How to spend $27 million in Saranac Lake?
To the editor:
At the Saranac Lake Village Board meeting on Monday, Nov. 13, about 15 residents showed up in response to a feasibility study for a proposed emergency services facility that had been posted on the village website.
The mayor asked why people were showing up at the meeting when this item was not on the agenda. Clearly there was a sense of urgency on the part of interested citizens to discuss the matter, as it appears that purchase of the property is forefront in the mayor’s mind. The mayor was also frustrated with questions being asked more than one time, in spite of the contention that those questions were not answered.
What I observed attending the meeting for information-gathering, since I am new to the discussion, is that people are concerned about being marginalized from the decision-making process. They are eager to offer their input. There is an Emergency Services Committee with representatives from fire, police, ambulance, plus the mayor and deputy mayor. Their meetings are not open to the public. How can other voices have a seat at the table?
Later last week the village board invited the public to submit questions to emergency services consultant Wendel Five Bugels via the village clerk (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by mail to the village clerk, 39 Main St. I also have questions for the village board.
Can we be committed to a participatory process so all who want to be are included and heard? Currently, it appears that initial steps, such as purchase of the property, are proceeding without community input.
Is there data we still need to gather to advance the research so we can make the most informed decision? We need a better process for analyzing an emergency services proposal that takes Saranac Lake from under 18,000-square-feet of space for all emergency services to approximately 70,000 square-feet with a price tag of at least $27 million. Going forward, how much will it cost village taxpayers to maintain such a facility?
If we set up meetings/workshops to review and discuss proposals, allow time for additional data collection and research, if it is found lacking, and be able to assess other pressing needs in our village in tandem with this proposal, we will all benefit.
Consider the police facility alone: Currently it is woefully inadequate at 2,374-square-feet. According to a 2012 study by AES Northeast commissioned by the village, it was recommended to provide 6,067-square-feet for up to 17 officers (379-square-feet per officer). Saranac Lake currently has 13 officers. What the current proposal recommends is 16,333-square-feet, equaling 1,256-square-feet per officer. This needs discussion.
Ren Davidson Seward