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SARATOGA SPRINGS – At the City Council Meeting on Tuesday, May 3, Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan presented her preliminary year-end report for fiscal year 2015. A summary of the highlights of this report appears on page 19.
Mayor Joanne Yepsen announced her five appointments to the Saratoga Race Course Local Advisory Board. This panel, designed to facilitate good communication between the local community and the NYRA Board has 15 members - five each are appointed by NYRA, The Chairperson of the County Board of Supervisors and the Mayor’s office. The Mayor’s appointments were John Carusone, Dr. William Wilmot, Skip Carlson, Michelle Primacello, and Cindy Hollowood.
The City unanimously approved a resolution entitled ‘Authorization for Mayor to execute Settlement Agreement and Mutual Releases regarding The Anderson Group v. the City of Saratoga Springs,’ which sets in motion closure regarding a piece of long-standing litigation against the City. During the discussion and vote, no particular amount was mentioned, although later in the evening, during the Finance Department’s agenda item called ‘Budget Amendment-Legal Liability’, Commissioner of Finance Madigan noted that the amount was $750,000, which would come from the City’s unrestricted, unassigned fund. This budget amendment also passed unanimously.
In the original case, on July 2, 2010, a verdict of $1 million was awarded to the Anderson Group in US District Court, finding that zoning policies used by the City of Saratoga Springs had a discriminatory impact on African Americans and families with children. The Anderson Group, an Albany, New York builder, sought to construct a mixed-income housing development, called Spring Run Village, a development with 50 to 60 affordable units, on property they own outside the downtown area. The jury found the City had rejected the Anderson's application and rezoned the site from a classification where high-density residential and commercial uses were “preferred” and “encouraged” to a classification where such a development was prohibited.
A wide-ranging, 40-minute discussion on the subject of ‘Citizens' Complaints About Aggressive Panhandling’ took place, with Shelters of Saratoga Executive Director Michael A. Finocchi at the guest microphone for much of it. At the outset, a major distinction was made between homelessness and aggressive panhandling. For instance, it was noted that many panhandler’s are from out of town, may even work in shifts, and conduct their activities like a business – in other words, this may be the ‘occupation’ they have chosen. Homeless people are in need of a wide variety of services, but in most cases are looking for the means to better their situation. Finocchi also pointed out that the city currently has no drop-in daytime shelter or 24/7 mission, as is the case in many cities that are coping with this problem A key point, raised often, is that the best way to stop panhandling of any kind is to stop giving people money. During his agenda, Commissioner of Public Safety Chris Mathiesen announced that a Public Safety forum will take place on Thursday, May 19 at 7 p.m. in the City Council room, and that forum will cover the topic of vagrancy and related issues. Rebecca Davis will soon have a follow-up article to her April 29 cover story on this subject, in which this discussion, the legal perspective, and the thoughts of local business owners and community members will be examined in greater depth.
New: Free shuttle between Downtown and Fish Creek
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A two-day spectacle celebrating the sport of rowing, featuring over 2,100 entrants, and representing over 200 organizations from all over the Eastern United States and Canada, is coming to town this weekend. The shores of Fish Creek will be lined with spectators for the 29th Annual Head of the Fish Regatta on Saturday and Sunday, October 31 and November 1. Given good weather, the races will be viewed by an estimated 10-12,000 people over those two days.
This is the largest of three major regattas hosted annually by the Saratoga Rowing Association (SRA) and has grown steadily over the years in every category imaginable. This year, with five weekends in October, the Head of the Fish has been moved back one week, and now will not conflict with the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta (another major regatta in the Philadelphia, PA area) as it has in previous years. While that may explain part of the increase in participation, SRA’s Regatta Director Chris Chase believes a general advance in the popularity of rowing is the key to the Head of the Fish’s growth.
“The highest concentration of junior (middle and high school) rowers is right here between Albany and Saratoga,” Chase noted, “at SRA, the number of participants is up to 205 from 175 last year, and this is something we are seeing with many other teams in the region.” The impact extends beyond the region, as evidenced by the fact that, year after year, regatta weekends generate the highest hotel/motel occupancy of any weekend outside of the “traditional” summer tourist season.
As one might expect, moving all these rowers, buses, cars and fans in and out of the area around the Lee’s Park boat launch area always presents unique challenges. Chase noted, “The actual racing is the easiest part of the whole regatta. We’re very glad that we are able to put this on for the kids and the participants each year, but with a regatta of this size, it’s always the logistics that take up most of our time and effort.” Indeed, Katherine Smith, President of SRA’s Board of Directors also has the key role of managing the volunteer staff, whose ranks also grow each year. “This year, we’ll have the assistance of about 210 volunteers, not including the EMS and Sheriff’s department, which always does a great job on our behalf. We estimate that over 1,800 volunteer hours will be logged during the weekend.”
In an effort to both alleviate traffic pressure around Fish Creek and enhance the overall fan experience, SRA has combined with the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau (SCTB) to offer continuous shuttle buses on both days between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Two free shuttle buses, underwritten by SCTB, will make stops at Saratoga Lake and Downtown Saratoga Springs. The two stops will be in front of the state boat launch next to the site of SRA’s future headquarters, and at the Saratoga Springs Visitor Center on Broadway.
Announcing the new shuttle, Todd Garofano, President of SCTB said, “It really is a win-win. Parents and fans here to watch their athletes compete often have long periods of time in between races and search for things to do. They can take advantage of the shuttle now to come downtown to shop, dine or stroll. And for those folks here visiting that are interested in watching an amazing free event, they can take the shuttle to the regatta site and not worry about finding a place to park.”
Smith echoed those thoughts, “The shuttle service will provide an efficient way for visitors to experience a little more of Saratoga and I also really hope local families will use the shuttle as an opportunity to come see what a regatta is all about. First timers are always amazed at the size, the excitement and the camaraderie at Saratoga Regattas and this fascinating sport!”
Also, SRA will be drawing the winning ticket for its raffle of a 2015 Audi A3 convertible, or $30,000 in cash, at the regatta on Sunday at 1 p.m. The proceeds from this raffle will be used to support SRA’s Capital Campaign, which includes the construction of a new Regatta Headquarters and Training Facility, which is now underway and scheduled to be completed next spring (see Saratoga TODAY - September 25, 2015). Raffle tickets may be purchased at SRA’s Headquarters, or during regatta weekend up until the drawing on Sunday.
At press time, the weather forecast is calling for moderate winds, highs in the 50s and next to no chance for rain. In other words -ideal viewing conditions should be in effect. Saturday’s schedule will begin at 8 a.m. and the day’s racing will showcase the Masters (adult), Collegiate, and Open Divisions, as well as some Junior single’s events. Sunday’s races begin at 7:30 a.m. (Note: This takes into account Daylight Savings Time – set your clocks back!), and are dedicated to Juniors in different divisions, in boats with varying numbers of rowers from two to eight.
Whenever you decide to go, by all means make it a point to put this one on your calendar. The Head of the Fish Regatta is always a highlight of the fall, and yet another example of a world-class event that occurs in our region.
For more information, visit SaratogaRowing.com
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The 16th annual Saratoga Invitations is set to host upwards of 1200 teams from the Northeast this Friday, April 26 to Sunday, April 28. After about 900 entries in 2012, the Invitational has continued to see growth, as it becomes more and more renowned as one of the fastest regattas available for competition.