SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city will resume in-person public meetings this week, holding them in the spacious ballroom at the Canfield Casino in Congress Park, which is the largest indoor room the city owns. However, there will still be public attendance limits.
It is the latest sign that local governments that have been meeting remotely or in some hybrid format since public gathering restrictions took effect in March are starting to ease into in-person meetings again.
“We can have in-person meetings as long as we limit attendance to no more than 50 in the room,” Mayor Meg Kelley said.
City officials announced that the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 18, will be held in the casino ballroom, as well as the first meeting of the new Saratoga Springs Police Reform Task Force, which will take place at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 19.
In both cases, the number of people allowed to physically be in the room will be limited, as concerns continue that in-person gatherings could renew the spread of COVID-19.
The City Council, which meets at 6:55 p.m. Tuesday, has been holding most of its meetings in recent months using Zoom videoconference, though it did hold one in-person meeting with limited attendance at the city’s Recreation Center. City government was based at the Recreation Center while City Hall was being repaired from a 2018 fire and flood.
The first phase of the $11 million repair and restoration project at the historic City Hall was nearing completion when the pandemic struck. While city offices have slowly moved back in over the summer, the building isn’t yet open to the public. Restoration remains a work in progress.
Kelly said the Canfield Casino is being used for the meetings in part because the City Council room at City Hall isn’t yet wired, and the third-floor Music Hall — which would be a bigger space — is part of the second phase of construction, and won’t be done for months. “I think eventually [we] can have meetings there, but we’re not there yet,” Kelley said.
The council meeting will allow attendance on a first-come basis, with doors opening at 6:45 p.m. No more than 30 members of the general public will be allowed in the room. There will be a public hearing at 6:55 p.m. on the city’s five-year capital spending plan, followed by a regular council meeting at 7 p.m. The doors and ramp on the west side of the casino will be open.
One downside of the location is that it isn’t set up for webcasting, meaning there won’t be a live webcast of the meeting. Kelly said it will be taped, and the tape posted on the city website within a couple of days.
The Police Reform Task Force meeting will limit outside attendance to 30 people, also on a first-come basis. Everyone attending will be asked to sign in for contact-tracing purposes, and temperatures will be checked. Anyone with a temperature over 100.4 will not be allowed into the meeting.
Previously, the plan was to hold the task force meeting at the Saratoga Springs City Center, but Kelly said that given the city’s financial condition, the city can’t afford the rental fee — and for similar reasons, the City Center can’t afford to waive the fee. Therefore, the meeting was moved to the casino.
All attendees will be required to wear masks while in the building.
The 13-member task force — appointed in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call for police reform studies at all levels of local government, in response to national incidents of police violence and subsequent protests — may be able to livestream in meeting on Facebook, Kelly said.
Reach staff writer Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086,
@gazettesteve on Twitter.