Pay up or EMPAC gets it?



So there was that story the other day about how Troy wants to charge RPI a "safety fee" of $100 per student per semester. The city says it spends a bunch of money on services for the school and it's looking to recoup some of the expenses. OK, this sounds like a discussion that reasonable people can have.

But then toward the end of the TU story, there was this:

The discussions about a public safety fee come as EMPAC is nearing its October opening and RPI must obtain a certificate of occupancy to use the arts center.

"RPI is noted for saying we're having a grand opening and inviting everyone before they have a CO," [Deputy Mayor Dan] Crawley said. "If the invitations go out for October and their place is not completed, they're not going to get a CO."

And that sounded a lot like, what's the word... oh, right: a shakedown. But, no, that couldn't be right. The City of Troy wouldn't hold the opening of EMPAC ransom over this safety fee, would it? This is a municipality and an institution with 180 years of shared history. That would just be... tacky.

So we made a few calls. Here's what we found.

First off, there doesn't seem to be any sort of precedent for this safety fee. At least not locally. We checked with the folks at Russell Sage College in Troy, and they say they haven't been approached by the city about a similar fee. We also checked with the State University system. We figured, they oversee a lot of schools, including HVCC in Troy, so they might of heard of a fee like this. Nope.

RPI says it hasn't even been formally approached by the city about this fee, yet. But RPI spokesman Jason Gorss says the school does not see it as a shakedown. "The concept [of a safety fee] has been discussed informally," Gorss says. "We have a good relationship with the city administration, and we are prepared to sit down and discuss this with them if they put forward a proposal."

What about the comment about EMPAC by Deputy Mayor Dan Crawley?

We wanted to talk to him about it. We tried his office a couple of times this week, but he was vacationing and didn't return our calls.

So we asked the folks at RPI if they were taking the comment as a threat. Nope, says Gorss:

"These are two separate issues. The proposal has nothing to do with the requirements of the building code regarding the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy. We have no concern that the timing of the issuance of a C/O will in any way affect the grand opening of EMPAC in October. We are working daily with the city administration, the city engineer, and the city's building department on the inspection work associated with completion of the building, including work that would be required to obtain the C/O. We recognize that the city's oversight of this project requires an extensive commitment of city resources,and we are very pleased with the progress we are making."

And if RPI doesn't see it as a shakedown (at least, officially), then maybe no harm done. It just all looks a little weird, especially after the near-boycott of commencement by the city fire department.

You'd almost get the impression these two august institutions aren't getting along too well.

rendering of EMPAC: © GRIMSHAW / RPI


What Troy always seems to forget is RPI has more money, clout, and most importantly, lawyers, then the City of Troy will ever have. Every time a fight happens, RPI wins. How many times do you have to poke an 800 lb gorilla in the eye before you understand how that works.

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