"There is no authorization to spend money on the Southside project," he said. "This council is rapidly developing into an outlaw council."
Bob Mirabile came forward to ask why the city has not yet declared itself lead agency in the state environmental quality review process, which government agencies must complete to ensure there is no adverse environmental impact from building projects. He said that an Environmental Impact Statement, required by SEQR, might reveal cause for concern.
"Anyone who lives on Vanderbilt Avenue knows that when there's heavy rain, you have to go through an obstacle course to get around it," he said. He added that the inclusion of paved parking spaces would further displace storm water.
In a later interview, Mayor Johnson said that under the provisions of SEQR, the city has been the lead agency all along. "The SEQR process has been ongoing for two or three months now," he said.
Then there is the matter of the deed. Southside was sold to the city at the cost of $1 by the school district decades ago, with the stipulation that it would continue to be used for recreation and a playground. There is concern that the construction of the recreation facility and parking lot could open the door for a lawsuit against the city.
A few residents said they would rather see the money for the recreation center invested in a new police station. Both projects have been talked about for years.
Johnson noted that an indoor recreation facility was one of many unfinished projects on his desk when he took office. "When I took office in January $6.5 million was already bonded on this project," he said. "It gave me marching orders to make the project come to fruition."
Johnson said the project needs to move forward, noting that the bonds have already cost taxpayers over $250,000 in interest. "It is unacceptable to tax Saratogians without providing some benefit," he said.
Others at the hearing strove to put their suggestions in simple terms. Janette Kaddo-Marino said the council should "learn how to carpool."
"Work as a team, be creative and get smart with our money," she said. Her statements were followed by applause.""