Displaying items by tag: state of the city
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Springs hosted its annual State of the City Address on Jan. 26.
Each of the five council members and both supervisors representing the city at the county level were allotted time to speak. The meeting included a moment of silence for all who died during the pandemic. COVID-19 accounted for the deaths of 108 residents of Saratoga County - 38 specific to Saratoga Springs, to date.
Due to COVID-19 precautions, the annual address was livestreamed via Zoom.
“There was a time when we thought we had (already) faced a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence: the lightning strike that closed City Hall in 2018 (and) relocated us to the Recreation Center for almost two years,” Mayor Meg Kelly said. “Obviously, 2020 unfolded in very unexpected ways. We had to pivot and work remotely, social distance, and meet in Zoom rooms.”
Here are some excerpts of the address. A transcript of the entire meeting may be read at the city’s website.
• The Saratoga Greenbelt Geyser Road Trail will soon open to the public and have a ribbon-cutting in the spring. The Geyser Trail is an 8-feet-wide, 2.8 mile-long trail that follows Geyser Road, from the Milton town line to the Saratoga Spa State Park.
• Renovation of the vandalized Civil War memorial in Congress Park is nearly complete and is anticipated for return to the park in the spring. Repair costs were covered by insurance; additional costs will be incurred for new security cameras and improvements to the site.
• The city delivered several new federally funded programs, including $540,000 in CDBG-CV funding to local service agencies, the COVID19 Small Business Grant Program, and the COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program - the latter preventing homelessness for 13 Saratoga Springs households. More than $490,000 in Block Grant funding assisted 3,000 households.
• In 2020, the city’s three Land Use Boards issued 178 decisions. There are currently 96 active applications in the review process.
• Due to the pandemic and subsequent shortage of business revenue and state aid in 2020 resulted in much lower sales tax, occupancy tax, service fees and other city revenues, reflected in the city’s 2021 budget, which was adopted on Nov. 30.
• In 2020 the city paved 12 main roads and intersections.
• Future: a Broadway Master Design Plan was created via a partnering of the DPW and the Downtown Special Assessment District. The aim is to incorporate many ideas into one cohesive plan that recognizes the historic charm of the city’s downtown, while acknowledging the growing community and business expectations for public spaces. More information about the initiative is expected in the near future.
At the county:
• The new Public Safety facility at the County Farm Road complex was completed and is in operation. The county approved $350,000 to improve technology in the board room, support live-streaming of meetings and increased public engagement, as well as install Public Wi-Fi in appropriate areas.
• A new Government Review and Efficiency committee was established and charged with the responsibility of looking at all of the county’s laws, policies, and procedures, appointed boards and committees, and as well review each departmental operation.
• The County created the new position of Commissioner of Saratoga County Public Health Services, and Saratoga Springs resident Dr. Daniel Kuhles was hired to fill the position. Steve Bulger was named new County Administrator.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Extending the Greenbelt trail and combatting racism. Developing more affordable housing, diversifying the city’s economic portfolio and forging new collaborations with Nashville, Tennessee, and the Land of the Rising Sun are among the mayor’s goals for Saratoga Springs in 2017.
Approximately 250 city residents, business leaders, elected officials, and a handful of political hopefuls considering a future career in city government gathered on Monday night in the Sen. Joseph L. Bruno Meeting Room at the Saratoga Springs City Center, where Mayor Joanne Yepsen delivered the annual State of the City address.
“People are investing in Saratoga Springs and we cut 102 ribbons for new and expanded businesses in the city last year, a symbol of our stable and growing local economy,” said Yepsen, heralding 2016 accomplishments while pointing to a diversification of the city’s economic portfolio to continue to attract small businesses and future entrepreneurs. The mayor noted the appointment of Democrat Francine Vero as the first-ever woman city court judge in the city, while publicly thanking longtime Republican City Court Judge Jim Doern for his service – an appointment perceived as a slight among Doern supporters when announced last month.
Yepsen applauded the ongoing development of the Greenbelt Trail - a 23-mile multi-use trail that will connect city neighborhoods with the downtown district. The city was awarded $1.134 million in state funds – which it will match – as well as $932,000 in federal funding to complete the trail system that will run from the town of Milton border and adjoining an expanded Spa State Park trail system. She also advocated for promoting smart development that includes affordable workforce housing.
“Every day I hear that we are in danger of out-pricing ourselves, right out of our own city. We need to integrate more price points and housing options into our comprehensive development,” Yepsen said. An Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance specifying a percentage of all new development be targeted as “affordable housing” is currently on the table. “l do hope our City Council has the political will to make that ordinance law for the sake of thousands of residents and potential residents,” Yepsen said.
The mayor also noted a “distinctly disturbing problem” that “racism and intolerance may be on the rise here in our city,” according to a report issued by Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen. Yepsen cited anti-Semitic and racist messages discovered spray-painted on city streets and appearing on at least one local-targeted blog. Yepsen stressed the importance of education about the history of racist policies and the terrible impact it has on innocent people as one measure to combat hate speech, as well as announcing the creation of a Saratoga Springs Human Rights Commission to be charged with unifying positive efforts and providing education and advocacy resources. “We need to stay strong together, to treat each other with kindness and respect, to appreciate our differences, and to build a community where all people are important and treated equally,” Yepsen said. Five members will serve on the core founding group of the commission.
“We must always be inclusive and I think that’s something this community is known for; your acceptance of others in great diversity,” N.Y. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul remarked during her eight-minute introductory remarks.
It was a topic the mayor also addressed off-script from the stage. “Because of last weekend’s events in our nation, I want to just say something: Our constitutional rights are not Republican rights, they are not Democrat rights, they are the rights held by all Americans and we should honor them above all else,” Yepsen said. “The only rights that should matter to all of us are human rights, because how we treat our fellow human beings defines our community.”
In arts and cultural matters, Yepsen said she visited the Mayor and Arts Commission of Nashville, Tennessee, and is involved in discussions about a plan to establish an exchange program with the Music City. Nashville has a population of more than 600,000 and its legendary music venues include the Grand Ole Opry House, The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Johnny Cash Museum. In October, The Metro Nashville Arts Commission announced its first funding of temporary public art and civic practice projects, following up on its strategic plan of “Crafting a Creative City,” which re-imagines public art as a tool for creative community investment, citizen engagement and neighborhood redevelopment. “Could Saratoga Springs be the New York State designated ‘City of the Arts?’ I think we can,” Yepsen said.
The Spa City which counts Chekhov, Russia as a “Sister City,” is also looking to expand its international partners. “I will be proposing, in the near future, new cultural development and sister cities so we can strengthen our relationships with other cultures and economies, and boost our international reputation and economic opportunities.” Yepsen said. “Japan has expressed some interest and that’s intriguing.”