Elderly Malta Woman Still Stuck On Roundabouts
By Scott Salad
Published January 26th, 2015
Malta from GoogleEarth (©2015—The Albany Smudge)
MALTA— When Rosemary Benoitcus realized she was running low on English muffins, the 86-year-old great-grandmother of eight climbed into her Toyota Corolla and headed off to the market.
That was January 8th, 2012.
Since then, State Police believe the two-time Malta Senior Center Mahjong Champion— who friends describe as “good-natured” and “independent” —has been stuck on the seemingly infinite array of roundabouts that now surround her Luther Forest home.
“We miss her so much,” said Benoitcus's niece, Gerry Anne Gashmeier. “We just want her back home safe and sound.”
Built to manage congestion caused by recent economic growth — Global Foundries Semiconductor Fabrication, Saratoga Technology Park and a Kentucky Fried Chicken have all opened shop in recent years — Malta began construction on over a dozen roundabouts in 2011. Since then, State Police estimate that two out-of-three senior citizens traveling through the town that was once home to potato chip inventor, George Crum, experience some degree of traffic pattern-induced disorientation.
Malta Citizens for a More Linear Tomorrow founder Tim Chirpy claims residents have been at odds with the town's roundabout plans since they were proposed nearly a decade ago.
“At first we were upset with the fact that taxpayers would be responsible for footing 20 percent of the construction cost,” Chirpy told The Smudge. “But now that they've gone ahead and built the damn things, well, we just want our old folks back.”
Sgt. Frances Pepperman of the State Police said his department handles several calls each day involving elderly people stuck on the roundabouts.
“They've been a real headache for the old timers,” he admitted. “Most hit the circles and freeze, leaving it up to our officer's to get them moving again. But in extreme cases — such as Miss Benoitcus's — they just keep going and going, around and around, for days on end.”
When asked if Benoitcus was in any immediate danger, Sgt. Pepperman shrugged.
“The individual refuels her vehicle at the Mobile station of Rte. 9, eats lunch at the Ripe Tomato and routinely pick up her cocktail of heart and blood pressure medications at the CVS north of the Rte. 9 and Rte. 67 roundabout. So no, we don't think she's in any immediate danger.”
Although reports like Pepperman's give the Benoitcus family a reason to remain optimistic, Gashmeier admits its hard reconciling the good news with the bad.
“For every, ‘I saw your Aunt Rosie at the supermarket’ story I hear, there's at least a dozen more where she's in serious peril. I don't know what to believe anymore.”