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The Saratogian Newsroom blog, complete with thoughts and commentary from our newsroom staff and regular posts on happenings around town.

Wednesday, July 28

Rec. Center staffing hinged on the 2011 budget; will there be piledrivers through the council table?

"Let the fun begin!" said the mayor at last night's Rec. Center grand opening and open house. I'm not sure if he was talking about tonight's jockey basketball game, the upcoming "Controlled Chaos" professional wrestling event, or this year's city budget process, which could end up resembling an "In Your Face" production in ways previously unthinkable.

Let's just hope the council isn't taking any cues from nearby Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon's campaign. I think this is video from her most recent debate, ouch.



I hope today's article on the event illuminated the questions asked about the new facility posted in comments following the last story. Use of the racquetball court will be $5/hour/city or school district resident and $10/hour/all others.

The answer to why discounted rates apply to both city and Saratoga Springs City School District Residents is still a little hazy without seeing the deed for the property. The city did not have it on file, and I was given a reference number I was told could be brought to the county. I believe the final shot of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was referenced during my conversation in the assessor's office yesterday, but I think we'll manage to get a copy in due time.

I caught up with Public Works Comm. Skip Scirocco today, he said he couldn't make it to the opening because of a previous engagement. He said almost the same thing Dep. Mayor Sutton told me at the event, the city will not look at new hires for the Rec. Center until budget numbers are in next month.

"It's not like I turned my back on that place," he said. "I can't in clear conscience hire two or three people back if at the end of another couple of months I'm going to have to lay them off again."

I asked him about the algae in the Congress Park ponds. He said that the department had applied for a permit from the State Department of Environmental Conservation to treat the water, and that the department could only do so much as far as mechanical removal because there are only two DPW employees maintaining the park.

He said he would be open to letting volunteers do some of the work, but that it would have to be approved by city Risk and Safety and the union. I usually have some time to kill most Fri/Sat; if anyone reading this can get it signed off, I'll put on the waders and skim for a few hours.

He said that the department has calculated that a 10 percent budget reduction would mean 14 or 15 more people would lose their jobs, and restated that he will bring the names of 56 employees who have been let go since Jan 1 to the council table August 3.

"I'm going to have a lot of vehicles to sell because we're not going to have anyone to drive them," he said. New state early retirement incentives were brought up as a budget wild card; he said up to ten department employees may be eligible, some of whom have already expressed interest.

Our conversation took an unexpected turn when he said, "They're making a good case to change the form of government in this city," referring to other council members.

He added that he was "keeping an open mind" on the charter change referendum, which appears to be on a fast track to the ballot in November. I'm not sure if this helps or hurts Saratoga Citizen's campaign, but it is refreshing to hear a sitting council member give some indication that the city might be ready for this type of change.

Do you think the city is doing enough to maximize staff efficiency with future layoffs still looming?

19 Comments:

Blogger NOW. HERE. THIS. said...

Commissioner Scirocco could learn an awful lot about algae control if he would leave his office to meet with actual DPW employees who have CLEANED the PONDS for years. He might ask PAT DESIGN for a few pointers. He might even ask an ex-Commissioner like TOM McTYGUE how to do the job.

The answer IS NOT and has NEVER BEEN any CHEMICAL treatment. The solution, both obvious and simple, involves the city-owned low-tech duck-friendly NON-LETHAL device called a "Pool Skimmer."

But "chemical treatment" is wasteful, expensive, and a great way to kill animals. I guess it's hard to teach an Old Dog New Tricks.

I have DONE the work BEFORE and I will DO the work AGAIN at NO CHARGE to the City. I am only-too-willing to sign ANY liability waiver from the Commissioner, Marilyn Rivers, or the DPW Union.

But please, let's NOT spend one more MINUTE on this MADNESS of "Better Living Through Selectively-Toxic Chemistry."

-Kyle York
Been there, Done that...
Will do it again for FREE.
Call 581-1819.

July 28, 2010 at 7:24 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kyle, This is a different DPW. It all happen when the lay offs took place Jan. 1. There are shrubs to be trimed, the porch on the Casino porch to be fixed, windows to be putty and painted. The Springs on the message board to be fixed. Grass to be mowed. Roads to be fixed, ect. The ponds are the least of the problems.There is no director, there is no Sec. I would love to see McTyuge run the Dept under these times.

July 28, 2010 at 9:55 PM 
Blogger NOW. HERE. THIS. said...

Anon 9:55-

Amen to your wisdom-- "I would LOVE to see McTyuge run the Dept under these times." The emphasis is mine, the misspelled name is yours.

McTygue would KNOW the Six specific problems you mention because he KNEW the DPW's to-do list. He knew the problems because he spent his days ON-THE-SCENE, driving and inspecting DPW work. Never in all his years did he need to have taxpayers build him an office.

The current Commissioner eschews such on-site attention. And so I watched DPW trucks "plow" and "sand" Franklin Street on winter days with days-old snow on the grass... not a flake in the street.

McTygue lead by example or he lead by fear... take your choice. But leadership ensures that things get done. A pond skimmed once-a-week is no Big Deal. But today, we wait for toxic chemicals... and we'll pay DPW workers to scatter it. Hey- Could it BE that Man-Hours and Killer-Chem purchases may cost MORE than one guy with a pool skimmer?

And if you truly think "The ponds are the least of the problems," you need to see Congress Park. You should have overheard all the negative comments about the algae on July 4. From the little kids.

You need to see the expensive income-generating weddings that come to the park for its beauty, captured forever on film.

But until Skip gets his first bag of DEC/BP DeadlyDust... well, there's always photoshop.

-Kyle York
On-Call to Clean Ponds 24/7,
Offered to the Council in-person,
No response yet.
518.581.1819.

July 29, 2010 at 2:29 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Tom McTygue were running the department at least there would be daily enforcement of standards of operation etc. When you have an employee sweeping a block of Broadway for an hour and getting 3 of 10 cigarette butts before she leansa aginst a building someone needs to wake her up. When you walk up broadway and get hit in the head by treee branches that haven't been trimmed in a couple years someone needs to wake up. When the shrubbery and bushes along East Circular St. go on and on without trimming someone needs to wake up. There is no leadership, no awareness and no day to day schedule of A,B,C priorities etc. The employees get more frustrated every day because their leader has just thrown his arms into the air and given up in a position he was not capable of doing in the first place.

July 29, 2010 at 5:26 PM 
Anonymous West Side Voter said...

Why is Patrick and the Saratogian promoting charter change? This is an issue that has and will split the community....so why is the Saratogian taking sides and pumping up the issue?

July 29, 2010 at 9:12 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kyle, McTYuge hired all of these people. No matter how good you are. 112 people can't do the work of 154. The big Mac had 18 people doing flowers, Scirocco had 3 to 5.Not to mention that his ex son in law who is forman of the flower crew doesn't no a weed from a flower.So did McTyuge have to many people? Scirocco is out and about. Some times starting at 6:30. And the office Kyle was filthy and the cost was about $500.00. Look at all the money McTyuge spent on law suits. And when DEC give the ok to clean the ponds, the stuff is very safe.

July 30, 2010 at 7:25 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" The two construction inspectors were reclassified at the Civil Service meeting April 15, 2009 and received $15,000 each or a total of $30,000 per year, raises. They worked no extra hours or any change in their jobs just that they could sign permits, Temporarily! So lets see $30k per year forever for the temporary ability to sign permits. If the mayor reclassified them to Building Inspector they would get another 25K each, no extra hours. Go ask Civil Service.
Remember that the City was in dire Straights in April 2009 and the Mayor's Office is giving away 30K raises for nothing. "

July 30, 2010 at 6:46 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The recreation staff should learn how to turn off the outside lighting during daylight hours at the new recreation center. Leaving them on is not very good use of taxpayers money.

July 31, 2010 at 3:23 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that Tommy hired her and the rest of the DPW. Kyle, What about all the law suits Tommy had, or don't you beleive that either. I think the Dept of PW is doing a great job being so under staffed. And I don't think the DEC would give the OK for something that wasn't safe.

July 31, 2010 at 10:08 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you were a commissioner in the City of Saratoga Springs and had three weeks notice of the Grand Opening you would think he would be intelligent enough to communicate this to the Council and the Reecreation Commission. Just pure BS.

August 1, 2010 at 1:18 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The city is ripe for change but not the type of change recommended in the charter amendment. It would place six union memebers in charge of six departments and being a major part of the budget process. The Council would have four at large members which would create more bias and politics than we have now. There would be absolutely no one other than the City Manager following up on the operational and administrative duties of each department. We would end up like the Federal and State Government with a bloated bureaucracy and at best a minimally productive workforce. Where would the daily enforcement of required performance come from?? This form of government based on a population of 25-30,000 people falls far short of the demands for essential services in a city where the average daily population vascilates from 40-75,000 people during peak season. Saratoga springs is npt your average city and never will be. That is why we are the GEM of the Stateand will continue to be so with proactive leadership which should be the choice of the voters and not a hired gun with Council approval. What do we do when we hire and fire a few City Managers. OPut the City on auto-pilot????

August 1, 2010 at 1:40 PM 
Blogger NOW. HERE. THIS. said...

You can argue lawsuits until the Cows or Dogs or DEC Lawyers come home. The simple truths remain- A "lawsuit" can be launched by ANYBODY... and with ZERO legal skills you can indict a HAM SANDWICH.

For those who insist the DEC is a Do-No-Evil kinda' sanctuary, call DEC Manager David Tromp and ask him about the Queensbury/NiMo site... or do the research on your own by researching the 10 acres of PCBs at DEC TOXIC REGISTRY SITE #557012.

But this discussion is about algae, motivated employees and managerial ability. ROUTINE cleaning of the ponds takes little effort IFFF you keep moving, have a keen eye, and have a wee bit of love for your Park. As things stand, the lack of attention has reached a Critical Mess (see editorial).

I appreciate Skip's short-staff issues, I question his priorities, and I love the Park and the community. My written and spoken offer to clean the ponds as per all DPW safety protocols still stands... no charge. Calls welcome at 581-1819.

If Skip was really ever "out and about" he MIGHT have heard maybe ONE gripe about the 7.8% tax increase. But he stands by his breezy statement (on the Council video) that he's heard "no complainin.'"

If he is TRULY "out and about," let him or any other DPW official tell ANYBODY when the green light was given to defoliate Franklin Square park. On WHAT DAY was the order issued to visit the long-standing circle of hedges around the park's fountain and to HACK them down to STUMPS poking out of the earth?

Our current charter gives ALL of us here the magnificent results-oriented option to re-elect Skip or to toss him out. After TWO long years. THAT's a system we're supposed to be PROUD of???

The Record so far--
A personal office built not ONCE, but TWICE... new vehicles/promotions/raises given to Union loyalists... a Park only Pond Scum could love... and a West Side Pocket Park picked clean to the bone.

I'll opt for the ballot box over anonymous bluster. But while talk is cheap, my offer to clean the ponds for Free still stands. And that offer includes ongoing routine maintenance.

But no, I do NOT clean offices. But maybe one of you Skip supporters will help out with that.

-Kyle York
Friend of The Park...
...and happy to prove it.

August 1, 2010 at 4:06 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The lawsuits that involved defending city because of Tom McTygue cost us taxpayers millions of dollars because of his stubborness and complete lack of respecting the law and not knowing when to qive up on an issue before it got to the lawsuit stage. The man out lived his tenure in office by about 20 years. He ruled by fear, held contracts and business from local businesses if they didn't contribute to his St. Paddy's Day fundraiser or to his campaign. I know this because I worked for him for 15 long years. He had so much staff that we sometimes had to work on his farm where he lived which was outside city limits. The kicker was when he made brother Billy's job non-union so he could keep appointing him and be in line for for the Commish job when he left, only voters got smart and got rid of Tom and Billy couldn't function without him. It's a miracle that Tom, Billy, Remiga, Gordon, Elliott and the rest had to take over a party to feed their egos to show people they still have some political influence. It's sad to see that these people have become social pariah's, only to be venerated by themselves.

August 2, 2010 at 12:01 AM 
Anonymous Scot Prehn said...

I'll help clean the alge... Scot Prehn, 518-470-2565

August 2, 2010 at 9:44 AM 
Anonymous Rick Thompson said...

I'm with you Scott, I'll put in a day. I would bet there are many people who would pitch in and help out on a Saturday. It is for the pride we have in our city to help out not the politics.
518-461-3943

August 2, 2010 at 11:48 PM 
Blogger NOW. HERE. THIS. said...

Scot & Rick-

Thank you both for stepping up. Tonite, for the THIRD time, I will offer free pond maintenance to the Council. I'd like to mention that two additional volunteers are good to go! With your permission, I'd like to mention your names in a simple statement. I'd appreciate your "Green Light" here or at 581.1819.

-Kyle York
Volunteers. Work.

August 3, 2010 at 12:12 PM 
Anonymous Scot Prehn said...

Why can't we just suit up and go do it? Are the police really going to arrest volunteers trying to clean up the park? They have enough PR problems without that in the saratogian... what's the downside to just doing it? Scot

August 3, 2010 at 2:31 PM 
Blogger NOW. HERE. THIS. said...

I've thought about "Guerrilla Good-Deed-Doing," just like the good 'ol 60's-- Midnight Ninja Pond-Skimmers Unite!!!

But we've got a form of government with a "RESPONSIBLE ELECTED OFFICIAL WHO MAKES THIS UNIQUE CITY WORK!!!"

So I believe working WITHIN the system will succeed... unless the system is built on a FLAWED and OUT-DATED PREMISE.

The Commissioner is directly and personally accountable, and he is certainly able to address and assuage any problems we "Volunteers" may encounter.

He'll come through tonight--
"Third Time's a Charm!"

-Kyle York
Volunteers. Work.

August 3, 2010 at 4:56 PM 
Anonymous Scot Prehn said...

You can use my name and number... Scot Prehn 470-2565

August 5, 2010 at 9:48 PM 

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