SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city public safety commissioner said the $20,000 the City Council approved for a 2023 budget line to pay officers who work overtime in the general Caroline Street area likely will not be enough next year.
James Montagnino said the city established a budget line in April in an effort to track how much money is spent to pay officers who are assigned to work the Caroline Street detail.
He said the way it works is if an officer is assigned the Caroline Street detail — essentially the bar and restaurant detail spanning from Broadway to Putnam Street — and works overtime they would get paid out of that budget line.
However, if an officer not assigned to that detail responds to an incident in the Caroline Street area, they would be paid using the Police Department’s regular overtime line, he said.
Mayor Ron Kim said they don’t have special overtime lines for any other section of the city.
Montagnino said that no date has been set to talk to District Attorney Karen Heggen about the gag order she obtained that prevents City Council and city employees, including the Police Department, from discussing the police investigation into a Nov. 20 shooting downtown.
Montagnino said it looks like he, the deputy mayor and city attorney will meet with Heggen.
Montagnino, with backing from the mayor, was planning to take Heggen to court to fight the gag order but backed off after she sent a letter to the city asking that they discuss the matter. City officials have agreed to the talk with the hope that they can have the order amended.
“We’re going in with an open mind and we’ll hope for the best,” Montagnino said.
He said any policy drafted about how to handle press conferences would need to be made public.
He also said he still stands by the decision to release the body camera footage of one of the officers in the shooting, noting that body cameras as part of the justice reform initiatives is an accountability tool, not an investigatory tool.
CONNECT WITH BAR OWNERS
Montagnino said he also plans to reach back out to bar owners to discuss ways they could beef up security. “To see if we can get some enhanced security measures and better coordination of communication between the bar owners and the police in order to make things a little safer,” he said.
He said the city would be looking at the bar owners to address and pay for more security measures such as metal detectors or patting down patrons or getting scanners for IDs.
Montagnino said he and Kim also spoke to bar owners about paying to have hired security workers cordon off Caroline Street. Bar owners were very reluctant to take on that responsibility, Montagnino said.
“Most of our suggestions were rejected,” Kim said.
Kim also said he’s not thrown out the idea of creating a committee of bar owners, city officials and police officials to discuss how to make the Caroline Street area safer.
The idea was suggested during the city’s Dec. 6 council meeting, but Kim shot down the idea due to it being under Account Commissioner Dillon Moran’s agenda items and Moran being a minority partner in a chain of brew pub restaurants.
Kim said such a committee should be overseen by the public safety commissioner and the mayor’s office should be involved too.
Sam Bottini, the owner of Bailey’s Saratoga, who is also part of the Caroline Street Association, said a meeting with city officials would be a step in the right direction and also said bar owners are open to suggestions.
“Our goal as downtown business owners is to keep Saratoga a safe and prosperous place to live, work, and gather,” he said. “I really would like to get the input of our local officials and police to see what we can do in cooperation with the city to accomplish this goal.”
Correction 10:43 a.m. 12/14: Dillon Moran is a minority partner in a chain of brew pub restaurants. A description in an earlier version of this article was incorrect.