Displaying items by tag: saratoga springs
City’s State of Emergency Expired
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The City’s State of Emergency expired Friday, June 12, and per the recommendation of the City Emergency Management Committee, Mayor Meg Kelly decided not to extend it for another period of time.
Plans to Reopen City Hall in July
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The schedule for moving employees into City Hall is set and should be completed during the week of June 29.
Plans call for the July 7 City Council meeting to be held in-person, and open for the public to attend.
City Hall closed in the aftermath of a lightning strike and flood which badly damaged the building in August 2018. The building, which was constructed in 1871, has undergone a massive, multi-million dollar renovation. Most of city government was relocated to the Vanderbilt Avenue recreation facility, and following the implementation of COVID-19 restrictions, city meetings have been held via Zoom.
At City Hall, there will be maximum occupancy limitations and access and safety protocols that will shortly be announced, the city says.
It is anticipated City Hall offices will re-open to the public by mid-July.
New City Firehouse Seeks Design Services Bids
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The City of Saratoga Springs will receive sealed bids for Proposed Firehouse #3 – Design Services. Sealed bids must be received in their entirety by the City of Saratoga Springs, Office of the Commissioner of Accounts, 15 Vanderbilt Avenue, Saratoga Springs, New York, 12866, by 2 p.m. on Thursday July 2. Copies of the request for proposal (RFP) may be obtained on the City’s web page at www.saratoga-springs.org, under current bids.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A local team ran four-miles every four-hours, for 48 hours straight, until they reached a total of 52 miles.
Alexandra Besso and friend Simon Wood joined together to complete the 4x4x48 challenge, designed by David Goggins, a retired Navy Seal, author and motivational speaker. Completed this past weekend, Besso said the experience was one to remember.
“The reason I chose to do this is because I got into triathlon and ultra-running a few years ago and this year was my first big year of really intensely running. I signed up for a 50-mile ultra-marathon over in Vermont. Due to COVID-19 that race and all of my smaller training races were cancelled,” Besso said. “I set a goal for myself of running 50 miles and it was something that was important to me to achieve. I figured if I couldn’t do it through my race in Vermont, I would do it on my own.”
Besso used the challenge to give back to the Saratoga Community. There are 12 separate runs, broken into four-hour segments, that are completed to make up the 4x4x48. Besso and Wood decided as part of their charity run, they would donate one of those segments to #SaratogaStrong and local businesses.
“What better way to not only achieve my own goal, but also do something to help the local community that I love so much,” Besso said.
The seventh segment Besso and Wood completed occurred this past Saturday at 12 p.m. The two ran down Broadway, sporting #SaratogaStrong t-shirts, and visited five of their favorite downtown businesses. They then purchased a gift card through the help of SIX Marketing, a full-service marketing agency.
Another aspect of the charity run was a $520 donation to Wellspring. Spoken Boutique, located at 27 Church St, sponsored $5 for every mile Besso and Wood completed. They each ran a total 51.2 miles during the challenge raising $260. SIX Marketing then matched that donation, bringing the total to $520.
The pair plan to keep on giving this weekend, when five Facebook friends of Spoken Boutique will be the winners of a gift card.
“I think we will pick five random individuals in the community after they comment on a photo of Simon and I running down Broadway. We’ll ask them how they support their local community and randomly select the people to give away the gift cards to,” Besso said.
The gift cards purchased and given away include $75 to Spoken Boutique and $50 each to Kru Coffee, Max Londons, iRun Local and Impressions of Saratoga. They will post the photo on the Spoken Boutique Facebook page on Saturday and choose winners later next week.
Besso added: “part of the motivation for me was setting this David Goggins challenge and doing it on my own. Setting a goal is important and I’m a very competitive person…it was important to me to achieve that goal even if it was more of a non-traditional way.”
Besso has completed local races in the past, such as the Hudson Crossing triathlon and Code Blue 5-mile race. One local company that made preparing for this race much easier was Greenfork. Based in Saratoga, Greenfork is a meal prep service that provides nutritious meals for the health conscious in the community by using fresh and local ingredients.
“Greenfork made everything a lot easier, not having to worry about going to the grocery store,” Besso said.
Moving forward, Besso and Wood will compete in a 50k run, 32 miles, in the Battlefield sometime in August.
“Once I achieve something I’m always looking for another goal that is more difficult, a little more mileage or more intimidating. We’ll see what the future holds. I would love to complete a 100-miler one day,” Besso said. “Being able to combine my love for participating in the sport of running and the challenge of doing something that seems almost out of reach…being able to accomplish those two things feels amazing. Saratoga has been a wonderful community to me since I’ve been here. The community helps each other and everyone helps in their own way…this is just my way.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Summertime in Saratoga may feature new dimensions in the outdoor dining experience. Literally.
In an effort to help downtown businesses increase customer capacity while remaining compliant to COVID-19 restrictions, the city is exploring a variety of possibilities that would allow its merchants to expand their businesses across city sidewalks.
The City Council is expected to address the matter at its Tuesday, June 16 meeting - immediately preceded by a public hearing at 6:55 p.m.
A working draft of a proposal that will be presented to the council is being crafted this week.
“Right now, the draft is basically allowing businesses to use the sidewalk as long as it’s ADA compliant – which is 48 inches for people to walk back and forth,” Accounts Commissioner John Franck said on June 9, one week prior to the meeting. Specifically, the measure would allow restaurants and other establishments to expand their outdoor spaces onto sidewalks, as long as 48 inches of pedestrian walkway is maintained, as per Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.
“We want to see how that affects things. Is that going to move the needle for the restaurants one way or another? Do we need to do more?” said Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton.
With summer approaching and some, but not all, state mandated restrictions related to COVID-19 being lifted, the idea of municipalities and businesses seeking creative ways to reopen the economy is a fluid one. Between this week and next week those creative options may change. Another idea being floated involves eliminating one lane of parking on city side streets to expand even greater the usable spaces for businesses.
“A second option would be to look at the side streets, take one lane of parking away from the side streets and put up Jersey barriers between the parking lane and the driving lane,” Commissioner Dalton explained. That move would allow the current parking lane to become a barriered pedestrian walkway, and free existing sidewalks in their entirety for vendors and restaurants to use. Jersey barriers are concrete partitions and are so-named because of their notable use as median barriers in the late 1940s in New Jersey.
Commissioner Franck has been leading the charge for the second option. “I’m hoping and really pushing for the change to also have the ability to add some of the street space – not close streets down – but to put barriers down that would allow more area in front of businesses – especially restaurants and bars – to give you more space for walking area and also in front of your restaurant, bar, or retail,” Franck said.
“It’s evolving, and I don’t know if the votes are there for it, but why not just put a Jersey barrier out there along one side of the street. This isn’t for the next 20 years; later we could go back to business as usual, but the summer’s here – let’s get this done,” he said.
It is not clear whether that second measure may also be part of the June 16 meeting, but a majority of Council members – at least three of five member votes – are required to approve the proposal for it to take effect.
That installation of barriers would be for a temporary period – perhaps only through the summer – but they would stay in place throughout the period of implementation. In other words, they wouldn’t be removed and re-inserted on a daily basis, or in accordance with business hours. And while they would only be placed on certain blocks in the downtown business core – and not on Broadway – their implementation could extend to both the east and west side of the city.
As to which side streets the barriers would specifically be installed needs to be figured out. “It’s not like we’re going to impose it on everyone. The code would be re-written such that if the need is there, it’s something we can do. We want to take logical steps,” Dalton said.
The Public Hearing will begin at 6:55 p.m. Two agenda items later into the meeting address the matter. The chapter amendment may be viewed HERE and a draft of the licensing process may be viewed HERE.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — In every public crisis, people rely on the training and courage of first responders and emergency medical personnel. While that remains true in the COVID-19 pandemic, the teams whose mettle are most tested are in
Saratoga Hospital’s Chair and Medical Director of Saratoga Hospital Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Josenia “Joy” Tan, MD, MT(ASCP), FCAP, and Director of Laboratory Services Richard Vandell, MS, MT(ASCP)SC, SH, knew they were facing a virus that spread like wildfire, but no one really knew how or how to identify those infected.
According to Dr. Tan, “Even large laboratories were making decisions in the dark. So we read everything we could get our hands on for ideas. The community was counting on us, so we worked the science and kept figuring it out.”
Dr. David M. Mastrianni, senior vice president of Saratoga Hospital Medical Group, said, “Let me explain how rare our laboratory team is. When we ran out of viral transport media, they made it. When we were low on testing swabs, they had them 3D printed. When testing kits were becoming scarce, they started batch testing. And they couldn’t just implement these changes. They had to first prove these ideas worked. Other lab directors would have given up, but not ours.”
According to Dr. Mastrianni, this response is not typical for labs outside of research campuses or even in larger hospitals. This higher level of function meant the lab was conducting research and validating the results, all while testing the public and patients for the virus as well as performing all their regular non-pandemic duties.
“Our first task was to stop the spread, and you can’t do that without testing to identify who has it,” Vandell said. “We didn’t have enough testing supplies. No one did. But we always find a plan B.”
The lab’s initial accomplishment was to establish a testing tent in record time, making Saratoga Hospital the first and longest continuously running specimen collection facility for the COVID-19 test in the region. Overall, Saratoga Hospital has tested nearly 8,000 people.
Then, to assure the safety of patients and staff and conserve protective gear (PPE), the hospital decided to test every inpatient. For a long time, it was the only hospital in the region to do that. Additionally, the lab obtained “rapid test” capabilities, a test for COVID-19 that could be done in-house and returns quicker results.
These tests remain in short supply, so the lab researched “batch (or pooled) testing” to help conserve them. Five samples of low-risk patients are now combined into one vial. If the test comes back negative, four test kits as well as PPE are saved. If it comes back positive, which only happens less than 1% of the time, patients are retested individually.
Saratoga Hospital offers physician-ordered antibody testing services, an in-house test that is another innovative use of existing resources brought about by the lab team. When rapid test collection swabs were hard to find, the team researched and obtained 3D printed swabs and validated them for use.
When many hospitals stopped testing due to a shortage of viral transport medium, a solution that preserves a patient’s sample on its way to be tested, Saratoga Hospital’s lab and in-house pharmacy made it from scratch, following CDC guidelines, then the lab validated its quality and purity, and now there’s an ample supply.
With the combined efforts of physician leadership, the infectious disease team, senior leadership, and others, the lab also developed a diagnostic algorithm to help physicians decide which test to use and when to use it. At the time, there wasn’t one for COVID-19.
“Our process and data for it have been submitted to the FDA and NYS Department of Health,” Dr. Tan said, “Once authorized, anyone in the country can follow our procedure. It’s remarkable, the amount of collaboration and support we have to do this.”
Working with its affiliate partner, Albany Med, Saratoga Hospital has been able to continuously work with the state laboratory to keep results moving. And Skidmore College loaned its biosafety hood, which allows laboratory scientists to safely handle infectious specimens, once the lab realized the two they had would not be enough to handle the extra capacity.
“There’s so much riding on what we do,” Vandell said. “Testing is key to reopening and will continue to be a challenge into the foreseeable future.”
Dr. Mastrianni agreed. “To successfully meet a pandemic head on, it all boils down to having people who are really bright and a supportive administration that lets them use their imagination, good judgment, and years of experience to do what they do best.”
Cover Photo: Pam Worth and Alexandra Besso of Spoken Boutique are stronger together.
Gallery: 1. Marianne Barker and Maddy Zanetti, Impressions of Saratoga on Broadway.
2. Lifestyles of Saratoga owner Heidi Owen West and Margie Rotchford.
3. The Pink Paddock on Broadway.
All Photos by SuperSource Media.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Small business owners opened their doors to in-store customers and hair stylists their salons for the first time in more than two months as part of the Capital Region’s phase two reopening plan on June 3. Outdoor dining returned one day later.
“We opened at 9 o’clock and we already had someone waiting at the door,” said Maddy Zanetti, at Impressions of Saratoga. “We’ve been open the whole time for curbside, delivery and shipping but today is the first time of customers in the store.” A table cradling bottles of hand sanitizer and disposable gloves and masks sat near the entryway door.
“People are thrilled to be out,” added Marianne Barker. “I do think people who are leery are going to stay home for a while yet, but people know we’re pretty careful, we’ve been open about what we’re doing and the steps we’re taking."
Kimberly Burton opened the doors to her Pink Paddock shop at 11 a.m. “It’s been three months. Three very long months,” she said with emphasis, celebrating the 15th year of the Broadway shop that’s been fitted with hand sanitizing stations, plastic protective shields at the register counter and posted to inform customers of in-store capacity regulations. “I think people are anxious to get out of the house, to shop, to try on some new clothes,” she said gesturing toward the dressing rooms, which are disinfected between customer uses.
Phase Two reopening allows for in-store retail sales, hair salons and barbershops, and office-based work, in addition to real estate services, commercial building management, vehicle sales, leases, and rentals, and retail rental, repair, and cleaning. Outdoor dining was added to the list on the afternoon of June 3.
“We’re already booked for the next three weeks,” said Yvette Ruddy, a hairstylist at Remarkable Finish on Broadway, where a digital thermometer rests at the entryway and customer chairs have been placed at a safe distance from one another. The employees have all been tested for the COVID-19 virus before ensuring they could return to work, she said.
An array of state guidelines and restrictions accompany reopening plans for both workforce employees and customers, with presence being limited to no more than 50% of the maximum occupancy for a particular area, as set by the certificate of occupancy. Employers are also recommended to adjust workplace hours to limit in-person presence to necessary staff only, as well as maintaining six feet of separation from others and wearing an acceptable face covering.
"What we have done with this COVID virus is really an amazing accomplishment, and it was all done by the people of this state. They did it, 19 million people did what they never did before. They responded with a level of determination and discipline that I was amazed with frankly," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said this week. "Remember where we were: we had 800 people die in one day. We had the worst situation in the United States of America. At one point we had the worst situation on the globe. And now we're reopening in less than 50 days. We went from an internationally terrible situation to where we’re talking about reopening."
To date, more than 105,000 U.S. residents have died during the past three months due to COVID-19. More than 38 million Americans have filed unemployment claims over the span of nine weeks. Whether the worst has passed or a so-called “second wave” returns - as some in the medical community have suggested – remains an unknown.
“I’m delighted to see our retailers open again. And as we are getting caught up in our reopening details and stores are focusing on their safety plans - and we have riots going on and protests going on, It’s easy to lose track that there still is a virus present in our community,” cautioned Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton.
In Saratoga County, there have been 495 confirmed cases of COVID-19 this year, 56 specifically being Saratoga Springs residents. Sixteen people have died, and 6 people are currently hospitalized. Approximately 2,500 residents have been isolated or quarantined at some point.
“We all need to keep our eye on the ball here and realize there still is a virus present, it’s still in our community and we need to be really vigilant as we continue these reopening phases, so we can get to phase three, so we can get to phase four and we can get back to some kind of normalcy,” Dalton said.
Gov. Cuomo’s NY Pause order went into effect March 22, and the city of Saratoga Springs and the greater Capital District Region were cleared by the state to begin the phase 1 re-opening of the local economy beginning Wednesday, May 20.
There are four reopening phases in all, and an up-to 14-day incubation period between phases to ensure that infection rates and hospitalizations are maintained at a manageable level. Phase Three – which includes indoor dining at restaurants, is currently slated for its reopening phase June 17; Phase Four, which focuses on Arts/ Entertainment / Recreation, and Education, including libraries, will potentially hit its reopening mark July 1.
On May 28, Cuomo signed an Executive Order authorizing businesses the ability to deny entry to those who do not wear masks or face-coverings. "The store owner has a right to protect themselves (and) the other patrons in that store," he said. A subsequent announcement states summer day camps statewide can open on June 29. A decision on sleep-away camps will be made in the coming weeks.
Malls - specifically any indoor common portions of retail shopping malls with 100,000 or more square feet of retail space available for lease, remain closed. However, stores located within shopping malls, which have their own external entrances open to the public, separate from the general mall entrance may open.
Also remaining closed are: large gathering event and concert venues, gyms, fitness centers, Video lottery and casino gaming facilities, movie theaters - except drive-in theaters - and places of public amusement, such as amusement parks, water parks, children’s play centers, bowling alleys, and other locations where groups of people may gather.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The 8th annual Beekman Street Art Fair (BSAF) scheduled for Sunday, June 14, 2020 has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, fair goers will still get to browse and purchase a variety of fine art and craft.
The Fair is coordinated by members of the non-profit Saratoga Springs Arts District Inc. Project managers are working with grantor Saratoga Arts to use the funds awarded for the fair on some alternate events later in the summer that will follow city and state guidelines for public safety.
The first event planned is an online auction featuring the work of artists who would have participated in this year’s fair. The auction goes live on June 7 and runs for two weeks. It may be accessed through the Beekman Street Arts District website at SaratogaArtDistrict.com.
The project team is also planning to host three late summer Second Sunday Pop-Up Art events on the lawns, porches, and interiors of the Arts District shops. If deemed safe to do so, these would be held on the second Sundays of each month - July 12, Aug. 9, and Sept. 13.
“When we realized it would be unlikely that we could hold our family friendly event, we started brainstorming some alternate venues to showcase our visual artists,” fair project manager Susan Rivers said in a statement.
The Beekman Street Art Fair alternate projects feature the creation of a virtual art show via an on-line auction, and potentially mini pop up art events later in the summer. “Since we will not be able to hold the traditional fair which brings in thousands of guests, we look forward to engaging with the community in innovative ways,” Rivers said.
For more information, go to: www.saratogaartdistrict.com.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Northshire Bookstore, which sites stores in Saratoga Springs and Manchester Center, Vermont, is taking its motto of building community one book at a time to heart in this time of pandemic.
Northshire hosts a series of virtual community gatherings for book lovers anchored around a standing Thursday 5 p.m. Northshire Live virtual event, with weekly authors and guests via Zoom. All events are password protected. Information on how to access each event is available at northshire.com. Beginning in June, all Northshire Live events will be ticketed - most on a “pay-what-you-can” basis.
The month kicks off with two events this week.
• Tuesday, June 2 at 7 p.m.
Chris Bohjalian presenting The Red Lotus - in conversation with Rebecca Makkai. Beloved Vermont author and dear friend of the bookstore Chris Bohjalian will discuss his latest, The Red Lotus, a global thriller set amidst the adrenaline-fueled world of the emergency room. In this special ticketed virtual event, Chris will be joined by Rebecca Makkai--the New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed novel The Great Believers. Go to: www.northshire.com/event/northshire-live-chris-bohjalian
• Thursday, June 4 at 5 p.m.
Amy Meyerson, author of The Imperfects, and Alli Frank and Asha Youmans, coauthors of Tiny Imperfections. Meyerson is the author of the Northshire staff favorites The Bookshop of Yesterdays and The Imperfects, and Alli Frank & Asha Youmans are co-authors of the delightful debut comedy Tiny Imperfections. This event is ticketed on a pay-what-you-can basis. Go to: www.northshire.com/event/northshire-live-guest-authors-amy-meyerson-alli-frank-and-asha-youmans
Additional events in June include live author events featuring acclaimed science journalist and New York Times bestselling author Wendy Williams, internationally acclaimed Dominican American writer Julia Alvarez - in conversation with Northshire co-founder Barbara Morrow, the annual James Joyce Bloomsday celebration on June 16, and many other events.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A continued adherence to social distancing and face-covering guidelines have reduced the COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rate significantly across the Capital Region during the past few weeks, and as such, businesses in the Spa City and the surrounding communities are preparing to potentially enter the Phase 2 reopening of their establishments next week.
“It’s working,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said this week, referring to New Yorkers across the state reducing the curve of the virus infection.
Cuomo’s NY Pause order went into effect March 22, and the city of Saratoga Springs and the greater Capital District Region were cleared by the state to begin the phase 1 re-opening of the local economy beginning Wednesday, May 20.
There are four reopening phases in all, and an up-to 14-day incubation period between phases to ensure that infection rates and hospitalizations are maintained at a manageable level.
And while the state has yet to release Phase 2 reopening guideline, or give the OK to cycle into the next phase, there is a general belief that that the region will meet the metrics required and be able to reopen for Phase 2 at the expiration of the 14-day incubation period on Wednesday, June 3.
Phase Two reopening allows for the following: Professional Services (including hair salons and stylists among them); Retail; Administrative Support; Real Estate / Rental & Leasing. Social distancing, face coverings and limited occupancy requirements will remain in place.
WHAT IS REQUIRED OF BUSINESSES
Every business is required to develop a written safety plan outlining how its workplace will prevent the spread of COVID-19. Businesses may develop their own safety plan or use the template below provided by the state. To download that state created Safety Plan Template, go to: governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/NYS_BusinessReopeningSafetyPlanTemplate.pdf.
A copy of the plan must be retained on business premises at all times and be made available to the NYS Department of Health (DOH) or local health or safety authorities in the event of an inspection.
One key factor in reducing the spread of the virus is, when discovering someone has been infected with the virus, tracing that person’s previously known whereabouts and with whom they had come into contact. According to the CDC, the goal is to trace and monitor contacts of infected people, notify them of their exposure and support the quarantine of contacts to prevent additional transmission.
“We’ve done that from day one in Saratoga County and that’s how we flatten the curve, how we were able to reopen, and how we’ll be able to stay open,” Cathy Medick, Department of Health Director of Patient Services said during a forum the county hosted May 27.
Additional questions were raised during the forum regarding the topic.
Q: How do big box stores like Walmart, Target, etc. Do tracing? Is that any different than small businesses?
A. Cathy Medick, Department of Health Director of Patient Services: “No. As far as their employees go, they have to keep track of all the employees that are on for a shift and it’s their responsibility to have it as part of their safety plan. We have worked with bigger businesses and places that have had positive cases. Many of them had used their security cameras or their Frequent Shopper cards to identify people who may have come into contact. We do realize it would be impossible to write down every single customer that comes into the store, so, that’s the main difference there.”
Q. How is our privacy protected, and what type of information is to be given to a contact tracer?
A. Medick: “Under Public Health Law, HIPPA is skewed a bit. As a Public Health entity, we have the right to collect information to protect the health of the greater public.”
Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus, a panelist at the forum, was also asked about the topic.
Q. What happens to a business owner if contact tracers track a cluster back to their business – and, what is the extent of that liability?
A. Todd Shimkus: “One of things businesses need to do as part of their safety plan is to figure out how they are going to manage contact tracing should somebody from the county show up at their business a day later, or at any point in time and say: ‘OK, you had a customer who was here three days ago, we need to make sure we notify you, your employees and anyone else who might have been here.’ So, every business as part of your plan, you have to have some way of recording who was in your store, your business or workplace every day, so in case there is contact tracing going forward you can contact those people who were there. It’s part of your responsibility as part of your safety plan.
“The second is liability. This is a much bigger challenge. The liability provisions in terms of insurance and the law do not cover COVID-19.
“That means you at the very least, have to comply with the existing law which goes back to having a safety plan. Making sure that safety plan uses all the right protocols: that your employees are following it, that your customers are following it, so that you don’t have any issues that cause you liability concerns.”
The NYS Forward Safety Plan Template regarding the issue, directs that customers may be “encouraged” to provide their information, but are “not mandated to do so.”
That specific segment reads: “Maintain a continuous log of every person, including workers and visitors, who may have close contact with other individuals at the work site or area; excluding deliveries that are performed with appropriate PPE or through contactless means; excluding customers, who may be encouraged to provide contact information to be logged but are not mandated to do so.”
Additionally, “Which employee(s) will be in charge of maintaining a log of each person that enters the site (excluding customers and deliveries that are performed with appropriate PPE or through contactless means), and where will the log be kept?”
Again, while a Safety Plan is required, the state informs that a business may use the NYS Forward Safety Plan Template to fulfill the requirement, or may develop its own Safety Plan.
An official announcement regarding the OK for the second phase of reopening is anticipated soon, as Friday marks 14 days since a handful of regions in the state began phase one. And in what may ease any confusion, the state is also expected to release detailed updates regarding Phase Two plans. For the most current update, go to: forward.ny.gov.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city may take several cost-cutting actions during its Tuesday, May 19 meeting as it looks for ways to fill an anticipated absence of revenue sources due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
City Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan estimated the city may lose $14 to $16 million in revenue in 2020 - nearly one-third its $48.7 million operating budget. Furloughs, deferred raises, retirements, and layoffs are all on the table.
“In the face of the absence of federal assistance coupled with revenue losses – all of our revenues pretty much - jurisdictions across the state are moving ahead with layoffs and furloughs,” Madigan said, during the council’s last meeting, earlier this month. “It is critical that we significantly reduce our spending now.”
Furloughs are preferable to layoffs, Madigan said, as they would provide immediate expense reductions as well as allowing those furloughed the ability to collect state unemployment funding as well as maintain their city-provided benefits. While 33 city employees are “available” for retirement, however, at retirement they would be due compensatory time, sick time and overtime pay.
“Many of our employees have reduced duties during our stay-at-home period while the city still pays them as if they were working a 100% schedule,” she said. “The more people we furlough now – and it will be difficult - the fewer we will need to consider laying off later in the year.”
Through the first quarter of 2020, the city announced it had collected just over $9.1 million (or 57%) in property taxes, but by the March 31 reporting date had not received many larger revenue streams. Those include: sales tax figures (March collections are distributed to the city in April and May), VLT Aid (paid in June), Hotel Occupancy Tax (April), Water and Sewer Revenues (May 15 due date) as well as other sources paid later in the year. The city is annually paid NYRA Admissions Tax for hosting the summer meet, but that funding outcome is not known for 2020 should NYRA decide to run at Saratoga while not admitting ticket-paying fans.
Every county in every region of the state saw a large drop in local sales tax collections in April, according to a report announced by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli on May 12. Social distancing protocols were established with the “New York State on PAUSE” initiative, which has shuttered non-essential businesses and offices since March 22.
Of all regions in the state, the greater Capital District had the most severe decline – down 28.8 percent and totaling $42.6 million - down from $59.9 million exactly one year earlier.
Saratoga County was down from $10 million to $7.4 million overall, and tax collections in Saratoga Springs specifically dropped from $900,000 in April 2019 to $700,000 in April 2020, according to the report, which rounds figures in millions of dollars.
To compensate for a potential $14 million to $16 million revenue shortfall in Saratoga Springs in 2020, the council is contemplating the use of approximately $4.5 million of the city’s unassigned and unrestricted fund balance, Madigan said, as well as “$1 million from the re-assignment of various assignments, $2.4 million in a budget note due to be paid back at the end of 2021, and $4 million in departmental expense reductions.” Those measures total $11.9 million, leaving a projected revenue shortfall of $2.1 to $4.1 million.
Earlier this month, the City Council approved a series of budget transfer resolutions to fund the last stage of renovations at City Hall, which has been closed since an August 2018 lightning strike caused substantial damage to the 19th century structure. Shortly after the closure of City Hall, the city relocated most of its operations to the Vanderbilt Avenue recreation facility.
Approximately $567,000 is required to complete the renovation of the building.
To that point, the City Council unanimously approved moving $167,000 from the building reserve fund, $151,000 that had been targeted for the Saratoga Arts building, and more than $188,000 of the $200,000 it had previously approved for Recreation Department Skate Park improvements at East Side Rec. Last week, the city announced the cancellation of Recreation Department summer events and camps.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The iconic Larry’s Barbershop has welcomed a new owner, Hayden Sias, who has plans to renovate the inside.
“The place is an icon. Larry’s Barbershop has been in town for 50 years…I learned from him. Basically I’m trying to bring in today’s look but still keep the old flair,” Sias said.
Despite having some big shoes to fill, Sias hasn’t been in the barbershop business for his whole life. He previously owned a trucking company and has a background as a professional musician. Both jobs called for a lot of travelling and he found himself growing tired from it. In response, he sold his company. Sias added his sister has been a hairdresser her whole life, and it inspired him.
“I love my job. I don’t think I really intended being a barber originally, it never really crossed my mind, but it feels amazing. This is an amazing opportunity,” Sias said.
The historic barbershop is seeing a re-model as Sias hopes to completely redesign the look of the shop. However, he doesn’t want to lose the history of the place.
Sias added: “this is a center hub, it’s a piece of history. Where I am [Larry’s barbershop] this is an institution. This shop has been here for 50 years. I have been lucky to learn from Larry and then carry on some of the traditions of the art itself. I’m finally able to have an opportunity to grow the business myself. It’s a once in a lifetime scenario.”
Sias is currently renovating the interior of the shop to grow the business. He aims to attract a younger audience in addition to the regulars who have been visiting the barbershop for years. He hopes that by adding some personal touches to the place will help bridge the gap between the two generations.
“I took the interior and made it a combination of my personal tastes, some of the things that surround me,” Sias said. “But I didn’t want to lose the old school flair. It’s a combinations of the things that are going to make me happy and bring it into a modern world.”
Larry’s Barber Shop is located at 74 Washington St. in Saratoga. The classic old time barbershop has welcomed generation of barbers. Sias hopes to finish construction this week.
Although renovations finish this week, Sias is keeping safety at the front of his mind for the new design. Even though it’s just a haircut for most people, Sias noticed that others enjoy that personal contact and he can really connect to customers. He knows the new normal will be different for a while, but Sias will ensure safety and understanding as soon as his doors open.
“I’m going to do everything I can do to keep the safety of the customer in mind. I want people to be comfortable in addition to knowing and understanding,” Sias said.