  They have debated it and determined no park on this property.
        She first got involved with this because of the Sweeney’s who live at the end of Lori Drive who were concerned about the paper street.  She and Bill Chapman worked very hard to take the paper street off the official map.  In her “Pollyanna” view, she thought the apple orchard on Liskakill would always be there.  It has been sold and will now be developed.  Two years ago, when the trees were cut, there was discussion that two houses were going up.  This did not happen and it is unfortunate that the neighborhood did not buy this property which would have closed it off forever.  
She has not participated in discussions with the Planning Board because when she became a member of the Town Board she was aware that the Town Board, Planning Board and ZBA each work in certain areas.  These people are appointed and she believes these appointments have to be done with a lot of care because they are for seven years and because they make initial decisions when they get development plans according to the Comprehensive Plan and what is best for the Town.  
        She would have liked to see all of the developers come to a unified plan so the projects aren’t done piecemeal.  Unfortunately there is still one piece that can’t be included because one landowner is not involved.  She is not pleased with a straight line connection and would have liked a winding pathway.  The winding path, which is alternate 2, involves someone else’s land.  
She has made her views known in this forum.  She does not call Planning Board or ZBA members.  She expects them to do the best thing for all citizens in the Town.  As far as a street being a “cut-through,” at the beginning of her term we had one on Hedgewood and off Ruffner.  Both are small connections of two neighborhoods.  The neighbors were concerned and have reported that no one uses them.  A St. Mark’s connection was reviewed in the early 1990’s and she is still unhappy that this has not been connected because it creates a dangerous condition. She is listening to the citizens of Lori Drive but will not speak before the Planning Board.  She has done so only once regarding the Coop parking lot because of her worry about seniors crossing the road.  
        Supervisor Smith stated that he hopes that a more circuitous route is not a dead issue and he hopes that the Planning Board will still consider this in their final sub division approval.

        Bob Leonard, 1121 South Country Club Drive, asked if there was any possibility of an ice skating facility in the Town.  Councilwoman Kasper responded that we had ice skating in the past at Blatnik Park for four or five years.  Poor weather conditions made skating conditions prohibitive so it was abandoned. Central Park does not allow skating anymore either.  She will bring it up at the Parks and Recreation Committee meeting.  Supervisor Smith would like to see skating at St. James Square near the fountain.

        Cindy Schwartz, 1363 Ruffner Court, reviewed the recent dog park survey and was surprised to see the strong support for the park.  Comments made showed a large percentage of people who would not use the park but said it was a good idea.  Their issues was the location and the size and age of dogs.  Ms. Schwartz felt that if people knew the quicker way to get to the Recreation Center it would alleviate this concern.  She felt that size of dog and age of dog were private issues.  When she totaled up undecided comments, out of 295, 198 people, or 67%, expressed support for the concept.  She requested that if the Town goes ahead with the idea that the committee who prepared the report has an opportunity to explain some of the sections of the report submitted to the Town so they can understand the results.  They looked at parks all over the country and made recommendations for Niskayuna based on their knowledge of the Town.
She felt it would be much stronger for the Town Board to be proactive in their management.  She supports the dog park because she feels that there is serious consideration of changing the dog park rules in the Town.  She suspects if the Board chooses not to pass a dog park right now, as soon as they change the rules, they will find that the silent dog owners (who have their own ways of taking their dogs to parks off lead) will flip and this issue will be back again in a reactive manner.
Renee Filin, 1495 Myron Street, has worked with Cindy Schwartz on the report in support of the dog park.  She found it very helpful to receive the survey and to have the opportunity to read the comments.  There were at least 40 positive comments and support from residents who would probably not use the dog park for the reasons already identified.
In evaluating the survey results, she asked the Board to look at the Town of Clifton Park who are 50 square miles, 33,000 residents and have a dog park.  They currently have 120-180 $30 licenses issued for their dog park.  They have added additional amenities over time such as a picnic table and pavilion.  Ms. Filin believes our survey shows we would have average use of a dog park compared to Clifton Park.  The Town of Bethlehem has had a dog park for five years.

Elmer Bertsch, Orchard Park Drive, discussed the pending renewal of the cable franchise agreement between the Town and Time Warner.  He stated that there is a county-wide effort to have all of the municipalities negotiate and use the influence of the larger mass for a new contract.  The Town of Niskayuna has elected to withdraw from this and he thinks this is unfortunate.  The minutes of the last meeting notes that Niskayuna is not participating.  At the last meeting it was announced by the Supervisor that the Town has been in negotiations with Time Warner since July.  The idea that the decision has not been made seems to be foreclosed.  Mr. Bertsch also felt it was relevant that the material put out by the County suggested that one of the elements of the work to be done through this consortium would be a needs assessment (to determine what the longer term needs are for access like Channel 16 and Channel 17) and audit (for gaining financially).  It was announced that after having a resolution passed by the Town to have an audit done by a firm in Buffalo, 20 months after the resolution was passed a contract was signed.  By that time the RFP by the County was out.  The contract calls for 50% of anything recovered to go to the firm that is doing the audit.  There is nothing in the audit in regard to collection and he doesn’t know if there is any speeder collection approach.  He thinks it is quite likely that 50% of the audit costs will be more than the Town might have expected to have to pay for participating in the County-wide effort.  
Mr. Bertsch is on the Board of Directors of Channel 16 (Schenectady Access Cable Counsel).  There has been no approach to them with regard to what the needs are for access television.  This is the 30th year of access television within the County and in those years Niskayuna has not contributed to support access.  Mr. Bertsch distributed the “Minimum Standards for Public, Educational and Government Access” and read from this publication.  He felt there is a need for a lot of advocacy for the government and educational channel and this is the vehicle for doing it.  The Board of Education says it does not have space and he wonders if the government has space.  There is no on-going support from the contract and he felt this was highly doable.  Access television in the City gets $80,000 which is a modest amount but there is nothing for education.  
The contract will be for ten years so the idea that we would get equipment for the education or government components as part of the negotiation isn’t going to cut it because that equipment will be too old in five years.  We need something that includes on-going support.  He regrets that the Town has elected to remove itself from the coordinated effort.  If the Town does it independently, he hopes they reach out and make it an open process to allow people who have an interest to participate and develop the committee that is called for in the law to allow active advocacy by the Board of Education and from government representatives.
Supervisor Smith corrected the record to state that the Town is not negotiating with Time Warner. The Town met with Time Warner to inform them that they were beginning the process and the Town has had no further meetings with them.  There are no on-going negotiations, and the Town has not done our needs assessment but the Town Board has directed the Supervisor to move forward on it.  The Board will vote on a proposal when it comes in.  
The Town did not withdraw or join the consortium.  The Town continues to attend the meetings and the county has been told that the Town is moving forward with our needs assessment.  If at any time the Town Board chooses to, they can vote to join the consortium.  At the time we have to make a decision on our needs assessment we will see where they are.  We started this process almost two years ago by authorizing the financial audit and we have to move forward.  When he took office the Town had a committee who met with the school. It isn’t the most active committee, and Councilman Holt has met with them in terms of some of their needs, but this is not a formal needs assessment.  The Town will continue to look at what is going on in the County.  Rotterdam also did not join the consortium and Schenectady and Glenville have joined.  Scotia is in, but they negotiated their contract three years ago.  Mr. Bertsch was informed today that there is expectation that Rotterdam will join but it was unknown whether they joined as yet.  Supervisor Smith replied that this is different than the information he has.   

Edward Vanover, 863 Warner Road, spoke in opposition of the proposed dog park because of its location.  It has no practical value to him because he lives at the other end of Town.  He asked the Board to look at the location of the residents who responded favorably.  He reported that the Town Clerk in Clifton Park reports that they have almost a 50% drop off of registrations for their dog park from last year and there has been a steady decline since it has been instituted.  
Regarding Lishakill Road, he feels it already has problems with its water lines, it is a narrow twisting road, and it barely handles the traffic it has now.  Entering Lishakill Road during rush hour is very dangerous.  It is now being used as a cut off from Consaul Road to Route 7.  He would hope that the new traffic study will be done at a time when it will be more reflective of the traffic this road takes.  He is not opposed or in favor of the connection of Lishakill and Route 7 but he is concerned about residents who would be cut off from emergency services if there was a problem on Lishakill.
He spoke in favor of the resolution regarding volunteer firemen, except he was concerned about what will be considered an “active” member.  He suggested that the Board revisit who is eligible and give the exemption only to those who are taking an active part in going out on calls on a regular basis instead of just being an “active” member.  Fire Districts will determine who falls under active membership which must be certified to the Assessor.  Mr. VanOver strongly suggested that the rules be included in the resolution so it cannot be changed later.
Mr. VanOver suggested traffic devices on any feeder streets might dissuade drivers from using the connector streets as shortcuts.  There has been a lot of new housing in the Lishakill Road area including those in Colonie that also includes a Town park.  He feels there is an incredible amount of traffic on Lishakill that needs to be curtailed.  He does not care how does this is done whether through feeder street or rebuilding the road, but the Town needs to address this because it is a severe problem.  

Debbie Forester, Hempstead Road, suggested that if 925 surveys were sent out and only 295 responses were received, this is a response rate of less than 32% which is fairly low for a single issue.  The fact that a lot of residents did not respond suggests that there may be a lot of people who don’t care.  They may only have only 100-150 people who would use the park.  If this costs $8,000-$10,000 to run the park, this works out to be $6500 per dog using it which seems incredibly expensive.  
There are other potential costs and consequences to the building of the facility besides what it costs to run and how many people use it that includes people’s perceptions of where dogs can be walked.  She worries that people will say she can’t take her dog to certain places because there is a dog park.  These secondary consequences should be considered.  As a dog owner and resident she wonders if there is a problem with dogs of such magnitude that it requires the expense of building and maintaining a dog park.  She would like to know if efforts have been made to examine a range of options.  She wonders how it was decided that a dog park was the best and only action that could be taken.  She’d like to know what problem the dog park is trying to solve and whether or not a dog park is the best, the only or the most cost effective way to address it.
Councilwoman Kasper reported that a committee of four submitted the idea.  It was not because there was a problem but because they felt a need to have dogs have a place to run without being on a leash since the Town has a leash law.  The problem in the Town is irresponsible dog owners.  Many residents have unlicensed dogs and they need to get licensed to make sure they have their rabies vaccines.  Licensing requires proof of rabies.  Another problem is the issue of dogs “being controlled by their owners.”  Many dogs run lose or are let out at night or are let out on very long leashes.  
Supervisor Smith also reported that the reason a dog park is being considered is because residents petitioned the Town to do so.  The Town is looking into it and he requested that if Ms. Forester had information about other options he would be glad to have these when they have further discussions.
Councilman Chapman stated that the ability for dogs to be able to run unleashed would be healthy for the dogs.

Charene Tate, 78 Lori Drive, stated her appreciation for the Board listening to her concerns about the Cerone/Paulson development and the connector road.  She distributed a petition circulated in the County signed by concerned citizens.  She noticed a paper street on Lansing’s Executive Summary and was told by the Town Planner that this is filed subdivision map of the Lori Meadows Subdivision there is a future connection which is part of the road system for Lori Drive.  
Ms. Tate stated her concerns about the connector street that connect Lori with Route 7 and Lishakill Road. She continues to see no justification for this connector road.  She knows that there are people who live on Liskakill Road who have concerns about their own road and she believes that we strengthen Lishakill Road as a County collector street rather than solving the problem by dumping traffic and the problem down Lori Drive.  Existing Lori Drive residents have alternative access via Douglas Court and the residents of the proposed subdivisions have two proposed roadways for emergency exists.  Residential traffic will face more potentially dangerous intersections and traffic conditions with the new connector road with un-signaled intersections.   She is concerned about future development that may exacerbate the condition.  Any future commercial or residential development along Lishakill Road and Route 7 will increase Lori Drive traffic.  She is concerned about alternative plans were all rejected and not considered.    

Mike Ambrosino, 63 Lori Drive, pointed out that the traffic study Executive Report defined Route 7 as a major collector, Lishakill as a local collector, and Lori Drive as a local street providing access to 60 single-family residents.  He feels it is easier to enter Route 7 from Lori Drive than from Lishakill.  He feels the typical driver, in his opinion, has a place to go and will cut through parking lots to avoid red lights.  They have offered many options and he has heard very few people say that this connector must be done.  He wondered why connectivity couldn’t be accomplished with a walking path barricades they have suggested.  
Supervisor Smith answered that it has been the policy throughout the history of the Town to connect neighborhoods to disperse traffic so that we do not all sit on Troy Road and Balltown Road.  The idea is to have traffic move throughout the Town.  If there is a reason based on the traffic study that the impact will be significant, he hopes that the Planning Board would vote to not do this connection.  It is his hope that they will look for the most circuitous route so that it is not an attractive cut through and he hopes that they do their job.  He is at every Planning Board meeting to make sure these things are being considered.
The Planning Board is looking and has listened to his input.  They will have the traffic study and they will make their decisions.  
Mr. Ambrosino is hoping that we can make new policy.  He is concerned that added traffic could cause a tragedy and if the connection is not made, it will never happen.  Councilwoman Kasper recalled that the two fatalities in Town involving children both happened by their own neighbors, on St. Marks and John Paul Court.  One was on a cul-de-sac, and one was on the end of a non-connecting street.  She believes children should not be in the street because neighbors can hit children who supposedly were looking out for them.  Most children in the Town must walk in the street to get from house to house.
Mr. Ambrosino hoped that when the new plan comes out that it is looked at and if it gets passed the Planning Board that the Town Board will realize it is no good and they have the power to stop this road from going through as other Towns have done in the past in the best interest of the residents.  

Daniel Bocci, Cromer Avenue, reported a dangerous condition at Mohawk Commons and he requested that a Stop sign be installed. Supervisor Smith responded that the Town Planner and Police Chief have been in correspondence with the mall managers to take a look at how the traffic moves through the mall.  
Sam Fisher, 2305 Berkeley Avenue, noticed that the stop sign on Sweetbrier Road at the end of Godfrey Lane was unnecessary and should not be there.  Usually the through street would not have a stop sign and it has caused some confusion.  

Kevin McDonell, 2312 Barcelona Road, was concerned about broken glass and graffiti at the Van Antwerp Middle School where he likes to play baseball.

John Herrgesell, 59 Lori Drive, and Fire Chief of Niskayuna Fire District No. 2, reported that the fire service has a mutual aid agreement plan with Midway Fire Department (located on Consaul Road) so there is no delay in a response for emergency services to Lori Drive residents if Lishakill Road is blocked. The time needed for a Midway response versus a District 2 response are similar. The departments use each other quite a bit.  If Lishakill were blocked where District 2 couldn’t get in, Midway could handle this call.  During the day time they have a mutual aid program from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. where they automatically go to any structure fire on Lishakill Road as part of their agreement.  The fire department has a system in place that they take very seriously for active firefighters that gives the authority by the Chief and Board of Fire Commissioners to determine who is active and who is not.  To meet New York State Probationary Firefighter status you have to be very active for the first five years.  The second part is permanent exemption or those with 20 years of active service.  Members who are coming up on retirement (even though they don’t go to calls all the time), are still very active in activities. The requirements are all based on the State Service Award Program.  It is fairly difficult to get the 50 points if you are not active.  It requires a certain percentage of calls and drills.  Officers automatically get 25 points because of the time required.  Certain percentage of call, drills, meetings and miscellaneous training get certain points.  Part of being active are drills where you are away from your family for quite a bit of time.  The intent of the exemption is to encourage volunteer fire fighters.  The average tax exemption would be $180 based on an assessed property of $135,000 in Niskayuna.  

Leslie Gold, 1919 Pawtucket Road, stated that dog licenses originate from the Agriculture Department because licensing is based in agriculture law with the original intent to protect livestock.  Over the years it has been retained due to running-at-large pets.  She felt it was unfortunate that no one has looked at the fact that a lot of cats run lose, spreading illnesses, and damaging neighbor’s properties.  

David McMinn, 1404 Rowe Road, suggested that if the Town also included playgrounds alongside the dog park, more people could use the facility.

        The following resolutions were approved with a vote of five ayes unless otherwise noted.

        Resolution 2005-48, accepts a deed to a vacant lot located at 501 Stanford (within the Stanford, Fillmore Sewer Extension Project) by Roxa Ann VanDyck, who resides at 11 Burhans Place, Delmar, NY

        Resolution 2005-49, establishes a $15.00 fee per copy for the 2003 Comprehensive Plan.  Councilman Chapman made a motion to set the fee at $7.50.  There was second.  The resolution was approved with a vote of four ayes, with Councilman Chapman voting no.

        Resolution 2005-50, appoints Donald Hirshorn, 860 Hereford Way, as Chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals for the remainder of calendar year 2005.

        Resolution 2005-51, adopts Local Law 3 of 2005 establishing a partial exemption from real property taxation on property owned by certain persons who are members of volunteer fire companies.

        Resolution 2005-52, authorizes the issuance of serial bonds for Town Highway equipment in the amount of $310,000.       
        Resolution 2005-53, authorizes the issuance of serial bonds for the construction and reconstruction of various pavement areas on the Town Park and Bike Path in the amount of $100,000.

        Resolution 2005-54, support the Niskayuna Consolidated Fire District No. 1 in its pursuit of State legislation to allow the charging of user fees for life support ambulance service.

        Resolution 2005-55, authorizes the purchase of a skid steer loader with attachments from Bobcat Company, at a total cost not to exceed $37,000.

        Resolution 2005-56 authorizes advertising for bids for a new or used 1 to 3 ton dump truck.

        Resolution 2005-57 accepts bids for the purchase of catch basins to be used in the Town’s Public Works operations during 2005.

        Resolution 2005-58 authorizes the sale of unneeded vehicles and equipment from various departments to be sold on consignment through Alex Lyon & Son.

        Resolution 2005-59, accepts a bid for a multi-use dump body, plow and wing for use by the Highway Department from T & T Sales, at a total cost not to exceed $50,875.

        Resolution 2005-60 accepts a bid for a cab and chassis for the Highway Department from Tracey Road Equipment at a total cost not to exceed $93,100.

        Resolution 2005-61 rejects all bids received for a vacuum street sweeper and authorizes re-advertisement for bids.

        Resolution 2005-62 appoints temporary seasonal laborers in the Parks Department.

        Resolution 2005-63 authorizes the purchase of one 20’ 3.5 ton deckover equipment trailers at a cost not to exceed $4,000, and one 25’ 5 ton flat deck equipment trailer at a cost not to exceed $4,500 for the Parks Department from Versatile Trailer Sales & Leasing.

        Resolution 2005-64 authorizes the purchase of a hot pressure washer for the Parks Department from VanBuren Enterprises, at a cost not to exceed $3,900.

        Resolution 2005-65 authorizing the printing of flyers for the Spring Programs for the Recreation Department from Vincy’s Printing, t a cost not to exceed $850.

        Resolution 2005-66 authorizes the payment of membership fees for the Zone Five Regional Law Enforcement Training Academy in the amount of $2,790.

        There being no further business to come before the Town Board, the Supervisor adjourned the meeting.

                                        Helen F. Kopke, Town Clerk

One Niskayuna Circle, Niskayuna, NY 12309
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