It took many meetings, public hearings and debates both cordial and standoffish between council members, but the Saratoga Springs City Council passed a 2009 capital projects budget that included $3 million toward a public safety building.
The budget change was unexpected, especially considering the city is considering putting out a request for proposals to allow a private investor to develop the High Rock parking lot near City Hall in exchange for help building the police station. In the end, the line item was added in hopes of complementing the gains of the RFP, which the city hopes to put out by Friday, Sept. 19.
The 2009 budget passed totaled $7.89 million after the Friday, Sept. 12, adjustments. That’s up from the $5.14 million budget proposed by a committee chaired by the mayor.
There was a whirlwind of discussion before the unanimous vote that brought about several changes to the proposal. Before an initial failed vote, it was agreed that the construction of a Gilbert Road water line originally scheduled for 2010 would be moved ahead. The project was moved up with a $700,000 cost, and to make room, $100,000 was removed from a fund to repair and upgrade city-owned buildings and a $225,000 compost facility expansion was nixed.
The Gilbert Road water line would also create a second loop for the water system east of the Northway. Commissioner of Public Works Anthony Scirocco noted that a break in the aging water line could currently leave many in jeopardy.
If there were to be a break in the pipe that goes under the Northway there is no redundancy in the system for those on the east side of the Northway, he said.
Ten homes would be able to buy water from the new line, and their hookup fees and other charges could also help offset the cost of the water line.
Still, Finance Commissioner Kenneth Ivins, Accounts Commissioner John Franck and Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim voted in the negative, saying they would not support a budget without some funding for a public safety building.
`If the RFPs don’t come back properly, we’re going to have to put a number in anyways,` said Ivins.
The vote launched a round of discussion in which the council identified ways to keep the project budget reasonable. Though many of the numbers were acknowledged as estimates, it was important to submit a plan to Finance Commissioner Ivins before Sept. 15, as per the city’s charter.
It was decided to cut the $1.3 million proposed development of waterfront property off of Crescent Avenue to $700,000. That should still be enough to give the public safe access to the water within 2009.
Even though a new station will cost far more than $3 million, it will not be spent all at once. By adding money now, the city hopes to stay ahead of the curve. The capital programs will be incorporated into the city’s 2009 capital budget. It can also be revised by a four-fifths vote of the council before it must be adopted on Nov. 30.
Ivins praised the council’s relatively calm deliberations.
`I think this is the way the public wants us to work,` he said, before warning that his department will have to make some changes to general fund expenditures to accommodate the higher numbers.
`We’re going to have to tighten our belts this coming year,` he said.“