City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The NY 77th Infantry Regiment monument was re-installed on its base in Congress Park this week. The base had been vacant since the summer of 2020, when the city says the statue was vandalized.
The 77th Infantry Regiment was mustered in on Nov. 23,1861, and mustered out June 27, 1865, according to the state Military Museum and Veterans Research Center. The companies were principally recruited at Ballston, Saratoga and Wilton.
The piece required significant repairs to the zinc statue, according to a statement issued by the Saratoga Springs Department of Public Works, which coordinated its re-installation.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A truck accidentally crashed into Loughberry Lake last weekend, temporarily shutting down the water treatment plant at Loughberry Lake, which is the main water supply for the city of Saratoga Springs.
The incident occurred at approximately 4 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 14. Oil from the vehicle was contained to the northeast portion of the lake approximately a mile from the intake system and did not pose a problem for the water treatment plant, according to a statement issued by the Saratoga Springs Department of Public Works. After the truck was removed and oil contained, the water plant was restarted at 9 a.m. Sunday.
The New York State Department of Health was notified of the situation and the N.Y. Department of Environmental Conservation called in an environmental cleanup crew which deployed booms into the lake to contain any oil that had escaped from the truck.
The Greenfield Fire Department, New York State Police, New York State, and the Saratoga Springs Department of Public Works (DPW) responded to the crash.
The driver of the vehicle was unharmed. It is not known if the driver was ticketed. Residents can contact the water treatment plant operators at 518-584-1848 with any questions or concerns.
BALLSTON SPA — The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors held their monthly meeting Sept. 21. The in-person meeting was attended by approximately 50 people. The Board addressed the following issues:
Cost-of Living Increases Approved for Some County Officials
• The board approved a local law amending the 2021 county compensation schedule to provide a cost-of-living increase for certain county officials. Effective Jan. 1, 2021, the measure calls for the compensation for the following county officials to be increased to the following levels:
Elected Officials - Susan Hayes-Masa, County Coroner $31,182; David DeCelle, Coroner $31,182; Michael Zurlo, Sheriff $139,601; Craig Hayner, County Clerk $120,848; Andrew Jarosh, County Treasurer $120,848.
Appointed Officials; Christopher Schall, County Auditor $ 89,598; Andrew Blumenberg, Public Defender $135,095; Margaret McNamara, Director of Human Resources $135,182; Anna Stanko, Director of Real Property $ 89,209; Tina Potter, Commissioner of Social Services $141,918
Saratoga Springs Supervisor Tara Gaston cast the lone vote against. “I’m not opposed to the increases. I just would have don’t think that now is the time,” Gaston said. “There are a number of financial issues with regard to COVID that do impact the staff at the county that I would like to see handled prior to that – but again, it’s nothing against the staff here, I fully support them.”
Positions Created for COVID Testing in Schools
• Earlier this year, the board accepted a $3.98 million Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity Reopening Schools Grant. The funds are targeted to assist with establishing COVID-19 screening and testing programs for students, teachers and staff to support and maintain safe, in-person instructions for schools.
As such, the board approved the creation of temporary positions of COVID-19 School Epidemiology Officers - as needed at the discretion of the Commissioner of Health - at the base salary of $40/hr.; as well as the temporary creation of positions of COVID-19 School Testing Site Supervisors (base salary of $25/hour); and COVID-19 School Testing Site Coordinators (base salary of
The Impact of COVID on the County Court System
• Due to the impact COVID-19 had on the Court system in 2020, many cases could not proceed through the system to conclusion, creating a backlog of cases which are now being disposed of in 2021, the board reported. The backlog has caused an increase in assigned counsel attorney invoices. To this purpose, the board approved a transfer of $160,000 from its Fund Balance to the Human Resources Department to pay for additional assigned counsel attorney services.
October Proclaimed Domestic Violence Awareness Month
• The Board proclaimed October 2021 as “Domestic Violence Awareness Month” In Saratoga County. The resolution cited “the horror of domestic violence (that) continues to plague our society.” In addition to resulting physical and emotional damage inflicted, the national financial ramification of domestic violence is $8.3 billion in expenses annually. The following statistics were also cited:
- 30% to 60% of families where adult domestic violence is present, child abuse is also present;
- Despite underreporting, domestic violence calls make up more than half of all calls to the police;
- More than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced rape, severe physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner;
- The NYS Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline received 8,584 calls last year.
The proclamation reports heightened public awareness is an effective tool and urges all citizens to support and participate in ongoing programs designed for the reduction and eventual elimination of domestic violence. The help hotline, which operates 24-7/365 is 1-800-942-6906.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Saratoga Springs City Council met Tuesday night, Sept. 21 to discuss a variety of issues. The meeting included four council members. City Mayor Meg Kelly was unable to attend the meeting due to a personal issue, said Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan, who ran this week’s meeting.
City Seeks Public Input Regarding Upcoming Cannabis Deadline
• Cities in New York have until Dec. 31 to opt-out of potentially siting dispensaries, and/or on-site consumption facilities as it relates to a local cannabis industry in their respective communities.
Correlated to alcohol, Dispensaries are akin to a liquor store, while On-Site Consumption is more akin to a bar, explained city Attorney Vince DeLeonardis.
To opt out, a Local Law would need to be adopted and public hearings held in advance of a Local Law, so any move to opt-out would need to be conducted sooner rather than later. Municipalities must opt out to not be a part of the measure moving forward. If interested in permitting marijuana retailers or social consumption sites, the city need not do anything.
Financial ramifications: a 4% local tax is to be imposed if the city allows the measure to move forward –3% would come to the city of Saratoga Springs, and 1% would go to the county, DeLeonardis said.
Next Move on Civilian Review Board is Up To City Council
Jason Golub, a member of an independent city advisory committee tasked with studying police reform, provided an update regarding the formation of a potential city Civilian Review Board.
“I think there is plenty of evidence that a Civilian Review Board will add value to our community. I think it protects civilians, I think it protects police, I think it adds transparency and accountability,” Golub told the council Sept. 21.
Golub had previously served as co-chair of the city’s ad hoc Police Reform Task Force – which had recommended the implementation of a CRB as part of a 50-point plan evaluated by the council earlier this year. The council voted to accept a police reform plan shortly before the state-mandated April 1 deadline, although a handful of the 50 items were removed because the city did not have the authority to implement them, or because they required further evaluation, city attorney Vince DeLeonardis said at that time.
This week, Golub pointed to specific points as being critical to forming a successful board. Those points included securing the support and involvement of police and political leaders, ensuring the board is comprised of credible and impartial members, and setting appropriate funding that would secure budgetary needs over multiple years, as opposed to year-by-year where they may be subject to ever-changing political winds.
Golub also provided a framework for a timeline. He suggested six months be spent in preparation and in advance of hearing any potential cases, as well as using that time to ensure that funding is in place, and setting two years for a pilot program. “To me that would be the next logical step from where we are today.”
Absent of future City Council direction, Golub indicated last Tuesday’s presentation would serve as a final update. The City Council will now need to determine if taking steps to form a CRB is something it wants to move on. The council is scheduled to next meet on Tuesday, Oct. 5.
Council Looks to Future Saratoga Springs as a Bike-Friendly City
• The council unanimously voiced its support for a resolution from the Saratoga Safe Cycling Coalition and presented by Bikeatoga that calls for the city’s continued budgetary funding of future bike lane signage and striping projects.
“As we pass this resolution I want to make the council aware that we want to work with (the department of) Public Safety, Traffic, Complete Streets, and Bikeatoga to come up with some good projects to connect our community with good bike lanes,” said Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan. Madigan reported there is currently $233,000 available to spend on an “upcoming good, overall Complete Streets project” as well as $100,000 in the mayor’s Capital Budget passed during last month’s council meeting - “so, we’re already looking at $333,000 - which is a fair amount of money to start looking at an engineering plan and scoping out some good bike lines internally for the city.”
City Supervisor Matt Veitch additionally noted there have been multiple talks regarding bike route systems at the County level. “We’ve come up with a proposal to present to the county for bike routes that would be sign-bicycle-routes on county roads connecting various communities,” Veitch said. “There will be at least one road in every single community designated as a bike route, and a few local roads as well that we’re going to hopefully get some of the towns to sign off on and make connections to county roads.” Veitch said the goal is to bring the measure to the county Board of Supervisors for approval in October.
Next Steps for UDO - Public Hearings in October, Vote in November
• A presentation was staged Sept. 21 regarding the proposed city Unified Development Ordinance, or UDO – a tool which aims to streamline the review and approval process as it relates to zoning and subdivision regulations. Public Hearings regarding the UDO, which may be reviewed on the city’s website, are slated to take place during the next two scheduled council meetings Oct. 5 and Oct. 19, with a potential vote to adopt on Nov. 16.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Four people were charged Tuesday night in connection with protest-related activities that occurred in July, and a fifth person is facing multiple misdemeanor charges following an alleged altercation with an officer, according to a statement released by Saratoga Springs Police Department Wednesday afternoon.
A July 14 protest that started in Congress Park spilled into the streets and interfered with traffic, resulting in motorists stuck inside their vehicles, police said, in a statement. “This included one motorist who suffered from a heart condition, which was openly shared with protestors blocking his vehicle in. After learning of these added details regarding this protest, Chief (Shane) Crooks ordered that an investigation be conducted and that those identified be charged and held accountable, where appropriate.”
Subsequent to the investigation, arrest warrants were obtained on Aug. 31, and arrests made Sept. 7. They include: Samira K. Sangare, 23, of Halfmoon, Chandler M. Hickenbottom, 25, of Ballston Spa, and Molly B. Dunn, 44, of Saratoga Springs, each charged with disorderly conduct: obstructing traffic, a violation. Dunn was additionally charged with unlawful imprisonment in the second-degree, a misdemeanor.
Alexis A. Figuereo, 34, of Saratoga Springs, was charged with disorderly conduct violation, and two misdemeanor counts of obstructing governmental administration - the latter charges in connection with Figuereo’s alleged disruption of Saratoga Springs City Council meetings on July 6 and July 20, according to police.
Police said the charges from July 14 allege “the protestors not only obstructed traffic, but by doing so they prohibited the movements of those on Broadway by Phila Street for many minutes. One of these people was the individual with the medical condition noted above.”
According to court documents, a voluntary witness whose name was redacted in court records provided police with a statement dated Aug. 12 that read, in part, that the July 14 protest resulted in halting vehicle traffic. “They had the traffic stopped for about 15 minutes before they let the cars go. At one point while I was stopped, one of the protesters thanked me for waiting…I have never been in a situation like that. I was surprised it was happening in Saratoga.”
Gabrielle C. Elliot, 27, of Ballston Spa, was charged Sept. 7 with attempted assault, resisting arrest, and endangering the welfare of a child. All three charges are misdemeanors.
While officers were affecting warrant arrests Tuesday night, Elliot is accused of throwing and striking a uniformed officer with a full water bottle who was involved in the arrests. When informed she was under arrest, Elliot refused to comply and pulled away from officers, according to police, and grabbed on to the stroller where her small child was seated until she was taken into custody. Police said “the child was fine and sent with another family member at the scene.”
“The Saratoga Springs Police Department recognizes the right to peacefully and lawfully protest but many of the acts committed on July 14 are not only unlawful acts, but they placed the protestors and the public in harm’s way,” Chief Crooks said, in a statement.
The investigation of the events of July 14 is ongoing and additional arrests are likely. Police ask anyone with information regarding unlawful acts committed during the protest contact them at: 518-584-1800 or 518-584-TIPS.
The Saratoga Springs Police Department was assisted by the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office and the New York State Police.
GREENFIELD - A 33-year-old man suspected of attempting to steal one car before successfully stealing a second and then a third, led police on an early morning chase through Greenfield, where he crashed into a tree and required extrication from the vehicle before being airlifted to Albany Medical Center. The incident also included a Trooper discharging their firearm.
According to the county Sheriff’s Department, the sheriff’s office and State Police responded to a burglary call on Allen Road in Greenfield at 6:19 a.m. The caller told authorities that someone whom he did not know broke into his residence, assaulted him with a weapon and attempted to steal his vehicle.
Unsuccessful in his attempt to take the first vehicle, the suspect moved on to a neighboring residence from where stole a vehicle and fled. With Sheriff’s patrols in pursuit, the driver subsequently stole a second vehicle on Locust Grove Road by blocking its path of travel and taking the vehicle from its operator at knifepoint, according to police.
After disregarding the command of a state Police Trooper who had exited his patrol car, the suspect attempted to continue northbound on Locust Grove Road, allegedly “driving at the Trooper.” The Trooper discharged their firearm, but did not hit the suspect, according to authorities. The suspect fled north on Locust Grove Road and crashed into a tree near Greene Road. Following an extended extrication process, he was airlifted to Albany Medical Center.
Police identified the suspect as 33-year-old Jeffrey A. Field of Round Top, N.Y. - a hamlet in Greene County about 9 miles northwest of Catskill.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - City police have made an arrest in connection with an overnight incident during which a 38-year-old man was slashed on the arm.
The incident is believed to have occured shortly after 2 a.m. on Caroline Street between Pavilion Row and Henry Street where a fight had taken place between two men, police said.The assailant had left the scene prior to officers arriving. A person of interest was quickly identified.
Chalmers D. Davis, 43, of Saratoga Springs was charged with felony assault, and with criminal possession of a weapon - which rises to a felony based on a previous conviction.
Police said their investigation shows the incident started as a verbal argument between the two men and escalated into a physical confrontation during which Davis is accused of using a knife.
The victim, whose name was not released, suffered a significant laceration to his left arm and was transported to Albany Medical Center. His injury is not considered life threatening.
Davis was arraigned in City Court and sent to Saratoga County jail without bail. Additional charges are possible, city police said.
BALLSTON SPA – The Capital Region in general, and Saratoga County especially, has seen an upswing of COVID infection rates over the past few weeks.
On July 29, Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Chairman Todd Kusnierz announced the formation of the Saratoga Health and Readiness Planning (SHARP) Task Force, which was tasked to analyze guidance issued by state Department of Health and the CDC, and make recommendations for the community.
“We had a meeting with senior staff here at the county (on Aug. 2) and we expect to have a full Task Force meeting – we’re shooting for the end of this week - and hold a public event to update our county residents,” Kusnierz said this week.
“The county is strongly recommending our residents follow CDC guidelines. However, the county is not going to do mandatory requirements for masks. At the end of the day the most effective way to protect yourself, your loved ones, the people you interact with, is to get vaccinated - so we are strongly encouraging anyone who has not been vaccinated to do so. “
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tagged Saratoga County as having a “substantial” level of transmission and as such recommends the wearing of masks indoors, whether or not a person has been vaccinated. According to Saratoga County data this week, the fully vaccinated population accounts for 1.5% of overall county infections to date. Of the 168 deaths in the county, all were unvaccinated.
Approximately two-thirds of the county’s population – just over 150,000 of the approximately 230,000 Saratoga residents – have received at least one vaccine dose. According to the state’s Vaccination Zip Code Tracker - Saratoga Springs, Ballston Spa, Clifton Park are each above the 70% threshold for vaccination rates, while Victory Mills (46.7%), Porter Corners (48%), and Corinth (52.5%) are the three municipalities with the lowest vaccinated zip codes, according to the state.
SHARP Task Force members include: Chairman Todd Kusnierz; Clifton Park Supervisor Jonathan Schopf, Vice Chairman of the Board; Malta Town Supervisor Darren O’Connor, Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee; County Administrator Steve Bulger; Dr. Dan Kuhles, Commissioner of the Saratoga County Department of Public Health Services; Scot Chamberlain, Saratoga County Director of Human Resources; Pete Bardunias, Senior Vice President of Community Advancement with the Capital Region Chamber; and Anita Murphy, Capital Region BOCES District Superintendent.
The city announced Aug. 3 it has begun appointing members to the COVID-19 Memorial Committee. The group will be tasked with creating the language and placement of a memorial for those who have lost their lives to the pandemic. Among the members are: Charlie Samuels, Tara Gaston, Susanna Combs, and Dr. Robert Donnarumma, chair of Emergency Medicine at Saratoga Hospital.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Statements from local political leaders were swift in response to the report of the Attorney General’s investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“As we have said before, the reported actions of the Governor were profoundly disturbing, inappropriate and completely unacceptable. Today’s report from the New York State Attorney General substantiated and corroborated the allegations of the brave women who came forward to share their stories -- and we commend the women for doing so.
“The New York State Attorney General has conducted an independent, thorough and professional investigation that found the Governor violated state and federal law, had a pattern of sexually harassing current and former employees, retaliated against at least one of the accusers and created a hostile work environment. No elected official is above the law. The people of New York deserve better leadership in the governor’s office. We continue to believe that the Governor should resign.” - Democrat U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, in a joint statement.
“The just-released comprehensive, thorough, and independent report from New York State Attorney General Letitia James into the Governor’s disturbing pattern of sexual harassment, and workplace intimidation while breaking state and federal laws leads to one inescapable conclusion – one that I reached months ago: Cuomo must resign, now! As detailed in the Attorney General’s findings and a five-month-long investigation, Cuomo is a serial sexual harasser that has brought disgrace upon his office and stained our state. For the good of New York, Cuomo must go. He must immediately resign or face bipartisan impeachment during a Special Session of the state Legislature.” – Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon.
“This is truly a disappointing day for all New Yorkers but an important one to begin to provide some closure for all the women who were victims of this Governor’s actions. The New York State Attorney General’s disturbing report confirms what I’ve been saying for months, that Andrew Cuomo must be impeached and removed from office immediately. Enough is enough!” – Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville.
“No one is above the law and today justice must be served. Governor Cuomo must resign and be arrested immediately…President Joe Biden must immediately call for Cuomo’s resignation. In December, I was the first federal official to publicly call for an independent investigation into Governor Cuomo’s sexual harassment, abuse, and assault. The independent investigation led by the Attorney General's office confirms Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed and assaulted multiple women, including employees in his office and state troopers. The media and Democrats smeared me and closed ranks to protect Cuomo, a shameful chapter in New York history. All of them including his staff must be held to account. These brave women deserve swift and definitive justice.” - U.S. Rep Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga, 21st Congressional District.
“I called for a full and independent investigation earlier this year into credible allegations that Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed several women including members of his own staff. In March, as those allegations grew even more troubling, I called on him to do the right thing for the people of New York and resign. The New York Attorney General’s report today confirms my worst fears. The governor‘s victims deserve justice, the people of our state deserve better and the governor needs to resign.” - U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, 20th Congressional District.
“I called for the Governor’s resignation when these credible allegations came to light earlier this year. Now that we see this thorough and well documented investigation released by the Attorney General, there is no doubt that Andrew Cuomo cannot continue in a leadership role in this state. In light of the pervasive appalling behavior documented in this report, he should immediately resign. Failing this, the Assembly should impeach Andrew Cuomo. As a voter in New York, I am angry. As a human being, I am disgusted.” - Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake.
The 168-page report may be read at: https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/2021.08.03_nyag_-_investigative_report.pdf.