Lake George Senior Citizens Club President John Herzog gives some instruction on handling an accordion to Lake George High School 12th grader Cole Gailor in an event the club held in April. On Monday Dec. 10, Herzog asked the Lake George Town Board to commit more support to the town’s seniors as well as requesting that the town-sponsored jaunts to the Saratoga Racino, discontinued early this year, be reinstated.
Local senior citizens aren’t happy their taxpayer-subsidized trips to a gambling parlor were discontinued — and they expressed their objections to the Lake George Town Board at their monthly meeting Monday Dec. 10.
A dozen seniors expressed their dissatisfaction that they are no longer driven monthly at the expense of the town to the Saratoga Casino and Raceway, commonly known as the Saratoga Racino.
“Our seniors enjoy and look forward to these Racino trips,” Lake George Senior Citizens Club President John Herzog said to the town board. “Transportation for the elderly is vital.”
Under the previous town administration, the town provided its diesel trolley for seniors’ trips to the Racino and other outings, Herzog said.
“Other communities support their seniors,” he said, “But we’re moving backward.
Herzog chided the board that they were the most affluent municipality in the region, yet the town board’s budgetary allocation for seniors was lower than other towns — including Queensbury — which he said earmarks 10 times as much for its elderly.
“Give us back our Racino trips,” he said. “Your senior citizens are worth it.”
Lake George Town Board member Fran Heinrich replied that while only a few seniors sought to attend the Racino, thousands of other town citizens wanted their property taxes kept as low as possible.
“We represent 3,700 people,” she said, noting that many property owners experienced financial stress paying their taxes.
“Some of our residents can’t pay their taxes, their health insurance, or tuition for their children to go to ACC,” she said.
Mentioning the insurance and liability problems with the town transporting seniors to remote destinations, Heinrich suggested that the seniors carpool in various club members’ cars. But several seniors replied that they can’t obtain a group discount that way, and they wanted to socialize on the way to the Racino.
Lena Chase, 95, said she could drive a 42-passenger school bus. She also said the Racino trips didn’t really involve gambling, because the facility staked each senior with $25 to start off with.
Heinrich replied that the seniors could hold bake sales to hire a licensed driver to pilot the town 15-passenger bus. That vehicle was recently acquired to replace the trolley, Town Supervisor Dennis Dickinson explained, because the trolley wasn’t built for prevailing speed on the I-87 Northway — the only practical route to the Racino and other out-of-town destinations.
The trolley was also aging and prone to breaking down. Dickinson said, noting that he didn’t want to see the seniors stranded.
The trolley has since been limited to leisurely in-town trips, he noted.
Kitty Bernardo, a member of the club, said the 15-passenger shuttle bus the town was now providing for the seniors was unsafe, as it had bench seats that were longitudinal like commuter trains, rather than standard bus seating.”That bus has no railings, no handholds — it is not safe,” she said. “Seniors could fly across from one side to another and go through a window.”
Lake George Town Supervisor Dennis Dickinson replied that he would meet with the seniors at their next club meeting Jan. 3 to hear their concerns and help them meet their needs. He said later the own’s shuttle bus could easily be retrofitted with seats in a standard row arrangement.
“The town is invested in our youth and senior citizens,” he said. “We have your interests at heart.”
Progress on youth program
The board heard from town councilman Vinnie Crocitto that he was working with other town Youth Commission members to comply with the state Health Department requirements for the town summer recreation program for youth. State officials cited the town last year for not applying for a “Summer camp” permit, and for not having a Medical Director on staff, for not having an official safety plan, nor obtaining immunization and medical records on children attending, as well as keeping a medical log and providing for special medical and dietary needs — requirements that local officials have said are unwarranted.
Crocitto said that the town might be partnering with the Lake George School District in expanding their bus garage, now used as a headquarters for the summer program due to its proximity to tennis courts, sports fields and the lake. He said that such an expansion might allow the commission to use the garage as a summer youth program headquarters.
Grants awarded to local events
The board also appropriated occupancy tax grants to three events — a sum of $1,500 for St. James’ Episcopal Church’s Hot Rod Happening; up to $2,000 to Sean Quirk’s East Coast Snocross Races set for Jan. 26 and 27 in the Charles Wood Park; and up to $2,000 to Norm Dasher’s annual Lake George Performance Weekend.
In other business at the meeting, the Lake George town board:
• Heard from board member Marisa Muratori that the town was establishing an annual Community Stewardship Award, and that nominations were now being sought;
• Were informed that progress was underway on permits and plans for the new Price Chopper just off Northway Exit 23;
• Noted that two vacancies on town panels are open as of Dec. 31 — a seat on the Planning Board to be vacated by Ed LaFerriere, and a seat on the Board of Assessment Review, occupied by Thomas Roach for 27 years. Dickinson praised both men for their dedicated service through the years;
•Voted to raise by $92 an annual sum of $1,808 paid to employees who opt out of town-bankrolled health insurance;
•Approved purchase of a new 3/4-ton pickup truck with a plow, on state contract, for $34,251;
• Voted to adjust caps on employees health insurance to partially offset the boosted premiums the employees were facing this year. Dickinson noted that without the adjustments, employees would be receiving from $500 to $1,459 less in take home pay.
Dickinson said that the adjustments would cost the town taxpayers about $16,000.
“We appreciate the job our employees do, and we don’t want to lose any of them.”
The board voted to enact the changes.