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Must We Paint You a Picture?

In its ongoing efforts to find fault with the Albany’s lead abatement program, Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens Neighborhood Association submitted a second, amended complaint in federal court on May 27.

The group’s newest complaint focuses on discoveries of lead paint and soil hazards at four of six homes examined by an unnamed, EPA-certified lead inspector hired by the association. The inspector found that these homes had higher concentrations of lead and other toxics than before they were abated by the city’s program.

“Since the inception of this lawsuit, the city has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and has consistently called [the] allegations baseless,” said Michelle Alvarez, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council who filed the suit for AHCCNA. “If the city, as it proclaims, has used only properly certified contractors and performed lead abatements according to the letter of the law, why are families still facing exposure to this potent neurotoxin in their backyards and living rooms?”

City officials continue to state that the allegations are without merit.

“The Arbor Hill Neighborhood Association continues to attempt to engender irrational fear and concern within the Arbor Hill community,” said Joseph Montana, director of Albany County Development Agency, which oversees the city’s lead abatement program. “These citizens should know that the city has done, and continues to do, everything required under federal law.”

Attorneys for the city plan to dismiss the neighborhood association’s second complaint, and have until June 23 to respond.

The suit alleges that workers carrying out the city’s lead abatement program did not receive proper training as per specification laid out by the Environmental Protection Agency. The group is asking the judge to stop the city from carrying out any further abatements and to re-abate homes worked on by the improperly certified workers.

A U.S. district court judge conditionally dismissed the group’s initial lawsuit in March, stating that no injured parties were named. AHCCNA resubmitted its suit, complete with injured parties, later that month and has since specified at least four homes subjected to the city’s lead abatement program.

—Travis Durfee

Up With Schools

Voters throughout the Capital Region took to the polls Tuesday (June 3), showing support for their local school districts by passing school budgets and bearing tax increases in a year where the state’s commitment to education has come under question.

In one of the region’s more politicized battles, Albany voters passed a proposition that gives the school district the go-ahead to spend an additional $6.1 million to purchase a 19-acre plot off of Kelton Court and begin construction on the city’s third middle school. District officials considered the issue key to the life of its voter-approved $167.5 million facilities renovation plan.

Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings did not support the proposition, which passed at an unofficial count of 5,175 to 3,165. The mayor criticized the district’s plan in almost every way and filed a lawsuit attempting to stop the vote. Albany voters also passed a $137.3 million budget for 2003-2004, supported an additional $2.65 million proposition to build athletic fields at Kelton Court, and approved the sale of the former School 17.

One of the few defeats of the night occurred in Troy, where city residents offered a resounding “No” to the district’s $65 million budget proposal. After years of financial turmoil, and facing a 37-percent tax increase, Troy residents dumped the district’s budget, 2,156 to 337, unofficially. The Troy school board must either draft another budget, offer up the failed budget for another vote or adopt a contingency budget, which would cap spending at 2 percent of last year’s level.

Voters in every school district in Saratoga, Schenectady, Columbia, Greene and Albany counties passed their budget proposals.

—Travis Durfee

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