Displaying items by tag: city hall
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Temperatures were taken at the door and mask-wearing visitors shared their contact information on a sign-in sheet. A scattering of chairs were set socially-distanced from one another inside the council room.
For the first time in 25 months, the city this week hosted an on-site public meeting at City Hall. The 1871 building has been closed since an Aug. 17, 2018 lightning strike and subsequent fire and water damage forced its closure. An extensive, multi-million dollar renovation project followed. The building has yet to be fully re-opened. This week’s City Council meeting allowed for the temporary opening of a side entryway and main floor hallway and council room use. The building is expected to open to the public on Sept. 28.
City Council Meeting:
•The city resident U.S. Census 2020 response rate is 63% - “far below our goal of 80%,” Mayor Meg Kelly said Tuesday night. “Each child counted in the census represents, on average, $2,700 per year for our school district’s federal funding every year for the next 10 years.” Residents who have not already done so, are asked to complete the census questionnaire at: My2020census.com.
• The council adopted a resolution to extend temporary outdoor seating areas through Oct. 31. A previously adopted resolution allowing more space for restaurants to seat customers - as per COVID protocols – expires Oct. 7.
• Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan announced the city’s proposed 2021 Comprehensive Budget will be presented at the next City Council meeting, on Tuesday Oct. 6. The budget is currently working with $41.9 million in revenues for the 2021 budget – down from the $48.7 million budget adopted this year – a pandemic related shortfall of just over $7 million. “This is one of the most challenging budgets that I’ve faced during my 9-year tenure,” Madigan said. “Without assistance from the Federal government for state and local governments, and in particular for the city of Saratoga Springs, we are looking at large across-the-board expense reductions.”
• The search is underway for a Public Health Commissioner at the county Board of Supervisors. The hiree will be, for the first time at the county level, a medical doctor, Supervisor Matt Veitch said.
• The county is initiating a lease agreement to run Oct. 1 – March 31 with Shelters of Saratoga at the county’s building at 31 Woodlawn Ave. A portion of the building is to be used as a potential overflow location for the Code Blue emergency shelter. That main shelter is located on Adelphi Street. The building will also house a variety of county departments - employment & training, veterans, Dept. of Social Services, and Mental Health – to assist the homeless population, Supervisor Tara Gasto added. The county is seeking a buyer for the building, and the city is interested in purchasing it, Mayor Kelly said.
• Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton informed the council she is developing a report regarding homeless and vagrancy issues on Woodlawn Avenue, which is anticipated to be presented at the next City Council meeting.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — City Hall, which has been closed and under renovation since sustaining substantial water damage in the wake of an August 2018 lightning strike, is showing signs of reopening this month. The interior offices, courthouse(s) and music hall – which stands on the building’s upper floor – have all undergone extensive construction.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Inside the gymnasium, on the south side of the city, a basket and backboard tower over a long row of white tables. Sturdy swivel chairs and a mesh of computer wires stretch across the foul lines. A filing cabinet stands at the top of the circle abutting a bookshelf that extends to center court.
“All the inner workings of City Hall,” says Mayor Meg Kelly, gesturing across the 30,000-plus square feet of gymnasium space where city employees are busy at work. These new temporary quarters will act as their offices for the next 12 months.
A Friday night lightning strike upon City Hall in mid-August acted as the catalyst for the change, after a drainage pipe on the roof was struck and melted, causing heavy rains to pour into the building which has served as the center of Saratoga Springs’ government since 1871.
The city’s new and previously untested emergency management plan was put to a real-life test.
“The Emergency Management Plan was put into effect immediately when the lightning struck,” Mayor Kelly says. “As soon as it went into effect, we had all the people converge. Everyone’s got a job to do and everybody has their role.” City Fire Chief Bob Williams was designated incident commander. Marilyn Rivers, director of risk and safety, and Assistant Police Chief John Catone had boots on the ground – a job they basically took over for 24 hours, Kelly says. The city's emergency dispatch center was relocated to the county's facility. “We moved it that first night, because we just didn’t know how much damage there was going to be. The water just kept coming, all over the place.”
The commissioner of public safety is charged with developing and periodically updating the city’s Strategic Emergency Management Plan. In 2016, assistant Police Chief Catone completed the near-two-year project of compiling potential disaster concerns in Saratoga Springs and how to best address them. The plan is comprised of approximately 500 pages of documents and annexes and was the first new comprehensive plan for the city in a decade. It includes risk preparedness, response, and recovery in the aftermath of potential catastrophic weather events, terrorism incidents, school shootings, workplace violence, and public exposure to hazardous materials, among other things.
“The plan worked very well,” Mayor Kelly says. “The biggest thing with our plan was – number one - that we had a plan. A lot of cities don’t, and I would recommend that if you are a city you do need to get one. We’re not under that plan anymore, because now we’re up and operating. We were up and running in six days.”
Like any first-time implementation, there are lessons to be learned, Kelly added. “You do learn. A lot of things worked, some we’ll go back and look at. One area we need to improve was the court system, which wasn’t in the plan. We need to get that in there because they’re in our (City Hall) building.” Court sessions are currently being held in the Lincoln Bath building on South Broadway.
City workers were initially displaced in a variety of locations across the city, with DPW officers at the Canfield Casino in Congress Park, legal staff and commissioners of Finance and Public Safety at The Mill on High Rock Avenue and Risk and Safety located at the Lake Avenue Fire Station. There is a move to consolidate most of the workers at the Recreation Center on Vanderbilt Avenue, which when fully relocated will house about 65 employees.
The $6.5 million recreation center – which faced some public opposition as well as an unsuccessful court action prior to its development – opened in 2010 and was wired to be computer-friendly.
“We have the fiber in this building, which made it easy for people to just come and plug right in: bing, bing, bing and we’re up and running,” said DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco. “That’s important because it’s not all over town. When they built this, they put infrastructure in here to accommodate the new technology.”
“We did look at several places all around the city, but very few are large enough to hold us, and if they were they didn’t have the fiber,” Kelly says. “It would take four to five months to get the fiber (for communications) to the building, and it’s so expensive to have that happen. So, that’s why we’re staying here.”
The city is working with the YMCA, Skidmore College, and the Saratoga Springs School District to relocate as many of the city programs that had been held at the center as possible. “The programs are going on if they can, if not then they’ll be brought back in a year when we’re moved out of here. This is an emergency situation,” Kelly says. To that end, the city Recreation Commission will host a Recreation Master Plan Public Meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4, at the Mabee Building, 2nd floor Community Room, on 31 Church St.
While the gymnasium section of the building is for employees only, a separate section of the building holds offices the public is likely to need, such as those seeking licenses and other information. A “greeter” has also been placed at the center to help direct people where they need to go and is something that has officials thinking there should be a similar point person installed when City Hall reopens.
The work environment at the rec center – essentially a city government without walls – has gone well moral-wise, Kelly says. “I think everybody seems to work a lot more together in this environment. I’ll tell you, we have a very strong group of employees here to pull this off, because it doesn’t happen easily. Everyone we asked for help has jumped right in.”
THE STATUS OF CITY HALL
“We’re shooting at re-opening in a year from now,” Scirocco says. “We met with engineering architects last week and we’ll be moving forward on our master plan for City Hall. Right now, we’re in the process of doing demolition and there is some testing on where the asbestos is. Once that happens, we’ll get an abatement contractor and we’ll probably do the abatement and any other demo work that needs to be done.”
The configuration of offices at City Hall is anticipated to change. A second courtroom, which is required, is targeted for the second floor where currently a single courtroom is located. That would effectively force the relocation of the public safety offices and the law library. The Saratoga Music Hall, which is located on the third floor and sustained the most damage, will be reconstructed and will remain a music hall. Cost estimates regarding the damage is anticipated before the end of this calendar year.
“It’s a good opportunity to make changes – some which we’re obligated to do, some to be more efficient and safer. So, that’s the goal,” Scirocco says.
UPCOMING MEETINGS, which will be staged at the Saratoga Springs City Center. The City Council holds a pre-agenda meeting 9:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 1 and a full meeting 7 p.m. Tuesday; The Design Review Commission meets 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, and the Planning Board meets 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4. Additionally, at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 3, the city will publicly open and read sealed bids for preliminary and final engineering for the Complete Streets Saratoga Greenbelt Downtown Extender as it relates to Lake Avenue bike lanes.
Workshop Set for Affordable Housing Ordinance
A City Council workshop on the much-debated SPA Housing Ordinance will take place at 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 4 at City Hall, Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen announced this week. The ordinance, if approved, would have a citywide effect on future development.
A New Home for Retired Police Horse Jupiter
The council authorized an agreement - at no cost to the city - to allow the transfer of retired police horse Jupiter to police officer Aaron Moore, who will care for “my fellow officer and partner as he transitions into retirement after serving our community.” Jupiter, who is 24, will be transferred to Ballston Lake, “where he will be well taken care of by my wife and myself,” Moore wrote, in a letter read to the council by Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen.
Council Gives Thumbs-Up to Pitney Meadows Community Farm PUD
The council unanimously accepted a SEQRA Determination and approved the proposed Pitney Meadows Community Farm PUD - reporting that the project will not have a significant adverse impact on the environment. The PUD, or Planned Unit Development, was sought for the development of a 35,000+ square foot agricultural center at the Pitney Meadows Farm, on West Avenue. The center will sit on a small non-farming portion of the land.
Projects slated to begin later this year include the development of the community gardens, the children’s greenhouse, gardens, and some trails and the renovation and repurposing of 11 historic buildings currently on the farm.
Last November, the council approved the $1.165 million city purchase of the development rights of the 166-acre Pitney Farm, to ensure the farm land remains a farm in perpetuity.
City Approves Purchase of Lands Adjacent to Loughberry Lake
The City Council unanimously approved the city’s purchase of two parcels of land, amounting to just over two acres, adjacent to Loughberry Lake. The parcels are just north of state Route 50 and will be purchased from Krista and Jason Tommell for $135,000 in Open Space Bond Funds. As well, $5,000 was approved for expenses associated with the purchase.
Should Loughberry Lake no longer be used as a reservoir in the future, the parcel could potentially serve as a pocket park with access to the waterfront for active or passive recreation.
Learn How to Grieve Your Assessment
A Grievance Class will be held 5:30 p.m. on May 9 at City Hall, Accounts Commissioner John Franck announced this week.
Grievance Day in Saratoga Springs is Tuesday, May 23, 2017. Grievance board members will be hearing grievances from 9 a.m. – noon; 1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. Residents can choose morning, afternoon or evening sessions and must submit completed application and documentation to the Assessment Office in order to be scheduled for a time. Applications will be available after May 1.
The Planning Board will hold a workshop at 5 p.m. on Monday, April 24 and a full meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 27 at City Hall.
The Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 27 at City Hall.