Bethesda Church Announces Plans For Facility To Provide Shelter For A Variety Of Constituencies

Bethesda Episcopal Church has launched an ambitious project called Mercy House. They hope that it will be a comprehensive community resource.  Below is a rendering of the proposed facility along with a press release describing their plans.

April 14, 2019                                                                                     .

Bethesda Episcopal Church Forms New Non-Profit to Help the Homeless

Saratoga Springs — Bethesda Episcopal Church of Saratoga Springs has created Mercy House of Saratoga, Inc., a new, non-denominational, non-profit that will provide temporary residences for a wide range of needy people.  Housing will be offered in partnership with several local agencies in a new building to be constructed next to the church on Washington Street.

Those to be served include victims of domestic violence and their children, homeless military veterans including women with children, people living with mental health and substance use diagnoses, and race track backstretch workers who are in recovery from physical injury or substance abuse.

Partner agencies include the Backstretch Employees Service Team (BEST), Transitional Services Association, Veterans and Community Housing Coalition, and Wellspring (domestic violence).  These agencies will identify and refer individuals and families — people already in our community who are homeless or at risk of becoming so.

A fifth organization, In Our Name, will offer a “pay as you are able” café for guests and the community, a center for discussion and discovery, employment readiness and socializing.

A New Four-Story Building

Mercy House will offer housing in a four-story, 30,000 square-foot building that will be constructed at 26-28 Washington Street, just off Broadway in Saratoga Springs.  The building will also serve as the parish house for the church.  Construction for the $9 million building is expected to begin by the end of 2019.

“Mercy House was formed to further our religious mission to help people in need,” said Darren Miller, Bethesda’s Senior Warden.  “When the Bethesda congregation began planning our new parish house, we saw the opportunity to do more for the Saratoga community.  Mercy House will offer hope to people who are facing a tough stretch in their lives. The downtown location offers easy access to bus lines, a supermarket, a community center, employment opportunities, and a primary-care health facility.”

“Dignifying humanity has always expressed the heart of the church’s mission,” stated The Very Rev’d. Marshall J. Vang, Bethesda’s Interim Rector. “What we are creating is more than a collection of stone and mortar. Mercy House will be a place of renewal and hope.”

The first floor of the new building will be primarily dedicated to Bethesda’s parish activities and offices.Residents and housing partners will have access to first floor Bethesda parish rooms for events, counseling and meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, with which Bethesda enjoys a 75-year relationship.

The upper floors will include 18 apartments(1- 2- and 3-bedrooms) plus communal space to accommodate up to 47 individuals.  There will be a two-bedroom apartment for a full-time, on-site manager employed by Mercy House, and a digital security system will assure resident safety.

“Feeling safe at home is something we often take for granted,” said Maggie Fronk, Executive Director of Wellspring. “As Wellspring works with families that have experienced abuse, a key factor in building a future free of violence is the ability to find a safe, affordable place to live. Domestic violence is the primary cause of family homelessness in Saratoga County. Bethesda Episcopal Church’s housing program will afford individuals and families much needed affordable housing with access to employment opportunities, public transportation and services.”

“The importance of a caring community as integral to the healing process cannot be overestimated,” said Paul Ruchames, Executive Director of BEST.  “BEST is honored to be a part of this project and pledges to do all possible to help it come to fruition and later, to thrive.”

“Transitional Services Association is excited to be a part of this collaboration with the Bethesda church,” said Sybil Newell, executive director. “For the past 40 years we have provided housing and supportive services to individuals living with mental health and substance use diagnoses in Saratoga County. One of our biggest struggles has always been finding safe and affordable housing in the Saratoga Springs area that is also accessible to resources and services. The proposed project- Mercy House- will fill a great need in our community to provide housing to vulnerable individuals, in an optimal location.”

“We’re  excited about our partnership with Bethesda Episcopal Church to provide stable, supportive and affordable housing to our veterans, said Cheryl Hage-Perez, Executive Director of Veterans & Community Housing Coalition.  “This partnership will create an opportunity for single, homeless, female veterans with children to remain stably housed while receiving the support services they need to live a productive and successful life in their community.  This project will provide the only services for this target population in our area.”

“Food For Thought is a café based upon the mantra of ‘Feed, Teach, Employ, House’ said Frank Zarro, In Our Name’s coordinator.  “Each of these critical human needs will be addressed within the walls of the Bethesda annex. Meals will be served every day, on a pay-what-you-are-able basis.  Everyone will be included and no one will be turned away. We also hope to help Mercy House’s guests to develop job-ready skills and habits to support the hospitality community.”

“Mercy House builds on Bethesda’s long-standing commitment to helping people in need, including establishing the Home of the Good Shepherd in 1871 and sustaining it for more than a century,” Miller said.

“Homelessness in Saratoga County is a byproduct of our community’s economic success over recent decades,” said Gordon Boyd, President of Mercy House.  “We will provide a resource to meet a major share of the need, but the work of others must continue and grow.  Like other challenges Saratoga County has met over the years, when everyone gets involved, good things happen.”

Mercy House was incorporated in October 2018.  Its Board of Directors includes both members of the parish and of the outside community.  Assistance provided at Mercy House will be non-denominational.  Mercy House is planning a campaign to begin in the coming months to raise the additional capital needed to begin construction.

Republican Candidate for Finance Knocked Off The Ballot

Republican candidate for Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner Rob Barile’s petitions were successfully challenged by Bill McTygue.  The result is that he will not appear on the ballot in November on the Republican line (he will still appear on the Conservative line) and whoever wins the Democratic primary will in all likelihood be the next commissioner of Finance.

As Bill McTygue has been heavily involved in Patty Morrison’s campaign, I contacted her.  Her only response was “no comment.”

I contacted Matt Hogan, chair of the Saratoga Springs Republican Party.  He offered the following:
“I haven’t been able to confirm that his petitions were disqualified.  If they were, I can only say that these things are best decided by the voters rather than the lawyers.”

I contacted Michele Madigan, the current Commissioner of Finance, who is Ms. Morrison’s opponent in the Democratic Primary.  She told me, “I considered challenging his petitions but decided against it.  The public is best served when they have a choice of candidates.”

Guns Or No Guns: Is That Really The Question Part IV: School Resource Officers: A Reality Check

It is hard to believe that School Board members, in supporting adding an SRO to the Middle School while opposing the rearming of the grounds monitors, actually thoughtfully reviewed the training and background standards of SROs in making this decision. In light of the minimal training and experience requirements for SRO positions, the choice to use more expensive SROs rather than to rearm the monitors seems to have been based on an exaggerated narrative regarding the expertise of the School Resource Officers (SRO). 

From all reports, we are fortunate to have two excellent School Resource Officers (SROs) working for the Saratoga Springs School District.  We have a policeman from the Saratoga Springs Police Department at the High School and a sheriff from the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department at the Middle School.

It is important to have a realistic assessment of what the qualifications for these positions are, however.

There are currently no standards, no minimum training requirements, nor certification process for SROs in New York State.  The only requirement is that they be an active duty law enforcement officer.  Any additional qualifications and  training  requirements are entirely up to the law enforcement agency employing the SRO.

As the correspondence I have added at the end of this post shows, the National Association of School Resource Officers recommends that active law  enforcement personnel who want to become SROs are only required to participate in a three day training program they offer.

I am not familiar with  the Saratoga County Sheriff Department’s requirements for training SROs, but I did get an email with information about the Saratoga Springs Police Department’s requirements from Public Safety  Commissioner Peter Martin which can be found at the end of this post.

According to Commissioner Martin the SRO employed by the Saratoga Springs Police Department participated in a  38 hour training program.  The officer assigned to the High School is a patrolman which is the lowest rank in the Saratoga Springs Police Department.

The required training for an SRO position whether the standard be what NASRO uses or that which the Saratoga Springs Police Department uses is pretty modest.  This raises the question of who is better prepared, an entry level law enforcement officer with one week of training or a twenty year veteran of law enforcement who has been through years of active training including active shooter training.  As the training for SROs is provided by the state police academies, the cost would probably be modest to provide this training to retired veteran officers such as the grounds monitors.  Adding this SRO training to a retired law enforcement officer who has had the benefit of decades of on the job experience could just be a better, more cost effective alternative to a much higher paid but less experienced SRO.

In correspondence  attached below, the executive director of NASRO cites some variables for consideration if retired law enforcement officers were to return to active duty to become an SRO.  He would want to know how long they had been retired, whether they were physically fit, and whether their skill sets were up to par. 

It should be acknowledged that being an active duty law enforcement officer ensures the person’s physical fitness and that they will receive  regular training in a variety of skills.  There are of course, ways that the school district could  build these requirements into a school security position that could be filled by retired officers such as the school monitors. .

As mentioned above the Saratoga Springs Police officer who is the current SRO at the High School is a patrolman. A promotion from patrolman to a higher rank would mean reassigning this individual to a different duty.  Since the kind of person who hopefully would be assigned as an SRO would have some impressive skills in areas such as conflict resolution, one would expect this person to be on a career track within the department to higher pay and more responsibilities.  The SRO position then is one subject to periodic turnover as new officers assigned to this duty move up the chain of command. Employing retired law enforcement officers who are fit and properly trained would provide a greater chance of continuity than an SRO.

An Aspect That May Have Contributed To The Insurance Carrier’s Position on SROs

There has been some confusion over the District’s insurance carrier’s position on school safety.  While they recommended two SROs be employed they declined to address the rearming of monitors one way or the other.  I think it is important to acknowledge the difference in liability between SROs and monitors.  SROs are employed by their respective law enforcement agencies.  In the Saratoga Springs District that would be the Saratoga Springs Police Department and the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department.  As employees of these external organizations any liability would be shared between the school district and the respective law enforcement agencies.  Monitors, on the other hand, would be employed by the district.  In this case the district and their insurer would be solely liable for their actions.  While this may not be the only reason the insurance carrier took a clear position only on the SROs, it may have been a factor.

The Warren County Model

Warren County has developed an interesting program to address school safety in an affordable way. 

The New York State retirement system limits income for retired law enforcement officers who take on publically funded jobs to no more than $30,000.00.  What Warren County has done is to hire retired law enforcement officers as temporary employees.  They work as SROs  until they hit their maximum.  The county pays  $22.50 per hour without health or retirement benefits.  This is $5.00 more than the armed grounds monitors in the Saratoga Springs School District had been making.   Contrast that to the $72,000.00 per year the Saratoga Spring School District pays for an SRO assigned by the local sheriff’s department with additional money coming from the County.

Warren County  circumscribes the job of an SRO to differentiate it from a regular law enforcement officer.  The contract under which these SROs operate precludes them from making arrests or involving themselves in the disciplining of students.  Any criminal activity at the school is referred to local law enforcement and any other student violations are referred to the school administration.  The goal is for the students to see these SROs as a resource in the interest of safety.

It is my understanding that the current contract between the union representing the police in Saratoga Springs and the city would not allow retired officers to be hired as temporary employees but it would be something to consider when contract negotiations come up again in the future.

Here is an excellent article about local SROs in general and Warren County in particular. 

The Bottom Line

The issues about employing staff to protect students is not a simple one.  In the end, it involves people of good will to be open and creative in engaging in how best we can find an affordable solution for protecting the students, teachers, and staff in the District.


From Mac Hardy, Director of Operations, NASRO

Q: “Can you tell me if your organization supports active duty law enforcement (working part time as security for a school) and retired police officers carrying firearms on school campus?  My understanding is that NASRO does support them as School Security Monitors as long as they have undergone NASRO’s 3 day training seminar.”

A: “Yes, we strongly believe they need specialized training.” – Mac Hardy

From Mo Canaday, Executive Director, NASRO

From: Mo Canady <>
Date: Thu, Mar 21, 2019 at 2:37 PM
Subject: FW: Follow up

Good Morning All,

In reviewing everything that you have sent to us, I have come to the conclusion that NASRO’s position on firearms on a school campus is very likely being used without proper context in this debate. 

Our guidance in no way automatically eliminates retired law enforcement officers (LEO) from the ability to serve as an SRO.  However, there is a right and wrong way to do this.  If a retired LEO is going to serve as an SRO, his law enforcement authority and credentials must be restored in order to comply with the federal definition of an SRO.  So an important question here would be in regards to the status of the Grounds Monitors.  It is my understanding that they are retired LEO’s but do they have full law enforcement authority as well credentials?

If the answer is no, then they do not fit the definition of on an SRO.

If the answer is yes, then they can certainly fit the definition.  But there are other variables to consider such as; how long they have been retired, if they are still physically fit to do the job, if their skill set has diminished.

I will use myself as an example.  I have been retired from law enforcement for over eight years.  I am in good shape, but not the physical condition that I was in when I retired.  And my skill set has certainly diminished.  I would not consider myself a good candidate to return to active duty at least at this very moment.  So the selection of retired officers must be done with great care. 

Retired officers can certainly serve effectively as SRO’s but within a very careful set of parameters. 

I hope that this is helpful to you. 

 Mo Canady

Executive Director 

From: Peter Martin <>
Date: March 26, 2019 at 10:40:34 AM EDT
To: John Kaufmann <>
Cc: John Daley <>
Subject: Fwd: SRO


I believe that the term “School Resource Officer” has different meanings in different states.  In New York State, there are two sources of courses for active duty police officers that have been approved by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Service.  These organizations are the National School Resource Officer Association and the NYS Juvenile Officers Association.  Both have websites with significant information about their courses.  I believe that the courses offered by these two organizations are similar – they involve 38 hours of instruction over 5 days.  There is also an advanced course of study for an additional five days.

We currently have only one trained School Resource Officer in the Saratoga Springs Police Department.  We anticipate sending more officers for training this year.  When our SRO is not available, we do not have another officer cover unless there are special circumstances.  We do coordinate with the School District for extra police presence during certain events.  For example, we may send additional officers to cover a popular basketball or football game.  Coverage for these events is usually planned well in advance, although SSPD will respond with additional coverage whenever requested. 


Peter Martin


Peter R. Martin
Commissioner of Public Safety
City of Saratoga Springs

What The Petitions Say: They’re Back

I went down to the Saratoga County Board of Elections today to review the petitions for the candidates who were not endorsed by the Republican or Democratic city committees and so circulated petitions independently.  Two of the candidates are seeking to replace members of the Saratoga Springs City Council.  Tim Holmes is seeking to unseat Mayor Meg Kelly and Patricia Morrison is challenging Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan.

An observant reader will note that a number of people who circulated petitions for more than one of these candidates also served  on the 2017 Charter Commission which advocated for a city manager form of government or were active in the leadership of the campaign to adopt it.

Members of that charter commission who circulated  petitions were Bob Turner (Chairman of the 2017 Charter Review  Commission), Pat Kane (Vice Chairman of the 2017 Commission), Laura Chodos, Ann Bullock, Gordon Boyd, and Minita Sanghvi.

Gordon Boyd, who last time I checked was a member of the Independence Party, is a notary which explains his petitioning for Holmes, a Republican, and the other candidates who are Democrats.  Only individuals who are members of the same party as the candidate on their petition can normally circulate it.  The one exception is a notary.

Active in the leadership of the charter change campaign were Ellen Egger-Aimone, Peter McTygue, Patty Morrison, and Dillon Moran.

As some of the readers of this blog may recall, during the campaign to pass their charter, Vice-Chairman Pat Kane left the following expletive laden message on Commissioner Skip Scirocco’s cell phone.

When pressed by the Saratogian to explain Kane’s message, charter chairman Bob Turner refused to apologize for his behavior but instead used it as an opportunity to repeat the talking points of the pro-charter change campaign.

At the subsequent charter commission meeting, not one person said anything about the behavior of their vice chair let alone advocated for a public apology.

For those of us hoping for some relief from the worst kind of politics this is going to be a long haul.

Following are complete lists of the people who circulated petitions for candidates who were not endorsed by the major parties:

For Mayor, Tim Holmes, Republican:

John Safford

Matt Hogan

Patrick Cromyn (Albany address)

Peter Gemellaro

Sean Cane

Pat Kane

Tim Holmes

John Huppich

David Solovy

Mark Pingel

Gordon Boyd

For Kendall Hicks, Public Safety, Democrat:

Ellen Egger-Aimone

Kendall Hicks

Patricia Morrison

Joy King

Steve Bederian

Alice Smith

Peter McTygue

Ann Bullock

Suzanne Kwasniewski

Shafer Gaston

Gordon Boyd

James Gould

Al Ormsby

Dianne Pedinotti

Otis Maxwell

Dillon Moran

Frank Capone

Molly Gagne

Bob Turner

Minita Sanghvi

Laura Chodos

Meaghan McEntee

For Patty Morrison, Finance, Democrat:

Ellen Egger-Aimone

Kathleen Harder

Alice Smith

Robert Turner

Steve Bederian

Peter McTygue

Ann Bullock

Minita Sanghvi

Kendall Hicks

Tom McTygue

Gordon Boyd

Mable Morrison (East Greenbush address)

Lisa Scerbo (Mechanicville)

Laura Chodos

Pamela Lonegran

Julie Walsh (Stillwater address)

The Petitions Are In: Who Is Running For Saratoga Springs  City Council and Saratoga County Board of Supervisors

I will be writing more extensively on this but I thought I would get this list out quickly.

All petitions for the respective parties had to be filed with the Saratoga County Board of Elections by the end of the business day, today (April 4) so we have the final line up.

The Incumbents:                               Party

Mayor: Meg Kelly                            Democratic/Working Family/Independence

Accounts: John  Franck                  Democratic/Working Family/Independence

Finance: Michele Madigan            Democratic/Working Family/Independence

Supervisor: Tara Gaston                 Democratic/Working Family

Public Works: Skip Scirocco          Republican/Conservative/Independence

Supervisor: Matt Veitch                  Republican/Conservative/Independence


The Challengers:

Mayor: Tim Holmes                         Republican/Conservative

Finance: Bob Barile                         Republican/Conservative

Public Safety: Robin Dalton           Republican/Conservative/Independence

Supervisor: Steve Mittler               Republican/Conservative

Public Safety: Kendall Hicks           Democratic

Public Works: Dillon Moran           Democratic

Finance: Patty Morrison                 Democratic

Although petitions were circulated for Eilleen Finneran for Public Safety, she did not submit them to the Board of Elections .  She sent out the following statement:

After weeks of meeting with many supportive and encouraging Saratogians, I have decided not to run for the office of Public Safety Commissioner of the City of Saratoga Springs. I have previously served as Deputy Mayor and Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety for 10 years. While I hope someday to continue serving the City I love, now is not the right time for me. I appreciate the support I have received from the Saratoga Springs Democratic Party and, in particular, from the dedicated volunteers who collected the hundreds of petition signatures necessary to put my name on the ballot for the primary election to be held in June. I also appreciate the encouragement I received from Mayor Meg Kelly and Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan. I will vote for both of them this year, and I recommend that other voters do the same. Our most critical public safety need remains a third emergency facility in the eastern part of the city. I urge all Saratogians to support the City Council’s efforts to finally build that much needed facility.