Community Public Safety Building
Dear Saranac Lakers,
The village of Saranac Lake intends to purchase the Pius X property on Petrova Avenue. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Regardless of the ultimate use, the property value far exceeds the purchase price. On behalf of our village, I would like to thank the seller, Citizen Advocates, for agreeing to terms that will greatly benefit the future of our community.
With growing confusion surrounding this pending purchase and the possibility of utilizing the property for a public safety building, I’d like to provide as much clarification and factual information as possible.
Providing our first responders with safe and respectable working conditions is a must. The Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department, or SLVFD, has been searching for a site to build a new facility since the 1980s. As years passed without progress, two things became clear: The structural conditions of the existing fire station were worsening, and the Saranac Lake Police Department, or SLPD, and Saranac Lake Volunteer Rescue Squad, or SLVRS, were also in desperate need of new facilities. SLVRS currently works out of a downstairs apartment with an enlarged garage space. And SLPD lacks numerous state mandated spaces in its current facility, which is over 180 years old. Last year, additional land adjacent to the SLVFD was purchased by the village to increase building area. But a subsequent feasibility study still declared insufficient acreage for a public safety building. Studies were also completed to determine if the former armory and 400 Broadway were options. But they were not.
During last year’s mayoral debates, people were surprised to learn that the village was sitting on an unreserved fund balance of almost $6 million dollars. A decision was made to allocate $2.5 million of that fund to a new public safety building. At the time, I was critical of the lack of communication between village leadership and the police and rescue departments. Communication has since improved, and the timeline below outlines significant project activity. That said, I will make a greater effort to ensure the public is kept informed.
¯ 3/7/22: Village board passes resolution to purchase parcel of land adjacent to the existing fire department.
¯ 3/28/22: Village board passes resolution creating a $2.5 million Public Safety Facility Reserve Fund.
¯ 5/9/22: Village board passes resolution to form the Emergency Services Facility Committee, or ESFC.
¯ 5/16/22: Village board passes resolution authorizing travel and training for three ESFC members to Emergency Services Building Conference in Chicago.
¯ 6/22/22: A Request for Qualifications for architectural services for a new public safety facility posted.
¯ 8/8/22: Village board passes resolution to authorize Landmark Consulting to conduct a historic building condition assessment of the existing fire station.
¯ 8/23/22 – 8/29/22: After receiving eight RFQ submissions, interviews are held with the top three.
¯ 9/14/22: Village board passes a resolution to contract Wendel Design to conduct a feasibility study.
¯ 12/15/22: The Pius X property is listed for sale.
¯ 12/16/22: Talks begin between the village and the seller (Citizen Advocates).
¯ 12/19/22: Feasibility study concludes that the Broadway site is not feasible for a combined public safety building.
¯ 1/5/23: Village’s offer of $350,000 is accepted by Citizen Advocates for the purchase of 15 acres, the Pius X building, and the Hhott House nursery.
¯ 2/1/23: Village issues a joint press release with Citizen Advocates to inform the public of the potential purchase and intent to explore construction of a new public safety building at this site.
¯ 2/20/23: Village board passes resolution authorizing the purchase agreement for the Pius X property.
¯ TBD — Village finalizes the purchase of the new property.
Because this information was made public while the process was still in its infancy, some questions have arisen for which we don’t yet have concrete answers. However, I will do my best to address various concerns below.
¯ Pius X Property is not coming off our tax roll. This property is owned by a nonprofit entity and is not on the tax roll. If the public safety building shifts to this location, we would likely be adding the current fire station property back to our tax roll.
¯ The Hhott House will not close. The village signed a lease agreement allowing operations at the nursery to continue. It will take time to finalize the plans for the property, at which point the Hhott House will either stay where it is, shift its on-site location, or move to a new off-site location.
¯ The best spot a century ago might not be the best spot today: Best practices are evolving and favor shifting these types of facilities to outlying areas of communities to accommodate for the larger spaces required by current (and future) standards.
¯ There are no plans to expand our police, rescue and fire services. The new, larger building will be designed to accommodate the spaces needed for each of these entities as they currently exist and allow for future equipment. Our goal is to do this once and to do it right.
¯ The public safety building will not be disruptive to residential neighbors. There will not be lights and sirens at all hours of the day and night. There will not be an increase in high-speed traffic. Our first responders are respectful members of our community. Lights and sirens are not activated leaving the garage. They are activated when encountering traffic conditions that warrant them. There are no plans to use Lake Street, Petrova Avenue or Canaras Avenue as emergency vehicle ingress or egress.
¯ Co-locating these services will benefit our community. Response times will improve (SLVFD and SLVRS share drivers), communication and coordination will improve, and tax dollars will be saved relative to the construction of three new facilities at three different locations.
The village is organizing open houses and an informational meeting on Tuesday, March 28. SLPD, SLVRS and SLVFD will all host open houses from 4-5:30 p.m., with an informational meeting to follow at the fire department at 5:30 p.m. Wendel Design will share a presentation with all current information and visual aids, followed by a Q&A.
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Jimmy Williams is Saranac Lake’s mayor, married to Hope Williams, and father of Frankie, Beau and Josie.