Displaying items by tag: saratoga springs

Thursday, 17 December 2020 15:37

Contact Tracing On The Way

BALLSTON SPA — In March, the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors authorized $1 million to be directed to battling the spread of COVID-19. There were 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Saratoga County at the time. 

In May, the Board authorized Saratoga County Administrator Spencer Hellwig to hire as many as 50 Contact Tracers at the rate of $25 per hour – the costs to be paid from the appropriated $1 million fund. 

Seven months later, with the number of cases nearing a total of 4,000 in Saratoga County, $800,000 of that $1 million has remained unused, and only 23 Contact Tracers employed.   

“We authorized 50 Contact Tracers. In November it came to my understanding that we only had 23 Contact Tracers,” says Tara Gaston, one of two city supervisors who represent Saratoga Springs at the county level. “Whether anyone in leadership knew about it, I don’t know, but that’s when I learned we had only hired 23.  Before that, it hadn’t been discussed. And it was about this same time that we determined that New York State - which had promised us to be able to use their Contact Tracers – was going to limit our access.  So, it became an even larger concern,” she says. 

“I do think mistakes have been made - some at the individual level, and some as a result of the Board of Supervisors not setting this forth as a priority,” Gaston says. “When the request was made for 50 Contact Tracers, we were under the impression that was sufficient, and we were also under the impression that if it was insufficient someone would come and tell us.” There are 21 municipalities represented by 23 supervisors from all across Saratoga seated at the county board. “We have not done what we should have done. I should have done better. We all should have done better.” 

On Dec. 15, Gaston introduced a measure to allow the hire of 25 additional Contact Tracers – which would bring the allowable number of hires up to 75 in all – as well as 5 Supervising Contact Tracers. That number of 75 would bring the number of county Contact Tracers in line with the Johns Hopkins standard of about 30 Tracers per 100,000 people, as well as allow a slight buffer zone should any workers step down.

A second measure she introduced targets $100,000 of the $800,000 remaining in COVID county funds for the purchase of PPE and masks for distribution in the community. 

The $100,000 PPE allotment is broken down this way:  $75,000 targeted for masks to be distributed to the general public in the community; $25,000 specifically set aside for any form of PPE – masks, gowns, gloves, or face shields – targeting the local population at higher risk like EMS workers, police officers, and “communities of lower economic power,” Gaston says, such as those who are unhoused.

Saratoga Springs City Supervisor Matt Veitch expressed his support for both resolutions. The county Board subsequently approved both measures.     

After spiking in the spring, local infection rates subsequently were reduced and remained below 1 % through most of the summer. The 7-day rolling average COVID-19 positive infection rate doubled from 0.6% on Oct. 1 to 1.2% on Nov. 1 in Saratoga County. From Nov. 1 to Dec. 1, it more than tripled to 3.8%, and has subsequently continued to rise – by mid-December climbing to near 6%, the highest 7-day average rate registered in Saratoga County since April. 

Contact tracing helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 by rapidly interviewing positive patients, identifying and alerting their close contacts to prevent the spread of the infection to others. 

Here’s how it is designed to work: When a person tests positive, a COVID Contact Tracer works with the person to identify and reach out via phone and text to anyone they’ve been in contact with while infectious to trace and contain the spread of the virus. People who have come in close contact with someone who is positive are then asked to stay home and limit their contact with others. The Tracer will also connect persons infected with support and resources they may need through quarantine, such as help getting groceries or household supplies, child care, medical care or supplies. 

Saratoga County’s contact tracing program operates 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. This week’s vote by the Board authorizes the additional hiring of up to 25 Contact Tracers at the rate of $25 per hour, and up to five Supervising Contact Tracers at a rate of compensation of $30 per hour. 

On Nov. 19, the county’s Department of Public Health posted a flyer indicating it was seeking individuals interested in working as Contact Tracers. A subsequent notice, posted Dec. 11, indicated a large number of applications had been received and that no new applications were being accepted. It is unclear whether the Board’s actions of Dec. 15 would trigger a new “Contact Tracers Wanted” request. The Dec. 11 post informs: Please check back on Dec. 18 for an update. The Saratoga County website may be found at: saratogacountyny.gov. 

Published in News

On the sunny morning of October 21, 1861 – to cheers from tens of thousands of citizens, with bands playing and the roar of cannons - Calvin W. Preston, Galway farmboy boarded a towboat-drawn barge at the Albany, NY docks with other soldiers of the Ellsworth Avengers regiment for the beginning of a dangerous and arduous journey that would lead to perhaps the most important battle of the Civil War: Gettysburg. 

Born on February 28, 1845, he was the fifth son of Dr. and Mrs. Calvin Preston.  The Prestons, originally from Antwerp, NY were attracted to Galway by family connections and the potential for a thriving medical practice. They settled on East St. in the 1830s where they built a six bedroom home and raised a large family.

Caught up in the furor over the death of Elmer Ellsworth, Mechanicville native, Abraham Lincoln confidant and the first Union soldier to be killed in the Civil war - at age 16 Calvin enlisted in the 44th New York State Volunteer Infantry Regiment, aka Ellsworth Avengers on September 2, 1861 as a drummer.  He was active in General George McCellan’s ill-fated Peninsula Campaign, a failed attempt to occupy Richmond, Va. - capital of the Confederacy.  At the campaign’s end he contracted dysentery, was sent home for the “Northern Cure” returning to his regiment in time to participate in the Battle of Gettysburg. In the aftermath he assisted in the care of the wounded and the seemingly endless task of burial of the dead.

Mustered out on October 11, 1864, he trained as a druggist and in 1866 joined his brother James, who had served in the Confederate Army, in Galveston, Texas.  Four years later James passed away under mysterious circumstances and shortly afterward Calvin married his widow. Calvin became a prominent citizen of Galveston operating a drug store at a location in the business district referred to as Preston Corner, was a high ranking member of the Free Masons and Texas Society- Sons of the American Revolution, and a member of the Texas Volunteer Guard with the position of Major and Inspector General.

On September 8, 1900 with no advance warning a hurricane passed through Galveston.  Looked upon initially as routine flooding in a city whose maximum elevation was 8 feet above normal high tide 8000 lives were lost; it remains the worst natural disaster in US history. 

Calvin responded heroically in the rescue of his family, wading home from his office as conditions worsened, managing to borrow a rowboat along the way.  Upon arrival he found them standing on the dining room table.  Crowding them into the boat he pushed it through shoulder deep water to the nearby Rosenberg School, a 3 story, massive stone and concrete structure, with wind gusting to over 100 MPH.

The night spent there was not a comfortable one as the level 4 hurricane buffeted the structure with wind gusts of up to 180 MPH and a storm tide of 15-20 feet.  To make matters worse a lightning strike caused the internal collapse of a chimney flue, resulting in deaths of people huddled below.

Disposal of bodies was an overwhelming task, a description better left to other historical accounts. The effort to rebuild Galveston after the storm took several years and included the construction of a 17 foot high seawall to prevent future storm related disasters. 

For Calvin the aftermath was too much to bear, the memory of similar carnage and loss of life at Gettysburg still clear in his mind.  Two of his brothers – William and Platt – wealthy mill owners in Waitsburg, Washington invited him and his family to move there, providing him with a job in one of their businesses.  He again prospered and was elected mayor of the city.  His untimely death came 5 years later due to pleurisy.

Well liked and respected, the homage to him at the funeral service concluded with the words of William Shakespeare:

His life was gentle and the elements so mixed in him that nature might stand up and say to all the world, “this was a man.”

Published in History

SARATOGA SPRINGS — With the swift shearing of a green ceremonial ribbon, the long awaited City Center parking facility – and the 600-plus parking spaces it brings to downtown Saratoga Springs – was unveiled this week and announced itself open for business. 

Through the end of this calendar year, the first four hours of parking is free of charge. Parking rates for 2021 will be free for the first hour of parking, and $1 per hour after that first free hour, with a $15 cap charge in the 12 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. period. 

The $16 million multi-floor structure features secure covered parking for over 620 vehicles, four electric car charging stations, two green spaces, a pair of elevators and an open, flat, roof top area that can be used for parking and for convention related events.

A glass-enclosed pedestrian walkway extends over Maple Avenue, connecting the parking structure with the City Center complex. 

The structure was unveiled Nov. 10 during a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by regional business and economic leaders and city officials. Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly city councilmember Anthony “Skip” Scirocco addressed the crowd.

“It is so exciting to bring this needed project to fruition, and to be part of the City Center’s continued growth, but the credit for this project also belongs to many current and former city council members, City Center Authority members, City Center employees, and members of the business community,” said Ryan McMahon, executive director of the Saratoga Springs City Center. 

The City Center, located at the north end of Broadway, opened in 1984 and has served as host to corporations, New York State Associations, trade groups and northeast regional organizations, gate shows, fundraising galas and social events. The conference complex offers a total of 58,000 square feet of conference space when partnered with the adjoining 242 room Saratoga Hilton Hotel. 

The development of an adjoining parking structure has been debated, often vehemently, for more than a decade and the project has undergone a multitude of suggested variations. 

Community concerns targeted the facility’s size, its design, and its location atop prime city-owned land. Conversely, a large contingent of business owners have long advocated for its creation, reasoning that the additional parking spaces would increase the economic vitality for downtown retail shops and restaurant. And City Center officials have discussed the need of easy parking for potential clients to compete in a marketplace with other regional centers vying for convention business. 

“You always want to improve your game,” Tom Roohan, chairman of the Saratoga Springs City Center Authority, told reporters at Tuesday’s ceremony. “In December 2013 we started this process, and I think we ended up with a great project with more than 600 parking spots, a well-lit, safe and secure parking facility that will help encourage companies to come into town.” During evening hours, a security guard will be on premise to offer an added layer of safety.  A limited number of yearly parking passes are available for purchase from the Saratoga Springs City Center.

The structure, which stands one block east of Broadway, was developed atop a surface lot that saw the elimination of 188 previously free parking spaces. For the time being, parking continues to be free of charge in most of the other existing public parking areas downtown, as well as on city streets. 

Published in News
Friday, 11 December 2020 12:27

Five Decades, Same Opportunities

The year was 1973 and downtown Saratoga Springs was facing a crisis. Twenty-two storefronts were vacant, with almost all the 2nd and 3rd floors empty. Simultaneously construction of the Pyramid mall had begun at exit 15. The perfect recipe was brewing for a downtown disaster.

Today we face a similar challenge. Communities are locked down in a global pandemic, which includes social distancing and reduced numbers allowed in businesses. We already have empty storefronts and business owners worry more may be coming. Deja vu? Not to worry.

In 1973 local citizens stepped up to the challenge…and today local citizens are once again stepping up to the challenge. Two similar crises, separated by decades, but in both circumstances, leadership, optimism, and community action came together to save the day.

First let’s look at the past. It was the mid-90’s and Joe Dalton of the Chamber of Commerce, along with Bob Bristol of The Saratoga Associates, called a meeting with a dozen property owners. This informal meeting led to the creation of a dynamic ‘Plan of Action’ which would guide the city for years to come. Within weeks dozens of citizens had volunteered to work on the project.

Bill Dake of Stewart’s Shops steered it for the first six months, after which Charles Wait of Adirondack Trust Company served as its chairman. “A lot of people did a tremendous amount of work” said Bill Dake. “As people saw the positive impact taking place, more people got involved. Downtown got its own personality!”

A lot of people got involved in the ‘Plan of Action’ from attending charrettes, to planting trees, to major facade improvements, but the key issue may have been getting the City Council to remove the restriction on restaurants and bars serving outside on Broadway’s wide sidewalks.

“It gave Broadway a unique personality as people watching was the best and cheapest entertainment there was,” added Dake. Rumor has it the sidewalk activity had been curtailed years before after the Mayor’s daughter was “mooned” by an over-served patron from one of the bars. But I digress.

One of the first projects that took place was a massive clean-up…something tangible that would yield immediate results. From there an all-volunteer crew dug holes and planted 80 mature trees in the business district, the number reaching 250 within 20 years!

With visible progress taking place, property owners dug deep and funded a basic design plan. That, coupled with a new 1 percent sales tax increase and federal Community Development funds, and the ‘Plan’ was taking on a life of its own. From façade improvements to streetscapes and parking, downtown Saratoga Springs transformed itself, and within a decade 70 percent of the downtown businesses were new; vacancy was a rarity, a testament to community action!

Fast forward to November 2020. With decades of growth under its belt, downtown Saratoga Springs has been the envy of small towns across the nation…but the wheels of progress are quickly slowing. Vacant storefronts are popping up and long-time events which are part of our fabric have been cancelled.

However, led by the DBA (Downtown Business Association), scores of volunteers are once again mobilizing and have reimagined a downtown holiday celebration. “When we realized that there was no way to have Victorian Streetwalk this year, the DBA knew we had to do something to promote downtown and keep our holiday tradition alive” said DBA President, Deann Devitt. “The more we thought about it, the more we realized that we needed to make downtown a destination for the entire Holiday season and remind people how unique Saratoga is!”

At that point they approached Saratoga Springs Special Assessments District with their ideas. “They immediately agreed to partner with us and provide us with a $10,000 grant to help spread the holiday spirit throughout the City. And with that grant, a month-long celebration called Victorian Streetscapes was born!”

Next, they reached out to their friends at Discover Saratoga who were happy to collaborate on the effort. “We hope that this will give one more reason for folks to come downtown throughout the season to take in the holiday atmosphere and of course, shop local!” said Darryl Leggieri, President of Discover Saratoga. “We must continue to work together as a united community, and help our neighbors and local businesses succeed during these difficult times.”

Once the actual planning began, the amount of support from local business owners began rolling in. The Charlton School, with the help of Saratoga Land Management Corp., stepped up with a 19-ft Norway Spruce for downtown. Elms Farm donated thirty, 6-ft. trees for storefronts while Allerdice and Dehn’s Flowers worked on critical behind-the-scenes details. Also instrumental in organizing the event were Mayor Meg Kelly and Commissioner Scirocco and their teams.

Let’s not forget about Santa! Although he won’t be in his cottage this year, Santa IS Coming to Town! He will be driving through Saratoga neighborhoods visiting children on a vintage fire truck provided by King Enterprises.

Devitt finished with “The reality is, during these unprecedented times, it truly ‘takes a village’ to support our local businesses, and without question, this city, its residents and fellow business owners have been that village.”

Saratoga Strong!

Published in Editorials
Friday, 13 November 2020 12:16

Freedom of Speech vs. Freedom from Harassment

There is a basic law of economics which states, if you subsidize undesirable behavior, you will get more undesirable behavior. I believe the same is true if you ALLOW undesirable behavior.

If you had not yet heard, this past Saturday downtown Saratoga Springs was once again the epicenter of a 6-hour long standoff between protesters and everyone else.

The unscheduled event, which violated city ordinances, shut down multiple roads and left businesses and restaurants empty on what could have been their busiest day of the season.

This comes approximately 5 weeks after the emergency city council meeting which was held to address this specific type of situation. At that meeting, Mayor Meg Kelly came out strong stating

“It is time to make some changes here because we cannot have this happening time and time again in the city of Saratoga Springs – period. We are not going to block streets.”

Public Safety Commissioner Dalton shared her sentiment “The Saratoga Springs Police Department recognizes the right to peacefully protest, however, one person’s constitutional right does not supersede another’s.” Assistant Chief Cattone then laid out guidelines and actions which would be taken moving forward.

I am not sure what happened between that October 1 meeting and last Saturday, but officers from SSPD, the Sheriff’s Department and the State Police stood by as the protesters chanted “Biden won but we’re not done…These are our streets” and taunted the officers. There were also numerous reports of bystanders and families being harassed before they got out of town.

I have to say that I am disgusted, embarrassed, and sickened by this situation. We are in a global pandemic, businesses and families are struggling, yet some individuals feel they have the right to shut down roads, detour traffic at their discretion, and shout vulgarities over a megaphone. And let’s not ignore the fact that the blocked intersection is the primary road to Saratoga Hospital. What happens when a frantic mother is rushing her asthmatic child to the hospital and discovers her route is shut down and she must find a detour?

On Monday morning I had the opportunity to speak with several downtown business owners, and the financial gravity of the situation really hit home. One food/drink establishment shared, “We are struggling to make rent and pay staff. Normally on a 75-degree day, in November, we would be hopping until closing. We were empty from about 3-9 on Saturday. That crushes us.” Of important note, this was restaurant week! The other businesses I spoke with shared the same frustration and anger.

So, my question is why weren’t arrests made? Why weren’t the roads opened? Why do we tolerate this behavior?

According to SSPD Chief Crooks a tactical decision was made based on information relayed to him by supervisors on scene. “There were too many protesters vs. the number of officers.” I asked him the next logical question: why were officers on scene for hours if they weren’t going to make arrests? “Officers were there in case anything happened with the public,” he responded. “There were a number of interactions between the group and bystanders.”

I understand the police are in a no-win situation. They are damned if they do and they are damned if they don’t. But allowing these situations to continue is unacceptable and only emboldens the organizers. Forget the horrific impact on business and the potential for medical disasters due to the street detours; let’s look at the financial impact to you and me.

Every one of these occurrences, and they are increasing in regularity, costs the city thousands of dollars in overtime. An estimated guess of the infamous July 30 protest in front of Congress Park, which lasted well into the late evening, cost us $10,000. That is money not going to kids’ programs, homeless assistance, or critical infrastructure.

Who are these protesters? With the exception of the few individuals behind the megaphone, the majority this past weekend were white teenagers from our local high school and Skidmore College. The scene looked more like a dysfunctional Justin Bieber concert than anything else. Perhaps there is an opportunity here for Skidmore administration to step up and contribute to the good of our community. If Skidmore students are arrested for civil disobedience (blocking roads), I would think they should face disciplinary action under the school’s code of conduct. Skidmore students are guests in our community. I would love the hear Skidmore’s view on this.

Start arresting these kids as soon as the roads are blocked and let’s see how long their resolve lasts.

But don’t get lulled into a false sense of security. The troublemakers in the late September protest were a whole different group of agitators. In that protest they marched through our streets, harassing diners and yelling at families, while surrounded by their own security force dressed in black with baseball bats!

One thing I can predict is that sooner or later something bad is going to happen. We will either take the path of neighboring cities and slide downhill into crime and chaos, or the citizens will begin standing up to these groups and take back the streets. Neither scenario has a good ending.

In closing, the primary function of government is leadership, and to maintain law & order. Sadly, they are falling short on both right now. I know many families who have stopped coming into town because of this problem. Those families used to spend their hard-earned money shopping and eating in our city. Can we afford to turn our back on anyone right now? Do we want a city where women and children feel threatened?

They need to figure this out and put an end to it NOW. Otherwise, deputize community members and let them clear the streets.

-Chad

Published in Editorials
Thursday, 10 December 2020 14:01

The Death of Gideon Putnam

December 1, 1812 was the date on which the founding father of Saratoga Springs, Gideon Putnam, died.

Gideon and his wife Doanda Putnam were probably the most influential couple in the formation of our great city. Gideon was originally from Sutton, Massachusetts, while Doanda was from Connecticut. Shortly after their marriage in 1787, the two began to strike out for a new beginning in Vermont and then on to the Saratoga Lake area. None of those locations worked for them until they moved to Saratoga Springs in 1789 and it all seemed to fit.

Gideon and Doanda came to the Saratoga Springs area and found a region with vast pine forests. Gideon realized that those trees could be turned into lumber to feed the need for building materials in this new developing village. Gideon began to also realize that the naturally occurring mineral springs would be a draw for large numbers of summer visitors, but the area lacked the required accommodations to support these tourists.

In 1802 the Putnams are credited with building the first hotel in the village, called Putnam’s Tavern and Boarding House. Located on Broadway, a few steps away from the Congress Spring, the hotel was an immediate success with visitors coming to the springs. The Putnams offered comfortable accommodations, good food and drink for their guests. Putnam made improvements to the Congress Spring and then later to the Columbia Spring, for easier use by those looking for a cure for their ailments by taking the waters. Gideon’s success in business was shared with the young village as he donated land for a cemetery, church and school to help plan for a great future community.

Gideon felt so strongly about the efficacy of the waters that he published a set of guidelines for the “Proper use of the springs.” He set forth clear rules that were intended to not pollute the springs as well as making the water forever free at the spring. This simple rule of free water at the spring set the tone for this rapidly developing resort destination. Owners of the mineral springs could not charge to drink at the spring and therefore could only make money by offering baths and bottling the waters for widespread distribution. In time Saratoga Springs would become the number one tourist destination in the United States during the 1800’s.

Putnam’s Tavern and Boarding House was such a success that Gideon and Doanda bought more land and began laying out many of our streets including our beautiful Broadway and adding to the size of their boarding house. By 1811 the Putnams realized that it would be a logical plan to build another hotel across the street, also on Broadway. As construction started, they decided to name the new hotel Congress Hall, after the Congress Spring. By this time the spring, a short walk away, was so famous with visitors that he thought this would help in future promotions for the hotel.

During construction of the Congress Hall, Gideon fell from the north end of the piazza and was severely injured. Gideon lingered for many months and eventually succumbed to those injuries on December 1, 1812. Even though Gideon had passed, his wife and family continued to run their businesses as well as their hotels for many years until 1864. Gideon may have died in 1812 but his idea to allow for free mineral water at the springs and plan for a successful resort city still continues today as Saratoga Springs attracts thousands of visitors a year and our mineral springs continue to be free every day. 

Charlie Kuenzel taught at Saratoga High School for 36 years and was co-owner of Saratoga Tours LLC for 19 years. Author, lecturer and currently President of Saratoga Springs History Museum, Charlie loves Saratoga History and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in History

BALLSTON SPA — Dr. Daniel Kuhles, the county’s new Commissioner of Public Health, held a live forum Dec. 4, when he provided a regional and state overview related to COVID-19 strategies, as well as an update of the pending federal vaccination program. 

Kuhles, a resident of Saratoga Springs and a medical doctor, was appointed to the newly created Commissioner position in November following a four-month-long search for candidates by the county Board of Supervisors. The position carries a base salary of $132,446 and a term of six years. Job responsibilities include directing, managing and regulating the Department’s delivery of public health services throughout Saratoga County. 

The 53-minute forum, first broadcast live on Dec. 4, may be viewed at the Saratoga County Public Health Services Facebook page.

Infection percentage rates in Saratoga County have doubled each month since August, and topped 4% this week on a rolling 7-day average, marking the highest infection rate since mid-May. 

“The overall trend is going upwards in a direction we do not want to see it go,” Kuhles says. 

Regional hospitalization rates due to COVID-19 – one of the biggest criteria the state says it now will use to determine potential shutdown strategies - was at an all-time high this week, with over 220 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the eight-county Capital Region designation, of which Saratoga County is a part.

During his presser Dec. 7, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was joined by Dr. Anthony Fauci, longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who warned of a potential “dark time” in January if public health measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing and attention to detail during even small gatherings are not followed. The result of gatherings during the Thanksgiving holiday will become evident Dec. 15-20, he said, followed by a potential surge if additional gatherings are held during the December holidays.   

“Potentially, a surge upon a surge,” Fauci said. “If those things happen and we don’t mitigate well, we don’t listen to the public health measures we need to follow, we can start to see things really get bad in the middle of January…the middle of January could be a really dark time for us.”

Regarding vaccinations, Fauci said he anticipated a substantial number of health care providers and people in nursing homes will begin receiving vaccinations later this month, with essential workers and those at high-risk due to health issues having the ability to be vaccinated in the early months of 2021. 

The vaccination(s) require two shots.  “Say you get vaccinated today, then you get a boost 28 days later, and 7 to 10 days after that second shot, you’re optimally protected,” Fauci explained. 

“I would think by the time you get to the beginning of April, you’ll start getting people who have no priority, just a normal person who has no underlying conditions. If we get them vaccinated, a full-court press, and you do that through April, May and June, by the time you get to the summer, the end of the summer and the start of the third quarter of 2021 – we should be in good shape. That’s what I’m hoping for,” Fauci said.   

Published in News

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A cutting-edge center of 21st century global technology and a venue honoring the traditional offerings of helping those in need met at the intersection of Franklin and Washington streets this week in a collaborative effort for the betterment of the local community, and all points beyond. 

Elliott and Cathy Masie built the Masie Center on the east side of Saratoga Springs 20 years ago. This week, Franklin Community Center – which serves thousands of people every year locally - has purchased the Masie building and will be expanding their services. The new building, to be renamed the Michael & Stacie Arpey Family Community Center, will allow the Franklin the space it has needed to grow their programs.   

Franklin Community Center has served as a social service hub for the less fortunate in and around Saratoga since 1983.

The Center's programs include a food pantry, a free after-school prevention program for local students and affordable housing for low-income individuals, as well as assisting with furniture, clothing and household needs, among others. 

“At the beginning of 2019, our board really committed to obtaining more space,” explains FCC Executive Director Kari Cushing.  “We were at a point where the space didn’t provide confidentiality for the people we serve.” A fundraising campaign was initiated with the idea of building an addition to an existing building to create more space. 

“We were in the middle of it and had raised about $1 million toward our $2.5 million goal when the world stopped and COVID happened,” Cushing says. “We were no longer able to use our volunteers, so we repurposed all of our staff and since March we’ve been filling grocery bags, unloading trucks, delivering supplies and just doing what needs to get done.”    

At the same time, she says, the need for services increased exponentially. 

“The numbers have just gone through the roof. The need usually ebbs and flows and goes with the economy, but right now people are in dire need of just basic services. Since the start of the pandemic, just the food pantry has served 2,300 families – and of those 588 of them were brand new, they’d never been to a food pantry before. Those numbers are staggering,” she said. 

“In September. I looked across the street and saw a For Sale out in front of the Masie building. It seemed way too good to be true, but we had to at least explore our options.” The building was listed at $2.6 million, and members of the board visited the location. 

“When I tell you it’s perfect, that’s an understatement. It’s wide open and we could do whatever we need to do with the interior space, but we were still too far from our fundraising goal. We only had $1 million raised and being a non-profit we’re not comfortable taking out a loan for more than a million dollars. Our Steering Committee met to go over our options and that’s when Stacie Arpey, who’s on our board stepped up to increase her pledge from $100,0000 to $1 million and make it a reality for us. The Masies lowered their original asking price, and a deal was struck. “Between the two of them, it became possible.” 

The Masie Center has served for a generation as an international Learning LAB working with global organizations.

“We’ve probably had tens of thousands of executives come from around the world. We helped launch E-Learning there. When the pandemic hit, I looked at my staff and said, ‘OK, go home.’ I gave them computers and lights and screens and after a couple of months predicted, well, we’re not going to go back to regular work soon. We looked at each other and said: maybe this is the time to sell the building. 

“After we put the building up for sale, Franklin Community Center was intrigued and one of their board members, Stacie Arpey, and her husband Michael decided they really wanted them to have it and gave them a million dollar donation to get to the price, and Cathy and I lowered (the asking price) by many hundreds of thousands of dollars because we couldn’t think of a better buyer for it than Franklin,” Masie says. 

“What I like about Franklin is that they service people who have deep and continuing needs as well as people who have newly arrived at the point of need,” Masie says. “I think we need to be quick to respond to people when they enter that and help put them on a pathway to becoming more self-sustaining. And Franklin does that. The other thing is they work a lot with kids.” 

For Masie, the present world continues via video, having conducted keynotes for tens of thousands of people during the pandemic, right from his piano room at home in Saratoga Springs. 

“They do so much in that cramped building they’re in now – to have that 10,000 square feet of space, it’s going to be exciting to see what they can do,” said Masie, who conducted a walk-through with FCC staff this week.

“This new home for FCC will help ensure that families in Saratoga Springs having an inviting place to receive the resources of FCC for years to come,” Stacie Arpey said in a statement.

The transition will happen gradually allowing FCC to ensure there are no disruptions to the services provided. The plan is to maintain the current venues and begin adapting some of the organization’s programs into the new venue. “In the beginning of 2021 our goal as a Board will be to really delve into that and see how we can be more efficient and make things easier to access for the folks who use our services. We want to make sure that we make things better for Franklin and for the entire community,” says Cushing, who has been with FCC for 18 years. 

“COVID has obviously turned everything upside down and has disrupted all of our lives, but we have a unique perspective: we get to see the other side of it, and I have to tell you how heart-warming it has been to see our community come together to make sure that nobody has to go without,” Cushing says. “We were scared to death when it started and we saw our numbers going through the roof. We didn’t even know if we would be able to serve everyone that came to us. 

“Every day we would post our biggest needs on social media and we have a contactless drop-off in the front of our building and every day when we would come in, it would be overflowing with the things we had asked for. We never had to turn anybody away, because people were so generous. This community is absolutely amazing. I think Stacie and Mike embody everything hat our community is and Cathy and Elliott – everybody made it possible, it’s such a group effort and it’s wonderful to see.” 

The Michael and Stacie Arpey Family Community Center /Franklin Community Center is in fundraising mode and need just under $1 million to complete their expansion campaign which would include costs for moving and potential renovations to the space.  For more information or to contribute to the campaign go to:   www.franklincommunitycenter.org.

Published in News

SARATOGA SPRINGS — For the 15th consecutive year, the Skidmore College community has come together to assist local residents and families through the Skidmore Cares community service program. 

This year, Skidmore faculty, staff and students donated nearly 3,000 food items and more than 3,400 school supplies and personal care items - including 2,130 face masks - for Saratoga County community organizations. In addition, monetary donations to Skidmore Cares and community agencies totaled nearly $800. 

To help ensure the health and safety of all involved, the annual campus-wide event was modified this year, encouraging individuals to drop off donations at outdoor locations on campus in early November. 

Skidmore employees organized and delivered the contributions to 10 local community service agencies: Shelters of Saratoga, Franklin Community Center, Mary’s Haven, Saratoga Economic Opportunity Council, Wellspring, Corinth Central School District, Saratoga Springs City School District PATHS, the Latino Advocacy Program, the Salvation Army and Saratoga Center for the Family. 

The donations come at a critical time for local residents and agencies facing challenges created or intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Founded in 2006, Skidmore Cares has now raised more than $122,000 for community causes and distributed nearly 60,000 food, personal care and school supplies items. 

Published in Education

SARATOGA SPRINGS — With the clock ticking to a midnight deadline that would have installed what Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan called a “skeletal budget” as proposed in October, the City Council Nov. 30  staged a Special Meeting during which it unanimously approved a less austere 2021 budget that maintains essential city services and preserves city jobs and salaries. 

The initial budget proposed in October was set at $41.9 million – a $7 million reduction to the 2019 plan. The amended 2021 budget approved this week calls for a $46.2 million spending plan. It may be further amended after Jan. 1, 2021. 

The plan calls for a 6% property tax increase, meaning a home assessed at $200,000 will require an additional payment of $72 annually; a home assessed at $400,000 will see an annual payment increase of $144.   

Commissioner Madigan said with a vaccine seemingly on the horizon, she is feeling “optimistic” about at least some form of tourism returning to the Spa City next year.

• The city announced a COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program Application period opens Dec. 7, with 25 to 51 grants of $5,000 - $10,000 to be awarded. Funds may be used for: payroll, rent or mortgage, utilities, equipment to facilitate the outdoor conduct of business during winter months, or supplies and equipment that reduce risk of coronavirus transmission.

Grant recipients must preserve at least 1 FTE job held by a low-income person - designated as less than  $33,950/year -  for at least six months.

The COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program, administered locally by the City’s Office of Community Development (OCD), was funded by a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. All applicants must agree to federal program requirements. For full guidelines, eligibility information, and application forms go to: saratoga-springs.org. 

• The comment period for Draft 2 of the UDO has been extended and the public is invited to submit comments through Friday, Dec. 11. 

Members of the City’s UDO project team led six public Q&A sessions during the 60-plus days that Draft 2 has been available for review.  Draft 2 documents and maps, including video recordings and presentation slides, are available on the UDO web page on the city’s website for review.    

It is anticipated that a final draft of the UDO will be released and submitted to the County and City Land Use Boards for advisory opinions, prior to being presented to Council for a vote during the first quarter of 2021.

• A meeting of the Police Reform Task Force will be held at Saratoga Music Hall and livestreamed on the city website at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 9. 

Published in News
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Blotter

  • COURT  Todd A. Buchas, 42, of Saratoga Springs, was sentenced to 12 years in prison, after pleading to rape in the first-degree, a felony, in connection with an incident that occurred in Saratoga Springs. The date of the original charge was April 10, 2020.  Brittany A. Matthey, 35, of Saratoga Springs, pleaded Jan. 12 to felony DWI, in connection with an alleged incident in Wilton. Sentencing March 16.  D’Jontay Bennifield, 21, of Greenfield Center, pleaded Jan. 12 to two felony charges: criminal contempt in the first-degree, and aggravated family offense. Sentencing Jan. 12.  Alexander P. Jones, 33, of Ballston Spa,…

Property Transactions

  • BALLSTON Matthew Call sold property at 5 Frank St to Diane Gagliarrdi for $293,000. Thomas Lowe sold property at Goode St to Farm Raised LLC for $177,000. Thomas Lowe sold property at Goode St to Farm Raised LLC for $330,000. Ryan Legere sold property at 59 Casey Pass to Margaret Chevalier for $258,500. John Russell sold property at 15 Lakehill Rd to Dawn Hunt for $148,000. Matthew Shambo sold property at 457 Devils Lane to Robert Lewis for $439,900. CORINTH Meredith Fiel sold property at 4880 Rt 9N to Jamaldine Oulacha for $128,000. Luke Petteys sold property at 65 Locust…
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