Visitors to Saratoga Springs City Hall as soon as Monday will be met by a new greeter charged with checking temperatures, taking contact information and directing people to their destination.
Visitors soon will also have to pass through a new metal detector, which city officials approved in the spring and is expected to arrive in the coming weeks. The metal detector will be the same as detectors used by the city court on city hall’s second floor, Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton said.
She said the decision to install a metal detector at city hall’s entrance was part of a broader review of safety needs in the building and was not connected to any specific incident. She said a police officer would likely staff the metal detector when in use.
“We found that there were still some spots where the security was not sufficient for the building,” Dalton said. “It’s basic upgrades to city hall security we’ve needed for years.”
The greeter position was funded for at least a year after someone was shifted during the pandemic to sit at the entrance to ensure anyone coming to city hall did a temperature check and provide contact information in the event contact tracing would be needed – even as city hall was closed to the public.
But the position, which had been furnished by the public works department, was removed as city hall reopened to the public. The city council eventually agreed to create a greeter position to be overseen by the department of public safety.
“It’s always been mind-boggling to me that the day we reopened to the public we removed the greeter,” Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said at Tuesday’s city council meeting. “We don’t have good wayfinding in the building, we just don’t. People are wandering around the halls, they don’t know where to go.”
The new greeter, who is set to start work Monday, will sit at a workstation inside city hall at the end of a long handicapped-accessible ramp leading into the building. The greeter will ensure visitors do a temperature check and provide contact information, while also serve as a resource for general information about public services offered at city hall.
But even setting up a desk appeared to create strife inside city hall: commissioners Dalton and Madigan and Mayor Meg Kelly at Tuesday’s meeting pointed the finger at the public works department, overseen by Public Works Commissioner Skip Scirocco, for not setting up a workstation for the new greeter. (Scirocco did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.)
“She’s ready to go starting on Monday, we just need a desk,” Dalton said.
During the Tuesday meeting, city officials said they were concerned about building safety, noting that an unhoused person had seemingly spent part of the night inside city hall earlier this week and pointing to tourists wandering aimlessly in search of something interesting to see.
City ‘urges’ mask wearing
The broader discussion about safety precautions and the new greeter position overlapped with rising concerns about the latest uptick in COVID-19 cases.
The council adopted a resolution that “urges” city residents – both vaccinated and unvaccinated – to wear masks indoors with people outside their household, in crowded outdoor settings and when interacting with unvaccinated people.
“We have to start taking precautions or we are going to set ourselves back,” Madigan said at Tuesday’s meeting.
Dalton said city officials were updating signage at city hall to align with updated federal guidance on masking, which encourages people to wear masks indoors in counties with the level of transmission current in Saratoga County. But she said the city did not have the authority to outright mandate people to wear masks – even inside city hall.
“My feeling is people need to be in masks no matter what if they are coming into the building,” Dalton said. “I wish we could use stronger language but the law does not provide for such right now. This is the best we can do unless the state decides to change their mandates.”