SARATOGA SPRINGS – Parents, students and family members from Saratoga Central Catholic School will meet behind closed doors Thursday evening to discuss the previously proposed homeless shelter at 5 Williams St.
The meeting is neither open to the public nor the press.
“It is an opportunity for the Saratoga Central Catholic community to have a conversation with the mayor, who is a guest of the school,” said Joe Bonilla, a spokesperson for the school.
— Shenandoah Briere (@ByBriere) February 16, 2023
Bonilla said the school is a private institution. He also said that a recording of the forum will be made for school community members who may not be able to attend.
Mayor Ron Kim said the school decided the terms of the meeting.
“It’s more important to have the meeting to some extent on their terms because it’s important for me to communicate with them, so I’m willing to do it,” he said.
Kim also said Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino would be at the meeting.
The meeting comes after parents and Superintendent of Schools Giovanni Virgiglio Jr. expressed concerns at a city council meeting over the proposed location of the low-barrier 24/7 homeless shelter, which would share over 200 feet of property line with the school.
Prior to that city council meeting parents and other community members also held a meeting at the Holiday Inn Saratoga Springs, in which they expressed concerns. The media was allowed to attend the meeting.
Parent Kevin Zacharewicz said the district sent an email earlier in the week regarding the meeting, which is when he learned it would be a private meeting. He said those attending even had to RSVP.
“We’re all going in with some questions with the mayor,” he said. “We’re going to listen to the mayor intently and respectfully.”
The meeting comes as the city is finalizing people to sit on a task force aimed at addressing homelessness in the community by determining its needs, where to put a shelter and what organization could operate the shelter after Shelters of Saratoga backed out of plans for the Williams Street location following threats to shelter officials.
The New York State Coalition on Open Government condemned the upcoming private meeting.
“The best way for government officials to build trust on important issues like a homeless shelter is through transparency,” said coalition president Paul Wolf. “Meetings that are closed to the press and the public breed suspicion. I encourage the Mayor and the public safety commissioner to hold tomorrow’s meeting in public.”