K’hook board: Town Hall’s no place for little kids

VALATIE–The Kinderhook Town Board has unanimously rejected a request from Columbia Opportunities, Inc. (COI) to operate a Head Start pre-k class in the Martin H. Glynn Municipal Building.

Cindy Andrus, COI Head Start director, attended the July 11 town meeting to discuss the use of a classroom on the third floor for a three-day-a-week pre-k program for three and four year-olds from low income families in the Ichabod Crane School District. The program is currently housed at St. Luke’s Church on Route 9 in Valatie. Ms. Andrus said that St. Luke’s was a good place for them but because it is a shared space the Head Start teachers need to put away all their classroom items after each session. She said the agency is looking for a space where it can leave the classroom set up.

“We have been providing preschool services in Valatie for several years,” she told the board, referring to the federally funded educational program.

The municipal building is owned jointly by the town and the Village of Valatie. It currently houses the town and village offices, Town Court and a Sheriff’s Office substation. The gym and some of the rooms in the former school building are used by community organizations that apply to use them at no cost. The local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts meet there, as well as several local sports teams, a senior Zumba class and local blood drives.

The town and village bought the building for $1 from the Ichabod Crane School District a few years ago after the district downsized due to declining enrollment. The district still uses two classrooms in the building for storage.

The both Town and Village boards have to approve applications from organizations that want to use the building. The Valatie Board approved COI’s application in June and Mayor Diane Argyle showed Ms. Andrus the available classroom on an upper floor.

“It really isn’t a school building anymore,” said town Supervisor Pat Grattan in announcing the board’s rejection of the application.

Town Clerk Kim Pinkowski said that she wasn’t made aware there were available classrooms in the building, even though she is in charge of processing the applications and keeping a schedule of who is using the building. She also stressed that having a preschool above the town offices “would not be business friendly.” She said that the people come in and out of the building all day applying for licenses and filling paperwork. “It’s an office building,” she said.

Councilwoman Patsy Leader said that community events often happen after business hours and involve older children. “I have a real problem with this,” she said of the application. She also said that the court holds arraignments during the day and prisoners from the jail are brought in for those proceedings. “I personally wouldn’t want the little preschoolers here,” she said of having children and inmates together in the buildings.

The court is in the basement of the building. All the entrances are on the ground floor.

“I’m worried about kids getting hurt or running around,” Ms. Leader said.

Ms. Andrus of COI said that there are three adults in the classroom with the children at all times. “They are very will supervised,” she said.

At the end of the meeting after hearing from members of the community in the audience about their support for the Head Start program and the need to find a place for program to be in the community, Ms. Leader said she would contact Ms. Andrus with ideas of places to house the program.

One of the community members who spoke, Matt Nelson, a member of the Ichabod Crane school board, said he would talk to the district about options. The school district houses a Questar III/BOCES pre-k program in one of its buildings.

“You guys are the community experts,” said Ms. Andrus of any advice the board could give her.

Also at the meeting:

• The board approved having the New York Rural Water Association conduct well and groundwater mapping project at no cost to the town

• A public hearing will be held by the board at the next meeting on a local law to have a three-month moratorium on putting ground mounted solar panels on property in the town. The moratorium would take effect while the town codes committee drafts zoning laws to regulate “solar farms”

• Supervisor Grattan appointed Ms. Leader, Councilman Tim Ooms, Highway Supervisor John Ruchel and Mr. Nelson to a committee that will negotiate a new Department of Public Works contract with Valatie Mayor Argyle. Mr. Grattan said that the town has contracted with the village since to 1991 when the village dissolved its DPW

• The board passed a motion to send a request to the county Traffic Safety Board to reduce the speed limit on McCagg Road from 45 mph to 35 mph. The board announced request to reduce the speed on County Route 28 was rejected

• Mr. Nelson asked about how the town is dealing with upgrading broadband internet service in the area. Mr. Grattan said he would suggest to the county that there be more Kinderhook representation on the county broadband committee. Mr. Nelson said he had applied to be in the committee but was rejected. Mr. Grattan, who also chairs the county Board of Supervisors, said he was not in charge who served on the committee.

The board moved the next meeting to Monday, August 1 at 7 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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