Plans for a new fire station to cover the eastern edge of the city may be roughly two years out, but city officials are already bracing for the cost.
The capital program budget released early this month includes a line item for a $3 million “Fire and EMS Facility on the Eastern Plateau” to be funded sometime in 2016. Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen said the figure is basically a “placeholder” for a future expenditure aimed at building the station presumably on the 14 acres the city purchased on Union Avenue.
“That’s not a solid figure,” he said. “There’s a distinct possibility it could be significantly less than that.”
Mathiesen said buying the land was a first step toward making the new station a reality. Now, the city needs to determine how best to proceed with plans to improve coverage to areas east of the Northway.
One approach may be to build something minimal on the property to establish an area where emergency vehicles could be stationed. In the coming months, Mathiesen said the city will need to start evaluating the best and most timely way to proceed.
“Those are decisions we’ll be making over the next year or two,” he said.
Mayor Joanne Yepsen reluctantly signed off on the contract to sell the so-called Collamer lot to Algonquin building owner Joel Aronson for $775,000 during a contentious City Council meeting Tuesday. She signed off on a deal last week in which a downstate religious organization affiliated with Aronson sold the Union Avenue property to the city for $200,000, but hesitated on the Collamer lot deal after a private appraisal suggested the land was worth $1.6 million.
Prior to signing the deal, Yepsen asked the council to seek a market-based appraisal of the half-acre parking lot on Broadway. But she received no support from the other four members and the measure died without discussion.
“As soon as everything is settle in terms of acquisition of that land … we will start making some evaluations of what we need be doing out there,” Mathiesen said.
Of course, there are many other items in the budget that are being proposed for bonding next year. In total, city departments are asking for $7.2 million in spending for 2015 and include a wide variety of big-ticket items — from buying a new ladder truck for the Fire Department to funding a drainage project for a flood-prone neighborhood near Nelson Avenue.
A $519,605 expenditure would replace the city’s obsolete radio system and allow dispatchers to communicate with the county, state and federal systems. The expenditure would bring the city within compliance of federal and state emergency management guidelines, according to the budget request.
A five-year drainage project in the area of Lincoln Avenue and Crescent Street would run the city about $400,000, the budget states. This includes a survey, study and improvements to mitigate persistent flooding residents of the area have complained about in the past.
The new ladder truck will run the city around $840,000, the budget states. It would replace the existing one, which has served the department for 25 years and has “a number of major and minor deficiencies,” including a decaying frame work.
The budget includes a $220,000 allocation for the city’s proposed park on Saratoga Lake. The proposal for the 3.4 acre property includes building staircases, pergolas and stone pathways leading down to the lake, constructing a small dock, barbecue grills, stone benches, and even a sandy beach area in time for summer 2015.
The city has $650,000 in state grants for the project, but risks losing the funding if progress isn’t made on the park. HMA Contracting Corporation of Mechanicville was awarded a bid for the work earlier this week.
The budget includes $350,000 for work to the City Music Hall, so that sound-proof flooring, accoustic boarding and air conditioning can be added to the area. The space used by the City Council during large meetings is unusable during the late spring and summer months.
A $200,000 line item was included to help develop athletic fields for city youth programs. The city recreation department’s largest outdoor program is now operated at the Saratoga Casino and Raceway.
The racino will undergo a massive $32 million, 134,000-square-foot expansion that is not expected to affect soccer fields now used by the city. But during a forum on casino expansion in December, a representative from the racino could promise use of the fields only for the immediate future.
The budget now faces two public hearings before the council votes on the proposal. The mayor said she looks forward to input before the plan is considered.
“Our committee prioritized based on essential public safety and health needs of our community,” she said. “I have also woven in a sustainability focus in our decision-making process.”