Saratoga Springs City Council
SARATOGA SPRINGS— The public comment period at the beginning of the Saratoga Springs City Council meeting on Tuesday, January 21, was, as expected, longer than usual and dominated by members of the public expressing their opinion on the issue of expanded gaming.
But, as opposed to the council’s previous meeting (January 7) the composition of the commenters might best be described as a “horse of a different color.”
Another overflow city council chamber was, this time, dominated by white-shirted advocates for expanded gaming at Saratoga Casino and Raceway (SCR). (This later led Commissioner of Public Works Chris Mathiesen to lead a discussion regarding moving future meetings to a larger room, perhaps the Music Hall on the third floor). These advocates were largely drawn from the ranks of people who were employees or had some connection to SCR, or were members of the advocacy group “Destination Saratoga”.
The SCR employees that spoke came from all levels of the facility, from management to part-timers. It was apparent to this reporter that many were not used to public speaking and some read from comments that were on paper.
But it is important to note that there was nothing that was apparent that indicated that they were handed a script to read, or that they were being compelled to read said script.
It appeared that everyone spoke from the heart, and there was no reason from this vantage point to doubt anyone’s sincerity in their feelings of gratitude for their position and their employer.
One standout commenter who of course needed no script was former Commissioner of Public Works Tom McTygue, who spoke in his trademark “plain folks” language and garnered the most thunderous applause of the evening.
Of course, there were some commenters and members of the gallery who were against expanded gaming at SCR, among them were members of SAVE (Saratogians Against Vegas-style Expansion.) However, that group had sent out a memo to the press and their membership saying that the jobs at SCR as currently constituted “…are protected under the legislation that passed in November,” and therefore they were sitting this meeting out. Some decided to come a la carte’ anyway to observe, leaflet and in one case, hand out pastries donated by Mama Mia’s restaurant.
The sugar was certainly welcomed by this member of the media, as well as Mayor Yepsen, who had a full agenda which was underway with an executive session nearly 80 minutes after we had all saluted the flag.
In Other Council News:
- After emerging from executive session, Mayor Yepsen detailed and the council unanimously approved the ratification of the collective bargaining agreement with the police administrative officer unit, which covered the Chief, Assistant Chief and Captain.
This contract had expired in 2008 and will run though the end of this year. As such, there were pay increases that were retroactive that totaled approximately $57,000 (which would be paid out of a contingency fund which had been set up previously in Finance Commissioner Madigan’s budget) as well as a $17,000 increase in the current budget. The mayor saluted her team for their diligence in getting this expired contract up to date.
- The mayor made three appointments: James Helicki to the zoning board, Mark Torpey to the planning board and Carol Maxwell to the heritage area program advisory committee. Later, Commissioner of Accounts John Franck appointed Alexandra Besso to the board of assessment review.
- The mayor discussed Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address and it’s impact on city residents and reminded everyone that her annual State of the City address will take place next Tuesday evening, January 28 at the Saratoga Springs City Center.
- By a 4-0 vote, the council approved a Public Works addendum to an agreement related to the Ballston Avenue Improvement Project with Greenman Pedersen, Inc., with Commissioner Franck recusing himself, as he owned property in the affected area. Also, the council approved 5-0 a change order with Bunkhoff General Contracts for an ongoing project related to moisture removal and structural strengthening in the historic Canfield Casino’s basement.
- Commissioner Mathiesen received unanimous approval for his motions to begin alternative side of the street parking on Greenfield Avenue between North Broadway and Clement Avenue. He also received unanimous approval for increasing base parking violation fees from 30 to 35 dollars and adding a scofflaw fee of $10.