SARATOGA SPRINGS — Last August, the previous City Council adopted a resolution requiring all employees and visitors to wear a face mask when entering City buildings, facilities and/or indoor events sponsored by the city.
This week, the current council approved a supplemental resolution that employees specifically wear a KN95 mask in public settings during work hours and duty assignments, unless an N95 is required per OSHA Standards. With an eye on providing the KN95 masks to its employees at no cost to city workers, the council subsequently approved a resolution to set aside $50,000 to help COVID safety expenses for City Hall personnel. The $50,000 is not strictly limited to the purchase of masks only, and any funds ultimately unused will go back to the general fund.
Masking is a critical public health tool for preventing spread of COVID-19, according to CDC guidelines. On Jan. 14 the agency updated its informational pages to read: “loosely woven cloth products provide the least protection, layered finely woven products offer more protection, well-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95s offer even more protection, and well-fitting NIOSH-approved respirators (including N95s) offer the highest level of protection. “
“For clarification - we’re strictly speaking of city employees. We recognize that we do not have the right to mandate the public wear a specific style mask,” explained Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran. Mask wearing of some kind presumably remains in effect for the public entering City Hall. “Testing and masks quite honestly are the best tools we have in our hands, provided we’re not choosing to use vaccinations. If we are using vaccinations, our tools are that much more effective.”
“We do not get masks or test kits for our City Hall employees (and) we did not receive masks in 2021 other than the year-end masks given to the county supervisors,” said Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi. “We know COVID is changing and evolving. Having these funds assigned will help our city manage COVID, keep its employees safe and help us provide services.”
Following a recent spike in infections amid an omicron variant wave that began late last month in Saratoga, officials are hoping regional COVID infection rates are beginning to exhibit signs of a less infectious trend.
“Our (county) rate is coming down, it was trending up around 20%, now it’s at 18%,” Supervisor Tara Gaston told the council this week. “That is good, but that is not a sign to lessen up, it means to continue to follow the guidance we have. Those who are fully vaccinated and have boosters are performing the best when they do contract COVID-19. Right now, only about half of our fully vaccinated residents in Saratoga County have obtained a booster. We really need to pick that up.”
Of the just over 80,000 fully vaccinated county residents who have received a booster, 8 are hospitalized related to COVID. Of the similar number of vaccinated residents without a booster, 30 are hospitalized. And of the approximate 61,000 county residents not fully vaccinated, 32 were in the hospital this week, according to Saratoga County Public Health Services.
Mayor Ron Kim said the city will be placing advertisements for a city attorney with the goal of securing a new hire in the next few weeks. The previous two attorneys – a city attorney and an assistant city attorney, were not reappointed at the start of the new council on Jan. 1.
Following an analysis of the caseload and funds paid and budgeted to be paid regarding the previous full-time attorney position, Kim said, “I thought it was important to ask: Are we spending our tax dollars effectively and efficiently for legal services and is there a more effective way to obtain those legal services?”
The re-organizing to a part-time city attorney position is anticipated to average a 30-hour work week at an annual salary range of $95,000 to $100,000, to be combined with a “smart and judicial use of outside counsel” as needed, when specific issues such Land Use or labor/employment expertise is required.
“We think this restructuring will save between $50,000 and $75,000 per year once implemented – without the quality of legal services suffering,” Kim said.
The council adopted a measure to hold this year’s State of The City event by March 19. Typically held in January, the move to later in the year is due to the difficulty of holding a public gathering in the current COVID environment. While the resolution calls for the event to be held by March 19, Kim added that he hopes it may be held by mid-February.
Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino reiterated he will lead a Public Hearing prior to the Feb. 1 council meeting regarding the creation of a Civilian Review Board, as per the recommendations of the city Police Reform Task Force.
DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco was not present at the meeting. “Commissioner Scirocco is recovering from a medical procedure,” Mayor Kim announced. “We saw him today on Zoom and he looked great. All the best to him and (wife) Corinne and we look forward to seeing him very soon.”