City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
BALLSTON SPA – On July 28, Saratoga County hit 4.6% positivity rate for COVID tests over a 7-day average, the second highest of all NY State’s 62 counties, and the first time to reach that high a weekly measure since Jan. 29.
Saratoga County Public Health Services announced July 29 it will be returning to providing daily COVID number updates after going to once-a-week posting schedule in late June. Since that time, local and regional numbers have multiplied in each of the past successive weeks. On its July 6, the county reported 7 people had tested positive for the virus in the previous 7 days, and a positive test rate of 0.30%. This week, the state reported 167 people tested positive with a positive test rate of 4.6% over a 7-day period.
County Board of Supervisors Chairman Todd Kusnierz also announced the formation of the Saratoga Health and Readiness Planning (SHARP) Task Force in anticipation of continued changes to COVID guidelines from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“The recent increase in infections rates in Saratoga County is concerning, and with the formation of the SHARP Task Force, our county leadership will be able to quickly analyze any new guidance issued by New York State Department of Health and the CDC and make recommendations that make sense for our community,” Kusnierz said, in a statement, on July 29.
The SHARP Task Force will be reviewing guidance issued by other governmental entities, reviewing relevant local data, and providing recommendations and guidance to the Saratoga County community.
SHARP Task Force members include: Chairman Todd Kusnierz; Clifton Park Supervisor Jonathan Schopf, Vice Chairman of the Board; Malta Town Supervisor Darren O’Connor, Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee; County Administrator Steve Bulger; Dr. Dan Kuhles, Commissioner of the Saratoga County Department of Public Health Services; Scot Chamberlain, Saratoga County Director of Human Resources; Pete Bardunias, Senior Vice President of Community Advancement with the Capital Region Chamber; and Anita Murphy, Capital Region BOCES District Superintendent.
According to the county, 65.4% - or just over 150,000 of the county population has completed the vaccine series. Saratoga Springs Supervisor Tara Gaston reported this week via the supervisor’s social media channels there have been a total of 174 “breakthrough” cases in Saratoga County – that is, 174 of the 150,000 who have been fully vaccinated had tested positive for COVID. Overall, more than 15,600 county residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and there have been 168 cumulative deaths.
(Note, this article has been updated to reflect stats released July 29)
BALLSTON SPA — The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors issued a proclamation to honor and memorialize the life of Spc. Abigail Rose “Abby” Jenks, who was killed in April while participating in an Airborne training operation from a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter over Sicily Drop Zone in Fort Bragg
Jenks, of the Town of Wilton, grew up in the Greenfield-Saratoga area and was a 2018 graduate of Saratoga Springs High School. She enlisted in the U.S. Army and entered active duty in October 2018
In addition to the reading of the proclamation Tuesday, Wilton Supervisor John Lant presented to members of Jenks’ family the flag that was flown for 30 days in honor of Jenks at the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors.
Jenks was awarded the Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Army Service Ribbon, and the Army Parachutist Badge. Spc. Jenks was also posthumously awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.
• The Saratoga County Department of Public Health Services updates its reportage of county level COVID data once a week, on Mondays.
July’s data, Saratoga County, by posting date:
July 6 – Positive tests previous 7 days: 7. Avg. positivity: 0.30%. Active Cases: 10. Hospitalized: 1.
July 12 - Positive tests previous 7 days: 16. Avg. positivity: 0.70%. Active Cases: 16. Hospitalized: 1.
July 19 - Positive tests previous 7 days: 54. Avg. positivity: 1.90%. Active Cases: 46. Hospitalized: 2.
The NYS DOH tracks data daily in all 62 New York State counties. As of its July 21 posting, the 7-day average positivity rate in Saratoga County was 2.2%. That rate ranks sixth highest in the state, just behind Essex (3.0%), Cattaraugus (2.7%), Greene (2.6%), and Warren and Schoharie (2.5%) counties.
In terms of vaccinations, just over 150,000 of Saratoga’s 230,000 county residents – 65.4% of the overall county population - have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
“The county is doing very well on vaccinations (and) the good news is that the hospitalizations haven’t spiked, the fatalities haven’t spiked,” said Malta Supervisor Darren O’Connor, who on Tuesday was publicly named Chair of the Health & Human Services Committee.
What impact the Delta variant has on the country in general and Saratoga County specifically remains to be seen.
“It’s disturbing to see that uptick on the graph for infections and doubly concerning because we’re in late July and the fall is on the horizon,” O’Connor said. “And we know what happened last year in the fall, so we’re just hoping with the vaccinations being really effective – even against this Delta variant – that we’re not going to go back in to a place where we were.”
The Saratoga County Public Health Services Department announced this week it will offer free community pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinics at the following times and locations: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Friday, July 23 through Sunday, July 25 at the Saratoga County Fair, next to the Sheriff’s Department, Gate 5 - Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson available; 4 -6 p.m. Thursday, July 29 at Stewarts, 208 Broad St. in Schuylerville - Johnson & Johnson available; 10 – 11:45 a.m. Friday, Aug. 6 at Living Hope United Methodist Church, 126 Middletown Rd in Waterford - Johnson & Johnson available.
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is a two-dose series authorized for use in individuals ages 12 and older. The Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is a single dose series authorized for use in individuals ages 18 and older. Those who receive the Pfizer vaccine will be scheduled to get their second dose at the Saratoga County Public Health office on a later date.
The vaccines are free and neither proof of insurance nor pre-registration is required. Minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. In addition to community Pop-Up clinics, SCPHS regularly offers vaccination to residents at its facility in Ballston Spa. For more information call 518-584-7460 Extension 8327.
• Board of Supervisors Chairman Todd Kusnierz announced the replacement of Supervisor Tara Gaston as both Chair and Member of the Health & Human Services Committee with the appointments of Supervisor Darren O’Connor and Supervisor Sandra Winney, respectively, in those positions through the end of the calendar year. Kusnierz also announced the replacement of Gaston as member of the Law & Finance Committee with Supervisor Joseph Grasso.
• The Board approved a resolution that authorized the execution of agreements for the provision of School Resource Officer services with the following school districts: Ballston Spa Central School District, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District, Corinth Central School District, Galway Central School District, Mechanicville City School District, Schuylerville Central School District, South Glens Falls Central School District and Shenendehowa Central School District, and Saratoga Springs City School District for the assignment of Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department Road Patrol Deputies as School Resource Officers.
Previous school district agreements expired on June 30, 2021. The renewal of each agreement provides up to 12 Road Patrol Deputies to the school districts, subject to each school district agreeing to be pay to the County $74,093.75 per assigned Deputy Sheriff serving in the capacity of School Resource Officer for 2021-2022 school year to cover the school district’s pro-rata share of the County’s employee, transportation, equipment and patrol car costs for each assigned deputy.
The agreement commences with the 2021-2022 school year and is subject to the approval of the County Attorney and the Saratoga County Sheriff.
“We’re seeing substantial improvements in city revenues”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Citing significant venues such as the Saratoga Race Course and Saratoga Performing Arts Center reopening and the ability of restaurants and other businesses to welcome an increasingly number of consumers, there are early indications that the city is rebounding from the pandemic afflicted budget crunch of 2020.
“We’re seeing substantial improvements in city revenues as a result,” Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said this week.
Sales tax year-to-date revenue collected through the end of May are running 36% higher than in 2020, and 10% higher than in 2019. In mid-October, the city will receive reports for the months of June, July and August.
“We’ve got a new projection based on data received of potentially $14.5 million coming in in sales tax revenue – which is a lot more than what we received even in 2019. So, we’re trending well, which is good.”
Mortgage Tax YTD amounts collected from October 2020 through June 2021 are running 60% higher than 2020, and 42% higher than 2019. The $1.56 million collected thus far already exceeds the $1.5 million that was anticipated in the budget.
”Mortgage tax is performing very, very well for us,” said Madigan, adding that with additional mortgage tax revenue expected, total projections are being upped to $1.9 million.
Occupancy Tax amounts collected the first two quarters “remain low, but are improving.”
Year-to-date collections are 40% higher than in 2020 and are projected to exceed the $338,000 initially budgeted. A new projection has been set at $375,000. “(But) that does tell you that the City Center is probably not doing so well since that is one of their main revenue drivers as well as Discover Saratoga. Hotels are booked right now, so we’re anticipating some occupancy tax coming from that.”
As a result of the uptick in revenue, the 2021 budget has been increased to cover an increase of police officers, overtime adjustments and citywide security measures - totaling about $1.4 million, and reinstated 2021 employee contracts based on MOU’s the council approved Tuesday – which will total about $1.1 million. The amendments will occur mid-to-late Autumn, Madigan said.
“Right now, revenues are looking very positive, and it gives us the ability to adjust some of our expense lines.”
• MLK Saratoga donated $1,500 to be used for siting a memorial bench near the War Memorial Pavilion in Congress Park.
The bench, in memory of longtime Saratoga Springs resident Lt. Clarence Dart will hold a plaque that remembers Dart as a husband, father and community leader, and notes his role as a Tuskegee Airman, a World War II fighter pilot, Congressional Gold Medal, recipient. Dart died in 2012 and members of his family attended Tuesday’s meeting at City Hall.
• The council approved putting up for sale two parcels the city owns at the southwest corner of Caroline and Henry streets, adjacent to the Saratoga Springs Public Library. The property is comprised of 0.17 acres and is currently used as a parking lot.
The property was appraised by the city at $500,000 and that will be the minimum bid accepted. Bids may be received by 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 10, at which time the sealed bids will be publicly opened and read.
• Commissioner Robin Dalton requested the council recommend members for a COVID-19 Memorial Committee. Once formed, the group will suggest a location and design of a memorial that will recognize the more than 60 city residents whose lives were lost due to the disease, as well as recognize the efforts of first responders to protect the public health of the city.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring local and state officials and community members celebrated the installation of a rainbow-colored crosswalk Thursday night on Spring Street, leading to Congress Park.
Following in the footsteps of other cities in the state such as Albany, Buffalo and Kingston – which has four painted crosswalks – the rainbow crosswalk was installed to depict a symbol of Saratoga’s continued open and welcoming environment, and ongoing support for the LGBTQ+ community.
A few hours later, however, a local news report pointed to the anticipated permanence of the crosswalk as being in violation of state and federal rules. City Mayor Meg Kelly told NewsChannel 13 that she had received an email from DOT saying the “non-conforming colors” should be “removed from the crosswalk.”
“It’s standards throughout the country,” Kelly told NewsChannel 13. “When you have a colored crosswalk, it’s not conforming to the state and federal standards.”
Since 2017, DOT crews have been painting a temporary rainbow crosswalk near the Stonewall Inn in New York City, onto the iconic intersection of 7th Avenue and Christopher Street in New York City to celebrate WorldPride.
Some American cities - Atlanta, Georgia and Washington, D.C. among them, have installed a permanent rainbow crosswalk in support of the LGBTQ+ community. In the New York State village of New Paltz, a permanent rainbow crosswalk was painted in 2018.
“It has to be repainted for maintenance because the paint fades, but it’s permanent. And we’re a DOT community, our whole Main Street is a New York State road, so they’ve got their eyes on us in many ways. This crosswalk doesn’t go across a DOT road – it is a locally managed one – but if they had taken issue with it, we would know about it,” said Arianna Basco, assistant to the mayor of New Paltz .
Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton, who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday night, said Friday that the Pride crosswalk on Spring Street was a project first brought to the city a year-and-a-half ago, in January 2020.
“The Public Safety Department did extensive research into whether or not it could be installed in the city, vetting both the design and placement. We followed every step required to ensure for a successful installation and outcome. To date, I have not been contacted by the NYS DOT or been provided anything to warrant readdressing the placement,” Dalton said.
“Saratoga Springs joins a lengthy list of cities and towns across New York State and the country in hosting this symbol of inclusion, celebration and ongoing support for our LGBTQ+ community. As the Public Safety Commissioner, I proudly stand by our crosswalk and remain focused on celebrating pride month and all that it stands for.” City Mayor Meg Kelly did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Northshire Bookstore opened the doors to its Saratoga Springs store on an August day in 2013, affecting in innumerable positive ways the downtown landscape of the Spa City. This week, it begins a new chapter.
“It is with excitement, confidence and sadness that I announce that the Northshire Bookstores are passing out of Morrow ownership,” said Northshire co-owner Chris Morrow, announcing in a statement that Clark and Lu French of Manchester, Vermont are the new owners of Northshire Bookstores, which sites locations in Saratoga Springs and Manchester, VT.
Chris Morrow’s parents, Ed and Barbara Morrow, started the original store in Vermont in September of 1976.
“When thinking about selling, my main worry was always finding someone, or two, who had the right sensibilities as well as the chops; someone who appreciated The Book, the art of bookselling and our amazing staff and who also had the background, energy, vision and resources to carry the bookstores into future decades,” said Chris Morrow. In a generation of memories, Morrow explained it is the people he has come across he is most grateful for - from colleagues who have worked at the bookstores, authors who have dropped by, fellow bookstores, publishing houses, and the clientele “who have made all this possible for us. What a beautiful adventure.”
Ed and Barbara Morrow added that this is a personally bittersweet moment for them and expressed confidence they are passing the store’s stewardship into good and competent hands.
Clark and Lu French, longtime patrons and supporters of Northshire, released this statement: “As this beloved family-owned business approaches its 45th Anniversary, we are thrilled and honored to become its next stewards. Along with our ownership team members Jon and Tom West, we are committed to continuing the legacy and high standards the Morrows have cultivated over their long tenure.
“The Northshire is more than a bookstore to us. It’s a vibrant gathering and shopping venue where memories are made and discovery is encouraged. Supporting and nurturing this enriching experience is our highest priority. We are sincerely grateful to the Morrow family for trusting us with their life’s work and welcome the opportunity to continue their legacy for many years to come.”
The French family has been involved in numerous Vermont area ventures, including the Taconic Hotel and the recent restoration of the former Mark Skinner Library building, as well as serving as board members of the Manchester Community Library, Taconic Music and Burr and Burton Academy.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The City Council this week unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the sale of city-owned property at the southwest corner of Caroline and Henry streets.
The property currently serves as a 19-space parking lot and is located next to the Saratoga Springs Public Library.
Listed as two lots on the county tax map, the city says the lots – which it has owned since the early 1980s - have been recently appraised and determined to have a fair market value of about $500,000 and plans to sell it through a competitive bidding process.
The city cited construction of the City Center Authority parking lot as having rendered the paved Henry Street lot as no longer useful, and notes efforts “to mitigate the serious financial impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Visually prominent on Henry Street is a large mural depicting a six-piece musical ensemble, which clings to a brick wall on Caroline Street. The mural was painted in 1998 by the Youth in Saratoga Mentoring Program of Catholic Charities, with funds administered by the Saratoga Arts Council.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A schematic design of the proposed Fire/EMS Station 3 was presented to the city this week.
The one-story building measures 15,500 square feet, features dark green siding with white trim, and will be centered on a 2.4-acre parcel the city is leasing from the state at the east end of the Oklahoma Training Track property, with a drive-in entry on Henning Road.
The city’s two other stations are located in close proximity downtown, and on the west side, respectively. Station 3 will largely serve residents on the city’s east side.
Review of the design will be referred to the city Planning Board and Design Review Commission for their advisory opinions.
Environmental assessments are anticipated to be completed in July to be followed by the completion of final detailed building plans in January 2022. If that timeline stays true, the city can start receiving bids in February 2022 with construction to begin two months later.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city this week discussed legislation signed March 31 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo legalizing adult-use cannabis.
The new law in New York legalizes use and possession of cannabis of up to three ounces for those over 21 and older.
”I realize our last City Council meeting was actually on 4/20, and if I had been more clever I would have discussed this then,” quipped city attorney Vince DeLeonardis, referencing the April 20 or 4/20 so-called national holiday for cannabis culture.
DeLeonardis told the council that multiple state agencies are being established to administer programs, issue licenses, and investigate and enforce infractions related to cannabis. The agencies include the NYS Cannabis Control Board and the Office of Cannabis Management.
“This is anticipated to be very similar as to how the state regulates alcohol through the State Liquor Authority,” DeLeonardis said.
Besides the newly legislated use and possession of cannabis in New York, the law allows for retail dispensaries and on-site consumption establishments, but those are not expected to take place until at least late 2022. Municipalities do have the ability to opt-out of allowing these, but to do so they must adopt a Local Law by Dec. 31, 2021, which will also be subject to a public referendum.
Revenue-wise, there will be a 4% tax imposed upon the cannabis, with 3% of that 4% coming to the city. In other words, if the city of Saratoga Springs does not opt-out it would receive 75% of the 4% tax, and Saratoga County would receive the other 25%.
That 4/20 designation, according to an article published by Time magazine in 2018, traces back to five students at a Marin County, California high school, who in the early 1970s would say “420” to each other as code for marijuana, in advance of their meeting at 4:20 p.m. by a campus statue “to partake.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — We can learn a lot from one another, even if we may never meet. So, what is daily life like for you?
The Saratoga Springs Public Library has launched a project to connect New Yorkers across the diverse state landscape through the act of letter-writing.
The project was inspired by Sue Johnson, who first brought the idea to the Saratoga Springs Public Library a year ago after having participated in a similar program from Oregon Humanities called, “Dear Stranger” - a project which since 2014 has seen almost 1,000 people exchange letters.
Dear New Yorker is a creative writing project that allows people living in and around New York state to create connections through writing letters to other New Yorkers. Saratoga Springs Public Library is the host of the project.
Here’s how it works: Participants pen a letter, send it to the library and then the library will match it and send it off to another letter writer. Volunteers will log and keep track of correspondences, but all participant addresses will be kept confidential and not shared with other participants. The only thing the letter recipient will get is your first name and letter - no contact information.
Participating in the project means someone in the state will receive your letter and you will receive one from someone else. The anonymous exchange provides the opportunity to share experiences about life across many miles.
“What’s a day in the life in your town? What do you like about it? What makes your town unique?” Johnson says. “Our state is so diverse, and in so many ways.”
The project recognizes that a lot can be learned from our neighbors across the state, even if we may never meet one another.
While participants in the project may eventually have the opportunity to exchange addresses, all letters will be exchanged anonymously. “Strictly anonymous, unless the two parties decide they want to carry on and write to each other,” Johnson says. The letters participants receive will come from the library’s address, to ensure participant addresses are kept confidential.
Interested in taking part? Here are some guidelines: include your full name and address on the envelope you send to the library so the library knows who to send a letter back to. Do NOT include your address on the letter itself and please do NOT include offensive language or inappropriate topics. Once you have written your letter, mail the letter to: Saratoga Springs Public Library c/o J. Ogrodowski/Dear NYer, 49 Henry Street, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.
For more information: https:guides.sspl.org/dearnyer
SARATOGA SPRINGS – In a joint decision by Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) and New York City Ballet (NYCB), SPAC has announced that due to the ongoing health and safety concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic and guidelines mandated by the State of New York, NYCB will not return to its summer home in Saratoga Springs with the full company this July.
Instead, a small group of NYCB dancers and musicians will present NYCB On and Off Stage, an intimate, up-close look at selected excerpts from the company’s extraordinary repertory of ballets. This series of educational programs has never before been presented for Saratoga audiences.
NYCB On and Off Stage is slated for six shows from July 14-17 and will feature two special presentations. All shows will be hosted by a NYCB Principal Dancer who will introduce the excerpts and provide insights on each ballet.
SPAC and New York City Ballet have also confirmed that the traditional residency engagement with the full company will be presented in 2022 from July 12-16.
The NYCB On and Off Stage presentations will be offered in compliance with the current guidelines from the Governor to ensure the health and safety of artists, audience members and staff. As required by New York State, all attendees of the series will be required to show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72-hours of the event.
NYCB On and Off Stage will showcase two distinct programs suitable for audiences of all ages including an "All Balanchine" presentation, illuminating the expansive repertory of Founding Choreographer George Balanchine with excerpts from masterworks including Apollo, The Four Temperaments, Agon, Jewels, and Who Cares?, and a program entitled "Short Stories," exploring beloved narrative ballets like Firebird, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Western Symphony, Fancy Free, and The Concert.
Both programs will feature an ensemble of 15 New York City Ballet dancers in costume performing excerpts from the Company's world-renowned repertory, with live musical accompaniment provided by pianists from NYCB.
This new format represents an innovative and safe way to bring dance to the community, while adhering to carefully mapped out, socially distanced seating and rigorous COVID protocols both in SPAC’s public spaces and backstage.
"While we will miss the big, lush productions for which City Ballet is renowned, the safety of the artists, audience members and staff is our greatest priority,” said Elizabeth Sobol, President and CEO of SPAC, in a statement.
“When thinking about SPAC and re-opening, in addition to considering the audience members in our public spaces, we also have to make certain that the backstage, dressing rooms, rehearsal spaces and stage are all safe. This would not be possible with the complete NYCB organization of nearly 100 dancers, 62 orchestra members in the pit and the many production crew members and staff members backstage, as is necessary for a full-scale NYCB engagement. Bringing this new format to SPAC for 2021 ensures that we will be able to effectively create a safe environment for all," Sobol said.
The full schedule is as follows: WEDNESDAY, JULY 14 @ 7:30 PM – Short Stories; THURSDAY, JULY 15 @ 2 PM – All Balanchine; THURSDAY, JULY 15 @ 7:30 PM – Short Stores; FRIDAY, JULY 16 @ 7:30 PM – All Balanchine; SATURDAY, JULY 17 @ 2 PM – Short Stories; SATURDAY, JULY 17 @ 7:30 PM – All Balanchine.
The presentations will all be approximately 75 minutes long with no intermission. Each program will be hosted by a beloved NYCB Principal Dancer who will be retiring from the company during the 2021-22 New York Season – Maria Kowroski will host the Short Stories presentation; and Gonzalo Garcia will host the All Balanchine presentation
SPAC Members will have early ticket access depending on membership level, beginning on May 3. Tickets for the public will be available to purchase on May 10. Designated pods of two will be allocated and reserved for ticket buyers in the amphitheater, while designed pods of two and four will be available on the SPAC lawn. Amphitheater tickets start at $80 per pod, which seats up to two people. Lawn tickets are available to purchase for $60 for a two-person pod, or $120 for a four-person pod. Single tickets will be extremely limited and available starting at $40 for the amphitheater and $30 for the lawn. Advance ticket purchases are strongly advised as ticket availability will be limited. If available, tickets will be on sale on the day of, but are subject to an additional fee.
COVID-19 Safety & Protocols:
SPAC will be adhering to all mandated NYS guidelines and therefore all attendees are required to show proof of a completed vaccination no sooner than 14 days prior to the event or a negative 72-hour COVID-19 test. In addition, attendees are required to complete a health screening questionnaire and pass a mandatory temperature check prior to entry. Guests are required to wear a face mask at all times, regardless of proof of vaccination or negative test. Guests are permitted to bring factory sealed water bottles and essential personal items only. Restrooms will be available with social distancing and enhanced cleaning and sanitation protocols in place in accordance with recommended guidelines.
For proof of vaccination, either a vaccination card or NYS Excelsior Pass is acceptable, according to a SPAC spokesperson. Visit spac.org for more details.