Schenectady County

Niskayuna center’s staff changes prompt safety concerns

Concerns from some over safety at the Niskayuna senior center after two staff members were moved


Concerns from some over safety at the Niskayuna senior center after two staff members were moved from the facility will be looked into, Supervisor Joe Landry said Thursday.

Landry made the comment after seniors repeated concerns over the issue at Thursday’s senior programs committee meeting.

“I think it’s a safety factor, I really do,” senior Lil Stacy told Landry and the committee.

A receptionist and the coordinator of parks and senior programs were moved from the facility just over a month ago. The coordinator, Kathleen Gansfuss, was relocated to Town Hall. The receptionist is slated for layoff, the only layoff proposed in the 2011 town budget.

Several seniors, and at least two Town Board members, have expressed concern that the changes leave an entrance unmanned, meaning if seniors fall there, it could go unnoticed. Those concerns are in addition to worries that the changes leave the center unwelcoming.

Landry has contended that three staff members remain at the facility on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the days of the programs. But seniors at Thursday’s meeting disputed that the three are there as much as Landry says.

“We’ll look at the staff, we’ll look at the people moving around,” Landry said in response to Stacy.

But board member Jonathan McKinney pressed Landry, questioning why steps weren’t being taken quicker to address the seniors’ concerns.

“Until we figure out the safety issue, why not return somebody at least upstairs until you figure it out?” McKinney asked. “I don’t understand ‘we’ll look into it?’ ”

“We’ll look into it. We’re going to talk about it,” Landry said.

“Until then,” McKinney responded, “there’s a safety issue, but we’re going to talk about it?”

Landry said afterward that moving Gansfuss to town hall was part of an overall effort to have department heads available there, making it easier to coordinate programs.

“We’ll just have to make the staff people up there more aware of their surroundings for the next couple of months and to assist with the upstairs and downstairs,” Landry said afterward. “I think that we have enough staff up there that we can monitor the upstairs and the downstairs. If it becomes a problem, we’ll have to adjust.”

Landry also argued afterward that just because the extra staff was there didn’t mean the upstairs was always occupied.

McKinney is the former chairman of the senior programs committee. He resigned from the post last month in protest of the changes, and others discussed, without including him as the chairman or, more importantly, the seniors themselves.

McKinney has requested the chairmanship back, but he says Landry hasn’t responded. Landry said McKinney could come into his office and talk to him, but McKinney hasn’t.

Seniors have been concerned about the center since the 2011 budget was released. They packed the Town Board meeting last month to ensure current part-timers, including Sue Leonard, remain. Leonard oversees senior activities and senior trips. McKinney contended this week that Landry directed, before the budget was released, that Leonard be informed that she would no longer be needed Jan. 1. Landry said this week he never spoke with Leonard and called McKinney’s account opinion. That issue did not come up Thursday.

Regardless, Landry has said at Town Board meetings Oct. 14 and Oct. 26 and other times that current part-timers would not be affected. Landry’s proposed budget includes $32,000 in extra part-time funding for at least one new part-timer.

Landry also said that new part-time staff would be based at the center. The proposed 2011 budget includes a property tax rate increase of just under 3 percent.

Overall, appropriations would increase just over $77,000 for total town spending of just under $13 million. The public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Wednesday, with the budget vote set for Nov. 18.

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