Saratoga Springs

Saratoga Springs Council could expand if proposed charter is approved

Charter Review Commission is proposing the council expand from five to seven members
Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly
Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city’s Charter Review Commission is considering the expansion of the City Council from five to seven members. 

Commissioner of Accounts John Franck made the proposal for the two additional council members. 

“It would give those who work full-time a better opportunity to be part of city government and learn positions before deciding to run,” he said. “Since they wouldn’t have an office to run, they could get out and listen to the people in an easier manner.”

On Tuesday, before the City Council meeting, the Charter Review Commission held its second public forum to hear suggestions and input before a charter proposal is submitted to the voters in the November election. The first public forum was held in April

The council and commission met at Saratoga City Center due to a lightning strike to City Hall on Friday, which caused a fire on the top floor. City Hall is closed until further notice and the city Police Department is continuing its operations at 5 Lake Ave. 

City Hall functions are being conducted at the City Recreation facility at 15 Vanderbilt Ave. The City Court system, which includes collections, has moved to the Lincoln Baths, at 65 South Broadway. 

Matthew Jones, a city resident and Saratoga Springs-based attorney who served on the 2017 Charter Review Commission, said he supports adding two members to City Council. 

“We didn’t have the foresight to add two at-large members, and I think it’s a novel and creative idea,” he said to the commission. “There are people who don’t have the opportunity to serve in the functions as a commissioner or mayor, because time doesn’t permit, so this is a creative solution and I commend you for it.”

Saratoga Springs resident Sam Brewer said he also supports the additional council members. 

“More votes in a city of this size is a good thing,” he said to the commission. “I would also like to see the commissioner positions go from part- to full-time and raise the pay to help attract more people to serve.”

The commission has discussed changing terms and salaries for City Council members and county supervisors. The four commissioners and mayor make $14,500 annually. 

Brewer added that he would like the city to create a Public Safety Civilian Review Commission to provide an independent oversight over EMS services, and Fire and Police departments. 

“It would give citizens a function that is separate from commission duties,” he said. 

A previous attempt to alter the city’s governing structure was voted down by residents, who opted to maintain the mayor-and-commissioners form of government. 

Mayor Meg Kelly appointed a 10-person Charter Review Commission at a March 6 City Council meeting

Charter Review Commission Chairman and City Attorney Vincent DeLeonardis said the commission sent out a survey to 250 city residents to solicit input on the council expansion and other matters. 

According to DeLeonardis, 49 percent of the respondents are in favor of adding two additional City Council members while 42 percent are opposed. 

Approximately 50 percent of the respondents would like the city to elect two new members while 31 percent want the Saratoga County Supervisors to take over the positions. 

DeLeonardis said the commission would be hosting a presentation to provide an overview of the proposed changes before they vote on it. 

“The changes that we’re proposing compliment our current form of government while providing greater opportunities for people to run and participate in city government,” he said. “We should be voting on the charter in the next week or two.”

The Charter Review Commission is scheduled to meet on Wednesday at 1 p.m. in the Glasby room at Saratoga Springs Public Library, 49 Henry St. 

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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