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Panel prioritizes 29 capital projects for Saratoga Springs

Sunday, August 25, 2013
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— Proposed capital projects for Saratoga Springs’ future include purchasing new equipment, upgrading recreation facilities, two major infrastructure projects and the creation of a controversial East Side fire and medical facility.

A total of 29 projects are under consideration by the City Council for inclusion into the 2014 budget. The projects have a total price tag of about $8.8 million, but the cost to the city would be about $5.1 million, with almost $3.7 million coming from public grants or private money. The city’s responsibility would be almost $3.6 million in capital bonding and almost $1.6 million from water and sewer funds, according to documents on the city’s website.

Spending proposals from the city’s departments have been reviewed by a capital projects committee, led by Mayor Scott Johnson, and projects received a priority ranking from the committee.

Ranked 11th is a request from the public safety department for a $192,000 bond to begin development of a fire and medical facility on the city’s East Side. A bond request of $3 million for the project is proposed for 2015.

The project is a major priority of Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen, who said in a public hearing last week on the capital projects that the city’s fire and medical emergency coverage is lacking on the east side.

“It is a glaring deficiency and it needs to be rectified,” he said.

He envisioned the station servicing Saratoga Lake, east of the Northway and the Saratoga Race Course area. Mathiesen said in an interview that the additional fire station wouldn’t require a large staffing increase.

Johnson is an opponent of the project, instead calling for a satellite medical station that would service the Saratoga Lake area. He questioned whether there was the need for a fire and medical facility out by the lake.

In 2011, Johnson and then-Public Safety Commissioner Richard Wirth, who lost to Mathiesen that year, got the ball rolling on a medical station by Saratoga Lake with a $200,000 bond. The project had a total cost of about $400,000 and Johnson said the latest proposed bond, of $192,000, would be enough with the initial bond to build what was proposed two years ago.

Because of broad language authorizing the 2011 bond, it could instead be used toward the fire and medical facility supported by Mathiesen.

At the first hearing on this issue last week, supporters of building a fire and medical facility out by the lake were the dominant voice. Speakers in favor of the project argued that the area by lake gets slow emergency coverage. One speaker supported just building a medical station at the lake.

The lack of a specific destination outlined in the proposal for the facility was called into question, prompting Mathiesen to say that it shouldn’t go out by Saratoga Lake and contended that a location on the East Side would be capable of servicing the lake.

Hearing set

A public hearing on the capital projects is scheduled for Tuesday and the final one is set for Sept. 3.

Also proposed by the public safety department is a $572,000 bond to build a police evidence and records management facility. An approximately 4,000-square-foot facility, which is the 15th ranked priority, would be located near Weibel Avenue.

Mathiesen said this project, in addition to repairs to the city’s current police station, would allow the city to put off building a new police station, which has been bandied about in the past. “We’re investing quite a bit of money, but nowhere near the cost of a new [police department] building,” he said.

The space for the records building would also have an area for parking police vehicles, which would free up many parking spots in the public lot below the police station on Lake Avenue.

Mathiesen said he didn’t know whether the city council would ultimately approve the proposal.

Two projects that Johnson predicted would be approved were priority projects one and two, which were infrastructure projects requested by the Department of Public Works. The projects include $950,000 for work on the city’s water-supply treatment and distribution system and $200,000 to maintain the city’s waste-water pump stations, with both funded from water and sewer funds.

“They’re basic infrastructure needs,” Johnson said of the projects.

The other big requests from the works department stem from a need to replace the city’s aging fleet of equipment, he said. More than $900,000 in requested bonding comes from a need to purchase mowers, street sweepers and dump trucks that would be used for at least 10 years.

New rec field

A recreation project for future consideration — which would require a $500,000 bond in 2015, a $200,000 bond in 2016 and a $200,000 bond in 2017— is the creation of a new recreation field. The project is being advanced to replace the fields used by the city on the Saratoga Casino & Raceway property, There is an ongoing search to find a new location for fields to develop a full complex.

Some of the capital projects won’t actually require any bonding, like four recreation projects that Johnson said could be funded from recreation reserves or by the city school district. These projects are at the bottom of the priority list and include court resurfacing, improvements to the East Side and West Side recreation fields, field rehabilitation in the city and upgrade to playgrounds, including the possible creation of an outdoor adult fitness area in the city.

Other projects are contingent on grant funding coming through, like the two big-ticket items on this list, a $4 million Route 50 gateway reconstruction and a $1.4 million Geyser road trail.

The Route 50 project would create a pathway from Exit 15 of the Northway to Van Dam Street and include a separate bike-pedestrian lane. “This project has been going on for a long time,” said Johnson, who said it continues to make the list of projects every year so the city remains eligible for state or federal funding.

Regarding the Geyser road trail, he said the shovel-ready project may finally be the beneficiary of state funding in the near future. “I think it has some legs to it this time around,” he said.

A report on the proposed capital projects, including a list of all 29 for 2014 and some for the future, is available on the Around Saratoga blog at www.dailygazette.com.

 
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