QUEENSBURY — A huge turnout of residents with impassioned but civil comments has convinced the Town Board to reconsider a decision on dog control services.
The board had planned Monday to contract with SPCA of Upstate New York. Warren County SPCA has the contract currently, but proposed a price of $165,000 in response to the town’s request for proposals. Upstate SPCA proposed $60,000.
The board had hoped to pay for a small suite of services — just loose dog control, rabies vaccinations and dog licensing — instead of the much larger range of services offered by Warren County SPCA.
But residents said they want to keep the services that the town does not have to provide. More than 40 people turned out for the Town Board meeting, which usually draws less than a dozen.
Warren County SPCA President Jim Fitzgerald has come to residents’ houses to train their dogs so that they are no longer dangerous, and the organization has another trainer on staff.
Fitzgerald has negotiated with CPS to let a foster grandmother keep the 11 cats she accumulated when each of her four grandchildren came to live with her. His staff responds with Warren County Sheriff’s deputies to handle unruly dogs without shooting them.
Even representatives from the Sheriff’s Office came to tell the Town Board that Warren County SPCA was the better choice.
After an hour of comments from 17 people, the Town Board postponed its vote on the contract.
The board asked SPCA of Upstate New York representatives if they wanted to speak. When they chose not to, the board decided to hold a workshop later this month at which SPCA of Upstate New York could respond to the comments made Monday.
Town Board member Jen Switzer said she thought the crowd would likely make noises or otherwise behave badly if SPCA of Upstate New York spoke during Monday’s meeting, so she proposed holding a separate, but public, meeting for them later.
After that meeting, the board will make a decision. The board may have to extend its contract with Warren County SPCA for one to three months to allow time for that decision — the town could automatically extend it for three months, but must seek permission to extend it for just one month. Supervisor John Strough said he would prefer to ask for a one-month extension.
While many residents praised Warren County SPCA during the meeting, the $105,000 difference in cost could not be ignored.
“You’ve potentially saved the taxpayers of Queensbury $100,000,” said resident Ginelle Jones, who thanked the board and said she supported hiring Upstate SPCA.
On the other hand, Glens Falls resident Cynthia Harrigan warned, “You get what you pay for.”
Others were dissatisfied with the response time when they had to call SPCA of Upstate New York, which covers Glens Falls. One Glens Falls resident, Ken Lanzo, described calling when a friend lived next to a constantly barking dog.
“Three days later, I got a call back,” Lanzo said. “They told me they’d come if there was another problem — within their business hours.”
On Tuesday, the director of SPCA of Upstate New York, Cathy Cloutier, said that her agency would only respond after-hours if there was an emergency. She defined that as a dangerous dog.
Barking dogs would be handled the next business day, she said, or the call could be referred to the Sheriff’s Office for a noise complaint.
That’s what the town would prefer, she said,.
“It’s clearly stated, what the town would like us to do,” she said. “If there’s a dangerous dog out there, we would respond.”
But Fitzgerald said that would leave residents frustrated as they tried to figure out who to call for various issues. They would have to call his agency for cat problems, animal cruelty or wildlife concerns. Other issues, such as noise or dog bites, would go to law enforcement.
“I’m one phone number,” he said.
Several residents said that was what they liked about Warren County SPCA.
“The one think I can tell you is, when they’re called, they come,” said Robin Barkenhagen of Glens Falls, who is now a spokesman for the agency. “Doesn’t matter when, doesn’t matter why, and we’re going to solve the problem.”
Others complained that they adopted dogs from SPCA of Upstate New York and had problems with them. Some were removed from their mothers before eight weeks and became vicious, they said. Others ended up much larger or a different breed than described.
Fitzgerald offered to negotiate for a lower price by cutting out some services, and his agency’s lawyer said the bill from SPCA of Upstate New York might be higher than expected, because the town would have to pay an additional $100 for every after-hours response.
But board members were most concerned by the reports of slow response times.
“I did have some concerns with SPCA Upstate with regards to their resources,” said board member George Ferone, noting that Glens Falls is one-sixteenth the size of Queensbury, in square miles.
“Maybe they can do a great job in 3.9 miles,” Ferone said. “But Queensbury is 64.81 square miles. It’s an important decision. It’s important we make the right decision.”
Supervisor John Strough defended SPCA of Upstate New York, noting that the town would pay only for what it is required to provide and that the board had interviewed both agencies and discussed it at length.
But the rest of the board insisted on tabling the vote for more discussion.
“I’m sorry, but I do,” said board member Tony Metivier. “I’m very concerned about some statements that were made, especially with response times.”
Board members agreed to hold a workshop later this month, at which SPCA of Upstate New York is expected to respond.
Warren County leaders plan to put additional funding toward paving county roads this year, and will have the work done by private contractors instead of the county paving crew.
Assistant Public Works Superintendent Kevin Hajos received the go-ahead from county supervisors to put an additional $271,000 in county money toward paving five county roads in the central and northern part of the county.
While that is good news for drivers who use these roads, the decision as to who will do the work was a change in county practices, to a degree.
The DPW has done the vast majority of its own paving in recent years, despite calls from some to privatize paving to save money and improve the quality of the work. But Hajos said having private contractors do the additional work will allow his staff to catch up on other maintenance duties.
The additional roads to be resurfaced include stretches of East Schroon River Road in Chester, Warrensburg Road in Thurman, South Johnsburg Road in Johnsburg, East Shore Drive in Horicon and Schroon River Road in Warrensburg. These projects will be done in addition to 11 other paving projects set for this summer, funded by about $2.3 million in annual federal, state and county funds.
Hajos said the DPW will work with the contractors selected to do the paving to try to keep the costs down by bidding the work together so they can mobilize crews to get multiple projects that are geographically close to each other done quickly.
“You can get better pricing grouping projects together,” Hajos said.
Horicon Supervisor Matt Simpson, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors Public Works Committee, said he doesn’t believe the county will do away with its paving crew, as there will always be a need for an in-house paving operation. But freeing up workers will result in the department getting to other work that sometimes went to the back of the line, he explained.
“It’s going to allow us to do more things like road maintenance work and culvert work,” he said.
The county drastically cut back on paving during the tough financial times between 2008 and 2013, resurfacing about 10 to 15 miles per year that could be done with annual federal and state funding through the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program.
In past years, the state has provided additional money in the spring for repairs to winter-caused damage, but that funding has not been announced this year.
Hajos said 20 to 25 miles needs to be done annually to keep up with wear-and-tear.
“That’s a re-do of the road every 10 years, and that’s what we should be doing,” he said.
Hajos said the county is still not to that level, with 16.5 miles scheduled for this year, but he understands that budgetary issues limit how much money can be appropriated.
When White Creek Town Supervisor Robert Shay is driving near his home, he often wonders what he would do if he ever crashed.
According to him, the sequestered glen where he lives has just about no cellular service.
Sometimes he goes to a particular hill to get service — but it’s still hit or miss, he said.
“You know what it’s like in these rural areas ... no cell service — no nothing! It’s terrible,” Shay said Tuesday. “If I were to ever get in an accident, I could be in trouble.”
Many people do know what it’s like. Roughly 23 million people live where there are no options for broadband, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
By comparison, just 4 percent of Americans in urban areas lack access to high-speed internet, according to the report.
Luckily for Shay and the residents of White Creek, the $4,157,207 they received in state funding late last week to expand its broadband services should help. White Creek was granted the most money out of 20 other towns in Washington County.
In Warren, Washington, Saratoga, Essex and Hamilton counties, towns received millions for homes, businesses and community institutions to access high-speed internet and cell phone service.
Washington County received more than $24 million for 21 towns in the county. Warren County got $6,282,990 for 11 towns and Saratoga was awarded $967,335 for 19 towns.
Moreau, the fifth largest town in Saratoga County, received the most — $471,322 for servicing 233 new locations.
Todd Kusnierz, the town supervisor, said he was thrilled by the news.
Essex County received $7,345,286 and Hamilton County got $1,874,113.
The effort comes on the heels of Phase III of the New NY Broadband Program, which will provide 122,285 homes with broadband. This was the last round of funding for the program.
The program, pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has secured high-speed internet upgrades for about 2.42 million locations statewide since it launched in 2015.
Brian Campbell, town supervisor in Hebron, said currently there are zero microfibers in the town.
“We were in the position to get a lot of money because we have absolutely nothing. There’s no cable. It’s all satellite or dial-up connection,” Campbell said.
Hebron received the second-largest award in Washington County with $3,872,019.
“This can be huge for us,” he said.
Laura Oswald, director of Economic Development for Washington County, agreed.
A significant percentage of Washington County residents are self-employed, she said. The state funds will allow 7,358 new locations to receive services.
“Broadband has been an issue for us for many years,” Oswald said. “As we go forward we will find places where it’s still missed. But going from nothing to something is positive for everybody.”
For information on the amount each town and county received, visit https://nysbroadband.ny.gov/phase-3-municipality.
ALBANY — The Democrat-controlled state Assembly on Tuesday passed legislation aimed at reducing gun violence in the state, a day after Republicans who control New York’s Senate approved bills that focus on school safety but don’t address the gun control issue.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the majority’s five-bill package approved Tuesday is another example of New York serving as “a national model for sensible gun laws” in the aftermath of mass shootings in the U.S.
“We will continue fighting to ensure that we have the strongest and smartest gun laws possible to keep citizens and communities safe,” said Heastie, a Bronx Democrat.
The Assembly measures would keep firearms out of the hands of people deemed by courts to be a danger to themselves or others, set a 10-day waiting period for delivery of a gun to a person who hasn’t cleared a background check instead of the current three-day period, and prevent people convicted of domestic violence from buying a firearm.
The bills also would ban the devices known as bump stocks, which can be used to increase the firing speed of semi-automatic rifles, and require out-of-state residents who also have homes in New York to waive the confidentiality of their home state’s mental illness records if they want to own a gun in New York state.
None of the Assembly measures involve school security, but Heastie and other supporters of the legislation say the bills would keep firearms from getting into the hands of people intent on doing harm at a New York school.
On Monday, Republican senators who hold the Senate majority with the help of a group of breakaway Democrats passed 15 bills involving school safety. The measures include state funding for armed police stationed in schools and other security upgrades. The Republicans turned back efforts by Democrats to advance new restrictions on firearm access.
The Legislature’s actions come in response to last month’s mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school that left 17 students and educators dead. While Senate Republicans support having an armed police presence in schools, Assembly Democrats remain staunchly against the idea.
“Having an armed security person didn’t prevent what happened in Florida,” Heastie said.
The Assembly’s measure regarding domestic violence convictions and guns is similar to a proposal Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled as part of his 2018 agenda. The Democrat says anyone convicted of a domestic violence crime would have to surrender any firearms they possess. Cuomo has said it should be up to Congress to pass any meaningful gun-control legislation.
When asked if he expects the Assembly’s anti-gun violence measures to be part of the negotiations over Cuomo’s $168 billion state budget proposal, Heastie responded: “This should be a top priority as a stand-alone issue.”