Mayor Meg Kelly delivered her 2018 State of the City address on Thursday, and for the first time since at least 2006 all four commissioners got to speak too.
Kelly ran the State of the City address like a City Council meeting, having commissioners make a presentation on behalf of their departments.
“This is a unique form of government where we all need to be involved and work together,” she said to the audience.
In her first month in office, Kelly said, she has met with many business owners and homeowners as well as community leaders from Saratoga Hospital, Saratoga Springs City School District and GlobalFoundries, among others.
“Creating relationships is critical to find out the community’s needs,” she said.
Kelly added that she prompted deputy commissioners to meet twice a month in an effort to improve communications and identify new ways for the departments to work more effectively together.
Last year the city was awarded $2.7 million in grant funds for things such as electric vehicle stations and the Greenbelt Trail, which would connect the city with a figure-eight loop around and through the city for transportation and recreation.
Kelly said her agenda items for this year include addressing the parking problem downtown, improving code and zoning compliance through the Uniform Development Ordinance and to continue developing the Greenbelt Trail.
John Franck, commissioner of accounts, said the department has been working with Assemblyman John McDonald on the CDTA taxi consortium legislation to provide better transportation opportunities across the area.
“It will simplify taxi transportation and standardize rates and services,” he said. “It will increase taxi driver accountability to their passenger population as the project nears completion in 2019.”
Franck said the city’s vending ordinance would also be reviewed and updated.
“Meetings will be held with the community to determine best practices and vending concerns at the Saratoga Race Course and other business districts throughout our city,” he said. “The new vending ordinance should be ready for the upcoming summer season.”
Michele Madigan, commissioner of finance, said the department is looking into having short-term rentals such as Airbnb pay a similar occupancy tax hotels and lodges have to pay.
She said the discussion around short-term rentals contributing to the city’s tax base came about following complaints by members of the city’s hospitality industry and residents.
Madigan said since she introduced the Smart City Commission in 2016, public Wi-Fi is operational in Congress Park and she’s looking to add a gigabyte fiber access to every home and business in the city.
“There would be increased broadband competition citywide to provide exponentially better speeds at an affordable price,” she said. “It would allow businesses to use technology that was previously thought unavailable and new businesses would be more enticed to relocate to the city.”
Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, commissioner of public works, said in addition to paving 22 streets in the city last year, the department restored the ballroom in the Canfield Casino.
Scirocco said the restoration earned the department the Project of the Year award in the Historic Preservation category from the New York Chapter of the American Public Works Association.
Peter Martin, commissioner of public safety, said one of his goals this year is to add a third fire station to serve the eastern plateau near Saratoga Lake.
He also hopes to continue to streamline the process for code enforcement cases and reduce the number of vacant properties in the city by continuing to register empty structures.
Kelly said she felt good about her decision to allow each commissioner to speak at the State of the City address.
“I really feel this is a nice format, because it’s about seeing what each department does throughout the year,” she said. “Each department is intertwined and if we don’t work together, nothing will move forward.
“I’m committed to working together.”