Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
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SARATOGA COUNTY — The county Board of Supervisors will vote this week on a measure to secure a temporary emergency shelter in Saratoga Springs for the upcoming season and is involved in discussions to potentially site a permanent shelter for the homeless community starting in winter 2023. 

“It’s an investment that’s important to make,” said Health & Human Services Chair Phil Barrett following last week’s committee vote to authorize a lease agreement to secure the 4 Adelphi St. building in Saratoga Springs as a facility to provide Code Blue Services. That same building, just off South Broadway, had previously been used as temporary shelter, but the two-year lease with the owners had expired. 

The proposed term of the lease for the Adelphi Street building runs from July 19, 2022, through April 30, 2023 at a cost of $8,000 per month. The proposal is expected to be green-lighted by the county Law & Finance Committee and on July 19 move to the county Board of Supervisors who are charged with the ultimate approval of the measure. 

“Once it’s approved (on July 19) we can sign the lease – which we want to do sooner rather than later because it’s important we secure the facility,“ Barrett said. “The date in the lease agreement (begins) July 19 because that’s the date of the board meeting and that’s when I expect there will be approval by the full board so we can sign the lease.” A portion of the $8,000 per month cost – specifically the building’s usage during the winter months - is anticipated to be potentially reimbursed to the county by the state’s Department of Social Services. 

Motivated to action in the wake of the death of a city woman exposed to a winter’s elements on a December night in 2013, a temporary homeless emergency shelter was launched in Saratoga Springs that Christmas Eve at St. Peter’s Parish Center. 

A series of temporary winter shelters, sited at a variety of venues across town, have followed: the Salvation Army building west of Broadway and Soul Saving Station Church east of Broadway, among them. The latter, having a 41-bed capacity, required the addition of the Presbyterian New England Congregational Church also open for extended periods to care for the “overflow” of guests. 

In 2020, Shelters of Saratoga - which oversees the Code Blue shelter program – operated the latest temporary venue at 4 Adelphi St., a 61-bed facility just west of South Broadway which it leased through 2021. 

For that Adelphi Street venue, the city of Saratoga Springs provided $50,000 towards the upkeep of the building as well as for paying rent in the off-season for two years. To that point, neither the county or the state had provided financial reimbursement, and then-S.O.S. Executive Director Karen Gregory expressed concern over expenses. S.O.S. subsequently secured a bridge loan for $200,000 by a non-profit bank to stem prolonged reimbursement for services. 

Shelter and shelter services are provided to the homeless community whenever inclement winter weather temperatures are at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, inclusive of National Weather Service calculations for windchill. 

“It is the only space that we’re able to find that’s vacant for homeless individuals to go to, but it’s a difficult space. We’re continuing to try and work on a permanent location so we can connect the homeless to services and work with care managers,” current S.O.S. Executive Director Duane J. Vaughn said this week. “That’s what we’re really striving for.” 

A permanent shelter site was thought to be secured in 2017 after local business owner Ed Mitzen offered to pay the costs of a new Code Blue homeless shelter to be built on Shelters of Saratoga property on Walworth Street. Initial plans call for a two-story building with a large kitchen, laundry room, men’s and women’s sleeping rooms, multiple showers and bathrooms, a large storage area for donated food and clothing, and a small Code Blue office. Local firms Bonacio Construction and the LA Group were to be involved in the development of the building and both agreed to forego any profits to keep the costs as low as possible.

Those plans were scrapped, however, following a lawsuit filed by local residents challenging the proposed shelter expansion as not being in accordance with zoning regulation. A Saratoga County Supreme Court judge subsequently nullified approvals granted by the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board which would have allowed the shelter to be built.

“I’ve been spending a lot of time in Saratoga Springs recently where the homeless situation is the most evident in the county,” said Barrett, who also serves on the county Board of Supervisors, representing Clifton Park.    

“I think we need to all work together to be more aggressive than we have been with outreach to people who are homeless. We’re taking right now about options and how to use some of the opioid settlement money toward that effort because many people who are homeless have addiction problems,” Barrett said.   

“I think next year we’ll be in an even better place to offer consistent and quality services to people who are homeless. We are working on a more permanent solution - but what you have in front of you here gets us through 2022-23 with the current facility being used,” he said. “Hopefully when we get into 2023 there will be another facility that will be even more conducive to assisting a larger number of people.” 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Springs is considering initiating a civic position recognizing an exceptional local poet to serve as Poet Laureate of Saratoga Springs. 

“Why should we have one in Saratoga Springs? Well, why shouldn’t we,” city resident and past NY Library Association President Rachel Baum explained during a presentation to the City Council July 5.   

“We’re not just health, history and horses. We have Yaddo. We have SPAC School of the Arts. For 20 years we have had an Open Mic for Poets at Caffe Lena, Saratoga Reads, the (NYS) Summer Writers’ Institute.” Baum said, stressing the financial benefit to local businesses in cities hosting art-related events. 

The title of Poet Laureate was first granted in England in the 17th century for poetic excellence, and its holder a salaried member of the British royal household. The title stems from tradition dating to the earliest Greek and Roman times, when achievement was honored with a crown of laurel, a tree sacred to Apollo, patron of poets, according to Britannica. 

 

In the U.S., a Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress was initiated in the mid-1930s. The title of the position officially changed to Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry in 1985. The U.S. poet laureate, appointed annually by the Librarian of Congress, receives a $35,000 annual stipend plus $5,000 for travel expenses, all of which is funded by a private gift and not the U.S. government. Some poets previously appointed to the posts include Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Pinsky, William Carlos Williams, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Robert Frost.   

Locally, representatives from local organizations would form a committee this summer and later in the year evaluate nominations for the title. The tentative suggested deadlines are the Posting of the Nomination Form by Aug.15 and a deadline for submissions on Sept. 15. Committee evaluations would follow, and the Mayor would announce the 2023 Poet Laureate in December of this year.      

In other council news, a Public Hearing was set to take place July 19 regarding additional funding needed - over the 2022 Capital Budget amounts - for the construction of the East Side Fire/EMS facility. That additional amount is $1.348 million and is due to increases in costs of material and services needed to complete the project, according to city documents. 

On May 3, Jason Golub was unanimously selected by the four sitting members of the City Council to temporarily fill the vacancy as the council’s fifth member and as Commissioner of Public Works. 

Golub grew up New Haven, Connecticut and moved to this area about a decade ago in connection with a job with GE where he ran government investigations and compliance. He currently works with tech startup Kahilla – a women’s leadership platform that develops women leaders in corporate America.         

The vacant seat is a result of the death last month of longtime DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco. Golub will serve as commissioner through calendar year 2022. He will be running as Democratic candidate in a November election to fill the remainder of the term – which goes through the calendar year 2023. A profile of Republican candidate Anthony Scirocco, Jr., who is also vying for the seat, was published by Saratoga TODAY on June 23. 

Q: What has surprised you the most since taking the position in May? 

A: I’m a big idea guy. I have a vision about where I want DPW to go and one of my biggest concerns was whether the employees of DPW would buy into that. Are they open to doing things in a different way to help solve the problems of the city? And I’ve been super pleasantly surprised how open, how receptive and eager the team has been to tackle things in a different way, and innovate. That’s been a real pleasant surprise. 

Q: There are different ways that a person may approach a new position – come in and clean house, or take time to learn a bit about what already exists, and evaluate afterwards. What has been your approach?

 A: During my first 100 days, I think the most important thing I can do is listen. Listen to the employees, to the people in the field, and most importantly, listen to people in the community to understand where the pain-points are in terms of how we provide service - what we can do better and how can I help the team do their job better. Gutting the team was never on my radar. There are amazing people who work here.      

 Q: You’re a Democrat going into a position that has long been a Republican seat. Has that created a challenging political climate? How have you dealt with that? 

A: Maybe I’m jaded, but I think in some ways Public Works is the least political of the offices on the City Council. Everybody needs the services Public Works provides. I don’t care if you’re a Republican or Democrat. I’m making sure you have good streets. So, in that way there’s no divisiveness in this department. We’re all rowing in the same direction. 

Q: Moving forward, what is your vision or goals you want to accomplish? 

A: The overall approach that I have as the leader of DPW now and that I will have if I’m elected (in November) has three components: service, vision and impact. Service to the community is my goal that has to be the core of DPW. How do we provide the best service? How do we leverage technology and tools and good old-fashioned listening to improve communication with the public, and then how do we develop tools for transparency? For example: plowing streets. There are tools and apps that we can very easily implement to provide transparency into when your street is going to get plowed, when a pothole will be fixed, and it will also provide the public an opportunity to tell us when there’s a problem. 

The second is having a bold vision on where the department can go. For me that’s drawing on my experience on everything from Columbia Law to my experience in large, complicated organizations like GE, and as compliance leader and a lawyer. 

Specifically, parks and playgrounds is a big area for me. Creating and protecting green space and parks. I would love there to be green space within five minutes walking distance of every kid in our city. We’re already building Flat Rock Park next to the City Center garage, we’re expanding the outdoor facilities at the Rec Center and we’re working with Saratoga Shredders to make a mountain bike park. 

I also think DPW plays a role in bringing solutions to the homeless problem. We have a growing homeless problem, it’s getting worse and I think we need to come up with better solutions as a government. So, this summer we’re rolling out a DPW work program with the homeless – providing an opportunity for work, for food and support through DPW. 

Q: How would that work? 

A: We’re one component of a program which is essentially putting members of the homeless who are willing on DPW projects. They’ll be paid for the work they do, food will be provided and support provided through (the human service agency) RISE. We’re working out the details right now, but they would be put on a DPW work crew for the summer. Look, it isn’t a solution to the entire problem, but it’s bringing innovation and new ideas to a problem that’s getting worse in our community. 

Q: How do you feel about development growth in the city?

A: I’m not against growth, I’m not against development. I think it needs to be thoughtful and it needs to be balanced. For example, if you’re going to build a City Center garage, the balance to me is creating green space next to it, rather than having a parking lot next to a parking lot, next to a parking lot - because eventually the historic charm of our downtown disappears if all you do is continue to develop and develop without balancing it with green space. I also think we need more workforce housing, more affordable housing. That has to be part of the future of our development. The people who work here – the firemen the police, the nurses – they can’t afford to live here. That’s a problem. 

Other areas of focus: Clean Energy and a Connected City; expanding our recycling program; connecting our bike lanes and neighborhood-focused solutions: going into every neighborhood and understanding what are the unique problems of each neighborhood. We need to be more pro-active in DPW about learning of the problems in Geyser Crest or wherever they may be. It might be flooding, or sidewalks, walkability, street improvements. I think as we improve our communication and our outreach, we become a better partner with each of our neighborhoods in solving the problems.   

BALLSTON SPA — County Officials have unveiled the official brand, America’s Turning Point, to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Revolutionary War Era events that happened in Saratoga County. 

The anniversary marks the British Army surrender in 1777 in present-day Schuylerville, following the battles at Saratoga, and has been nicknamed the Turning Point of the American Revolution.

The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors have committed $150,000 in seed money to a newly formed Saratoga County 250th American Revolution Commission, to help advance its mission of promoting education, historic preservation and heritage tourism of the Revolutionary War era events, people, and places throughout Saratoga County. 

The anniversary will be commemorated through the fall of 2027 with a multi-faceted public education and marketing effort, and the creation of a logo and brand was a crucial first step in that effort. 

The Commission consists of 13 official members  - in honor of the 13 original colonies - tasked with planning and organizing ceremonies, events, activities, and celebrations recognizing the 250th Anniversary of the American Revolution in Saratoga County.

Currently, there are 11 Commission members, which includes Saratoga County Historian Lauren Roberts (Chair); SNHP Superintendent Leslie Morlock; Town of Saratoga Supervisor Wood; Town of Stillwater Supervisor Kinowski; Michael Companion, Educator; Sean Kelleher, Saratoga County History Center Vice President and Town of Saratoga Historian; Heather Mabee, DAR Representative; Saratoga County Administrator Steve Bulger; Director of Veterans Services Frank McClement; Chairman of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors, Todd Kusnierz; and Paul Novotny, Reenactor and liaison to the living history community. 

The Commission is actively seeking members for the remaining two vacancies. For more information, go to: www.saratoga250.com 

Thursday, 30 June 2022 14:05

Spa City Carousel Celebrates 20th Year

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A ceremony staged in Congress Park this week celebrated the 20th anniversary of the opening of the carousel in Congress Park and served to commemorate former DPW Commissioner Thomas McTygue’s 32 years of service on the City Council as well as his leadership role to save the carousel. 

In its 20-year existence in Congress Park, the carousel has played host to about 850,000 rides. “To me, that’s (more than) 800,000 kids’ smiles, laughs, or who like my daughter, feel like they’ve found something magical. It brought us joy and happiness. I imagine that’s how everyone else feels who rides it for the first time,” said current DPW Commissioner Jason Golub. 

“As with many things in Saratoga Springs, there had to be a long-term fight first, before getting anything done,” Golub added. It is a project that nearly didn’t happen. Following the closure of Kaydeross Park on Saratoga Lake, the historic Illions Carousel was slated to be auctioned off and dismantled. 

Saratoga Springs City Council Minutes: Aug. 4, 1986: Mayor Jones received a letter from Robert Kohn, a partner in the Vista project at Saratoga Lake, offering to donate to the city the carousel at Kaydeross Park contingent upon their taking title to the property. Mayor Jones felt it would be imprudent to accept a gift of this magnitude - $250,000 if restored – and since we are in negotiations with them over this project, he would oppose the acceptance of any gift. There are many liabilities concerned. Comm. McTygue stated he would like to discuss this if it is going to leave the area rather than stay here in Saratoga Springs. He does not want to close the door on this at this time. The offer is contingent on the approval of his project. 

In 1987, McTygue and former Finance Commissioner Ted Butler led a community fundraising campaign for the city to purchase the Carousel at the negotiated price of $150,000. An at-times heated community discussion about where to site the carousel followed for the next 15 years. McTygue remained adamant that it belonged in Congress Park. 

“One of the main reasons I fought to keep this in the downtown business district is it opened up a whole new entrance to our park here,” McTygue said during this week’s ceremony. “People come here from other communities, to bring their children and grandchildren to ride the carousel and then being here they would shop in our downtown businesses.” 

The Saratogian: Sept 1987, by Paul Cloos: The Saratoga Springs City Council Tuesday pledged to help buy the Kaydeross Park carousel at an auction later this month. If bought by the city, Public Works Commissioner Thomas McTygue said a likely spot for the carousel would be Congress Park. The 1904 carousel at Kaydeross Park changed hands as part of the $3.1 million sale of the park to the developers of Vista on Saratoga Lake. Vista developers plan 349 town houses and single-family houses in place of the park, which closes in two weeks. 

“There are so many things I wanted to say…” McTygue told the assembled crowd of more than 100 at this week’s ceremony in front of the carousel, flanked by rows of towering trees and the vibrant hue of tiger lilies. 

“I had a lot of help, and I couldn’t do this without leaning over to the other side. I know it upset some of my Democrat friends, but I really had to. When I first was elected in the ‘70s this community was predominantly Republican,” said McTygue, served on the city council for a total of 32 years from the early 1970s to 2008. 

“When I first took over, this place was loaded with drugs, people sleeping under the tress, it was all overgrown. We decided we were going to get involved and clean this place up and that’s what we did.” He more than doubled his father’s 15-year tenure as councilmember. It is an achievement he never could have imagined. “Thirty-two years! But I’ll tell you with the Internet today, I probably wouldn’t have lasted three years,” McTygue said with a laugh. 

The Gazette, May 30, 1998, by Rik Stevens: It’s an issue that comes around and goes around every couple of years, but this time, a city official thinks he’s found a home for the historic Kaydeross Carousel. Public Works Commissioner Thomas McTygue has plans to put the 93-year-old carousel in a new pavilion on the Spring Street side of the Canfield Casino in Congress Park. The city bought the carousel for $150,000 in 1987 from the new owners at Kaydeross Park, using a last-minute fund drive, corporate donations and city money. The horses were restored and have been stashed in an office in the Public Works Department, awaiting a new home.   

The donations came in from everywhere. “The support we got from everybody…it was unbelievable,” McTygue said, whose eldest daughter, Lisa, read from a lengthy list of donors who had donated $5,000 for each carousel horse, those who donated funds to restore the horses, and those who helped fund the design and construction of the carousel pavilion. 

Gordon Boyd read a list compiled of achievements accomplished while in office by McTygue, whom Boyd called “a native son and true friend of Saratoga Springs.” Boyd first met the then-newly elected McTygue in 1972. “I saw someone who had the desire and leadership capacity to make the city better. But he also showed a rootedness in the community stretching back generations, and the authenticity to rally the community behind his major initiatives,” Boyd said.  “The common element of all his ideas for Saratoga Springs was he approached them out of love for the community, and a joy in having the opportunity to serve. So that is why we are here today.”      

To mark the event, the Saratoga Springs City Council approved a motion to offer free carousel rides for the day. Boyd stressed the carousel be seen as both a joy-filled experience in a special place as well as a metaphor of civic leadership and commitment that takes on all challenges for the betterment of
the community. 

Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner read a citation that recognized McTygue’s contributions to the community in general and specifically for his “valiant, prescient and ultimately successful efforts to bring this carousel to this place.” The carousel was installed in Congress Park in 2002.

The event also honored the memory of late DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco whom, despite being a political competitor, reached out to McTygue last year with the idea of acknowledging McTygue’s leadership at the 20th anniversary of the carousel. 

“It was Skip’s gracious idea to celebrate Commissioner McTygue’s significant contribution to our community, and I know he would be proud to see us follow through on his wish,” current DPW Commissioner Golub said during the unveiling of a plaque detailing the history of the carousel and commemorating McTygue’s leadership. 

McTygue looked at the plaque. “That’ll be here for a while,” he said. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — “I think that Saratoga fits really well as a launching pad for national stage work.” 

“And one of the advantages to this model is to bring extremely high-quality artists and work – both from the region and not from the region – to Saratoga and to show it,” says Orchard Project Artistic Director Ari Edelson, in the days leading up to a highly anticipated weekend when the organization will bring a varied genre of arts programming to a variety of local stages.     

“The things we’ve done in the past, they all seem to be the parts of an experiment we’re trying to compress into a weekend of events and really focus on sharing with this community some of the things we are supporting through our programs,” he says. 

Events will take place Friday, July 8 through Sunday, July 10 at Caffe Lena, Saratoga Arts and Universal Preservation Hall. They will include a new rock musical, world premiere concerts, the unveiling of a musical cabaret and a series of free readings and writing workshop. 

“A weekend like this is to us a sustainable way of bringing great programming to the community at a fairly affordable price point. And it’s also a way for us to just meet more advocates for what we do,” says Edelson, who grew up in the greater tri-state area. His local ties date to childhood summer visits with his maternal grandparents who operated a pharmacy on Broadway in Saratoga Springs. 

The Orchard Project first launched atop the Greene County mountains of the Catskills, in Hunter. “There were very few physical resources for groundbreaking performing artists, and frankly for artists who wanted to take bigger risks. We did a week in 2007 and it went pretty well, moved to three weeks in 2008 and kept on growing from there,” Edelson says. “When we looked around for a new place to move, I was able to convince my team Saratoga was the perfect place for the Labs.

The first year in Saratoga, in 2015, worked out well, and a valued connection was forged with local leaders. 

“We walked into a meeting, and they asked: ‘So, what is this Orchard Project?’ I said, ‘Well it’s kind of an artists’ retreat that develops performance. We support plays and musicals and dance pieces and shows.’ They said: ‘Oh it’s like Yaddo for theater.’ People immediately got it. The Orchard Project then was about eight years old and had already sent a few shows to Broadway; shows that had emerged out of our Labs.”

The Orchard Project has brought to Saratoga Springs such artists as Alan Cumming – who tested out a cabaret of his at UPH, legendary performance artist, writer, poet and experimental theatre-maker Penny Arcade, and cabaret performer Bridget Everett – who performed in 2015. “She now has her own show on HBO. And people still remember that - back when this really raunchy singer was serenading guys who looked like they were members of Saratoga golf and polo,” Edelson says with a laugh. “That helped me to understand that for us locally there was an ability for us connect with what we did: supporting artists while they were taking risks - fun, public events that would allow people to feel like they were in on something.” 

Over the past 15 years, the Orchard Project has supported more than 300 new productions in various forms of development, including the creation pieces that have moved to Broadway such as All The Way, Amelie: The Musical, and 33 Variations, award-winning work such as An Octoroon and The Aliens, and works by Taylor Mac, Young Jean Lee, Rachel Chavkin, Annie Baker, Jeremy O Harris, Savion Glover, and  Esperanza Spalding, among others. 

“When we were running at capacity in Saratoga before the (pandemic) shutdown in 2019, we were bringing up about 80 artists to Saratoga over the course of six weeks - from Memorial Day until July 10 - and we would take over Saratoga Arts Center and Caffe Lena and the Visitors Center, turn them into a campus where people were developing stuff – maybe a first act of a play, maybe adding the last bit of polish before sending it out to the Geffen (Playhouse) in Los Angeles. Our rule was basically that anything at any stage should be part of this mix of brilliant work,” Edelson says.     

Orchard Project’s earliest days were a bit like Burning Man, Edelson says: “storage units we’d unpack on Memorial Day and after we would pack them back up.” It has grown to be capable of supporting a year-round part-time staff as well as running support programs for artists off-season. “Even off-season in Saratoga, the goal is for us to be doing more and more,” he says. 

“Coming out of COVID, we realized the most important thing for us is not to just be bringing work to Saratoga to operate like a summer retreat, but to actually generate more work from Saratoga as well as the upstate region. We’re working with Proctors and the Saratoga Senior Center on the launch of what we’re calling the 518 Monologues (July 9). It’s going to be a year-round effort for us to be supporting writing workshops for organizations, community groups and corporations across the entire area code.”

Other weekend events include staging the rock musical “Penelope” (July 8 & 10), world premiere concerts by Martha Graham Cracker (July 8) and Lance Horne (July 9), and a variety of free readings throughout the three-day festival. See listings below or go to: orchardproject.com

The Orchard Project 2022 Arts Festival takes place Friday, July 8 through Sunday, July 10 in Saratoga Springs. 

Penelope - A world premiere musical by Alex Bechtel, starring Grace McLean. 7 p.m. Friday, July 8 and 3 p.m. Sunday, July 10 at Caffe Lena. Single ticket: $25/free for OP members. Groundbreaking new work of concert theatre for one actor and a five-piece band. Alex Bechtel began to write music from the point of view of Penelope, Odysseus’ wife in Homer’s “Odyssey.” 

Martha Graham Cracker Solves All Your Problems - A world premiere concert, 9 p.m. Friday, July 8 at UPH. Table seating: $45; General admission $35/free for OP members. VIP/Golden tickets also available.  Martha Graham Cracker, “The Drag Queen King” and her cabaret have been giving legendary performances since 2005. Martha (the alter ego of Dito van Reigersberg) has become a staple of the NYC and Philadelphia theater scenes. In the premiere of “Martha Graham Cracker Solves All of Your Problems,” Martha assumes a “Dear Abby” persona, accepting audience questions and delivering on-the-spot musical advice.

Famous In New York - a world premiere concert led By Emmy Award Winner Lance Horne. 8 p.m. Saturday, July 9 at UPH. Table seating: $45; general admission $35/free for OP members, VIP available. A concert celebrating New York “originals.” Emmy award-winning composer, pianist, singer, and music director Lance Horne joins together some of New York finest performers, hailing from both upstate and downstate, in celebration of the state that we call home. 

Once Upon A Tra' In Puerto Rico - new play reading by Nelson Diaz-Marcano, directed by Rebecca Aparicio at Saratoga Arts, 2 p.m. July 9, noon on July 10.  Free/reserved seating for OP members.

The Double[S] - new audio podcast reading by Winnie Kemp at Saratoga Arts, 1 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. Sunday. Free/reserved seating for OP members.

The 518 Monologues - Monologue Writing Workshop led by D. Colin at Saratoga Arts, 11 a.m. Saturday. Free. 

How to attend: become a supporting “Member” of the Orchard Project a tax-deductible donation of anything above $100 and for full access to the entire lineup. Or buy individual tickets for any of the events, also on sale at Universal Preservation Hall and Caffe Lena. For more information, go to: www.orchardproject.com

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Anthony Scirocco, Jr. says he has decided to take the “humbling, emotional and inspirational” step to follow in his late father’s footsteps and carry on the traditions and legacy that his father worked to build in the city.

His father, Anthony “Skip” Scirocco died in April, early in his two-year term as Commissioner of Public Works. 

Scirocco Jr., who has received the support of the local Republican Committee, officially announced his candidacy this week for the November election that will fill the DPW seat for the calendar year 2023 – the remainder of the term. Jason Golub, recently appointed to the vacant seat for the balance of 2022 by the City Council, has received the backing of the local Democratic Committee, and will also run in the November election. 

Scirocco, who is 53, has more than 20 years’ experience in the DPW at Saratoga County, starting as a laborer and working his way up to county maintenance supervisor. This will be his first venture into politics. 

“I don’t know that I harbored any aspirations of running for office. My father did. I thought he would do it for a little bit longer, but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way,” Scirocco says. His father - who held elected posts as Saratoga County Supervisor from 1998 to 2005, and Saratoga Springs DPW Commissioner from 2008 to 2022 – was the one who convinced him to run for office. 

“My mother came over to my house one day and said, ‘Your father wants to talk with you, can you go up and see him at the hospital?’ So I went and we talked. He said to me: ‘I’d like you to take my spot at the DPW. I think you can do it. I think you’re the guy.’ 

“Well, this was all new to me. I said: Geez, I don’t really know. It’s a big step. He said, ‘Ah, you can do it. You have a DPW background.’ I was kind of taken aback at it. That he thought that about me. That I could do it. If anyone knows Skip, his passion and his love for the city is unquestioned. For him to feel that highly of me…What really got me is when he said: ‘You know the stars are aligning for you.’ 

“Here he is, in the hospital, and this is what he’s thinking. I was kind of overwhelmed by it. Every time I went back to see him, that’s all he wanted to talk about.”

The younger Scirocco spent time thinking the process through. “I’ve seen the commitment it takes, the amount of time it entails, some of the abuse you have to take when you run. I’ve seen it all with my father in the 20-something years of him running. I talked to my mother, I talked to my family. My father always had a sense of purpose, of giving back and doing, of making a difference. So, I came to the commitment that I would run.” 

In the city’s commission form of governing, each of the five councilmembers – four commissioners and a mayor – oversee their own specific departments, as well as count for one vote each in the majority rule of deciding city matters. The term pays an annual salary of $14,500. Scirocco says he plans to maintain his current job. If victorious in securing the one-year term, he said he would consider running again during the normal election cycle for the two-year term in November 2023. 

Among his goals for the city, Scirocco says he would plan to maintain his father’s plan. It is what he calls “the four core principles of Skip’s administration” - open space, historic preservation, infrastructure improvements and service. He also has ideas to implement some of his own, such as creating a five-year blacktop plan for city roads that would grade the condition of city roads and highlight which ones would be tended to, and in what order. Such a plan would aid everyone from developers to utility companies, he says, by providing knowledge about which areas would be given attention and when, going forward. 

“That’s something that’s not there and would be good to have in the future,” he says. “I’d also like to convince the City Council to re-invest some of the VLT aid money and some of the racecourse admission funds it receives to be set aside for use to blacktop.” He’s also in favor of adding an additional city attorney. 

“It will be a clean, fact-filled campaign. Jason (Golub) is a smart guy, and at the end of the day we’re both Saratogians and want what’s best for Saratoga,” he says, stressing city needs above politics. “The Republicans backed me and that’s great, but if I win, I’m not just going to just plow Republican streets. We’re going to fix everyone’s pipes, everybody is going to have clean water,” he says. “One of the things I learned from my father was his ability to get along with everyone, and to be able to work with everybody.” 

Look for a profile of Jason Golub in an upcoming edition of Saratoga TODAY. 

BALLSTON SPA — The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors gathered for their full monthly meeting June 21, at the county complex in Ballston Spa. 

Among the measures approved by the Board: 

• An agreement with Motorola Solutions, Inc. for upgrades to the county’s 800mhz emergency radio system infrastructure. The Board cited “the need to strengthen our system’s infrastructure from cyber intrusion.” The one-year agreement begins July 1 and authorizes a cost of up to $1.5 million. 

• The Board targeted $3.34 million in ARPA funds for additional roadway and bridge rehabilitation projects in the town of Milton and town of Wilton. The specific bridge rehabilitation projects are located on County Route 49 over the Kayaderosseras Creek in Milton, and rehabilitation of 1.84 miles of County Route 33 in Wilton. In March 2021, the Federal Government passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA”), making those funds eligible to be utilized for general government services including highway and bridge infrastructure repair and rehabilitation. 

• The Board approved the creation of an assistant county attorney position at a base salary of $94,188 to aid in County Public Health Services’ transition to a full-service health department. The salary and fringe costs associated with the position are anticipated to be partially reimbursable through funding and grants administered by the New York State Department of Health and/or Health Research, Inc.

• A Bond resolution was approved authorizing the issuance of $6.974 million bonds to finance the cost of various Capital Projects, and related SEQR act determination. 

Among the items is the purchase of a Police Department Emergeny Response Vehicle - identified as a Bearcat - for Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department use. The cost is estimated as up to $300,000, and is anticipated to have a five year period of usefulness. A variety of other county-use equipment purchases are anticipated, including a dump truck, water truck, bucket truck and other similar machinery and apparatus.  The projects related to the resolution include: The reconstruction, improvement and renovation of County administrative office buildings ($1.98 million); the County Correctional Facility building ($1.1 million); the County Social Services building ($310,000), and the County Municipal Complex Building 4 ($550,000). 

The Board of Supervisors approved two public hearings to take place next month. They are:

• A Public Hearing will held at 4:35 p.m. on July 13, regarding upgrades to the Saratoga County Sewer District No. 1’s Wastewater Treatment Plant to properly treat ammonia and meet new limits proposed by an administrative order on consent imposed by DEC. 

• A Public Hearing to be held at 4:40 p.m. on July 13 on the proposed lease of real property to Prime Group Holdings, LLC for the construction, maintenance, and use of an airplane hangar on county owned airport land.

Prime Group Holdings, LLC has proposed the construction of a 15,600 square foot hangar for the storage of aircraft, a paved automobile parking area, and relocation of approximately 650 linear feet of existing airport perimeter roadway. The company has proposed to lease the property on county airport land to be located on approximately 0.73 acres of currently undeveloped land at the south end of the existing FBO apron at the Saratoga County airport, for an initial term of 20 years, subject to mutual renewal.

Prime Group Holdings will privately fund the project - including permitting, design, and construction at an estimated cost of $2.5 million, and once constructed, will maintain ownership of the hangar, including maintenance, and pay any applicable taxes.

The public hearings will take place in the Meeting Room of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors in Ballston Spa. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Songs, speeches, proclamations and poems of freedom were read, sung and recited to a packed house inside Frederick Allen Elks Lodge on Beekman Street Monday. 

The “Juneteenth Celebrate Freedom” event, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, marking the anniversary of June 19, 1865. Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021. 

“It’s great to be here, but would have made it even greater is if we never had to have this holiday – slavery, the Civil War and the continuing fight over just plain justice for everyone,” Saratoga Springs city Mayor Ron Kim told those assembled for the event. “Being here is part of that fight.” Former city mayors Ken Klotz and Joanne Yepsen, current council member Minita Sanghvi, and current Congressman Paul Tonko were among those who attended Monday’s event. 

Among those at the mic: Ethan Crowley performed his rendition of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” actor/director and educator Eunice Ferreira – read adapted speeches of Ida B. Wells. 

The Lodge was chartered in August 1925 and the woman’s auxiliary one month later, according to city historian Mary Ann Fitzgerald. Meetings were initially held in members’ homes, then for several decades on Congress Street, when a physical venue was sited. 

During the mid-20th century, the Urban Renewal movement demolished much of the Congress Street area where a black community of homes and businesses stood. The physical location of the Lodge changed as well - relocating to Beekman Street after the Congress Street venue was destroyed in a fire in 1966.     

Kendall Hicks, leader of the Frederick Allen Lodge, welcomed the entire group to the front and closed out the day’s ceremony with a rousing chorus of “This Little Light of Mine (I’m gonna let it shine),” which came to be known as an anthem of the civil rights movement during the 1950’s and 60’s.   

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The City Council this week awarded two bids and authorized the subsequent signing of two contracts totaling more than $5 million that will move the city closer to its long-anticipated third fire station. 

“This is a momentous moment for all of us,” Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran said, while awarding the bids to Bunkoff General Contractors of Latham for up to $4.436 million, and DLC Electric of Troy for up to $638,000. In all, six companies had been vying for the contracting bid, seven for the electrical work. 

Saratoga Fire Station No. 3 will be developed at 16 Henning Road, roughly opposite the BOCES campus, and will serve the city’s eastern plateau.  The city’s two other stations are located in close proximity to downtown, and on the west side, respectively.

Plans proposed last summer depicted a one-story building measuring 15,500 square feet with dark green siding with white trim, centered on a 2.4-acre parcel. The plans may since have been slightly modified. 

Earlier this month, city Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi announced the city of Saratoga Springs sold $17,137,299 Public Improvement Serial Bonds at a Net Interest Cost of 3.90% - the proceeds of which will target several capital projects, a third fire/EMS facility among them. That fire station tops the cost list of 2022 requested, with requests of $6.7 million and $400,000. 

“The city chose to postpone financing for the construction of the third fire/EMS station during the pandemic, a fiscally prudent measure given the uncertainty of 2020 and 2021,” Sanghvi said.  “Our city has recovered to the point that we are now moving ahead with financing and construction of this vital city resource.”

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