Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
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SARATOGA SPRINGS — RISE Housing and Support Services has been awarded their bid to operate the  7,800 square-foot building on Williams Street that previously housed the Saratoga Senior Center.

Following the senior center’s relocation from 5 Williams St. and in the aftermath of thwarted plans to house a 24/7 year-round permanent homeless shelter on the site, the city – which owns the building -  on Sept. 1 offered the building via a public bidding process to non-profits for a short-term lease. 

As stipulated in the RFP, the term of the lease will be for 6 months and starts in November, with optional month-to-month leasing for up to an additional six months. 

The winning bid by RISE was $500 per month. 

The building will serve as temporary administration offices for the human services agency, as their own offices are currently under construction, and will not be used to shelter homeless people, the city said.   

Thursday, 12 October 2023 16:38

$60.5 Million Budget Proposed

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city’s first presentation of the 2024 budget calls for a $60.5 million spending plan – a 6.2% increase over this year’s plan, and the inclusion of a 2.99% tax increase.

Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi revealed the $60.5 million 2024 Comprehensive Budget during a 40-minute presentation on Oct. 3, and set a tentative budget public workshop schedule through the month of October for all departments. 

By rule, a budget needs to be approved by a majority of the five-member council by Nov. 30, or the $60.5 million plan presented Oct. 3 goes into effect for 2024.   

Among the main issues impacting city finances, Sanghvi pointed to inflation - higher prices of everything from construction materials to health care costs; decisions made by previous administrations to not raise property taxes or conduct reassessments for more than a decade, and the number of new hires made by the current administration.

“We’ve not collected delinquent taxes for a decade,” Sanghvi said. “Ten years ago, the city’s real property tax revenue was $15.99 million, and the adopted budget was $40.44 million. In 2024, property tax revenue will be $17.6 million, and the comprehensive budget is $60.5 million.”

A proposed 2.99% tax increase will have the following impact on taxpayers: $3.32 per month higher for a home valued at $200,000 in the inner district, and $3.25 higher for the same house in the outer district.  That monthly impact grows with the value of the home; for example, a home valued at $400,000 inner district would cost homeowners $6.64 more per month, etc.   

In a Budget Call letter sent to commissioners on June 20, Commissioner Sanghvi recommended the total preliminary “requested” budget made by each department be similar to the “adopted” budget amount approved this year, or about $57 million. This year’s requests ultimately arrived with a $70 million tag. That amount was whittled down to the $60.5 million plan presented Oct. 3.   

Personnel and benefits costs overall account for more than 80% of the spending plan. The city’s 2024 Comprehensive Budget includes no new hires. 

Sales tax revenue is estimated at $19.5 million for the calendar year 2024, an increase of more than $2 million compared to this year’s plan. 

The city has made 30 new hires over the past two years. “No more hiring until we find new revenues,” Sanghvi said. “There is a lot our administration has been working on these past two years and that’s where we needed to hire people - but we also have to figure out what we need to do to continue our growth in services along with new revenues.” 

Those new revenue streams could potentially flow from collecting occupancy tax on short term rentals, cannabis sales tax, parking, reassessment, and community preservation funds. Additionally, the city council is working on collecting delinquent taxes amounting to more than $3 million, Sanghvi said.

Tentative schedule - departments have until October 6 to inform the Finance Department that they would like to reschedule the date of their meeting – are slated as follows: 

Department of Public Safety 11:30 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 11); Department of Public Works, Recreation Department (11 a.m., Friday, Oct. 13); Accounts Department, Finance Department (9 a.m., Friday, Oct. 20); Mayor’s Department, Civil Service (11 a.m., Monday, Oct. 23); Summary of Amended Budget Workshop (5 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 25). 

Public workshops for all departments regarding the 2024 budget will take place at City Hall through the month of October. Each will also include a brief public comment period. For an updated listing of times and dates, visit the city website at: 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — City Mayor Ron Kim announced the city will begin to explore implementing a 25-mph speed limit in certain areas of the city. 

“Research has shown that faster driving speeds correlate to more serious injuries and fatalities for pedestrians in the event of a crash,” the mayor told the council on Oct. 2. 

The recommendation came from the city’s Complete Streets Advisory Board, citing the promotion of safety as a top priority and implementing a 25-mph speed limit within the city’s inner district. The recommendation, submitted to the city on Sept. 29 by CSAB Chair Ken Grey and Co-Chair Ted Orosz, specifically points to the area between West Ave and Henning Rd (east/west), Crescent Avenue and Route 50 (north/south) and west of route 50 to include Skidmore College. 

“This initiative can be refined based on neighborhood analysis. Reduced speed limits will also assist changing behaviors, including the slowing of truck traffic on Broadway and doing our part to become a climate smart community,” the SCAB letter states, and references communities in Seattle, Washington; Denver, Colorado; Kennebunkport, Maine, and New York City as having implemented reductions in speed limits and achieving positive outcomes. 

“In the Capital District the city of Albany and Town of East Greenbush are implementing these changes, and the Town of Malta is considering implementing them,” according to the CSAB. “We believe this is an important measure for enhancing the walkability, bike-ability and safety of Saratoga Springs.”

“The next step is we are going to retain an engineering study of our traffic and report back to the City Council,” Mayor Kim said Oct. 2 “We will have several Public Hearings where people can express their opinions (and) the hope is that in a few months we will be able to make a decision about this after public hearings and back-and-forth dialogue.”   

SARATOGA SPRINGS — On Oct. 3, Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino brought forward a resolution for council consideration regarding the May 2 council adoption of a measure that acknowledges the city of Saratoga Springs “has supported and allowed racism and hate” during its history.

That initial resolution was approved by a 4-1 council vote, with Montagnino casting the lone vote against. In his asking for the resolution to be rescinded, Montagnino contended that such “unnecessary admissions of liability” may invite future litigation against the city. 

The Oct. 3 resolution to rescind failed to receive a second motion to bring it to the council table for either discussion or vote, and the matter was concluded.   

SARATOGA COUNTY — Nine-year-old Charlotte Sena, who went missing Sept. 30 while on a bike ride in Moreau Lake State Park, was located safe and in good health by state police shortly after 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 2. 

Craig N. Ross Jr., of Ballston Spa, was charged with kidnapping in the first degree, a felony, on the suspicion of abducting the girl. Ross, 46, was taken into custody, arraigned at Milton Town Court and sent to Saratoga County Correctional Facility without bail. Additional charges are anticipated. 

The Oct. 2 arrest followed the issue of an AMBER alert on Oct. 1, and an investigative “search of multiple residences where (Ross) is known to reside,” authorities said. 

“When you hit that 48-hour moment, you realize it’s going to be tough, and you start thinking the worst. But what happened was extraordinary,” NY Gov. Kathy Hochul said during a press conference following the arrest. 

Timeline of arrest: at 4:20 a.m. Oct.2, a car pulled up to the Sena family home, which was being guarded by State Police, and a ransom note was left in the mailbox. Fingerprints on the letter were entered into the New York State database in search of a possible match. 

“The hit came at 2:30 (Monday) afternoon. There had been a DWI in 1999 in the city of Saratoga (Springs),” Gov. Hochul said. “A fingerprint was found that matched what was found on the ransom note.”

Further research led police to a residence with a camper located behind it. Ross’ mother lives in the residence - described as a double wide house, and Ross lived in the camper. 

“They have what they call a dynamic entry, a tactical maneuver, and within the camper, they located the suspect,” the governor said. “After some resistance, the suspect was taken into custody, and immediately the little girl was found in a cabinet, cupboard. She was rescued. And she knew she was being rescued. She knew that she was in safe hands.” 

“Ultimately, it was the two SWAT teams, one federal and one state, that landed in helicopters in Ballston Spa to rescue Charlotte,” said Hochul, who thanked law enforcement officials, several fire departments, city, county, state and federal agencies, and some 400 volunteers for their diligence in the search for the girl.

Thursday, 05 October 2023 13:12

New Development, Demolition Proposals

SARATOGA SPRINGS — New business presented to the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals this week include the seeking of an area variance to permit the construction of a mixed-use building at Station Lane, and another to permit the demolition and construction of a new single-family modular home on South Franklin Street. 

Station Lane: at the northwest corner of West Avenue and Station Lane, the “West Ave Site Plan” project proposes the development of a four-story mixed-use building, with a footprint of approximately 23,500 square feet. 

The first floor is proposed to house retail space, a restaurant, and nine apartments. The remaining three floors will provide 59 multi-family rental units. The basement level will provide 60 parking spaces. 

At 72 South Franklin St., the applicants are seeking to remove the existing structure and build a new modular home on the property. New setbacks would be needed for the development of the new home. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The region’s contributions to American history and its role in the birth of the nation will receive a prominent boost in the new year with an appearance on a nationally broadcast popular PBS series. 

Darley Newman - producer and host of the long-running “Travels with Darley,” was in town this week, filming segments for the series that will launch in January. 

“This area is interesting because it’s a big part of the story,” said Newman, taking advantage of some down-time during filming to speak with journalists at the Old Bryan Inn in Saratoga Springs this week. “Saratoga was a turning point and really is significant in the shaping of America. It was a big part of what turned the American Revolution.“

Newman was in town with a film crew for a five-day run, arriving Sunday, Sept. 24 and working through Thursday, Sept. 28. 

Monday’s filming tour took place along the eastern edge of the county and visited Saratoga National Historical Park - home of the battlefield and the infamous Benedict Arnold “Boot” monument. Tuesday explored Hadley’s Revolution Rail and Saratoga Springs, and Wednesday’s focus captured the historic Schuylerville region and adjoining communities, with pre-planned visits to the Schuyler House, the Saratoga Monument, and the sword Surrender Site.   

Saratoga County Historian Lauren Roberts accompanied Newman for much of the visit. Roberts also serves as Chair of the Saratoga County 250th Anniversary Commission. The 250th anniversary celebrating the Turning Point of the American Revolution will reach full fruition in 2027.

“I think it’s great when we can be more educated about culture and history in the world. What people see, how people dress,” Newman said.

“All these things play into knowing more about ourselves because this is all part of our past. I mean, my grandparents came from Sweden and Finland. They were immigrants. So I haven’t been in America that long but I still feel that it’s all part of my history, too,“ she said. 

Newman began showcasing her work on PBS in 2007 with the series “Equitrekking” – “I went horseback riding around the world,” she explained – and her latest long-running series, “Travels with Darley,” has been broadcast on PBS since 2016 and depicts 10 seasons which have included episode visits to everywhere from Istanbul, Turkey to Seoul, South Korea.   

The Revolutionary War Trip segments launch in January 2024. Newman’s visit to Saratoga County follows earlier journeys to South Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey for the series. 

“We’re taking a look back at the history of the American Revolution, but from the perspective of places that you can still visit today,“ Newman said. “We still find there are so many mysteries - things people are thinking about and still trying to solve. You read your normal history that you might learn about school – when I learned about the American Revolution I felt like it might be a little dry, but now when you get to go out and meet people you get new things coming to light.”

Thursday, 28 September 2023 15:16

Saratoga New Year’s Fest Announced

SARATOGA SPRINGS —Joan Osborne, Robert Randolph, and the Gibson Brothers will be some among the many performers to stage live events during this year’s Saratoga New Year’s festival. The events take place Dec. 29 to Jan. 1. 

“This is a joint presentation: the city the Chamber, Discover Saratoga, the City Center and myself,” said producer Robert Millis of the 398Group, during this week’s festival announcement. “We put this idea together last year to bring back First Night – and it worked. We met our milestones. It’s all part of a three-year-plan to make this thing get bigger and bigger.”    

This year’s events will feature more than 30 performers on nearly two dozen stages. In addition to live music performances there will be a 5K run, fireworks show, a family-friendly pre-fireworks block party and other events. Standard tickets are $25 in advance, kids under 16 are admitted free of charge, and Shelters of Saratoga will serve as this year’s beneficiary of a portion of the proceeds. 

The musical lineup includes Joan Osborne, Robert Randolph, Gibson Brothers, Dogs In A Pile, DJ Logic, Toubab Krewe, Organ Fairchild, Tracy Bonham, and others. For a full lineup and/or to purchase tickets, go to:, or    

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city of Saratoga Springs is seeking proposals from professional consulting engineering firms to prepare preliminary engineering feasibility studies and detailed design services related to bicycle and pedestrian accommodations along Grand Ave. between West Ave. and Rowland St. 

The project description calls for the development of final construction plans and specifications for bicycle and pedestrian accommodations and/or improvements that provide for safe and efficient transportation of vehicles, pedestrians, and bicycles along Grand Avenue.

Returned bids for the RFP (Request For Proposal) will be opened Oct. 12, and subsequently awarded.  Construction is anticipated to begin in 2024.

BALLSTON SPA — The Board of Supervisors proclaimed October 17, 2023 as Surrender Day in Saratoga County in recognition of the Turning Point of the Revolutionary War. 

“We wish to elevate this commemoration to a countywide holiday to commemorate the Battles of Saratoga, the siege of the British Army, and its ultimate surrender to the Patriot Army,” according to the Board resolution. “We encourage the countywide recognition of Surrender Day by providing any town, village, or city that adopts October 17 as an official holiday to be known as an Affiliated Community Partner of America’s Turning Point.” 

On October 17, 1777, British Gen. John Bourgoyne surrendered his sword to Gen. Horatio Gates. The Saratoga Surrender Site, located one mile south of the village of Schuylerville on Route 4, memorializes Gen. Burgoyne’s surrender after the Battles of Saratoga. The British Army grounded arms at the surrender nearby in what is currently Schuylerville’s Fort Hardy Park. 

The historic moment is often referred to as “the Turning Point” of the Revolutionary War.

Saratoga County will commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Battles of Saratoga and Turning Point victory in 2027.

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