Saratoga County

Malta officials weigh referendum on new highway garage

Malta town officials are considering a $2.6 million plan to build a new town highway garage at the c

Town officials are considering a $2.6 million plan to build a new town highway garage at the current garage complex but aren’t yet in agreement on how to proceed with the project.

Three Town Board members have spoken in favor of the plan, but two say they think the matter ought to be put to a public referendum, given the cost.

“I think this is one of the matters where the public should have a vote,” said Town Board member Tara Thomas.

Board members Peter Klotz and John Hartzell said they’re convinced the new garage is needed and the town should move forward sooner, rather than later, to get the best price.

A new garage could be built for around $2.3 million, including design and engineering fees, and about $350,000 in renovations would be needed to continue using the current garage for storage, according to consultants Clark Patterson Lee of Albany, which did a study for the town.

“The town is obviously poised for significant growth, and with that comes stress on the infrastructure,” said John Warobickof Clark Patterson Lee.

The current garage at the town complex on Route 9 is overcrowded and unsafe, he said, forcing the Highway Department to store about $1.3 million worth of equipment outdoors. The current garage was built in 1976, with an addition in 1989.

The consultant is proposing that two deteriorating storage buildings be removed, making room for a new, 17,800-square-foot garage that would be larger than the current garage. The current garage would still be used for equipment storage.

The work could be phased in over five years but would probably cost more if spread out over time, he said.

To pay for the garage, the town could use a combination of surplus funds, a building reserve account and borrowing.

“It’s a big thing to digest and swallow, but I think the best thing to do is go for the whole thing,” said Klotz.

Hartzell agreed. “The economics are such from a taxpayer perspective that we ought to try to do it all at once,” he said.

Town Supervisor Paul Sausville also spoke in support of moving forward with the project. “It would buy us a highway garage that will hopefully last us 35 to 40 years,” he said.

But Thomas and board member Maggi Ruisi called for a public referendum on the project.

“I’d like the people to have a say whether they want to move forward,” Ruisi said.

Town borrowing is normally subject to permissive referendum, meaning there’s no referendum unless a significant number of voters petition for one.

Town resident Ted Willette, speaking at Monday’s Town Board meeting, said the board should be cautious about scheduling a referendum unless voters have petitioned for one.

“What are the implications if a highway garage referendum fails?” he asked.

A committee of Ruisi, Sausville, Highway Superintendent Roger Crandall and town Comptroller Kevin T. King will meet to decide on the next step to take, possibly asking Clark Patterson Lee for more refined cost estimates.

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