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Saratoga Springs council OKs hike in National Grid rent

Utility parks trucks on Weibel Avenue site

Thursday, October 18, 2012
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— Rent payments from National Grid on a large parcel of property on Weibel Avenue will increase by $127,000 per year according to an agreement approved this week.

For more than 10 years National Grid had been paying just over $60,000 per year for the land where the corporation keeps its trucks and equipment. The new lease agreement increases this yearly payment to $187,200. The last lease agreement extension on this property expired in 2009.

Mayor Scott Johnson said Wednesday he started talks with National Grid shortly after he took office in 2008, urging the company to make Saratoga Springs its permanent location in the region. He said the power company was looking at a location in Queensbury, Warren County.

The City Council this week approved an amendment to the 2009 lease agreement that will have National Grid paying the city $15,600 per month starting next month through Oct. 31, 2015 and then $15,912 per month, effective Nov. 1, 2015 through Oct. 31, 2017.

The agreement also includes a second five-year option that increases the rent payments again two times to $16,554 per month in the final two years, ending in 2022.

Patrick Kane, a co-founder of Saratoga Citizen, said his organization has been urging the city to increase its rent on the Weibel Avenue property for more than a year.

“The current monthly payments fall well below current commercial rental market rates,” Kane said last month. He said real estate professionals contacted by Saratoga Citizen estimated the market rate for the parcel at $12,500 per month. Johnson noted that the new monthly rate is well above that figure.

Kane estimated the city lost between $200,000 and $300,000 by not increasing its rent on the Weibel property over the years. “This is a perfect example of how a part-time governmental management strategy is costing the taxpayers dearly,” Kane said in a statement released in September.

Johnson called Kane’s statement’s “propaganda” for Saratoga Citizen’s attempt to have voters approve a city charter change in November.

The grass-roots organization has been successful in placing a proposition on the Nov. 6 ballot asking city voters if they want to change from the current commission form of government to a city council-city manager form .

After several weeks of City Council discussion and investigation by the city attorney’s office, the council voted 3-2 on Tuesday to approve the sale of city water to the Wilton Water and Sewer Authority for use in a 25-lot section of Floral Estates, Phase Five, off Ingersoll Road just north of the city line.

Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco was criticized for approving the sale earlier this year without the OK of the entire City Council. City lawyers determined that an existing agreement between the city and the Wilton Water and Sewer Authority covered such a sale.

Critics of the agreement said the city was supposed to be selling water to Wilton for commercial uses only in a specified area of the town.

Former city public works administrator William McTygue said the city should not be selling water to Wilton for use in growing residential areas when the city has a limited water supply for its own uses.

Scirocco said over the past decade Wilton has been buying less and less water from the city and the sale would not endanger the city’s supply.

Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen said he would vote for the water sale agreement only if the resolution specified the water would be used only for the 25 lots in Floral Estates Phase 5.

Mathiesen’s vote, along with Scirocco’s and Mayor Johnson’s, passed the measure with Accounts Commissioner John Franck and Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan voting against the sale.

Franck said the existing agreement between the city and the Wilton Water and Sewer Authority clearly specified the city was to sell water to the town for commercial uses only in a specified commercial area of the town.

 
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