Rec center cleared for construction

The legislative journey of a Spa City indoor recreation center came to an end at a Tuesday, Feb. 17, meeting of the Saratoga Springs City Council, with a split vote to award a $4,997,000 contract to Halfmoon-based Bast-Hatfield.

The lowest of 10 bidders, Bast-Hatfield's proposal included several add-on elements, including air conditioning for the gymnasium, a racquetball court, additional trees and an emergency generator that could make the 33,000-square-foot usable as an emergency shelter. They promise to complete the project for less than the $6.5 million that has been bonded.

The good news is that the city is well within budget, said Mayor Scott Johnson. "We expect there to be a surplus left when the project is delivered in turn-key condition."

Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim and Public Works Commissioner Anthony "Skip" Scirocco voted against awarding the contract. They raised concerns that led to a lengthy argument among the council members that included ongoing litigation against the project, the completeness of the planning process and the wisdom of building the facility during a recession.

"In today's economy it's the wrong thing to do it doesn't make any sense at this particular point in time," said Scirocco.

Kim said that the rec center bonds should be reappropriated to the construction of a new police station or fire house. He acknowledged that would incur penalties, but said that it would be worth it.

"What this City Council has hoisted on this city is the idea this money is trapped and cannot be moved," he said. "I've talked to state officials and private bond counsel, and they've all told me that is not true."

But others said it is time to go ahead with the project, tough times or no, and give the taxpayers what they have essentially already paid for.

"If we just say 'no', we get nothing for that money. Instead, we can go forward and give something to our families, our kids and ourselves," said Finance Department Commissioner Kenneth Ivins, who added he was "disappointed that previous councils did bond this thing."

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