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The Altamont enterprise and Albany County post. (Altamont, N.Y.) 2006-current, October 19, 2006, Image 2

Image and text provided by Guilderland Public Library

Persistent link: http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/2006245259/2006-10-19/ed-1/seq-2/

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\M Oe ^V'-^^rft^v Editorial ;ence, openness, are all essential for public officials *•*<*., \Maintain safety, law, and order, while fostering a sense of freedom and welcome.\ Anthony Salerno was hired as Altamont's public safety commissioner over a year ago. The long-time Albany cop had his work cut out for him. Many in this peaceful village of 1,800, which covers just one square mile, felt ha- rassed by the inordinately large number of police officers and police-officers-in-training. Villagers complained on our pages and to the board of trustees about unwarranted traffic stops and meddling in private affairs. \There is so much radar in the village, I am surprised we all don't suffer from radiation,\ wrote one dis- gruntled citizen. After all, Altamont is already served by the Guilderland town police, the Albany County Sheriffs Department, and the State Troopers. A citizens' committee was established to evaluate the Altamont Police Department. The committee surveyed residents and business owners in the village and concluded the police department should stay but needed restructur- ing. In the village elections that followed, three of those committee members were voted into of- fice — Mayor James \\\•\\\\\\*•\\\^————— Gaughan, who chaired the commit- tee, and trust- ees Kerry Dineen and DeanWhalen. • The new board hired Salerno who wasted no time in better organizing the department. The number of part-timers has been cut by half and police records of arrests are now meticulously filled out and available to the press and public. Salerno also set about drafting standard operating pro- cedures for the department. These were all good things and welcome changes. The outcome at this month's board meeting, however, proved disappointing. Although sev- eral-board members said they had not read the manual, they proceeded to adopt the proce- dures anyway on a provisional basis. We congratulate Trustee Harvey Vlahos, the sole dissenter. He wanted to put off the vote until all the board members had read the hun- dreds of pages in the manual. Vlahos raised several important questions about the procedures. \Officers are encouraged to be aggressive but courteous and respectful of constitutional rights,\ Vlahos read from the manual. This is in a village where citizens have com- plained about harassment from police for sev- eral years and where complaints have been aired publicly several times in the last year alone about police aggressiveness. At the same October meeting, the board accepted a resignation from an officer, Josh Davenport, who had been accused of harass- ment. He had been suspended twice, once after a local convenience-store clerk had complained in a letter to us that \Officer Davenport has repeatedly and consistently used foul, abrasive, and threatening language when approaching me at my place of employment.\ Vlahos read from another section of the manual, on employee evaluations in the police department: \The review will be conducted by someone superior and then the evaluation will be reviewed and sighed-off by the commissioner of public safety/chief.\ \We don't have a lieutenant or sergeant...so basically it makes the commissioner judge, jury, and executioner,\ said Vlahos. Perhaps this passage was merely copied from the manual of another larger department that had a number of ranking officers. But it should be written to serve our village. Without answering these questions, Vlahos asked, why would other board members vote to adopt the procedures—unless they hadn't read it. Most troubling of all was Salerno's response to Trustee William Aylward, the only board member other •\ than Vlahos to ask questions. \I feel this is basi- cally unfair,\ Salerno re- sponded. A legislative body should probe the author of policy before adopting it. What is unfair to all of us is having representatives who do not read procedures before they adopt them. We've all seen the problems that arose re- cently after elected school board members in Voorheesville trusted the contents of contracts to administrators rather than reading them and raising questions themselves. Adopting the manual provisionally was bet- ter than out|ight adoption because changes can be made, but the police are still working under those procedures. Salerno did not address any of the issues that Vlahos raised during the October meeting and he would not comment on the manual or answer questions about it from our reporter, Saranac Hale Spencer. Villagers have a right to know the procedures under which their police operate. Our letters pages have run comments praising earlier Altamont police chiefs who were able to \main- tain safety, law, and order, while fostering a sense of freedom and welcome.\ This is an admirable goal and could begin with good communication. We urge the village to post the manual on-line so that not only the officials can read it, but the citizens as well. Diligence, openness, and accountability are essential in public officials—both elected board members and appointed safety commissioners — if there is to be public trust. Kids' posters a big hit at the firehouse p To the Editor: This past Saturday, Oct. 14, the Voorheesville Fire Depart- ment and Ladies Auxiliary hosted our fire prevention open house and spaghetti dinner. Once again, it was a huge success and we would like to thank the community and .the neighboring departments, the Voorheesville Ambulance, the New Salem Fire Department, and the Guilderland Center Fire Department for their assistance. The proceeds from our spag- hetti dinner ($350) will be donated to the Albany County Burn Fund. The key ingredient to making this year's open house a true suc- cess was the elementary school poster contest. We had 149 fire- safety posters on display from students in kindergarten tp^ugh the fifth grade. This , jfaifS• ,*. $0^JBMent increase over, irejar. The public cast ballots for the best poster in each grade and we will award cash prizes to the top three in each grade. The poster that received the most votes will be put on our 2007 Calendar. A letter will notify all winners. We want to especially thank the Voorheesville school admin- istration, teachers, parents, and the students that made the poster contest a huge success. The poster contest, with its large number of entries, helped spark discussions of fire safety awareness among the students, teachers, and parents, thus making this communily a safer place to live. Thank you again for your support. William A. Stone, Chief Voorheesville Fire Department CORRECTION In a story last week oh the Altamont Village Board adopting, on a provisional basis, standard operating procedures for the village's police department, we reported the vote incorrectly. It was 4 to 1. Mayor James Gaughan voted with the majority. Also, in arelatedstory on ah Altamont police officer resigning, we wrote that Gaughan did not return calls for comment. He was away on vacation, he told us this week, and did not receive the messages. The Altamont Enterprise - Thwsd^O&^i^^^i^Si::';, Keith Lee is a garden specialist who donates hundreds of hours To the Editor: I would like to suggest to the editor as regarding your paper's reporting of the village of Alta- mont monthly meetings, to refer consistently to long time ACT (Altamont Community Tradi- tions) member Keith Lee solely as \the mayor's partner\ does not fully explain to your readers his role at these meetings. Specifically, he is there to deliver to the board and the public citizens present, a report of his activities as a volunteer landscape designer, caretaker of the village of Altamont gardens and parks, and as co-chair of the Maple Avenue Park Committee, along with Phyllis Schilling. Keith Lee is a specialist in gardens who donates hundreds of hours of his time, in all kinds of weather, to the beautification of our parks and gardens, and also to gardens found at historic houses and museums in Albany. He deserves to be identified properly and acknowledged for bis scholarship so your reader- ship can appreciate the authority and knowledge he brings to his work lending credence to these reports. Marijo Dougherty Altamont Zoning to protect farmland blatantly ignored To the Editor: Apparently the words \Chip chip, a-chippin' away\ are not only the lyrics to the Gene McDaniels' song but have become the philosophy of the Guilderland Planning Board when it comes to respecting the Agricultural Zoning category. On Wednesday, Oct. 11, I attended the planning board meeting to address issues on the proposed subdivision on French's Hollow Road. This property of 6 acres is currently zoned agricultural. This parcel was once a part of the larger historic Brandow Ironically, the board chair said that he agreed with everything I said yet stated he was powerless to do anything about it because a 2-acre subdivision is allowed within an agricultural zone. The approval of the subdivision request contradicts the purpose of the zoning ordinance. The board approved the sub- division, announcing that it was a \residential subdivision.\ Did they happen to change the Zoning law without anyone knowing it? I'd like to remind the town that hundreds of citizens, including me, took part in the western I pleaded with the planning board. farm tract, which was rezoned agricultural in the 1980's for the express purpose of preserving historic farms in Guilderland. In the 1990's, a residential sub- division called Elizabethfield was approved and fractured the historic Brandow farmland. This large agricultural tract became wholly residential in character contrary to the zoning ordinance. At the time of ap- proval, a limit on the number of lots was placed due to con- straints of water delivery, lack of sanitary sewers, concerns about drainage into the Normanskill, and concerns about traffic and emergency vehicle access. A few years pass, and another request for further subdivision of this agricultural property is presented to the planning board. This time, the request is for a residential subdivision which would change the agricultural land to residential without a zoning change. I pleaded with the planning board to consider the express purpose of this agricultural zone, which is \to assure a proper economic and physical environ- ment for continued agricultural use of land to maintain an open, rural character to viable agri- cultural areas which have many sensitive natural features to as- sure compatible types and den- sities of development, and to assure low densities of develop- ment in areas without sanitary •sewer service or public water service.\ Guilderland planning meetings held in Altamont. The hours of time devoted to these meetings led to the \Rural Guilderland Open Space and Farmland Protection Plan, 2005.\ Open communication and hard work produced these common goals for our vision of western Guilderland. — 1. Protection of natural resources, including patches of woodlands, wetlands, and wild- life habitat. — 2. Respect for scenic roads. — 3. Management of growth to maintain rural Guilderland's character and quality of life. May I remind our citizens mat, once lost, agricultural land can- not be reclaimed. Once built upon, land cannot return to native habitat or agricultural use. A backyard bird feeder is nice but does not substitute for native plants, open spaces, woods, and cover. Please don't sit in apathy about this issue. There are zoning laws to protect our quality of life and these laws are being blatantly ignored in the hustle to develop, develop, develop. Please remem- ber, especially if you attended the meetings for western Guil- derland, and talk with neighbors about our vision for our neigh- borhoods and stand up for what is right. GailHein Guilderland Editor's note: See related story. J--!:^.b-

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