Minutes September 12, 2016

Southwest Neighborhood Association of Saratoga Springs
Minutes – September 12, 2016

The meeting was held in the Saratoga Eagle community room in the Grande Industrial Park. The meeting was changed to Monday due to Tuesday being a primary election day.

SWNA officers’ introductions and reports

President – Molly Gagné opened the meeting at 7:05 PM. She welcomed some new faces, and announced that the NYS Tree Farm is buying seed and cones by the bushel from collectors (contact David Lee before wild harvesting). Several handouts and pamphlets were available, including the new CDTA 451 route schedule, city hall contact numbers list, Greenbelt overview, and Habitat for Humanity donation info. Molly had the annual SWNA Curb Appeal Awards available at the meeting (potted mums) and encouraged each member to take at least one to give to a deserving neighbor.
Vice President – Candyce Robenstein – absent
Treasurer – Dave Lauzon reported SWNA bank balances as of 8/31/16 as follows:
General funds (checking acc’t) – $3,368.80; Geyser Road Trail earmarked funds – $13,159.73; total of $16,528.53
Dave noted that SWNA funds were used toward expense of new flags and mulch for Geyser Veteran’s Park. There was a brief discussion about the lack of landscaping and flowers this summer at the corner of Quevic Dr. and Hathorn Blvd., and whether SWNA could take this project over from DPW next year.
Corresponding Secretary – Margaret Prough had no new correspondence to report. Molly added that DPW had asked for a letter of support for a Recreation Department grant application and that she wrote and delivered the letter on SWNA letterhead.
Recording Secretary – Karen Villesvik asked attendees for approval of the 3/8/16 meeting minutes – they will be amended online as per Annie Anzaroot’s request on wording re Geyser sand dune signage – minutes accepted.

Police Report – Investigator Steve Reside, a sex crimes officer, was not able to attend due to his military service duty. Lt. Shane Crooks informed us that the neighborhood has been “very quiet,” with the regular types of calls (domestic, DWI, fraud, credit card account theft, etc.) and with one ‘non-random’ burglary that resulted in an arrest. For those wanting to dispose of unwanted firearms, he said that the proper process is to call SSPD (aside from selling to an arms dealer). An officer will pick up the weapon and the department will hold it for 1 year as a “nuisance weapon” and then. If the owner doesn’t ask for return, they will destroy it.
Neighborhood Watch – Rob Gatt not present. Zone leaders are still needed. Contact: swnawatch@yahoo.com

Old Business

• Safe Routes to School project – Progress report: the value of the strip of property where sidewalk remains unfinished is being assessed as part of the city’s eminent domain process.
• Southwest Neighborhood Garage Sale–Organizer Liz Igler reported that over 80 homes had signed up for May’s sale and 20 more participated informally. Some changes for next year include creating permanent reusable signage. The 2017 garage sale will be held the 3rd weekend of May.
• Adopt a Roadside–The area from Eureka to Rte 50 still needs some litter pickup volunteers. Grabbers, safety vests and trash bags were available at the meeting and always on Molly’s front porch.
• Geyser Road Trail –At the well-attended Geyser Road Trail public presentation held in June at Geyser Elementary School, Mayor Yepsen, city planners, and Greenman-Pedersen Engineering representatives provided specifications, maps and timelines and answered many questions/concerns. The trail is now in process towards 2017 construction. Meeting attendees were reminded that, as per Robert’s Rules of Order, the floor would be open to comments and discussion about the Geyser Trail after completion of ‘Old Business’.
• Street side tree planting – Contact trees@sustainablesaratoga.org to request planting of a free street side tree. At a recent city council meeting, Commissioner Scirocco spoke about the problem of “volcano mulching” which kills trees by encouraging disease and insect damage. Landscapers and residents should never mound mulch around tree trunks.
• Bikeatoga– Unwanted bike donations are accepted most Saturday mornings at St. Peter’s Church basement. Contact Doug Haller, 577-0286. Website: www.bikeatoga.org
• Backstretch Workers – The Backstretch Free Store, located in basement of the Nolan House on Circular St., needs warm clothing, jeans, sneakers, work boots, jackets, duffel bags and small suitcases. The “store” closes in Oct. and will re-open in April when the training track re-opens.

“Zombie properties” – Code Enforcement Officer Jack Donnelly was unable to attend but sent a note thanking those residents who have used the new NYS toll-free ‘hotline’ to report abandoned, vacant and/or neglected properties in the neighborhood. The banks owning some of these foreclosed homes have already been identified, notified and begun securing and maintaining the properties. Remember that abandoned properties detract from adjacent property values. The hotline number is 1 800-342-3736.

Comment Period: Molly opened the comment period. An attendee voiced objections to the Geyser multi-use trail over concerns for user safety and cost to the community. Other members explained that the trail has been many years in the planning and design, with thorough studies and evaluations conducted on design, safety and construction options. A grant of $1.6 million was awarded to building the trail along with corporate donations and private donations. There have been many opportunities at SWNA meetings, city council meetings and public presentations to learn and voice concerns before finalization of the trail’s plans as part of the city’s ‘greenbelt’ project. Other points raised were the attraction such trails have for prospective residents and the property value increases for adjacent neighborhoods. Another attendee described flooding problems in front of their Geyser Road home and asked for advice and assistance. (Knowledgeable members met with them post-meeting).

New Business

• Charter Review Commission– SWNA member/past president Devin DalPos was appointed to this commission, which is researching and reviewing the four main forms of city governance used in the US. Devin explained that the 15 member commission and its sub-committees meet biweekly and openly, with a livestream webcast. The review should be completed by February 2017 with resulting information distributed to the public and available on the city website. Devin noted that the city’s current form of government is the least common form used by US cities. Any changes to the form used by Saratoga will be determined by public vote.
• Geyser Crest Sand Dune– Annie Anzaroot is working on interpretive signage to be posted along the Safe Routes to School sidewalk at the dune site.
• Winter storage of recreational and other vehicles–The Saratoga County Fairgrounds in Ballston Spa provides winter storage for RV’s, boats, trailers and other vehicles at a reasonable rate through the end of April. For more information call Saratoga County Fairgrounds, 885-9701.
• ‘Gateway’ designation for Geyser Road – A volunteer is needed to research this potential request to the city. Please contact Molly if interested in “adopting” this project.

Guest Speaker
Cheryl Ann Murphy-Parant, Director of Code Blue Saratoga

Cheryl Ann Murphy-Parant is the director of Saratoga Spring’s Code Blue shelter, after several years with the Red Cross. She spoke on the background, current status, and future goals of this lifesaving program.
Code Blue Saratoga was started in December 2013by concerned citizens, faith groups, local NPO’s, and then Mayor-elect Joanne Yepsen after Nancy Pitts, a homeless woman, froze to death on the Senior Center grounds. When winter weather conditions are hazardous, Code Blue provides temporary unrestricted shelter to the homeless, including meals and sleeping accommodations. The shelters are open from November 15 through March 15. Code Blue now operates through grants and other funds, and with the help of Captain Youth and Family Services, Shelters of Saratoga (which took over operations in 2015), several local restaurants and civic groups, and many volunteers.
Cheryl explained that if a family with children shows up, DDS is called to place them in a hotel for the night. If persons 18 years or younger come, Code Blue contacts Captain Youth and Family Services, as they have a shelter for youth in Malta. Veterans will be connected with veteran help organizations. No one is turned away.
St. Peter’s Parish Hall was the first location, open whenever temperatures dipped to 10 degrees or there was 1 foot of snow on the ground, later changed to 20 degrees and 1 foot of snow. Due to the need for more room, the shelter was moved the next winter to the Salvation Army building. In 2015 Governor Cuomo ordered a statewide standard of 32 degrees for such shelters to be open to the homeless. The Salvation Army decided it could no longer house Code Blue Saratoga, and the Soul Saving Station for Every Nation Church on Henry Street has come forward to give space to Code Blue for the winter of 2016-17, with room for up to 68 people, somewhat less with cots set up.
Cheryl noted that the eventual goal of Code Blue Saratoga is to have its own building, providing non-transitional, temporary shelter to the homeless year round, with a daytime drop-in center providing computer and laundry use. Code blue can be a bridge between living on the streets and organizations like the Shelters of Saratoga transitional home.
Anyone interested in volunteering, or for more information, go to www.codeblue.org .

The meeting adjourned at 8:32 PM.

Due to the upcoming Election Day, the November SWNA meeting will be changed. It will be held at Saratoga Eagle on THURSDAY, NOV. 10, at 7 PM.

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