Saratoga County has opened its new public safety headquarters in Ballston Spa.
The Paul E. Lent Public Safety Facility on County Farm Road houses five different departments: the Sheriff’s office, Probation Department, Public Health Department, and Emergency and 9-1-1 services. Bill Peck, public safety chairman with the county board of supervisors, says the 64,000-square-foot facility has been in talks for over a decade – and couldn’t have come at a better time.
“The Public Health, Emergency Services, Sheriff’s Department, IT – they’ve been working in conditions that were less than ideal for the last six months," Peck explains. "And as they’ve moved in over the last couple weeks to this building, it brings new life and a breath of fresh air to the challenges that lie ahead.”
Speaking Thursday, Peck says the project came in at roughly $28 million, with no negative budget impact on the county. Already bringing five departments under one roof, Peck notes the facility was built for growth, with space for up to 235 employees within its walls – walls that include 220 tons of steel, 3,700 cubic yards of concrete, and 87 miles of power and control wiring.
County employees will have numerous conference rooms, break rooms, training spaces, and even a gym at their disposal. Steven Gordon, director of emergency communications at the Sheriff’s office, says the crown jewel may be the 9-1-1 center, which was completely revamped and expanded to four times the size of its predecessor – a welcome change for operators during COVID-19.
“9-1-1 centers typically were, ‘Let’s put as much as we can in the smallest room we can,’ and then we realized, ‘OK, how do you socially distance?’ And masks do not typically work well with people who wear headsets and talk into microphones all day long," Gordon notes. "We were a little bit ahead of the game in realizing that it’s kinda better to spread some people out. It keeps things calmer, cuts down on some of the chaos.”
A host of local officials, including County Sheriff Michael Zurlo and State Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, were at the grand opening. They were quick to credit late Galway Town Supervisor Paul Lent, who died in a farming accident before the groundbreaking in 2018. While he never got to see it come to fruition, Chairman Peck says Lent was the driving force behind the facility.
“You know, he was a deputy sheriff at one time. He was Emergency Services director," he adds. "But the one thing about Paul that I think everyone remembers the most is his unrelenting love of Saratoga County. So I think this is a great testament.”