The City of Saratoga Springs has advanced a long-awaited project to locate a fire/EMS facility on the city’s east side.
The city council Tuesday night unanimously approved three measures to move along a plan to build a third fire/EMS station.
Saratoga Springs City Attorney Vince DeLeonardis spoke during the meeting conducted over videoconferencing software Zoom.
“For many, many years the city has endeavored to locate property to house a third fire and EMS facility that will enable us to increase response times to the Eastern Ridge, and serve all other portions of the city in conjunction with stations 1 and 2,” said DeLeonardis.
The city voted to approve an easement agreement with the state for property on Henning Road. The location on state-owned land is leased by NYRA and is overseen by the New York State Franchise Oversight Board. No buildings or designs have yet been proposed for the 2.36-acre parcel.
A third fire/EMS station has been identified as a need for the city for years, and has also been a focus of political campaigns.
DeLeonardis said the public comments entered into the record were largely positive.
“In fact, we have received upwards of 100 comments, and I believe all but just a few were positive and in favor of the easement, clearly indicating that the overwhelming majority of the residents are supporting and are encouraging this council to move forward. I do want to address, though, some of the concerns that were raised by residents along Fifth Avenue, and by Claudia Braymer, an attorney retained to represent some of those residents,” said DeLeonardis.
The complaints, included in a letter Braymer sent to the city council in March, were related to the site’s intended use, zoning, noise, traffic, and impacts on NYRA’s Oklahoma training track. Braymer argued that a location on the other side of the Adirondack Northway would better serve residents in the easternmost part of the city.
DeLeonardis called the location “ideal” and disputed claims that the project is not-permissible for the location.
Mayor Meg Kelly said she has been in communication with NYRA CEO and President David O’Rourke in developing the plan.
“The first meeting I had with Dave O’Rourke, this is what I asked him, if we could, you know, have some land for this. And his immediate answer was, ‘I think it’s a terrific idea, and it’s great for NYRA, and it’s great for the city, and it’s a great partnership.’ So NYRA has embraced this and we’re very lucky to have that,” said Kelly.
In a letter co-signed by O’Rourke and New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association President Joseph Appelbaum, the men wrote:
“By reducing emergency response times, the proposed station will enhance the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the City of Saratoga Springs, the backstretch community and our fans.”
Reached Wednesday morning, Braymer said her clients have no comment at this time, saying “they are currently focused on concerns about the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, including impacts on the city’s finances.”
During Tuesday night’s city council meeting, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said the city could see a 29 to 33 percent hit on its annual budget due to financial impacts from COVID-19.
Also Wednesday, NYRA announced that the opening of the Oklahoma Training Track set for April 15th will be delayed. NYRA said the closure will not impact the regular opening of the meet at Saratoga Race Course, scheduled to begin July 16th. Racing was halted at NYRA’s Aqueduct racetrack March 19th. That racetrack was converted to a temporary hospital to handle COVID-19 patients.