Schenectady County

College asks Schenectady council for new crosswalks

Union College is asking the city to build some new crosswalks in the streets around Seward Place and

Union College is asking the city to build some new crosswalks in the streets around Seward Place and says it will pick up the tab.

City Engineer Paul Casillo told the City Council at its committees meeting Monday that college officials requested the city install new brick-stamped cross walks at Seward’s intersection with Nott Street, Union Street and Roger Hull Place. The city is in the process of rebuilding the crumbling Seward Place road.

Casillo estimated the cost of the crosswalks at about $140,000. These are the high-end crosswalks similar to the ones the city installed on Van Vranken Avenue and come with a seven-year warranty.

Councilman Carl Erikson unsuccessfully sought to persuade his colleagues that the city should get Union to pay for crosswalks elsewhere in the city or charge more than what it costs to install them.

Corporation Counsel L. John Van Norden said the city can’t legally do that. “It’s not a profit-making enterprise,” he said.

McCarthy said there are ongoing discussions with Union to get some additional money from the college to help fund city services. The college does not pay property taxes.

He pointed out that the former Ramada Inn would have brought in about $1.3 million in tax revenue since its conversion to a dormitory and removal from the city tax rolls.

In other business, the council agreed to tweak its proposed elimination of retirement bonuses for assistant police chiefs to include the positions of police chief, fire chief and assistant fire chief. The city currently has no assistant fire chief but this legislation would apply to that person if the job were ever reinstated.

The council is ending the practice of giving out retirement bonuses to police and fire chiefs, who were sometimes awarded the equivalent of six weeks of overtime upon retirement. The system came to the attention of city officials when former Fire Chief Robert Farstad attempted to nearly double his pension using the payout.

City officials are putting together a salary schedule for police and fire chiefs so people in those jobs would make the same amount — regardless of what city council or mayor was in power at the time, according to McCarthy.

One issue was whether to keep language in the ordinance that would allow police and fire chiefs to receive the same raises that rank-and-file members got. The council was in favor of keeping the provision.

“You end up having subordinates making more than command staff. It becomes a morale issue,” McCarthy said.

Also, McCarthy informed the council that the city may indeed have to pay the county for any unpaid taxes on property within its borders. The city was attempting to change the charter to eliminate the practice of making the county whole.

However, McCarthy said there may be certain deadlines that must be followed regarding the amount of notice the city has to give the county to make such a change.

McCarthy said he has seen conflicting legal opinions on the issue and Van Norden will do more research.

The city could save about $1.5 million next year if this were enacted, according to McCarthy.

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