AT A REGULAR MEETING OF THE TOWN BOARD OF THE TOWN OF NISKAYUNA DULY CALLED AND HELD ON THE 28TH DAY OF OCTOBER, 2008 AT THE NISKAYUNA TOWN BOARD ROOM, ONE NISKAYUNA CIRCLE, NISKAYUNA, NEW YORK, THE FOLLOWING MEMBERES WERE PRESENT:
JULIE McDONNELL, COUNCILWOMAN
MARIE P. FREUND, COUNCILWOMAN
DIANE P. O’DONNELL, COUNCILWOMAN
LIZ ORZEL KASPER, COUNCILWOMAN
JOE LANDRY, SUPERVISOR
Others present: Helen Kopke, Town Clerk; Eric Dickson, Town Attorney; Lew Moskowitz, Chief of Police; Kathy Matern, Town Planner; Richard Pollock, Superintendent of Water & Sewer; Kathleen Gansfuss, Director of Recreation; Amy Houlihan, Assessor; and Paul Sebesta, Comptroller.
Supervisor Landry congratulated players and coaches of the Niskayuna Baseball Ltd. eight year old Cal Ripken Jr. all-star team.
TOWN CLERK’S BUSINESS
The minutes of the meetings of September 11, 2008 and September 23, 2008 were approved as presented.
Supervisor Landry stated that he has met many residents and has learned what is important to them. The 2009 budget reflects those priorities which are the importance of public safety and emergency services, maintaining our Town roads, and assisting residents through our yard waste, leaf pickup and plowing services. These and other quality services that our residents have come to expect will continue to be provided without additional fees, limits on containers, or other restrictions. Cost increases for fuel, salt, paving materials, equipment and many other supplies that we must purchase has resulted in a financial strain on the Town’s finances. As everyone is aware, this is a problem that all government, businesses, and individuals are facing in this difficult time.
He assured the public that the Town Board appreciates the burden that all taxpayers and residents are facing this year and they have worked very hard in minimizing more pain to all of our households. They have looked at creative solutions to improve services while keeping costs down and keeping our tax increase to a reasonable level.
Working with Councilwoman O’Donnell, Chair of the Transportation and Public Facilities Committee they have implemented a pilot program this December that will add a third shift for the Highway workers which will allow us to clear our roads faster while keeping overtime costs down. We have continued to prioritize funding for our road paving program even with the recent astronomical price increase for paving materials.
Working with Councilwoman Freund, who chairs the Public Works Committee, we are drilling new wells so we can reduce our reliance on City water. We will also improve our water metering system so we can have more accurate readings and collections in 2009.
Assuring our residents are safe and have access to emergency services while keeping costs down is essential. Working with Councilwoman Kasper, chair of the Public Safety Committee, we brought on three new police officers this year (all residents of Niskayuna) who finish their training and hit the street with our Police Department in January 2009. The department will focus on preventing and reducing crime (however large or small) insuring enhanced traffic and pedestrian safety, and of course respond to calls for assistance. By fully staffing our police force, we can better protect our residence and at the same time reduce our overtime costs.
In addition to insuring that our basic Town services are delivered and delivered well in 2009 we will focus on strengthening our program to seniors and youth. Together with Councilwoman Kasper, who also chairs the Parks and Senior Program Committee, we will continue to build on our senior program offering more opportunities for social networks, fitness and wellness programs, recreation trips, meals, and transportation to those who need it. We will look to do even more in the upcoming year to meet the needs of our seniors.
In the area of Youth Programming, he has worked with Councilwoman McDonnell this year to offer new programs such as a summer playground program for pre-school children, as well as existing programs such as fall soccer by providing on-line registration and improving parent communications throughout the process. We have opened up our Education & Recreation Committee meetings by holding them at night so that parents, representatives of club sports, the school district, and other residents could participate. We have had a great experience so far in working together to share resources like fields and equipment and to develop joint goals and strategies to improve opportunities for Niskayuna children.
This budget sets forth a reorganization of the Town’s Recreation Department which he strongly believes will continue these improvements and demonstrate their commitment to move youth programming forward. They want to insure everyone’s experience with Town government is a positive one.
As with any reorganization, staffing changes will be made. This budget reallocates the functions of the Recreation Department in order to better meet the needs of the groups it is currently serving. A Community Programs Coordinator in the Supervisor’s Office will oversee all community programming events including registration, hiring, and communications. Oversight of Town Parks and Facilities will be moved to the Highway Department which currently maintains these facilities. The Parks & Facilities Coordinator position will be created to oversee the licensing, operating, leasing and scheduling of many of our parks, fields, courts, the Town pool, and Rec and Senior Center. These positions described will be filled by reallocating existing staff in the Recreation Department and the
Supervisor’s Office. This reorganization actually saves money in the budget by reallocating support to a vacant position in Town Hall with the goal is to provide our residents with better service. Some of these changes were implemented this fall in coordinating the Town’s soccer program and from the parents he has heard from, they were very happy with the improvements.
The budget that is proposed balances the needs to provide the best possible services to our residents with the recognition of the fiscal situation the Town and all of our residents are facing. He thanked residents for allowing him and his fellow Board members to represent them in governing the Town and he appreciates their participation in this process.
PRIVILEGE OF THE FLOOR
XXXXX Fairlawn Parkway, discussed the proposed 5.5% tax increase on top of last year’s increase of 9.9% and described economic issues and effects on residents. She asked why there would be a tax increase of 5.5% when some counties are proposing a zero increase.
While we are raising taxes, she believes we should not be creating new positions. Residents want to know that government financed functions are vital and believes the fire and police departments are the two most vital areas. She understands we need other departments such as Highway, but she noticed the hiring of a part time Project Aid and wondered why these responsibilities can’t be done by people already in Town Hall by giving employees extra jobs. She felt that public officials should do everything to make it easier for residents to live. They should expect good services without having to keep paying higher taxes.
XXXXX, a 15 year resident, thinks the reorganization of the Recreation Department is a great idea and this is the right time for this change. They have implemented changes this year and parents who have children involved in the fall soccer program feel they have seen drastic changes and improvements in the services provided this year versus many years in the past. She understands the Rec Department is not only about soccer and there are many other functions, but fall soccer was the first improvements they have seen.
Our Town has changed over the past 15 or 20 years with more children and the need for youth services has grown. Youth services provided 20 years ago are not the same as what we need today. We need improvement of services and accountability by the Town employees of the services they provide and the manner in which they are provided. She met with Councilwoman O’Donnell 2-1/2 years ago with other residents and provided emails that represented issues and problems from Town residents. They discussed improvements that could be made but nothing came of the meeting. The changes she is seeing now are all for the better and she hopes that the Board approves this change because it can only improve the services that they receive without budget changes. They want
good services without increasing taxes and she feels this proposal gives us that.
XXXXX Stoneridge Road, has run the Soccer Club for a number of years and supports the changes to the Recreation Department. As a parent he has good and bad experiences with the Department and felt they are not as flexible as they should be with children since the whole point is to keep children involved and active. When he hears that kids are turned away because of missed registration deadlines he thinks this is harsh since children don’t understand deadlines.
He also stated that it doesn’t make sense to him when certain Town land has been restricted in use by certain sports when other sports are in need. He also felt that more and more people will stay local and there will be an increased burden on resources. He hopes that the efficiency in the running of the fall program continues moving forward.
XXXXX Birchwood Lane, has been a life-long resident of Niskayuna has participated heavily in the athletic programs offered. He has been a long-time advocate of recreational sports in the Town; coached soccer, helped run the Niskayuna basketball program; coached flag football; Niskayuna baseball; currently runs the Babe Ruth program for youths 13-18 and is also Vice President of the Eastern NY Babe Ruth Program for the Capital District which represents hundreds of youths ages 13-15. Baseball serves 750 youths in the Town and has done so for 50+ years. The need for services actually increases when youths grow.
He described the readily-available information to youth in our Town involving access to substances, alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana and described his son’s experience. His son knows where students smoke at the high school, how to access alcohol, how to secure marijuana and where the students smoke pot; but he doesn’t know where to locate a list of clubs and he couldn’t locate any on the school web site. He doesn’t know if the swimming pool or weight room is accessible to him on a regular basis and he can’t locate intramural programs that the high school has to offer. Shaker High School has a list of clubs on line, how to contact them, the day they meet and how to get involved. Niskayuna pool information is on the high school web site but it is difficult to locate.
It is commendable that the Town wants to take a leadership role in providing ease of access in providing positive alternatives for youths. Someone has to take that leadership role. The goal of such effort is to make any information about these positive alternatives just as accessible to them as information about alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana. Information on Town and School programs should be easily accessible to both youths and parents as parents are charged with providing healthy alternatives to our youth.
Niskayuna baseball serves all town youths and is one of two rec activity for teens in this Town. There is a high demand and need for this type of program for at-risk youths in the high school. We had the maximum number of players allowed of 36 boys and had a waiting list and there were very few high school players on the teams. We have more interest than other towns leagues because some of the boys had disciplinary or substance issues in their past. They were thankful that this program was made available to them because it kept them out of trouble and parents said this was one of the few positive athletic experiences available to them in Niskayuna. One of the big reasons their program was so large in comparison to other communities was because it met a need and demand.
They welcome the Town’s leadership in providing a means to communicate the news about programs like theirs and they welcome the Town involvement in offering other programs to address the needs of teens throughout the Town.
XXXXX Brookshire Drive, felt that the Recreation Department has been the jewel of the County starting with Liz Kasper who was very active and implemented the fee structure for developers to contribute to the park fund. She is bothered by the hiring of the Project Aide and that Councilwoman O’Donnell was not informed. It was not an open and competitive position and was disappointed that the Supervisor didn’t have confidence in current employees. She felt change can be good, listed many changes made by the Supervisor and she hoped the Supervisor could be influential in reducing the tax increase in the County and Town. She thinks a lot of the Town’s expenses should be borne by the School District for things like intramural sports.
XXXXX Tamar Drive, stated that the current administration ran on a platform of open and inclusive government in response to many residents’ feelings that their needs were not being met. He felt that parents whose children played soccer (the largest community-based youth group in the Town) did not receive anywhere near the satisfaction that parents of other sports did. He thinks that the Recreation Department may have been a jewel at one time, but not now. Checking the web sites at Guilderland or North Colonie you will see synergies within various organizations within their Town that we do not have. We want to be able to give our youth programs and structure and the Town has an opportunity to lead this and we can start with reorganizing the Recreation Department as a positive move that many
He read a note from Chad and Amy Piper who expressed their support for the Recreation Department organization who have noticed a significant improvement in the administration of the program this year. As a soccer coach this year, under the direction of Laurie Perretti, his team was given to him weeks sooner than usual and he was able to communicate with parents and hand out t-shirts before the first game; all organizational things that lead to a well-run program. The teams now have 12-14 kids on them, thus reducing playing time per kid, but no one is complaining because they are a community organization serving a great number of the community.
Councilwoman Kasper stated that she was Chair of Recreation for 16 years and went after developer’s money so we could get the parkland we have now. She is still passionate about the youth of the Town and thinks they have done a beautiful job. 20 years ago there was no recreation or parks and they have worked very hard to accomplish what is in place now. Of course they didn’t have all the programs that now exist because they were just starting. She has always done parks, recreation, and seniors. She is proud of the staff we had working who developed the program from nothing. They added swimming, diving, bocce ball, and pickle ball. She asked Councilwoman McDonnell if she would like to chair the Recreation Department. No one asked her to give it up. She needed
a change and is now focused on parks and seniors. She isn’t into computers and she knows that Kathleen and Annette were involved in the on-line registration but she wasn’t.
She is very proud of the people that have worked for us. Kathleen has worked very hard to get a program going from nothing and maybe it got “bigger than big” and maybe we needed to go into other things. She was willing to change and was willing to give it up because she felt she could do her best job in Parks & Recreation with the seniors. What is happening is distressing and she’s not happy cutting somebody’s job down and thinks things could have been done differently. How things happen aren’t always the best way. She doesn’t know the hiring process and hired Laurie part time to get the fall soccer going. This evolved from Joe’s budget and he and Julie have worked on this. She is not happy about a lot of it but she is willing to give it a try and she salvaged what she could.
The Recreation Program has not been going down the tubes, they just got “too big for big” and they do need on-line registration and email. Budget wise, it is not the best for everybody and she is sad to see people upset. She told Joe she wasn’t voting for the budget because she was unhappy about the Recreation Department and tonight she came to grips with it and is willing to say maybe there is something better.
XXXXX Avon Crest Boulevard, stated that as a tax payer finds it hard to believe that the hiring of a full time position at $40,000 or $50,000 per year would cause a 5% increase in the budget. In the past year costs have increased for materials and there are a lot of issues that the Board is trying to meet. Three shifts for the Highway Department will save money to avoid overtime.
His kids have been cut out of some recreation programs because they didn’t register on time. He is President of the Niskayuna Lacrosse Club which is fairly new and they can’t find fields in which to play. They are not allowed to use certain facilities but they were able to build two new fields at the Rec Center. This change is good and the budget isn’t as bad as people are making it out to be.
XXXXX Briar Ridge, supports the changes for the Recreation Department. This is the first year in six that Rec Soccer has been coordinated. It has been a wonderful experience for her husband to be a coach because the communication with emails when the fields were too wet was done in a timely fashion so that parents were alerted early on and they didn’t have to go to the fields only to find out that the games had been cancelled. This was the first year that they were able to get rosters and notify children before school started, get shirts to them, and get a group together so they knew what was going on the first day. Change is always hard, but we need to think about bringing things on line and accessible for parents who don’t have the time to drive and register their children when the Rec
Department is available. She described a miscommunication that occurred this summer with golf lessons where the instructor did not receive the names of the children signed up for lessons causing a week’s delay. There is a lot more that needs to be done and we need to accept the changes in the department.
XXXXX Oregon Avenue, stated that she and her husband had appeared before the Board several times about the traffic on their road. There was discussion about putting up a weight limit sign and she wondered what the status was. She understands cars using the street, but the trucks and buses are very loud and disruptive and it is a very narrow road. The issue was discussed with Police Chief Moskowitz who will speak to her.
XXXXX Downing Street, stated that times and technology has changed and he supports the changes the Town is undertaking to stay up with today’s technology and for all the efforts of the Town in the past.
Peggy McDermott, 501 Windsor Court, supports the changes proposed for the Recreation Department and for the budget. Over the past six months she has seen a tremendous change in the department that has been good. Keeping up with technology is something we need to do as a community. In the business world when things don’t work corporations make changes when they are needed. Jobs are changed, renamed, or responsibilities are reallocated. She has heard a lot of complaints about hiring practices but she would like to leave it up to the Board. If they think a change is necessary they should make the changes. She doesn’t care what person is in a position as long as the change is effective and it results in something that is positive for her and the
XXXXX Lamplighter Road, serves as the President of the Niskayuna Soccer Club, and has a good relationship with the Town and looks forward to that continuing. Once the changes are in place they look forward to even tighter integration with the Supervisor’s office and the myriad of sports club that have appeared tonight. They have talked about leveraging experience with coaches and players in the travel club with a skills development program in the Recreation sessions. The strengths of our schools and the availability of Town services will continue to enhance our Town.
XXXXX Brookshire Drive, was informed by the Supervisor that the Town has done a huge amount of construction to help resolve the drainage issues from Rowe Road as brought to the Board by Dr. MacMann. They have reconfigured the piping, installed a new structure, and have cleaned out the channel. After hearing praise for the new Recreation Department procedures, she noted the Lori must be worth her salt, thinks the Department will do very well, and asked that more thought given to the seniors.
XXXXX Myron Street, member of the Board of Director of Pop Warner, is on the fence as far as the changes being proposed. Their organization has made hundreds of thousands of improvements with a new building to a Town-owned field. They have been hearing that they would be getting a water hookup since April and have a pump and meter installed but is still waiting. He is also concerned with the lack of lights in the parking lot and felt this was a safety issue.
XXXXX Windsor Court, has seen a lot of improvements in Town over the years and supports the reorganization because it is time to move forward and build upon what has been put into place in the past.
XXXXX Fairlawn Parkway, clarified that she doesn’t care about the reorganization but is concerned about a 5.5% increase in taxes and thinks many residents are also concerned. She is also concerned about the school district where many children aren’t getting what they are supposed to be getting. She would hope that the issues brought tonight are brought to the school district. The Town should not pick up the slack for what the school district isn’t doing. We should be working together so we don’t have to duplicate services. She asked the Supervisor to talk to the Superintendent of Schools to bring these concerns to them and work together to place less of a burden on residents and give the students the best program we can.
Councilwoman McDonnell responded that the reorganization of the Recreation Department is actually resulting in a savings of over $20,000. The 5.5% is the result of cost increases and decreases in funding from other levels of government, etc. She agrees we need to work more closely with the school district and we have taken steps to do that. We have created an Education & Recreation Committee to bring all opportunities together under one umbrella committee so we can make parents aware of all of the opportunities and work with the school district to see where there may be duplications and where we can work together. We are all serving the same group of kids and we have worked very well with the school district to start that communication this year and it is one of the goals to move
forward in the future.
Supervisor Landry stated that Councilwoman McDonnell has worked very hard this year, attending many meetings with the school district to try to combine services and work together and advertise programs. We are using the web site and are able to get information into the school as far as programs we offer. This is an on-going communication we keep with the schools. He sits on an ad-hoc Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse made up of police officers, County and school representatives, and Town government individuals. They are working together to try and come up with solutions and proposals based on these meetings.
Transportation Committee – Councilwoman O’Donnell announced that the dates of the leaf pickup are posted on the web site, will be in the upcoming newsletter, and is also prerecorded on the Highway Department telephone. They are concerned that the proposed budget is inadequate for road repairs and maintenance. They have been discussing some proposals for bonding some of the work and they have some concerns how this will work out. Their next meeting has not yet been scheduled.
Education & Recreation Committee – Councilwoman McDonnell announced the next meeting of the committee will be Wednesday, November 5 at 7 p.m. Fall soccer will be finishing up with Saturday the last game. The fall brochures have been received and they are taking registrations for programs and are working on preparing the winter brochures. They are taking their on-line registration to the next level and using it for registrations not just for fall soccer which gives us great information, a way to communicate with residents, and gives us great data on finances related to the program.
Public Works Committee – Councilwoman Freund noted that the Board will vote on two appointments tonight.
The water main has been installed the length of Adams Drive. They are finalizing the 20’ easement, the high density polyethylene pipe has been purchased, a sample of which was shown to the Board. This type of pipe will help with the rust issues on Winne Road. The pipe has more elasticity which will help with water hammer effects.
Matt Yetto and Rich Pollock are finishing the specs for the commercial water meters and we are on target for going out to bid for the residential water meters in December. She encouraged Board members to meet with Rich to learn more about the Water & Sewer Department, or take a tour of the facilities. We have 18 pump stations, the water tower, Water & Sewer Maintenance Garage, and Water Treatment Plant. Their budget is over $6 million and a very big part of the Town.
She felt tonight Dr. Rizzo didn’t mention how vital the Water & Sewer Department is to the Town. Our infrastructure is aging and certain repairs must be made to the system, and there are costs on a daily basis. She felt we shouldn’t pass on the cost of repairing our infrastructure to our children. Their next meeting is Wednesday, November 5 at 7:30 a.m.
Police Safety & Parks Committee: Councilwoman Kasper had distributed a report from the Regional Criminal Justice Services which is an evaluation of our systems. Supervisor Landry has been speaking with the Police Chief who is trying to prepare comments within the 30-day comment period. They will be appointing two dispatchers tonight and they continue to work with the County on a dispatch project as consolidation with dispatch will save money. The Town has difficulty getting and keeping dispatchers as many of them move on into the Police Department.
The Becker Street Park playground equipment has been purchased. She praised Sue Leonard and Edie Cannizzo who do a great job with the senior program and have planned wonderful trips.
The following resolutions were approved with a vote of five ayes unless otherwise noted.
Resolution 2008-192 calls for a public hearing November 6, 2008, at 7 p.m., on the Preliminary Budget of the Town for 2009.
Resolution 2008-193 calls for a public hearing November 6, 2008, at 7 p.m., on the Assessment Rolls and Budgets of the Town’s Special Districts.
Resolution 2008-194 approves a Special Use Permit for Sigmund, Ltd., for the reuse of 1747 Union Street as a gas station and convenience store.
Resolution 2008-195 calls for a public hearing November 18, 2008 at 7 p.m. on the establishment of a drainage district in Windsor Estates.
Resolution 2008-196 accepts a public utility easement from Bernard Martinese, residing at 5 Rembrandt Drive that would connect the water lines between Winne Road and Adams Drive.
Resolution 2008-197 consents to the relocation of the Mossey Group, Inc. formerly located at 1410 Balltown Road, from the Town of Niskayuna to the Schenectady-Glenville Empire Zone.
Resolution 2008-198 appoints Kenneth P. Hassett, to the position of Code Enforcement Officer in the Building Department, effective immediately, on a provisional basis, at a compensation of $48,465 yearly.
Resolution 2008-199 calls for a public hearing November 18, 2008 at 7 p.m. regarding proposed Local Law No. 9 to extend the Town Center Overlay District standards to the C-N Neighborhood Commercial District.
Resolution 2008-200 retains Joshua Wyman as a Civilian Police Dispatcher upon successfully completion of his probationary period.
Resolution 2008-201 appoints Andrew C. Smith as a Grounds Worker in the Parks Department on a permanent basis following the successful completion of his probation period.
Resolution 2008-202 authorizes the Chief of Police to dispose of listed junk vehicles held in the Town’s impound lot.
Resolution 2008-203 appoints various employees for the Recreation Program to the positions and compensation as listed.
Resolution 2008-204 appoints John Paniccia to the position of Maintenance Worker in the Water & Sewer Department, effective immediately.
Resolution 2008-205 appoints Joshua P. Schmidt, to the position of Water & Sewer Maintenance Worker in the Water & Sewer Department, effective immediately.
Resolution 2008-206 approves the purchase of (2) 4x4 Regular Cab Ford F350 trucks from Van Bortel Ford, at a total cost not to exceed $56,386.55.
Resolution 2008-207 authorizes the purchase of a Down Easter 6x10 dump trailer from Bennett Trailers, at a total cost not to exceed $5,200.
Resolution 2008-208 authorizes the Superintendent of Highways to extend the contract with S. M. Gallivan, for materials and equipment to remove unprocessed yard waste, materials and equipment to tub grind and windrow waste at a Town site for the purchase of screened and unscreened compost from January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009.
Resolution 2008-209 appoints E. Thomas Neals, Robert B. Fleming, Sr., and Benjamin P. Zayac, to the position of Part-Time Recycling Attendants, without benefits, at a salary of $10.7151 per hour, not to exceed 17 hours per week, effective immediately.
Resolution 2008-210 authorizes the Justice Court to establish a “change” fund in the amount not to exceed $200.
Resolution 2008-211 enacts Local Law No. 8 of 2008 to add a new Article IX to Chapter 197 of the Code entitled Cold Water Veterans Exemption.
Resolution 2008-212 appoints Derek Bittner, to the position of Part-Time On-Call Civilian Police Dispatcher, for assignment on an as-needed basis, at a rate of compensation of $16.8831 per hour, without benefits.
Resolution 2008-213 honors the players and coaches of the Niskayuna Baseball Ltd., eight-year-old Cal Ripken Jr. all-star team.
There being no further business to come before the Town Board, Supervisor Landry adjourned the meeting.
Helen F. Kopke, Town Clerk