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.