SARATOGA SPRINGS – A pile of city-owned leather chairs, filing cabinets, bookcases and other unwanted office items that were removed from City Hall was sitting outside Thursday in a lot behind the city ice rink.
But the city was being highly protective of the second-hand items, blocking off the lot with “road closed” signs, and chasing away anyone who wanted to get a look at the furniture.
The items, said DPW Business Manager Michael Veitch, are either going to be donated or discarded. But for now, they are being guarded by DPW workers who were seen sifting through the stockpile Thursday.
The Times Union tried to take a look at all the items Thursday but was blocked by city’s DPW Deputy Commissioner Joe O’Neill, who said it was too dangerous as trucks would be coming in and out of the area to take from the stockpile. However, at the time, there were no trucks there. Six large storage units, however, were onsite.
Veitch, who was also in the lot Thursday, said the “the furniture needs to be reviewed by the departments, and City Court staff (some of it is theirs), to determine if they have a use for it or not.”
“If there is a use it will be kept,” said Veitch who said all the furniture was removed and stored during the City Hall’s $12.7 million renovation. “After that process it can be offered up to nonprofits or discarded. Much of the remaining furniture appears to be relatively old and would probably be considered depreciated to the point of having little to no present value.”
The city replaced all of City Hall’s furniture and fixtures as part of a renovation of City Hall after a August 2018 fire. While only the southern end of the building was damaged by fire and much of the furniture was not destroyed, the city spend $324,269 to purchase all new furniture for every department in the municipal building.
Pat Kane, who has headed the fight to reform the city’s charter since 2006, wanted to see what was amassed at the ice rink, which is next to the city’s transfer station. He too was told to leave the premises on Thursday morning. Kane said before he was ousted, he perused the items, which he said also included about 100 boxes of public records.
“It’s our property,” Kane said. “It’s not DPW’s property. It’s the public’s property. … This is a complete waste of public funds. It’s wrong.”
Kane said is also upset because the city has an expected $6.8 million budget deficit, which is projected to lead to pay cuts, layoffs, a tax increase and the elimination of all city recreation programs in 2021.
“This is callous disregard for public property,” Kane said. “When they get to January and are laying people off, this mismanagement has cost the city dearly.”
Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan said she “is not up to speed” on the furniture and is away until next week. Commissioner of Public Works Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, Veitch said, was unavailable to discuss the matter with the Times Union. Mayor Meg Kelly did not respond to the Times Union requests for comment.