Common Sense Saratoga is the flagship website for the advocates of the proposed charter change that will be on the back of the ballot tomorrow (November 3, 2020), and they have been a major promoter of false narratives in this campaign. Their most recent attempt is to try to persuade Saratogians that the rehab of city hall has been an excessively lavish expenditure. They falsely claim that the city has chosen to buy expensive furniture and has made other profligate expenditures while laying off police and firefighters.
In an earlier post I have documented that the decisions and expenditures of rehabbing city hall predated the pandemic shutdown.
I thought it would be helpful to visit city hall now that it is again open to the public and see what the rehab actually looks like.
As the pro-charter people focus much of their disinformation campaign on the expenditures associated with Commissioner Michele Madigan and the Finance Department Office, my inspection focused on this area.
Commissioner Madigan’s office actually takes up only a small part of the space allotted for the Finance Department which includes workspace for a number of department employees and IT as well space for the public to come to pay their tax bills.
I first looked at the chair at the Commissioner of Finance’s desk. I thought if there had been lavish spending this chair in particular would be a good example of that. Perhaps given the accusations coming from the pro charter people, it might even be throne like.
Here is a picture of that chair.
A bit of a disappointment I thought.
And here is the Commissioner’s work area.
A nice poster of horses but where are the Picasso and Van Gogh paintings?
Below is the entrance to her office. This glass wall was part of the original building that the architects successfully urged the city to maintain.
Fortunately most of the original panes (see below) have survived.
Due to limited space the Commissioner’s office also serves as a conference room. This is the conference table.
Below are examples of the features that have made our city hall greener and will be energy savers now and into the future. These are state of the art cooling and heating devices.
Note the rug. As part of their disinformation campaign the pro-charter people have been circulating on social media that the rug cost $17,000.00. You will see in the photos and videos that the rug covers the floor of all the Finance Department offices, some 2,200 square feet and cost $7.73 per square foot. It has a twenty year warranty. Given the heavy use of the area it required high quality material.
The Deputy Commissioner of Finance and the person who manages the telephone system and the mail for all of city hall share a work area in this outer office.
This is one of the two new public bathrooms on this floor. The old bathrooms were poorly lit funky places.
Behind this wooden wall is the office of Christine Gillmett-Brown, Director of Finance. (Note the carpet)
These are the offices that handle people’s tax payments. The outer office is where payments are received. (Note the carpet)
This is a view of the outer office where the money is received. The architects constructed the barrier for security reasons given that payments are handled here. (Note rug)
This is the beautiful, original ceiling for this office. This ceiling had been hidden by a drop ceiling. When the architects had the drop ceiling removed they found the stored papers of New York Senator Edgar Brackett (1853-1924). Senator Brackett was a major player in local and state politics. The Wikipedia entry about him is well worth the read.
This is a short video of the kitchenette for the staff.
The chair of one of the staff members in the outer office. They liked their original chair and declined a replacement.
View of the public side of the Finance Office
Small room for staff to meet privately with citizens who have questions and concerns.
This is on the top floor of City Hall. A lovely window in the Planning Department’s office area.
Directory In Elevator
New Council chambers.
This picture shows the video screen in the Council chambers. Note the ducts high on the wall. When the chambers were filled by the public it was usually insufferably hot. Those near the pathetic excuse for a window air conditioner got little relief while the noise of the unit made it hard to hear. Hooray for greener and better heating and cooling.
Two views of the rehabilitated music hall on the top floor of City Hall (where the fire began).
This opening is in the music hall. It provides access to a small kitchen. The city expects to rent the music hall for events similar to the way it rents the Canfield Casino.
The architects saved this old “water elevator.” It is located just outside the music hall.
This is part of the tile floor at the entrance to the music hall.
These are some of the improvements that now make city hall Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)compliant. New elevators and newly designed hallways that have ramps incorporated into them.
Video of Commissioner of Finance’s Office
Video of Area in front of Finance Director Christine Gillmett-Brown’s Office (more carpet)
Video of office shared by the Deputy Commissioner of Finance and the telecommunications/Mail manager for city Hall (With a little unintended chatter in the background)
Video of Music Hall
Based on my tour of city hall, it appears to me that the rehab was thoughtfully done. I did not find anything that suggested excess. Those of us who frequented city hall over the years and those who have seen the “before” pictures cannot help but be struck by the improvements. The city hall belongs to the people of Saratoga Springs. These office spaces do not belong to individual commissioners. Others will occupy these spaces in the years to come. We are fortunate that the citizens of our city take great pride in its character and beauty and history. The fire that severely damaged city hall gave us the opportunity to make it greener and to redesign it to address long standing issues like where to put the police department and how to provide the city courts more space that the state required as well as making it ADA compliant.
It is just another example of the pro-charter people trying to turn what has been a laudable achievement into an alleged scandal.
I urge people to visit their city hall and decide for themselves.