Friday, 06 September 2019 12:53

City Council Tackles Big Issues

City Council will address a series of issues this month that could change the visual landscape of Broadway, enhance the diversity of future political candidates, and alter the directional flow of traffic near the downtown core.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The City Council will address a series of issues this month that could change the visual landscape of Broadway, enhance the diversity of future political candidates, and alter the directional flow of traffic near the downtown core.

On Sept. 2, the council introduced a 44-page lease proposal between the city of Saratoga Springs and the Saratoga Springs City Center Authority. If approved – which could happen by mid-month - the agreement would set into motion the development of a 600-space parking garage project near High Rock Park.

The terms of the lease runs to Dec. 31, 2032 – aligning with the length of the existing lease with the City Center itself, explained City Attorney Vincent DeLeonardis.

Plans call for the City Center Authority to build and subsequently maintain a multi-level, 600-space parking garage atop city owned land, just east of the existing City Center building. “Air rights” for the construction of a so-called pedestrian connector would be included, and bridge the city center with the parking structure, atop Maple Avenue.

The city would receive in return 60 designated parking spaces in the new structure to be used during daytime working hours, as well as 50% of the structure’s excess cash flow. What approximate dollar figure that would equal is “not known at this time,” said DeLeonardis, but is “to be determined by a calculation of the revenues generated minus the debt service and maintenance and operation costs associated with the facility.”

The City Center Authority would also develop an extension of the Green Belt Trail along High Rock Avenue. The city owns approximately 2-1/2-acres of land, currently used for surface parking, that runs from High Rock Park to Lake Avenue, and Maple Avenue to High Rock Avenue, one block east of Broadway. The lease is specific to one portion of that segment – the area of land to the east of the City Center - and only to the development of the parking structure and pedestrian bridge.

A Public Hearing is expected to take place prior to the next City Council meeting, on Tuesday night, Sept. 17. The Council will likely vote on the lease agreement later the same evening. If approved, the development of the parking garage may begin as soon as this fall.  

Parking Congestion at Lake Ave School

The council hosted a 45-minute public discussion Sept. 3 to address student safety and residential concerns as it relates to public parking, student parking and school bus transport in the immediate area of the Lake Avenue Elementary School.  The school faces Lake Avenue and is bordered by Regent Street and Marion Place.  Proposed changes may include altering traffic patterns on some of the neighboring streets. Traffic congestion and the safety of students being dropped off and picked up at the school remains the primary concern. Two public hearings have been held on the matter, and a third is slated to take place Tuesday night, Sept. 17.

Increasing City Council Salaries, Expanding Deputy Residency Requirements to attract Qualified and Diverse Candidates and Appointees

The council staged a Public Hearing regarding a Local Law to amend the City Charter as it relates to terms of office, eligibility and salaries of officers. The law seeks to increase the compensation of the elected City Council members from $14,500 per year to $30,000 annually, beginning on Jan. 1, 2020.

Member salaries have not increased since at least 2001, city Mayor Meg Kelly said. “Consider what $14,500 means per year.  My average work week is about 50 hours. That’s $5.58 an hour. Consider that some of us (on the council) work 30 hours – that’s $9.28 an hour.”

Mayor Kelly advised that the Saratoga Springs salary is comparable with that of Mechanicville, which pays its mayor $12,000. “While Mechanicville shares our Commission Form of Government, it only has a population of 5,200 people with limited tax base, tourism, economy, or destination power,” she said, adding that among 14 comparably sized cities, the average salary paid to the mayor is about $44,500.

“We are entering into a new budget season and the time is right for fair and reasonable discussions about these salaries,” Kelly said. “It is more important than ever to attract talented and diverse candidates. To date, our candidate pool has been largely retirees, the affluent, or people who have the luxury of being supported by a partner’s income…this is a nominal increase aimed at a considerable impact on the quality of our governance.”  

The council did not vote on the matter related to their own potential salary increases, but did unanimously approve a resolution that proposes an amendment to state law to expand geographical residency requirements for deputies.

Each of the five council members appoints a deputy. According to Public Officers Law, all deputies must reside in the city of Saratoga Springs. The council resolution seeks to expand those geographical boundaries to become county-wide. 

The current requirement significantly restricts the number of qualified persons available for the administrative positions, the council says. The expanded boundaries would create an opportunity for council members to seek qualified individuals for positions from anywhere in Saratoga County, and would result in a significant benefit to the public. The proposal seeking an amendment to the existing law will be presented the offices of Sen. Daphne Jordan and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner for submittal to the State Legislature. 

City Approves Six-Year Plan Proposal - Eastside Fire/EMS Facility Tagged a Priority

The city’s six-year proposed capital plan, totaling just under $17 million, was unanimously approved Sept. 3 by the council in a 4-0 vote. Public Safety Commissioner Peter Martin was not present at the meeting.

The plan ranks 36 city projects according to importance with the highest proposed ticketed item being an Eastside Fire/EMS Facility. The city currently has two stations – one just off Broadway and one on the west side. The potential of an east side facility has been discussed for several years. At present, no land where the station would specifically be sited has been determined. The fire/ems station ranks third highest in order of importance.

The six-year Capital plan is updated annually and varies in accordance with changing priorities and budgetary fluctuations. The city’s Comprehensive Budget is presented annually in late fall.   

 

 

    

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