Citing an infrastructure question and other last-minute changes, members of the City Council postponed approving a pair of land deals that would have moved Saratoga Springs one major step toward establishing a fire station to serve parts of the city east of the Northway.
The council emerged from more than an hour of discussion in executive session Tuesday not ready to approve the deals, which would have sold the so-called Collamer lot to Algonquin Building owner Joel Aronson for $775,000. The agreement would also have had a downstate religious organization federally registered under Aronson’s name sell 14 wooded acres on Union Avenue to the city for $200,000.
But a flurry of last-minute changes to the contract and an infrastructure question raised about the city-owned Collamer lot forced the council to put off approving the deal. Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco said he supports the deal, but needs more time to review the paperwork he received less than two hours before the council’s business meeting.
“I don’t think anyone could look at these things in clear conscience and say let’s go,” he said.
The land deals would have eliminated the last city-owned parking lot on Broadway — a 42-spot space occupied by the historic First Presbyterian Church before a devastating fire in 1976 — some time after summer 2015. The agreements would also bring into the fold a swath of property Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen and Fire Chief Robert Williams believe to be ideal for a fire station to serve the 13-square-mile area known as the city’s eastern plateau.
Williams said building a new station on Union Avenue would help reduce some of the drastically inflated response times in the eastern part of the city. The average time for emergency vehicles to reach the eastern edge of the city is well over eight minutes — roughly three minutes more than response times from the city’s main firehouse and District 2 station on West Avenue.
Meanwhile, development east of Interstate 87 has boomed. As a result, city firefighters are responding to an increasing number of calls in areas that can be more than five miles from the Lake Avenue firehouse.
“It can run anywhere between eight minutes and 14 minutes,” Williams said. “It’s a long haul.”
Located along Spring Run, about eight acres of the land being eyed by the city can be developed. Mathiesen said the spot is ideal for a District 3 station and shouldn’t affect nearby developments off Gilbert Road.
Even with the delay, plans for a new fire station are far from fruition. Mathiesen said it’s unlikely such an undertaking — originally estimated at a cost of $3 million — could be addressed until the city starts planning its 2016 capital projects budget.
City officials also have to decide the type of facility that would best serve the area and how to structure department personnel to staff the new facility. But Williams said buying the property is the first big step toward realizing a District 3 station.
“This is the closest we’ve been in four decades,” he said. “We can’t do anything else unless we have the property.”