Mayor’s Message – June 2021

  June 14, 2021

As we seem to be rounding the corner on the COVID-19 Pandemic, it has not been without its struggles. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost loved ones and the First Responders and essential workers who continue to do their jobs through the most difficult circumstances to ensure our safety.

Many adjustments had to be made since March 2020 and I could not be more appreciative of our employees for going above and beyond their normal duties to protect and serve the residents of Menands. I would like to share with you the efforts made by these dedicated men and women to keep our village running safely and smoothly. Despite the feeling that the world shut down for over a year, there is a lot to talk about so grab a cup of coffee and get caught up on all that has happened in Menands. (With the many mandates that were imposed in 2020, this message also includes 2019 as I was not able to put together a full message last year).

One particularly challenging area was maintaining the current budget and developing the new budget for the 21/22 fiscal year. Treasurer Bill Smith stated that “this was one of the most challenging budgets I’ve worked on in my almost 25 years as village treasurer”. But with his hard work, and efforts from the Board of Trustees and department heads, we were able to pass a budget with minimal increase to the taxpayers, despite the loss of revenue from County sales tax and cuts in state aid that had been allocated prior to the pandemic.

While the property tax cap signed into law on June 24, 2011, (to limit the annual growth of property taxes levied to 2 % or the rate of inflation, whichever is less), is in theory a positive concept, in reality can be unattainable. For municipalities with a fiscal year of June 1 – May 31, the allowable levy growth for 21/22 is 1.31% or in Village dollars equates to $33,277 without an override. Since 2015, only two years has the allowable levy growth been a true 2% and has been as low as .12% in 2016.

With a rise in health care and retirement costs, minimum wage increases and revenues and taxable assessments down, remaining within the allowable growth is unrealistic in order to maintain the services that draw people to Menands and why we received an A+ in the most recent Niche report and rated one of the best places to live in New York for our services, parks, and school district.

For the 21/22 fiscal year, the Village tax increase is 3.11% or 26 cents per thousand ($26 per $100,000 assessed value) over last year. While still an increase, and over the 1.31% allowable levy growth, there is no penalty for the override. The penalty would be if we did not pass an override with 60% or greater board approval, then went over the allowable increase.

To encourage local governments to stay at or below the now permanent state-mandated property tax cap, in 2016 Governor Cuomo created a rebate for property tax relief for homeowners whose communities stayed within the tax cap. (This was in addition to the STAR rebate). This three-year plan has EXPIRED, and rebate checks are no longer available to homeowners regardless of whether local governments stay at or below the tax cap.

Costs keep going up and the revenues, outside of property taxes, do not increase at the same rate, resulting in tax increases that we work hard to keep to a minimum. As stated by Trustee Brian Marsh, “we did a good job to keep the tax increase to what we did for all of the services that we provide our residents”. It remains a priority for the Village Board to maintain our services and provide our employees with the tools necessary to perform their jobs safely and effectively.

Prior to the pandemic, the Board approved purchases for equipment for each of our departments. With a bond rating of Aa3 and interest rates at 1.99% over 30 years, we were able to bond for these, allowing us to purchase the equipment now, while paying a low interest rate for the duration of the loan. We also reduced the budget for paving by $50,000 to offset the cost of the loan payment and lesson the burden on taxpayers.


  • Foreman Mike Hagmann and his crew are to be commended for their professionalism and dedication during difficult times. Our services were not disrupted in 2020 (big pickup was suspended temporarily but has since resumed) due to their efforts.
  • During the pandemic, the DPW, as essential workers, continued to work, (following CDC guidelines of wearing masks, social distancing, when possible, etc.). The roads still need to be plowed, leaves picked up, trash and recycling collected, water main breaks repaired, maintenance of our property, etc. remained on-going despite the pandemic. As usual, they got the job done!
  • Only emergency residence and business repairs or inspections performed. Replaced grinder pumps.
  • Purchased two new dump trucks with plows (replacing the 2003 trucks sold at auction), a new garbage truck and new pick-up truck.
  • GPS system installed in all village vehicles.


  • Thank you to Lyle Darmetko for ensuring building department matters continued.
  • The Building Department remained open via appointment, email and/or phone.
  • All non-emergency inspections were handled by appointment.
  • Construction, emergency, and vacant building inspections continued as needed.
  • In-person transactions were facilitated by appointment.
  • Purchase of new computer
  • Updated forms and process for various applications, available on-line and submitted by email.


  • John Bassett, Kevin Miller, Mike Steurer, Danielle Freeman and Cheryl Lyon held meetings virtually as needed. (Geneva Conway resigned from ZBA, replaced by Mike and Danielle appointed alternate).


  • I am grateful to Chief Steurer and members of his department who continued to serve our community without hesitation.
  • Continued to respond to all calls for service.
  • Suspended in-person training during pandemic (virtual training instead)
  • 2019 training with National Grid for gas emergency’s
  • Activity protocols amended, following CDC guidelines where possible.
  • New Active Members since 2019:
    • Nicholas Kalogridis, Mike Mackay, Luis Clemente (Fire Police), Ahmed Mohammed, Timothy Robertson, Joshua Condon, Matthew Norton & Brian Vallincourt
  • 2020 & 2021 Officers:
    • Chief Michael Steurer, 1st Asst. Chief David Ognan, 2nd Asst. Chief Harvey Bender, Captain Colin Schanz, Lieutenants Sheri Archambault & Nicholas Decerce, Fire Police Captain Robert Schanz and Fire Police Lieutenant Paul DeDominicis
  • Equipment purchases:
    • 23 Scott Pak’s, 7 Mobil Radios, 23 Portable Radios & 15 pagers
    • Annual replacement of 3 sets of turnout gear
    • 7 pair of structure fire gloves and hoods
    • Trays for extrication tools
    On the ballot for the Village Election to be held on June 15, 2021, there will be a referendum to increase the LOSAP (service award program) payment for active volunteer firefighters in Menands from $700 to $1200. The award contribution is for each calendar year during which the volunteer firefighter earns a year of service credit upon reaching entitlement age of 60 years old. The Village Board approved this referendum to be on the ballot and fully support the increase for the volunteer men and women of the Fire Dept. who protect and serve our village.


  • 2020 & 2021 Officers:
    • President Michael Mackay, Vice President David LaFleur, Treasurer Paul DeDomincis, Secretary John Stangle, Financial Secretary Peter Molinaro and Sgt. At Arms Colin Schanz.
  • Suspended in-person monthly meetings, held virtually instead.
  • Fish fry dinners cancelled in 2020 & 2021 (look forward to their return in 2022), Santa detail held 2020.


  • Suspended meetings during pandemic.
  • Reconvened in May 2021 (New members always welcomed)
  • 2020/2021 Officers:
    • President Joyce McGovern Miller, Vice President Kerry Wroblewski, Secretary Sheila Hyatt, Treasurer Mary Miles, Chaplain Diane Leonard, Sgt. At Arms Karen Fortsch, Trustee (3rd Year) Lisa Proskin Pierce, Trustee (2nd Year) Megan Lawrence, Trustee (1st Year) Nancy Sposito.


  • Chief Lacosse and the MPD adjusted to the mandates and went over and above to serve.
  • 24/7 service continued, with some adjustments for the safety of the department and public.
  • Limited access to police station, with complaints handled in the lobby.
  • Non-emergency complaints handled over the phone.
  • Safety protocols followed, including wearing masks, etc.
  • Distributed masks to the senior residents in Menands.
  • Continued to follow school buses to school and greet students.
  • Personnel Changes:
    • Det/Sgt Ryan St. Gelais promoted to Lieutenant.
    • Officer Kevin Schwebke promoted to Detective.
    • Part-time Officer Mike Case became full-time.
    • Officers Josh Kullman and Daniel Braden hired full-time.
    • Officer Robert Stark hired part-time.
    • Officer John Murphy celebrated 25 years of service with MPD.
  • Equipment purchases:
    • Computers updated in vehicles and network upgrades at police station.
    • New radio systems and recorder
    • Riot Gear
    • New Police cars, replacing high mileage vehicles.
  • Accreditations:
    • Chief Frank Lacosse was commended for his leadership and dedication to our safety.
    • Lt. Ryan St. Gelais found missing woman in brush along railroad tracks.
    • Det Kevin Schwebke during investigation retrieved stolen electronics.
    • Officer John Favata revived a 2-week-old baby found unresponsive upon arrival at residence.
    • Sgt. Aaron St. Gelais pulled distraught homeless man from edge of Troy-Menands Bridge.
  • Following NYS guidelines and public outreach, implemented Police Reform Policy with recommendations from Reform Committee, and adopted by Village Board on 9/8/20.
  • Assisted City of Albany, Town of Guilderland and Town of Colonie with riots.
  • Prepared for protests in Village and worked with protestors to ensure everyone’s safety.
  • Increased diversity and mental health training for officers.
  • Began public forums with members of the community to improve relationships between department and public. As COVID restrictions continue to be lifted, forums will resume.


  • Justice Chris Flint, Acting Justice Bob Becher, Clerks Susan Dube and Danielle Murphy, and Village Atty Steve Rehfuss adjusted to court restrictions, as allowed, to maintain court operations.
  • Court closed in March 2020 to the public for non-essential proceedings.
  • Re-opened under OCA and CDC restrictions.


  • Clerk Don Handerhan and Village office staff remained committed to public need during difficult times.
  • Clerk Don Handerhan secured all mandated PPE for all departments.
  • The Village Office closed to the public or limited public access and staggered work shifts of staff.
  • Matters handled via email or phone. Drop box in vestibule for dropping off essential items to office.
  • Electrostatic fogger purchased to disinfect offices and vehicles.
  • Village Board meetings held virtually, while being recorded and transcribed per Gov. Cuomo Order.
  • Adopted policies, following DOH and CDC guidelines for the safety of our employees and public.
  • Updated Village computer networks.
  • Concerts and picnic cancelled in 2020 but will resume in 2021. (See 2021 schedule in Activities)
  • Summer youth program, holiday parties, CYO basketball and little league cancelled in 2020. Little League resumed this spring and Youth Director Brianna Coughlin looks forward to the return of the summer program and holiday events in 2021, following guidelines.
  • Under the direction of President Diane Leonard, senior meetings were cancelled in 2020, meetings and trips resumed in May 2021, following safety guidelines. (New members always welcome)
  • Throughout the pandemic our Village Gardener, Dianne MacFarland, continued to beautify the Village with seasonal decorations. Her creativity was a bright spot in a difficult year.
  • Treasurer Bill Smith was recognized for 25 years as member of NYCOM and Paul Reuss for 10 years.
  • Renie Gadani retired after 33 years of service with the Village. Welcomed Nicole Ognan to staff as Deputy Clerk/Treasurer.
  • Special thank you to Editor Sheila Hyatt for maintaining the Menands Activities throughout pandemic.


  • Village Board adopted the final draft of the Comprehensive Plan that began in 2017 with a resident committee and assistance from the University at Albany Masters in Regional Planning Program with funding and technical support from the Hudson River Valley Greenway. The process continued in 2019 with stakeholder outreach and strategy development. With the adoption of the Comprehensive Plan on May 4, 2020, the Village is now in a better position to gain access to funding to implement the visions outlined in the plan. (The full report can be found on the Village website).
  • In response to the Comprehensive Plan, and funding and technical support received by CDTC through the Community and Transportation Linkage Planning Program, the Village is undertaking a review and update of our land use regulations, to develop and adopt complete streets standards that promote and improve walkability and transit use, encourage redevelopment and infill of vacant and underutilized land and provide zoning language consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. The project has a fixed budget of $80,000 for consultant services, which was awarded by CDTC to Chazen Co. and is supported by an advisory committee, consisting of representatives from CDTC, CDRPC. CDTA, Town of Colonie, NYSDOT, and Village staff and residents. The project is expected to be completed in 2022 and will further our efforts in Economic Development.
  • Menands was awarded a grant from Albany County to reach county populations such as apartment occupants, children under 5 and homeless in response to the 2020 CENSUS. The funds were used for lawn signs and banners, the mailing of a community wide letter showing the support of local leaders. Additionally, a postcard was mailed to each household reminding residents of the importance of responding to the CENSUS. As a result of this great effort, Menands received over 99% accounting.
  • The Village applied for and received the CDRPC/CDTC Technical Assistance Program for Healthy Food Access Best Practices and Feasibility award, for a study on food access in Menands. The project was managed with support from technical staff from CDRPC and CDTC, as well as a committee of Village and School leaders and residents. (The final draft of the report can be found on the Village website under the Comprehensive Plan)
    • Beginning in June 2021, on-line payments will be available for tax and water bills. (Details on website)
    Solar energy program began in 2020 by purchasing renewable energy to reduce energy costs for village-owned buildings. (See below under Village Board for details).
    • Per Governor Cuomo’s executive order, a Public Employer Emergency Health Plan was adopted. This plan is in addition to the Emergency Preparedness Plan that was developed by the Village and is reviewed and updated yearly.
    • Per Governor Cuomo’s order, Utility Termination Moratorium Law in effect (details with water bills).
    • Signed MOU with Village of Green Island and Village of Colonie for shared services of manpower and equipment in the event of an emergency.
    • Signed MOU with City of Watervliet for water connection, sharing cost of maintenance.


Despite the pandemic, several projects continued in Menands:

  • 50 Simmons Lane (Old Skyzone) developed the vacant space with a new fit-up for FPI Mechanical.
  • 80 Broadway (old Workers Comp) saw a $5M renovation of the abandoned property for the NYS Department of Labor Offices and NYS OCFS Offices, (employing around 300 people daily)
  • Construction of new apartments at Dutch Village was completed and ready for full occupancy.
  • 150 Broadway (Riverview Center) has developed empty space with office space fit-up for Health Research Inc. with a $300,000 price tag.
  • 150 Broadway also is developing empty space with a $2.5M fit-up on the 6th Floor.
  • 33 Irving Place will undergo a $1M project to expand Kasslemen Electric with a mixed use of office/warehouse, and shipping and handling for the solar part of their growing business.
  • Capital District Regional Coop, at 381 Broadway, is developing plans to replace the open-air shed with a new steel warehouse/agricultural building.
  • 209 Broadway (Brinks) is doing a $168,875 interior upgrade.
  • 125 Broadway (U-Haul) has received a permit for interior/exterior construction for $1,225,000.
  • Plans for much needed veterans housing at 35 Broadway are underway as part of Soldier On.
  • The owners of Mid-City Shopping Center are renovating their buildings (including new roofs).
  • Ongoing efforts continue to bring a grocery store, drug store and bank back to Menands. We are grateful for the businesses in Menands that fill the void of a full-service grocery:
    • Stewarts Shop at 14 Broadway put on an 800 Sq. Ft. addition to accommodate customer demand at a cost of $350,000.
    • Tuscan Grill at 337 Broadway has changed hands and is now Krispy Mart, offering grocery, deli, ice cream, coffee, pastries, etc.
    • Istanbul International Market expanded to increase inventory of groceries and specialty foods to accommodate needs of customers.
  • While mandates during the pandemic hurt the food and public service industry, we are very grateful for the businesses in Menands who found creative ways to remain open and took the opportunity to grow their businesses. We wish them great success now that the restrictions are being lifted.
    • Il Faro Restaurant at 698 N. Pearl Street, accommodated customers, (following CDC guidelines), with outdoor dining, take-out and delivery and renovated their interior space while shut down to include a larger bar, a private room for parties and more tables.
    • Kris’s Mid-City at 327 Broadway, also offered take-out and delivery, followed CDC guidelines, installing partitions at the bar, and constructed a new patio for outdoor dining.
    • Thrive Fitness Gym, at 21 Simmons Lane, had to adapt to the CDC restrictions and being shut down, offering equipment to their members to work out from home with remote instructional workouts. When allowed they began classes outdoors, created pods for individual workout spaces 6 ft apart inside, upgraded their air filtration system, and currently reopened at 33% capacity following guidelines.
    • Peak Performance Chiropractor, at 319 Broadway, remained opened to continue treatment of first responders, patients with chronic issues, etc. Cutting back on their hours and staff to reduce exposure, (while following CDC guidelines), and created on-line videos.
    • Other Menands Businesses adjusted to the pandemic restrictions and survived due to the support of the community. Menands True Value Hardware, Innovative Auto, Burger King, Menands Mobil, Tuscan Oven Pizza, Dollar Tree, Sun Fai Restaurant, Dunkin Donuts, Family Dollar, Subway, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Capital District Regional Market.


  • NYS DOT continued road diet on South End of Rt. 32 (Broadway)
  • Installed traffic control lights at Simmons Lane.
  • NYS DOT constructed Bike/Pedestrian Connector under I787 south bound ramp to access the Hudson River Bike Trail to be named for former Village Trustee Ron Miller soon, pending legislative approval.
  • CDTA implemented Bus Rapid Transit along the Broadway corridor with two stops each on the east and west sides of Broadway. Purchased the Broadway Diner to convert to a park and ride for BRT.


  • Leak detection discovered a major leak and numerous smaller leaks that have been repaired.
  • New streetlights installed in Sage Hill area of Village. Began to replace lights on Bway with LED.
  • Installed new handicap railings at Village Office.
  • Repairs to the Wards Pump Station (including air handler and pumps), Main Pump Station (including replacing the chlorine pump) and Sage Hill Pump Station (including replacement of both pumps).
  • Sanitary Sewer Cleaning and CCTV inspection at South End of Village
  • Replaced roof on records room and storage building and chimney repaired at Main Pump Station.
  • Repaired railroad camera on Broadway
  • Adopted sub-division regulations and amended water code requiring businesses to replace old meters.
  • Through an audit by Computel, we received payment from Spectrum for franchise fees of $25,834.08.
  • We are hopeful for a successful grant application this year for infrastructure work in the South End with the increase in federal and state aid.
  • Paving: With a dedicated line item for paving, we have paved over 90% of our Village streets over the past ten years. In 2020 the following streets were paved, with additional streets slated for 2021.
    • Harts Lane and Menand Road patching
    • North & South Canal Road
    • Simmons Lane near RR tracks for Quiet Zone implementation

With funds received from a settlement, along with grant funding received through NYS Assemblyman Phil Steck’s office, we have continued upgrades to our parks and trails:

  • Ganser-Smith Park
    • New gazebo and designated handicap parking spots installed.
    • New electric service in gazebo and pavilion, new hood installed over grill in pavilion.
    • New picnic tables
    • New sod installed in grove area to reduce ruts and improve safety for pedestrians.
    • Replaced sink and hot water tank in concession stand.
    • Replacing guardrails along Menand Road and with additional grant funding will replace the rails throughout the park.
    • With a SAM grant through NYS Assemblyman Phil Stecks office, the next project at the park is to replace the basketball court and install a grinder pump to eliminate the septic at the lower bathroom. We are grateful for the partnership with Assemblyman Steck to achieve these projects with help from NYS funding.
  • Sage-Estates Nature Trail
    • With grant funding received from a SAM grant from Assemblyman Phil Steck’s office and settlement funds, several upgrades were made to the nature trails:
      • A kiosk installed at the Park Hill entrance to the trails and interpretive signage at each entrance, with location, wildlife and forestry information that can be found on the trails and accessed through a QR code on smartphones.
      • New trails opened up and trails marked with color coded trail markers.
      • Benches installed and bridges built to navigate terrain.
      • A beautiful pavilion was built, with picnic tables inside for all to enjoy.
      • A StoryWalk project is underway, which has become popular throughout the Capital District and beyond, allowing a fun reading experience while enjoying the outdoors.


    • Despite the pandemic, our community continued to support local charities, such as Dollars for Derek, Empower Ethiopia, Pay It Forward, Toys for Tots, and Fill the Mayflower Food Drive.


In addition to our normal duties, the Village Board initiated the following:

    • Together with Trustee Diane Foley, we initiated the Veterans banner program. We have over 50 banners of our service men and women displayed proudly along Broadway from May through November. A special thank you to the DPW for their care and maintenance of the banners.
    • Deputy Mayor Aileen Nicoll initiated the upgrades to the Nature Trail as outlined above. Her vision will bring year-round outdoor activities for all to enjoy for years to come.
    • In 2017 I initiated the Partial Quiet Zone process, and together with the Board, the Village engineers and Canadian Pacific Railroad, the Partial Quiet Zone took effect on December 7, 2020, preventing train horns from sounding between 10:00 pm – 7:00 am, unless an emergency. The four railroad crossings within the Village had to be evaluated, and each are now equipped with stop bars, railroad crossing striping, railroad crossing signage and Quiet Zone signage. (Depending on where you live, you may still hear horns as trains approach village)
    • Trustee Marsh introduced to the Board the prospect of acquiring solar power for municipal usage in the Village. Adopted by the Board in November 2020, the Village of Menands has been purchasing ALL municipal electric power from a New York based solar energy farm, saving the Village 10% off the rates of National Grid. Lights, pumps, HVAC systems, computers, and everything electrical that the village runs is now powered by the Sun, with an estimated savings of $5,000 in the first year of the agreement.
    • Trustee Foley presented to the Board a management guide distributed by NYS OSC documenting prioritization for capital projects and maintaining capital assets.
    • Trustee Seth Harris arranged to have students from Cornell University intern for the Village. With assistance from Trustee Brian Marsh, they paired off into two teams, to assess the village practices and create ideas for improvement. They also designed a set of goals to promote economic development.
    • Trustee Marsh, together with the Menands PD and FD, organized a Toys for Tots drive and collected 15 boxes of toys for local children.
    • Trustee Harris spearheaded the StoryWalk program (listed above) that will be part of our Nature Trail and enjoyed by all. He has also offered to lead tours of our trails.
    • Trustee Marsh worked with Treasurer Smith, Clerk Handerhan and Deputy Clerk Ognan to institute on-line payments.

I am very grateful for the leadership of our Village Board and all that each bring to the table both collectively and independently. I am especially grateful for Deputy Mayor Aileen Nicoll, who I have worked with during my ten years as Mayor, and previously through our volunteer work. Aileen has decided to not seek re-election this year and I would like to thank her publicly for all that she has done for the Village as a Board Member and volunteer of many activities, particularly with our youth. It has been a pleasure to work with Aileen and I thank her for her service to our community.

I do not know if I should apologize and smile at the length of this update. As you can see, even through the pandemic, Menands is still growing. We have a strong community, awesome staff, great local businesses, on the map for continued growth of our business community and collaboration with our school district and neighboring communities that together does make Menands one of the best places to live in NYS. I could not be prouder to lead this great village and am forever grateful for the support of the community and our staff.

Have a wonderful summer. Stay well! Mayor Meg