Thursday, 30 March 2017 17:28

County Plans to Send Clear Messages

BALLSTON SPA — As a means to streamline information presented about all of its departments, Saratoga County is hiring a public relations firm based in Troy, officials confirmed this week.

On March 21, the county Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a package of resolutions that had been referred by its various committees.

Among them was an authorization from the Law and Finance Committee to hire Gramercy Communications at a cost of $48,000 for a one-year contract.

“We’re searching for a little bit of PR help,” offered Board Chairman Edward Kinowski, the Stillwater Town Supervisor. “I think it’s essential.”

Kinowski suggested that most of New York’s counties and municipalities could benefit by making similar moves.

If local officials neglect to coordinate their responses and “are not forward-thinking,” Kinowski said, they could err by sending mixed messages to the public through the media.

In recent years, explained County Administrator Spencer Hellwig, the process of managing communications for 26 county departments with 1,100 employees and expenses of almost $300 million has “become a lot more complex and time consuming.”

Of particular concern in the event of any crises, Hellwig said, would be a need for consistent information from the county’s public health and safety departments.

According to Hellwig, the supervisors used to fund two related positions within the county clerk’s office—devoted to public relations—at an annual cost of nearly $90,000. But they have not done so in quite some time.

That often leaves Hellwig, who said he currently shares an administrative assistant with another department, struggling to respond in a timely manner to the many dozens of phone calls and emails he receives each workday.

“There’s clearly a need to have a coordinated voice here,” Hellwig admitted.

He added that an initial meeting between Saratoga County officials and representatives of Gramercy Communications would be held no later than next week.

Andrew Mangini, director of public affairs in the company’s Troy office, deferred to Hellwig for comment.

The March 21 meeting started out with a brief presentation that was warmly received by the Board of Supervisors. It focused more on respecting Saratoga County’s past than preparing for its future.

County Historian Lauren Roberts reminded supervisors how the New York State Legislature had approved the Village of Ballston Spa as the Saratoga County seat on March 14, 1817. Soon, Roberts said, she will post information related to that 200-year-old political decision on the county’s website (www.saratogacountyny.gov). 

“Ballston Spa has proven itself as a well suited, central location for our county seat over the past two centuries,” Roberts said in a statement.

“Like our predecessors, current residents of Saratoga County hike its mountains and wooded paths, boat on its rivers, fish in its lakes and streams, and farm its rolling lands. Today’s residents also enjoy visiting a vast number of preserved historic sites, museums, and parks that have been established throughout Saratoga County,” Roberts writes in her section of the website.

“Combined with the economic prosperity that Saratoga County enjoys,” she says, “it is easily understood why over 200,000 people choose to call Saratoga County home today.” 

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