Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Million-dollar question

No one denies that the Saratoga Springs Police are dire need of an upgraded station. Anyone who has filed a report, been interviewed, or even arrested could attest the facility is in bad shape. But here’s the $17 million question: is its condition reprehensible enough that it would take $18.7 million to modernize the facility?

For Public Safety czar Ron Kim, the answer is yes, with a caveat. In addition to spending $17 million of taxpayer money for an entirely new city building, he wants to move the department and courts to the city-owned parking lot off Woodlawn Avenue. This spot would keep the Spa City cops about a block away from the downtown drag, but place it smack in the middle of the business district.

Kim seems to think it’s a no brainer and –according to a headline in Wednesday’s Saratogian –is staking his career on the plan. For those lucky enough to own a $250,000 home, this project would increase annual city property taxes by a measly $87 per year. And who couldn’t afford that sum, the equivalent cost of buying one double-mocha latte at Uncommon Grounds per week; what red-blooded American wouldn’t sacrifice this guilty little pleasure so that the strong arm of the law can have a new 47,000-square foot romper room?

Well, before you answer this question, let’s reflect on Kim’s election-year push for a new Public Safety facility. First, let’s consider the dynamics of local government. Give local officials room to expand government, the will eventually and undoubtedly do so. Moving the police and courts out of City Hall would leave two gaping holes in the building, including the 8,700 square feet the police now reportedly occupy.

This isn’t space that could be used for anything other than government operations. And it’s not space that could be used without a multi-million dollar renovation project –look for such a line item to appear shortly after the last brick is placed in Kim’s castle. Otherwise, the space will sit there and suck up even more tax dollars as the city pays to heat and maintain the rotting structure. Kim’s answer? Well, he really doesn’t have one; or at least not one he’s suggested publically.

Now let’s reflect on the sheer magnitude of the expansion. The police would move into a four-story building that is literally four times the size of the space they now occupy. Even when considering their presently cramped conditions, this is a lot of space for a department that operates in an incredibly safe city. True, they are part of the reason for this safety, but they also seem to be operationally solvent with the space they have.

Then ponder what police and court traffic would do to the traffic situation on diminutive Woodlawn Avenue. Today, the police have their own parking lot located across the street from their department. The station abuts a section of Maple Avenue that is off the beaten path for most tourist and business traffic. Aside from a bike shop and the Algonquin Building’s parking lot, there aren’t many reasons for travelers to foray down the stretch od road between Grove Street and Lake Avenue.

The property Kim has proposed off Woodlawn Avenue, on the other hand, is located between the oft-congested Church and Division streets, by a bustling bank and in the center of downtown business traffic. Aside from the ingress and egress of police vehicles, these intersections would also need to contend with traffic from volumes of attorneys, judges, clients and criminals coming to the court five mornings a week. Now let’s consider how many spaces of the kitty-corner Woodlawn parking deck would become dedicated to this new traffic. Answer: try most of them.

The recomendations from the so-called Public Safety Capital Construction Committee is persistently trotted out as solid reasoning for the new facility. Of course, this was a group that initially started off discussing 20,000-square-foot building that was initially estimated at roughly $12 million dollars before all the bells and whistles got tacked on. This committee still hasn’t explained to the public what the major drawback would be to renovating and possibly expanding the existing facility, other than to say it just won’t work.

The bottom line is that City Hall has more than enough space to purse around for the cops, just not the type of room Police Chief Ed Moore wants to frolic in. The public safety facility proposed by Kim, Moore and their cronies is simply too much no matter which way you slice it, even if the Big Tuna thinks it’s a swell idea. On a personal note to Bill Parcells: if you think this is such a great idea, then maybe you should pawn off a Super Bowl ring or two and foot the bill yourself. Most of us working stiffs find an $87 per year tax increase an abomination, especially considering the already crippling burden of the local, school and county levies.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

City hall is a dump. Looks OK outside, but has been poorly maintained for decades. How did we let the Police Station get so bad? The rest of the building looks pretty grim too! Originally this seemed excessive, but after looking throught the facts... it seems to be logical. Repair bills last year topped $500,000.00. That goes along way to pay debt service on a bond.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, the current Facility Committee would have had more cachet if, they had been better represented amongst all of the Departments in City Hall instead of being primarily, PS groupies. Especially, if the strategy was to find passage at the Council Table instead of through a public referendum (which it should be).

Secondly, bleating a need to the taxpayers for a giant facility without providing a legally required careful plan inclusive of the construction costs, the operating costs, the equipment costs, the personnel costs and the overhead expenses was shortsighted. Given the oversight, a responsible tax-paying public can only respond with a neigh.

Thirdly, the Facility Committee should have entertained several more moderate and functional alternatives to the Miami CSI facility model presented that would have embraced our 26,000 person community, its historic structures and the pragmatic off season permanent population that lives here, that would be burdened with its expenses, both today and forever. Whatever happened to the concern for living affordability?

Fourthly, Make the immediate repairs to fix the tiles and that toilet and give those woman officers a changing room, moving people out of the corridors and up to the second floor where there is plenty of room with, the already budgeted monies and then entertain some realistic goals that would be adequate and functional with bankrupting the City.

Fifthly, You make a good point with the “gaping holes” in City Hall requiring monies to renovate and presumably ‘fill-up’ with more operating, equipment, personnel costs and overhead expenses.

Lastly, Is the Commissioner of PS seriously, "staking his career" as a Commissioner or as a Bankruptcy Attorney on this, the Mayor’s Capital plan?

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought McTygue's job was to maintain the city's facilities? Hell he has been in office for 30 years.... Forget all of the other crap. If McTygue was doing his job, we would not be in this position. He only wants to plant flowers, plow snow and GRANSTAND.

Bye Bye Tommy.. When he is gone, the city will finally accomplish more than just argue!!

He has an excuse for everything!!!
No need to move in to the city after November.

8:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, lets hope the Commissioner didn’t see The Bourne Ultimatum over the weekend. He might want blue police cars again! It was so, so NEW YORK CITY! Tall glass police office buildings, cameras at every intersection (well maybe in Germany and London), radio headsets, rooms full of computer screens filled with obedient submissive staff, corridors of doors with secret coded entry locks, unbounded disregard for equipment and property all budgeted by millions and millions of Hollywood (federal) taxpayer dollars.

As the horse crowds leave the barns and the school buses start their engines, our quieter (not a Mayberry or NYPD Blue) city, appreciates a more responsive and almost affordable light version of Law and Order: Special Saratoga Springs Unit.

What’s up with the buzz on the proposed (17 man?) Fire Station that is proposed for the Lake Ridge communities that will no doubt backup the Lake Avenue Fire Station calls into the City? Our own noisy version of Lake Side Blues.

4:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone ask the People’s Mayor why her Mother Ship of a Kapital Budget requires 60 million dollars to organize Kim’s department? Show me a budget that doesn’t explode? The Mayor only wants to listen to her people. Did these people run on caous and spending? How about working with a budget like to rest of the working stiff people in Saratoga Springs? My kids would like the moon too but I have to pay for it. Get real.

2:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Val Keehn says that shelistens to the people. They tell her what they want and what they don't want. She told us that Saratoga was getting to expensve for owning a home. She didn't like developers coming in and changing the City. She said that it should be small and Saratoga like. She wants to save the horse barns but not City Hall. val doesn't seem to understand that the big new police station will be on top of a parking lot with decks and that the court room will be there to. Now there is tlk to sell City Hall for anew even larger building near Price Chopper. How is keeping Saratoga like people want the same as giving up the beutiful City Hall building? I think she listens to too many people and doesn't get most of it. I think she hears voices and the Police comm only hears the Chief. A wretched white streeter and proud ovit.

8:41 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

Keehn listens to a select group of people; not me, not you and not anyone who isn’t in her inner-sanctum. She bullshitted her way into office with promises of affordable housing and keeping the Broadway streetscape beautiful; she delivered venom and back-biting that has stalled city government even worse than under the failed Lenz administration. Two more years of this woman will show how unbelievably bad things can go in this city.

But with this said, I’m not a firm believer that this special ed teacher is anything more than a shill for a more sinister voice that lurks behind the curtains. As I’ve espoused before, Keehn’s administration has more to do with a power grab than anything else.

Keep reading, keep responding. It can only get better from here.

12:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shhhh. Say Alger, Does anyone know that Kim bought himself an ambulance? This Commissioner/Lawyer is trying to get PS into the ambulance business, by actually catching one and driving it away! U gots to get a picture of it.

"I hear voices" and "I hear sirens" are going to bankrupt this city. Their unsuspecting supporters "the people" don't realize what is it that they are actually endorsing – a large expensive “insolvent” government – brought over the top by the desired gargantuan PS budget that this city’s residents cannot afford. All this in the name of "affordability, controlling over-development, beholden to no one and public trust".

Know any good bankruptcy attorneys?

a po' ole wretch.

4:11 AM  

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