City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
SARATOGA SPRINGS — City Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi presented the 2022 Preliminary Financial Report for Saratoga Springs for the Fiscal Year ended Dec. 31, 2022. The updated document was filed with the State Comptroller’s Office on April 28, 2023 and presented to the City Council on May 4.
Some of the comparable data of general fund revenues between 2022 and 2021: Sales Tax collections were $16.955 million, an increase of 13% over 2021; Hotel Room Occupancy Tax collections $743,000, an increase of 27%; Admission Tax: $451,000, up 13% over 2021.
In general fund expenses, Health Insurance costs were $7.824 million in 2022, an increase of 8% from 2021.
The unaudited numbers show an excess fund balance, but Sanghvi cautioned, “we need to be conservative in spending and look for additional revenue sources. The success of 2022 was largely due to Federal Funds, a one-time revenue source…we should be looking at building reserves, covering liabilities, investing in infrastructure and establishing stable revenue streams.”
Sanghvi said some potential future revenue streams include registration for short term rentals, and dispensaries and cannabis cafes – municipalities receive a 3% tax on cannabis sales, under New York State law.
The Finance Office is preparing the 2022 Financial Statements. Upon completion of the audit, the commissioner will publicly release the audited figures.
SARATOGA COUNTY — It is a 10-minute discussion that can save a life. And it is offered free of charge.
“The level of overdoses we’ve seen the past couple of years…
we haven’t experienced this before in my 30 years,” says Saratoga County Health & Services Committee chairman Phil Barrett. “It crosses every demographic- age, gender, economics.”
On this day, Barrett is standing in a parking lot adjacent to the county building complex in Ballston Spa. He is flanked by a multitude of county health department workers wearing bright blue windbreakers that showcase the county seal and manning similarly draped tables where walk-ins are provided a 10-minute-long, one-on-one training session about administering nasal Narcan. The overdose reversal drug (Naloxone) works on opioids such as heroin, prescription pain medications and fentanyl.
Since January Saratoga County’s Department of Health has conducted more than 30 training events and distributed more than 3,400 two-dose Narcan kits across the county.
During the sessions, participants are trained to recognize an opioid overdose and how to administer nasal Narcan. The training takes about 10 minutes and participants receive a Certificate of Completion that states they have been trained in the use of naloxone for the purpose of preventing death from an opioid overdose. They are also given a free Narcan rescue kit, which includes two doses of Narcan, a rescue breathing face shield, a certificate of training, a drug disposal system, and a mental health and substance use disorder resource guide.
“The availability of drugs has always been there, but now you have an increased availability of cheap drugs that are extremely harmful, more harmful than we’ve ever seen,” Barrett says.
Less than six months into 2023, there have been more than one dozen fatalities in Saratoga County and about 250 countywide overdoses overall. The age-range: as young as 13, as old as 73. And that’s only the ones that have been reported. Over the previous five years, approximately 250 known drug-related overdose fatalities have occurred in Saratoga County.
“Each individual that attends one of these events you can save a life with everything you learn. That’s really the goal – to get as much information and resources to people directly in our communities.”
Nationwide, more than 101,000 reported fatal overdoses occurred in the 12-month period ending in October 2022, primarily driven by synthetic opioids like illicit fentanyl, according to the FDA.
“We know this is a huge issue nationally, statewide, locally,” said Board of County Supervisors Chairman Theodore Kusnierz. “The numbers tell the tale. We’re seeing increases every year in opioid overdoses, so In Saratoga County we’ve made fighting the scourge of opioids our top priority. Now that we’ve transitioned from the COVID-19 pandemic now we can focus particularly on this issue.”
Some of the ways the county is addressing the issue includes earmarking nearly $1 million – it has received about $900,000 in opioid settlement money to date – in what Kuznierz calls a multi-prong approach” which includes the Saratoga County Health Department, the Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services, and the county Sheriff’s office in providing assistance for prevention, education, and treatment.
Specifically, the county has initiated a comprehensive, near real-time substance-use surveillance dashboard to help response efforts in combatting the opioid epidemic - at Savealifeto.day - authorized the spending of $50,000 to purchase a mass spectrometer – which rapidly detects specific substances involved in overdoses - and stages Narcan training and distribution events.
“We’ve seen the numbers and we know that they are not trending down, that’s for sure,” Kusnierz said. “I should point out that these are only reported cases. We know there are other cases that are not reported, so the numbers are even higher.”
An additional method of helping prevent drug overdoses and reducing harm involves Fentanyl test strips, or FTS. The small strips of paper can detect the presence of Fentanyl - an opioid 50-100 times more potent than heroin and morphine - in various different kinds of drugs. It is unclear whether the county has, or will have FTS, and make them available to the general public.
Narcan nasal spray was first approved by the FDA in 2015 as a prescription drug.
Currently, the State DOH provides the nasal spray to local health departments at no charge so they can provide training and free distribution of Narcan to their communities.
Six weeks ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the approval of Narcan nasal spray for over-the-counter, nonprescription, use. It is the first naloxone product approved for use without a prescription. When it does make its way onto the shelves of neighborhood stores, however, the cost of the nasal spray may get pricey. The county plans to continue to distribute the kits free of charge for as long as they have them.
For upcoming Saratoga County DOH training and distribution events, go to: www.saratogacountyny.gov/narcan.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Saratoga Community Arts Center is moving forward with a revitalization project to further provide a visually vibrant and sonically enhanced experience for creatives of all kinds in the region.
“We have set a robust plan of renovation and revitalization to bring this building and the services offered to meet the demands for top-notch arts and culture in a central hub,” said Saratoga Arts Executive Director Louise Kerr.
During the past three years, the organization engaged in talks with the Department of Public Works and the Office of the Mayor that have resulted in “friendly, and sometimes … spirited discussions,” Kerr said, with a laugh, adding that both city offices have been “incredible partners.”
In 1996, Saratoga Arts signed its first lease with the city for 320 Broadway. Located at the edge of Congress Park, the building had served as the former home of the Saratoga Springs Public Library. By 2000, the organization raised more than a half-million dollars through a capital campaign and invested in the building.
“Dee Sarno transformed the old library into an interdisciplinary arts center,” Kerr said. The funding allowed the specialization of spaces conducive to creating and presenting art across all genres.
Last year, the organization embarked on a fundraising campaign to stabilize and upgrade the entire building with an eye to energy conservation and efficiency. It would replace old redundant ineffective systems, install energy-efficient windows, and address numerous drainage and roofing issues as well as upgrade power and internal wiring systems.
“In November, when we announced that we needed to raise $2 million, Stewart’s Shops and the Dake Family Foundation immediately stepped up,” Kerr said. Earlier this month, Saratoga Arts announced it was awarded a grant totaling $766,000 from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) to help support the Saratoga Community Arts Center Revitalization.
“We’re thrilled to have received this grant from the New York Council on the Arts. It helps us get close to closing that gap in funding needed for the major structural, technological and desperately overdue rejuvenation of the community arts center,” Kerr said. “We do have a little bit of a gap still, but incredibly it’s much smaller than I anticipated it to be at this juncture. We’re looking to raise an additional $266,000. But that means that this Phase One of this project will be fully funded.”
Plans call for the reconfigure of classroom spaces at the arts center to provide indoor/outdoor access, specializing some spaces and creating flexibility in others to better serve artists of all genres and skill levels; renovating the gallery spaces to be energy efficient; upgrading the 100+ capacity black box theater to enable a flexible space for performing artists of all levels, film, music, exhibitions, artist talks and lectures.
The action plan for moving into the future includes the potential addition of an exterior patio space adjacent to Congress Park to be used for performances and classes, and the modification of interior classrooms to include a digital creative lab, print shop, rehearsal studio and a recording studio – open to all and providing musicians access to the space on a secure, 24/7 basis.
Currently, Saratoga Arts welcomes more than 30,000 visitors and appreciators of art annually. It hires local artists and teachers who engage over 500 students in all levels of arts education, and hosts over 70 exhibitions and special events allowing more than 700 artists to showcase and sell their work. As a regrant site, it also distributes over $140,000 dollars in direct funding from the New York Council on the Arts to Fulton, Montgomery, and Saratoga Counties.
In all, Saratoga Arts has brought the arts to over 1 million people through its programs and provided performing and visual artists opportunities to earn more than $3 million in art sales and performance fees.
“A round of applause to Saratoga Arts, your transformative project will ensure that our vibrant arts and cultural anchors continue to grow and thrive.” NYSCA Chair Katherine Nicholls said, in a statement. “These capital project grants are an investment from the people of New York to the people of New York and will have positive impact on our communities for many years to come. I congratulate Saratoga Arts and look forward to seeing all that will flourish from this project.”
For more information about Saratoga Arts, visit saratoga-arts.org
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A six-story mixed-use building is proposed for development atop a currently vacant lot at 53 Putnam St., opposite the Saratoga Springs Public Library.
The proposed Putnam Commons, a multi-family new construction project, is slated to feature 3,900 square feet of commercial space on the first floor and accommodate 40 apartment units on floors 2 through 6. Those units will include: 30 two-bedroom units and 10 one-bedroom units.
The total gross square footage for the project is 53,480 square feet.
According to documents filed with the city, the project will support tenant off-site parking “with 50 spaces leased in the Civic Center Parking Garage.”
The project is under consideration at this week’s Planning Board meeting.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — During its meeting on May 2, the City Council, by a 4-1 vote, approved a resolution that acknowledges “Saratoga Springs has supported and allowed racism and hate” during its history, and set the groundwork for the formation of an 11-member review panel to provide the council recommendations of what form restorative justice in the city should take.
Immediately following the vote, approximately 20 Saratoga BLM members and supporters stood and engaged in a collective chanting that disrupted the meeting and eventually caused an abrupt adjournment. The meeting would resume two days later.
May 2 marked the second time this year that a City Council meeting was shut down early.
On Feb. 7, during the Public Comment session, Saratoga BLM supporter Chandler Hickenbottom refused to “wrap up” her time at the mic after repeatedly being asked by Mayor Kim to do so. Official city meeting notes detail the activity: “chaos ensued.” Hickenbottom was later charged with disorderly conduct. Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino was the complainant in the violation charge, and the four other council members subsequently expressed disapproval of the action brought by their fellow Democrat.
The City Council’s April 4 meeting, while not concluded early, included a fracas which led to additional charges of two people. During that evening’s Public Comment session, as former Public Safety Commissioner and current city mayor candidate Chris Mathiesen referenced the Feb. 7 meeting as “mob rule,” Saratoga BLM founder Alexis Figuereo approached the mic and spoke into it. A subsequent commotion continued for several minutes. The meeting eventually resumed to conclusion.
Figuereo was subsequently charged with obstructing governmental administration - a misdemeanor, and disorderly conduct - a violation in connection with actions during the meeting. Local resident Bridgette Barr, who unfastened a thin barrier separating members of the council and the public and approached the council table while yelling at its members was similarly charged.
Asked whether charges related to the May 2 meeting might follow, Montagnino replied: “The truthful answer is: I don’t know.”
Five Saratoga County Sheriff’s department patrols were brought in at the request of the city police department and staged on Maple Avenue during the council meeting at City Hall, Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo said.
“The Saratoga Springs City Police Department requested the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Departments assistance within the city to respond to residents’ public safety needs,” Sheriff Zurlo said. “I arranged for Saratoga County Sheriff’s Deputies to be present in the city so they could quickly respond to an emergency situation should Saratoga Springs residents or visitors need assistance that evening.” The deputies were never inside of the City Hall building, Zurlo added.
Additionally, Saratoga Springs City Police officers stood in a hallway adjacent to Saratoga Music Hall where the council meeting was held. Those officers remained in the hallway and did not enter the hall where the meeting was staged. Footage from two officer body-worn camera videos were released at the direction of Commissioner Montagnino detailing what went on behind the scenes as the meeting was taking place.
Montagnino said he held conversations with his deputy commissioner and the command staff of the police department “in response to significant activity on social media that indicated an intent to bring and recruit a large number of individuals to Tuesday’s City Council meeting.”
Members of the council expressed displeasure that they had not been made aware of the presence of officers in and outside the building prior to the meeting.
Mayor Ron Kim said that no information was presented regarding any security arrangement. “The mayor’s office, under the (City) Charter is the presiding officer. We weren’t aware of anything. I literally walked up the back stairway and bumped into three riot-geared police officers,” said Kim, adding that “10 sheriffs” had also been stationed nearby.
“No one was in riot gear; you’re making things up,” Montagnino told Kim. Saratoga Springs PBA released a statement this week specifying that the mayor “made false statements” regarding officers being dressed in “full riot gear” and that “ten” Sheriff’s Deputies were also in the building to make arrests, pointing to the body worn camera videos released as showing the statements to be untrue. The statements, the PBA said, “do nothing to further positive community relations between the police and members of the public,” and alleged behavior by “some elected officials and their open hostility to the mission of the Department of Public Safety and members of the police department.”
Thursday, May 4
The postponed May 2 meeting resumed on May 4, during which Mayor Kim discussed a threat he received from a member of the public and his dissatisfaction by Commissioner Montagnino’s reactions to it.
“I sent you an email several days ago that essentially threatens me, by a person who’s sitting in this room. And the reason I’m comfortable right now…is he’s sitting here in this room, so I can see him, and I don’t have to worry about the fact that my wife is home alone,” said Kim.
The interaction carried after the meeting over into the hallways of City Hall and a verbal altercation that ensued was released by the city police department as captured by city cameras and an officer’s body cam. The video depicts city Mayor Ron Kim using vulgar language in a confrontation with Public Safety Deputy Commissioner Jason Tetu, saying that his family is being threatened and apparently displeased about how the matter was being handled.
“He hasn’t even responded to me. I don’t want special treatment, I just want treatment that any other citizen I think would get,” Kim said in an interview. “When I did talk to an officer, he said: ‘oh yeah, we know that guy.’”
“The incident resulted in the filing of an incident report with the Saratoga Springs Police Department,” according to city police, in a statement issued alongside the footage. “At the present time, there are no criminal charges pending and the investigation has been closed.”
Former city Director of Risk And Safety Marilyn Rivers filed a lawsuit on May 8 against Mayor Ron Kim and Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino claiming a discriminatory and hostile work environment, the Daily Gazette reported this week. In the lawsuit, filed in state Supreme Court in Saratoga County, Rivers claims her reputation was maligned by Kim.
Subsequent to the event, Saratoga Springs Republican Committee Chairman Mike Brandi released a statement calling on the council to act “to protect city employees and stop Kim’s abusive conduct,” and attached a FOIL response of two city emails penned by Kim – on Feb. 26, and on March 27 – with multiple usages of the f-word.
“They asked for every single email that I ever sent. So, I think that’s a pretty low percentage. I’m not excusing myself, but sometimes you see something and that’s how I react.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city is looking at securing a public-private partnership with the locally based RISE Housing and Support Services to provide a year-round, low-barrier, 24/7 interim homeless shelter at 4 Adelphi St. by June 1.
That shelter will be in addition to any other potential future shelter plans that may be decided upon this summer.
The Adelphi Street building is the venue that served as the last city winter-seasonal temporary shelter. That lease, which was $8,000 per month and involved the Shelters of Saratoga organization, expired April 30. In previous years of operation, Saratoga County as well as the State have provided some level of funding support for shelter operations.
The agreement was to be discussed at length and voted on by the council earlier this month, but the item was pulled from the table after the council deemed an RFP (Request for Proposal) for the project would first be required. That initial draft agreement stipulated the city provide funds to operate the interim shelter from the date of execution to Dec. 31, 2023, and pledged sufficient monetary resources to fully fund the operations of the facility “for the 2024 Fiscal year and such future years as required.” It is not known how that potential agreement may differ when the proposal is returned to the table.
The RFP, issued May 10, states the city seeks to obtain proposals from qualified nonprofit organizations to operate a temporary low-barrier homeless shelter within the City of Saratoga Springs. Additionally, it specifies that the city anticipates awarding a 6-month contract for the remainder of 2023 and a subsequent one 1- year contract with up to three 3 additional 1-year renewal periods.
The opening of bids received has been scheduled to take place at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 30, after which the City Council may hold a special meeting – although a special meeting has yet to be announced - to meet the June 1 deadline.
Several details, including financial, need to be worked out before the agreement is made.
“We still believe that June 1, 2023 is a realistic goal for this first-of-its-kind for the city unhoused at this location,” city Mayor Ron Kim said, adding that “this is in addition to whatever Code Blue or Shelters of Saratoga would do. This is not to replace it.”
The Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness is currently searching for a permanent site for a homeless shelter and navigation center, and is anticipated to provide its recommendations to the City Council in July.
The mayor additionally thanked Sonny and Julie Bonacio “for stepping forward as generous benefactors to make this 24/7 shelter a possibility for our community.”
RISE Healthy Housing and Support Services (“RISE”) is a nonprofit organization, which has worked to prevent homelessness for the past 45 years and has provided assistance to homeless individuals in Saratoga County since 2017.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The mayor sat at the center of the table flanked by four council members and under the gaze of several dozen faces inside of the Saratoga Music Hall.
The proposal on the table: a resolution to create an 11-member “restorative justice” review panel, and an acknowledgement. “Saratoga Springs has supported and allowed racism and hate in areas of housing, employment, law enforcement and other areas of formal and informal life during its history,” it read.
Among the attendees inside the hall: past council members, potential future council members (those on the ballot in November’s election), nearly two dozen Saratoga BLM supporters, local citizens, various onlookers, and assorted stakeholders in the night’s other scheduled agenda items - who would ultimately have to wait two days for the meeting to resume.
As the resolution was read, the public safety deputy commissioner relocated his position from table-side to the back of the hall with the intent to exit the room in protest should the council approve the proposal. The Saratoga Springs PBA had earlier released a statement taking issue with the resolution’s stating of “law enforcement” as one entity that, during its history, “has supported and allowed racism and hate.”
A handful of officers stood in the back hall and out of public view. “Present in the event their presence was needed,” the public safety commissioner later confirmed.
The mayor read the resolution, paused for a beat, and looked across both sides of the council table.
“Any discussion?” he asked.
Where We are, How We Got Here
A variety of newspaper clippings dating back more than a century and displaying racist and often vulgar language when referring to local black residents are preserved as part of the historical record in the Saratoga Room of the Saratoga Springs Public Library.
Among the materials is a list of slave owners in early 19th century Saratoga County that details the names of the slave “owners” and the number of slaves they “owned.”
More recent newspaper clips report about white supremacist flyers found on car windshields one day in 2017, and an assortment of fliers that depict the crude illustrations and racist language.
There is also material related to Urban Renewal.
“The greatest concentration of black-owned businesses in Saratoga Springs was found on Congress Street. An assortment of nightclubs, gambling houses, restaurants, bars, barber shops, brothels, and beauty salons,” writes Myra B. Armstrong. “The street was completely renovated by the Urban Renewal Program.”
The Urban Renewal Program began around 1960 and by 1980 resulted in the relocation of 96 households consisting of 228 people on the city’s West Side. Nearly two-thirds of the households were black.
During the council discussion immediately prior to the resolution vote, city Mayor Ron Kim addressed the members of the audience who, just as Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino began expressing opposition to the resolution, collectively engaged in a loud coughing fit.
“Commissioner Montagnino wants to say that I’m not in control of this meeting,” Mayor Kim said. “I’m going to ask you to be quiet for this debate - because he basically wants to charge this room,” he added, gesturing to a doorway off stage right that leads to a blind stairwell. “They’re right outside,” Kim said. “Please. Let him speak.”
Montagnino continued and the room quieted; when the commissioner raised speculation about the cause of a fallen statue in Congress Park three years ago, voices in the audience again grew elevated. The statue, dedicated to a local regiment of the Civil War, mysteriously toppled in the middle of the night. Despite an investigation, the cause of the statue’s toppling remains unknown.
“That statue sat peacefully in Congress Park for a century-and-a-half until it was toppled in July 2020. I suspect there are people in this room who know who did it,” Montagnino said. The voices grew louder.
“The remarks made by Commissioner Montagnino - you’re playing into his hands. He is essentially inciting you,” said Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran, who would vote in favor of the proposal. The resolution, Moran said, was aimed at reconciliation and moving forward with dignity and respect. “That’s what this motion is about, Jim.”
Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi, who similarly voted in favor of the resolution, agreed. “Housing discrimination, employment discrimination are all realities that have existed. Not just for Black people but also for various immigrant communities,” she said. “For restorative justice to work, we have to first acknowledge the truth. And the truth is that racism, discrimination and bias exists in this country, in this state, and this city. And for this reason, I voted for a restorative justice resolution brought forth by Mayor Ron Kim.”
Over Montagnino’s protests that he be allowed to continue speaking, the mayor called for a vote. The council approved the measure 4-1, with Montagnino casting the one vote against.
Many in the crowd rose to their feet and began chanting. With an eye toward this November’s elections, they chanted “Hit The Road Jim.” Referencing earlier charges brought against two Saratoga BLM supporters related to actions during previous council meetings, there were calls to “Drop The Charges.”
Montagnino was the complainant in a disorderly conduct charge against Chandler Hickenbottom regarding a Feb. 7 council meeting, and a witness in disorderly conduct and obstructing governmental administration charges against Saratoga BLM founder Alexis Figuereo, and against Bridgette Barr regarding to an April 24 council meetings.
Queried about whether he may consider dropping those charges, Montagnino said only a court can dismiss a charge and a prosecutor can move to withdraw a charge, while witnesses and complainants do not have that authority. “With or without that authority, I have no intention other than to cooperate with the two special prosecutors who have been appointed to see that the cases are prosecuted to disposition,” he said during a sit-down interview on Wednesday, one day after the council meeting.
Might any new charges be forthcoming related to Tuesday night’s meeting, which came to an abrupt halt.
“The truthful answer is: I don’t know,” he said.
Montagnino denied intentionally attempting to provoke a reaction from Saratoga BLM supporters during the meeting when speculating about the toppled Saratoga Regiment Civil War statue. The statue is dedicated to The 77th Regiment, which was organized in Saratoga Springs and mustered into service in 1861 to fight against the Confederacy. “No. It wasn’t done to provoke emotion,” Montagnino said. “It was done to make a point, and my point is this: BLM is not looking for justice, reform, accommodation, a seat at the table. No. They want chaos.”
Tuesday’s approved resolution asks all five council members and both supervisors to each appoint one member to a “Restorative Justice Panel” by May 31. That panel – to which the mayor will appoint co-chairs, is then charged with inviting community input in a dialogue to define what form Saratoga Springs Restorative Justice Program would take. Their recommendations will subsequently be presented to the City Council by Dec. 19.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Former Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen officially announced his campaign for mayor of Saratoga Springs on April 26.
Mathiesen will be on the Democratic Primary ballot June 27, challenging incumbent Mayor Ron Kim for the Democratic nomination. The general election for all five city council seats – one mayor and four commissioners – as well as for two city Supervisor slots will take place in November.
Current Mayor Kim and mayoral challenger Mathiesen each also previously served on the City Council as commissioners of Public Safety.
Mathiesen said he and Kim have shared support for each another in the past but added that he has disagreed with a variety of actions Kim has taken since being elected mayor. Specifically, Mathiesen criticized what he called Kim’s support of “ill-conceived policies” as they related to city personnel - “a lot of my concerns are based on Mayor Kim’s support of Commissioner Montagnino’ s efforts in the Public Safety (department),” Mathiesen said – and expressed that the current mayor has allowed “mob rule to prevail” during recent council meetings.
“Instead of having a police department that’s run by law enforcement agencies, we seem to have a police department that’s run by civilians, and that should never be the case,” said Mathiesen, specifically citing the elimination of the assistant city police chief position, and a press conference led by Montagnino and Kim shortly following last November’s downtown shooting incident.
Regarding recent interruptions of City Council meetings by the public which haveincluded members of Saratoga Black Lives Matter, Mathiesen said, “I would have had police come in and remove people who disrupted the meeting,” and added: “I would like to speak to (members of) Black Lives Matter. I think we need to open the dialogue. I think the citizens in Saratoga Springs have learned a lot from the Black Lives Matter people and listened to their concerns. But I think also that Black Lives Matter need to be open to concerns that other citizens in Saratoga Springs have about a lot of other issues that have been brought up because of their activities.”
The city is currently exploring possibilities for a future location of a homeless shelter and evaluating whether that would take the form of a permanent venue vs. a temporary one, a 24/7 shelter or a space to be used only during the cold winter season, and whether it should allow entry to those who need it on a low-barrier status.
“It’s very important people are treated humanely,” said Mathiesen, adding he supports ensuring there is a buffer between any proposed location siting and schools.
“You need to have adequate funding, adequate support, you need to have professionals in that facility dealing with it. It’s a very, very complicated issue,” he said. “It would depend upon how much federal support there was, how much county support there was. This is a countywide and a statewide and a nationwide problem. And the people who have gravitated to Saratoga Springs go far beyond the borders of the city. Most of them are not Saratogians, so I think we really need to look at what kind of support we would be getting from other levels of government,” Mathiesen said. “Are there other alternatives to having one central low-barrier shelter? I think there are better solutions than that frankly.”
Mathiesen’s announcement was staged in front of the Canfield Casino and included three dozen supporters - former council members Robin Dalton, Michele Madigan – who is running for City Supervisor, and former deputy commissioner Eileen Finneran among them.
“For me, the biggest issue is trying to bring some normalcy and some decorum back to city government,” Mathiesen said. “I will bring back normalcy. I will show respect for the many city employees who make our city government work so well and I will reach out to all facets of our community on a regular basis…everyone will know they are being heard.”
The Primary Election will take place June 27. City Republicans have endorsed John Safford for Mayor. The General Election will take place Nov. 7.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Approximately 17 regional agencies and 400 people took part in a simulated training exercise focusing on a mass casualty response on April 30 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
The training focused on coordination and emergency response during several simulated scenarios that envisioned an incident involving a large number of injuries at the venue during a concert.
“We’re doing this to make sure we are as safe as we can be for the patrons of the park and for concertgoers,” Jeffrey Santor, sergeant with the NYS Park Police and division emergency manager said during the Sunday morning exercise.
The exercise involved personnel from Park Police, New York State Police, Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office, Saratoga Springs City Police and Fire Departments, local EMS Agencies as well as operations staff from Saratoga Spa State Park, Live Nation and SPAC. Saratoga Hospital, Albany Medical Center and their regional partners concurrently staged an exercise to measure how the simulated event would affect their emergency plans.
Planning for the exercise began last July. Public volunteers played the role of concert-goers.
“It was a lot of work to get us to the point to where we’re at today. “We have done some stuff with the Saratoga Springs PD here before, (but) this is the first one in a number of years with multiple agencies all working together,” Santor said.
“It was a very successful exercise and hopefully we gained some knowledge to help keep everybody safe in future events at SPAC.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Three men accused of being involved in a downtown incident last fall with a sheriff’s deputy made their first public appearance in court on April 25.
The three men - Alexander Colon, 28, Darius A. Wright, 29, and Christopher (AKA Christian) E. Castillo, 28 were each charged with one count attempted assault in the third-degree, a misdemeanor, in connection with the incident. According to the prosecutor’s filings, the charge specifies each of the defendants “attempted to cause an injury to a person by repeatedly punching him.”
Each of the men pleaded not guilty and were released on their own recognizance under the condition that they remain free of future arrest and do not miss any upcoming court dates. All three are currently slated to return to city court June 6.
The Nov. 20 incident allegedly involved an altercation with off-duty sheriff’s deputy Vito Caselnova of Glens Falls and took place in the Caroline Street-Broadway area, with a subsequent police response that resulted in about 20 bullets raining down on Broadway overall in the pre-dawn hours.
The three men who appeared at Saratoga Springs City Court this week are believed to be from the Utica area according to initial reports, although court documents specify only one of the men being from Utica, with addresses unspecified regarding the two other men, according to court documents.
Caselnova was arraigned last month in Saratoga County Court and is facing eight charges, including attempted murder. An order of protection was also issued that advises Caselnova not have any contact, directly or indirectly, with Alexander Colon. Caselnova pleaded not guilty to all charges and is due back in county court May 2.
This week in city court, a request for an order of protection - advising the men to not have any contact with Caselnova - was denied by city court Judge Jeffrey Wait.
Colon, dressed in a brown suit and tie, was represented by Utica based attorney Anthony Lafache. Wright and Castillo were represented by public defender Andrew Blumenberg. Lafache did not respond to a request for comment.
According to statements by Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino shortly after the Nov. 20 incident occurred, an altercation allegedly involving Caselnova - who was off-duty at the time - and “a group of individuals from the Utica area” was initiated on or around a Caroline Street bar before accelerating west and onto Broadway with approximately eight shots being fired. Five months after the incident occurred, specific details regarding the altercation still remain unclear.
City police officers subsequently responding to the incident fired approximately 11 shots after the off-duty deputy allegedly ignored calls to drop his weapon. The incident marked the first discharge of a weapon in the line of duty by a Saratoga Springs officer in more than a quarter-century. A Grand Jury found responding city police officers acted “appropriately and justifiably” for their part, according to a statement issued by PBA President Paul Veitch.
Caselnova suffered a number of wounds as a result of the incident and a woman believed to be his girlfriend was “nicked by one of the bullets in her upper arm,” Montagnino said. The woman, Glens Falls resident Cali Brown, reportedly filed the notice of claim against the city and police department signifying her intent to sue.