Not convinced by mayor’s comments on Petrova public safety building

This is in response to Mayor Jimmy Williams’ guest commentary (“Community Public Safety Building”) of Saturday, March 18 in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

The mayor is attempting to sugar coat the ugliness of the village administration’s actions regarding the purchase of the Pius X property. What a mess of lack of transparency.

Acting in collusion with Citizen Advocates, getting the property at a price well below market value is not the opportunity of a lifetime. The growing confusion surrounding this pending purchase and the “possibility” of utilizing the property for a public safety building is only the fault of this incompetent administration in communicating properly and openly with our residents. Even the use of the term “possibility” smacks of phoniness.

Going on at great length about how important the need for a “public safety building” to solve all the existing facility difficulties is misleading at best. The feasibility studies conducted for the Pius X property seem to be self-fulfilling. Of all of Saranac Lake property, only the residential area on Petrova would be feasible for such a facility? Really? Perhaps if you were to right-size the facility to meet current needs you might save in construction costs and find a feasible more centrally located property to use.

What were the criteria involved in this and the other “not-so-feasible” studies? For years the Depot Street property has been considered to be ideal: Centrally located and backing up to the existing SLVFD facility.

Wow! Discovering a $6 million fund balance … amazing! And, if I am correct, allocating $2.5 million of that fund toward a new public safety facility … a mere drop in the bucket against the $20 million price tag I’ve heard about. One has to ask …why bother?

Now, let’s examine the resolutions listed by the mayor who tries to show some due diligence … to advise the public of what is being done — after the fact!

First, an idiom: Death of a thousand cuts.

Meaning: If something is suffering the death of a thousand cuts or death by a thousand cuts, lots of small bad things are happening, none of which are fatal in themselves, but which add up to a slow and painful demise.

So it seems with this myriad of resolutions.

It appears that someone went to great lengths to orchestrate a series of resolutions, spaced only a couple of weeks apart and so benign as to not raise any red flags or solicit public discourse. It is hard for me to believe that these resolutions were randomly presented and passed without a “master orchestration” of events. But wait … they culminate in … a resolution to buy the Pius X property! Hmmm, death of a thousand cuts?

Now let’s take a look at the questions the mayor tries to answer … these questions arise due to the incompetence and simple lack of transparency by this village administration.

The SLVFD building to be vacated is proposed as being added to the tax rolls. Big deal! Who will pay those taxes?

The Hhott House will not close … wait … everyone knows that politician promises are not binding and can change on a whim. Even here the mayor suggests that he does not know what will happen to the Hhott House.

Best practices are evolving and favor shifting these types of facilities, really? No, we are not fooled by this nonsensical statement. We all know that every second counts for emergency vehicles to reach a scene … every second counts! Why then would this village administration advocate for relocating this facility far from the center of the village? Nonsense!

There are no plans to expand our police, fire and rescue facilities. And yet the proposed facility will have additional unallocated space, as the mayor states, to allow for future equipment! What? So, Mr. Mayor, in the interest of openness, how big is this proposed facility?

This facility will not be disruptive to residential neighbors. Au contraire! More obfuscation! What about the school nearby and the many young school children walking the area? What about the line up of school buses and parents’ cars dropping off or picking up these children? This certainly seems to have the potential for being disruptive. How did the feasibility study address this?

There is some concern that the Pius X property would need to be rezoned to account for this facility. Certainly, this aspect has been clearly omitted by the mayor. This seems to me to be spot zoning:

“Spot zoning is the application of zoning to a specific parcel or parcels of land within a larger zoned area when the rezoning is usually at odds with a city’s master plan and current zoning restrictions.”

To my knowledge spot zoning is mostly illegal.

Co-locating these services will benefit the community. These services will no longer be in the center of the village, but on the outskirts. This will only tend to increase response times where every second counts for emergency vehicles to reach a scene … every second counts! And quite frankly, co-locating them will not likely improve their individual response times at all. Disingenuous at best!

Here is what I think the Saranac Lake residents have to do to counter this debacle by the village administration:

1. Attend board meetings and be prepared to ask all these questions;

2. Find the toughest pitbull of an attorney who has the experience in taking on government administrations. It is obvious to me that the village administration will simply continue on this course regardless of public outcry. They will need to be taken to court;

3. Set up a GoFundMe account to gather money to pay for legal expenses. The village administration knows full well that the residents do not have a lot of money … whereas the village administration has a ton of our tax money to defend.

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Keith Wells is a resident of Saranac Lake and a former president of the board of directors for the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce and a former vice chairman of the Saranac Lake Local Development Corporation, among others.


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