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Saratoga County Supervisors Continue Push For Regular April Meeting

Saratoga County seal
Saratoga County

Some members of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors are continuing to call for a regular monthly meeting. The group has concerns about a decision made last month to pay some county workers time-and-a-half during the COVID-19 crisis. 

The Saratoga County Public Health Northway Corridor Task Force held an informal meeting over videoconferencing software Tuesday. The group includes supervisors from the county’s more populated areas. The towns of Clifton Park, Halfmoon, Ballston, Milton, Malta, Wilton and Moreau and the City of Saratoga Springs include more than 70 percent of the county’s population.

The supervisors have been requesting a regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors, which would normally occur on the third Tuesday of each month. During the call, the supervisors complained of confusion over whether a meeting would be held at all. Here’s Tara Gaston, a Democrat representing Saratoga Springs.

“If we do not have the platform to discuss this and for the public to provide comment…that’s where the job is not getting done,” said Gaston.

As the call with Northway Corridor Task Force was underway Tuesday afternoon, the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors announced a special meeting for Friday at 3 p.m.

But an item not on the special meeting schedule is related to a 50 percent pay raise given to county workers. The supervisors on the call Tuesday complained about a decision made by a five-member committee created in March in response to the COVID-19 crisis that increased pay by 50 percent for county workers, which was later reduced to about 40 county employees.

According to County Administrator Spencer Hellwig, no county employees are currently receiving time-and-a-half. The change was made in a decision by the COVID oversight group on April 2nd, effective April 3rd.

But some county supervisors remain upset over the changes to pay rates, saying they never had knowledge of the adjustments. Todd Kuzniers, Republican town supervisor of Moreau, said the issue must be addressed considering the hit to county finances related to lost revenue during the pandemic.

“It’s incredibly important that we don’t wait any longer to put forward a plan to reduce spending at the county level immediately,” said Kuzniers.

Malta Supervisor Darren O’Connor, also a Republican, wants the board to revisit the March 17th decision that gave power to the five-member committee to make decisions related to staffing levels and pay rates.

“I think that that paragraph needs to be eliminated and that power has to belong only to the board of supervisors as a whole,” said O’Connor.

In response to a question related to some county employees promised time-and-a-half, only for that pay rate to be reduced later, Administrator Hellwig said in an email that all related concerns from county employees have been addressed. In addition, Hellwig added in part that “items discussed during CBA negotiations with Public Safety unions are to be kept confidential.”

On the agenda for Friday’s special meeting is an item that would suspend the board’s Rule #1, which relates to the scheduling of the regular meeting for the third Tuesday at each month at 4 p.m.

The supervisors on Tuesday’s call say they do not plan to vote for the suspension of Rule #1. According to the county administrator’s office, if the rule is not suspended, a regular meeting would be held as normal.

Although they represent a majority of the county population in a weighted vote, the faction of supervisors concerned with the issue do not have the support of the majority of the number of supervisors.

In his email, Administrator Hellwig said the item regarding the suspension of Rule #1 “will afford the County the opportunity to address operational needs and I have no reason to believe this would not be approved.”

County Board Chair Preston Allen Sr., who represents the small town of Day in the northern part of the county, did not return a request for comment Wednesday morning by email or a telephone message left at his office.

Unlike many Capital Region counties, Saratoga County contracts with a public relations firm for its media communications.

Republican Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett, who is leading the group of supervisors concerned with the county’s decisions related to the COVID-19 crisis, says the issues regarding pay – and the fact that no supervisors from the county’s largest communities are in charge of legislative committees – highlights a difference of opinion.

“It’s just a bad way to do business and it’s going to hurt the county in the short-term, and it’s going to hurt the county in the long-term. And I just think there’s a big philosophical difference between the larger towns and the smaller towns,” said Barrett.   

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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