Ballston Spa trustees at odds over future DPW site plans


BALLSTON SPA There is bipartisan agreement that the Village of Ballston Spa needs a new Department of Public Works facility. More than four decades old, the site at 31 Charlton St. is crumbling gradually and not large enough to meet the needs of the village.

“We don’t have a place to stockpile materials,” said Trustee Shawn Raymond, who is the board’s DPW liaison. “We put on band-aid after band-aid for years just to keep it standing, and it’s slowly degraded.”

The problem is that the divided Board of Trustees – with three Democrats and two Republicans, including Mayor Frank Rossi, Jr. – may have trouble coming to an agreement on how to best proceed with future DPW facility plans.

The issue surfaced this week as the board passed a resolution via a split vote – Democrats approving and Republicans objecting – authorizing the village to ask the Saratoga County Agricultural Society to consider at one of its board meetings the potential sale of fairground land to the village, and to inform the village of its level of interest in pursuing such a sale.

The resolution was approved a week after Trustee Liz Kormos, a Democrat, had an informal meeting with the Agricultural Society’s leadership to discuss whether the agricultural group would even be open to selling land that’s used as an auxiliary parking lot at the Saratoga County Fairgrounds in the Town of Milton.

While the Democrats said they see the conversation as an exploratory move to develop options for future DPW plans, Rossi accused his political opponents of going behind his back to look into a land purchase that the mayor said would be ill-advised because the current zoning of the fairground property would require a use variance if the village were to develop it as a DPW facility. Both sides acknowledge the use variance presents a possible challenge.

But potential hurdles shouldn’t stop the exploratory process, Democrats argue.

“We’re interested in (the Saratoga County Agricultural Society’s) level of interest in potentially selling the land. All we’re asking for is one piece of information,” said Trustee Ben Baskin, who proposed the resolution. “It should be uncontroversial to ask a question. We’re not focused on this option any more than other options.”

By all accounts, Kormos’ conversation with the Saratoga County Agricultural Society was casual.

“I made it very clear it was a preliminary inquiry and that we had a lot more work to do to see if it was even possible,” Kormos said. “But we didn’t want to start researching a property that the owner had no interest in selling.”

Saratoga County Agricultural Society President Jennifer Flinton also characterized the meeting as informal and said her organization’s board hasn’t had any serious discussions about selling the lot to the village.

“I don’t know where we’re going to go with it,” Flinton said.

Baskin brought the meeting to the full Board of Trustees’ attention after Flinton told Kormos that any decision about selling land would have to be addressed by the Saratoga County Agricultural Society’s board. Flinton said the discussion of the property is not on the agricultural society’s agenda for its meeting on Thursday.

Kormos’ conversations with agricultural society board members originated with Raymond’s idea to explore options that would place a future DPW facility in a more rural location, where rumbling trucks would be less likely to disturb village residents and visitors, Raymond said.

“The original idea was that a more appropriate location for quasi industrial use, like a DPW facility, would be on the outskirts of the village,” Raymond said.

The village has several options for how to pursue DPW development. In addition to the fairground property, the village could redevelop the current DPW site, look at acquiring private property, or it may be able to acquire property that Saratoga County decides to vacate after completing an ongoing assessment.

“We’re looking at all 22 of our buildings scattered around the county to evaluate current needs, future needs, etc.,” said Saratoga County Administrator Steve Bulger, who added the results of that assessment aren’t expected until after Labor Day.

Rossi and Trustee Bernadette D. VanDeinse-Perez said they want to wait until after the results of the county’s assessment before making any decisions about DPW facilities. If the village is able to acquire property from the county, the village may be able to relocate certain departments’ operations, including potentially part of DPW, thus affecting what will be required to meet DPW’s needs, Rossi said.

“It changes the calculus of what we’re looking at,” Rossi said.

Democrats, who said they are also open to seeing what property may become available from the county, said there is no reason to hold off on exploring other options in the meantime.

“We’d like to see if there are any other opportunities,” Kormos said. “I don’t think we’d purchase something before hearing from the county. But the site search takes a lot of time between identifying a piece of property and actually purchasing it.”

Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.

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