SARATOGA SPRINGS — In a city known for its horses, it is still a sight to behold: standing about five-and-a-half feet tall, weighing 1,800 pounds and steadied atop four sturdy legs, they represent the city’s most unique police officers.
The Saratoga Springs Police Department initiated the use of a mounted patrol in 2000, following in a long tradition first documented when London’s Bow Street Police established its horse-mounted branch more than 250 years ago. This week, Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen announced one of the longest serving members of Saratoga Springs’ mounted division will be, well, stepping down.
“Jupiter is 23 years old and ready for retirement,” Mathiesen explained. The standard-bred gelding, originally named Jo Jo Geronimo, was donated to the police department in 2003, and has patrolled the city for more than a decade.
Jupiter became the city’s third equine officer, following the initial experiment in 2000 of a horse on loan from the state Park Police, and a 17-hand standard-bred gelding named Of Course I Can - later renamed Zeus- who served the department for three years, until his death as the result of West Nile virus. More recently, Jupiter was joined on the equine staff by the 1,800-pound black Percheron named King Tut. A healthy Standardbred horse will usually live to the age of about 25, and Jupiter’s golden years will be spent in the familiar surroundings of a farm just off Route 29 where the police horses are boarded.
“We have somebody who is going to care for him,” said Assistant City Police Chief John Catone. “He’ll retire and be able to play on the farm with all of his friends.”
Serendipitously, horse owner Charles “Chuck” Harrison on Jan. 30 penned a letter to the city police department, offering to donate his 11-year-old Standardbred, named Most Fun Yet, to the mounted division of the department. “I claimed him back in 2011 and he’s always been a pleasure to be around. I wanted to find a real good home for him,” Harrison said. “He’s a special horse. His personality makes him special and he’s as easygoing as they come. In the barn, we call him ‘Fat Boy,” Harrison laughed. “Now we call him ‘Officer Fat Boy.’
Most Fun Yet had been a frequent competitor at Saratoga Casino Hotel. He was foaled on Feb. 25, 2006 in Thornville, Ohio and sired by Full of Fun. The bay gelding had 223 starts overall - finishing in the money 87 times, winning 19 races outright and earning more than $190,000. “He actually raced until the end of the meet here in December,” said Most Fun Yet trainer Scott Mongeon. “He’s still viable as a race horse and could still race, but he is getting up there in age. Chuck thought it would be better off finding him a home, as long as it’s the right home.“
Most Fun Yet is being readied for training. The process is expected to take four to five weeks and if all goes well, he could be ready to serve by early May. The equine officers are employed in Saratoga Springs year-round and are a visual magnet for area children and out-of-town visitors alike. They patrol the racecourse in the summer, attend special citywide events, and bear witness to the occasional mayhem that can ensue downtown. “During fight calls, if there is a fight between two people, I can put a horse between them and that’s it - the fight’s over,” SSPD mounted patrol officer Glenn Barrett said in 2015.
“Most Fun Yet will be trained and become one of our police horses, and Most Fun Yet will probably have a lot of fun at four o’clock in the morning on Caroline Street,” Commissioner Mathiesen said with a laugh. The city’s newest equine officer, its fifth overall, is expected to undergo a name change prior to being put into service and plans are underway to host a contest among area schoolchildren to rename the horse.
Jerry Carpenter Jr. died in June, a few hours shy of his 21st birthday, his family by his side.
In an emotionally moving ceremony Tuesday night at City Hall, Carpenter’s family thanked Saratoga Springs Police Officer Bill Arpei for answering the call to tend to the Saratoga Springs High School graduate in his time of need.
“On that day, June 2, that afternoon, the call was received by an officer for a young man in cardiac arrest,” family friend Donna Flinton told a chamber room crowded with residents and council members gathered to decide the city’s business. The call was placed by Carpenter’s sister. From Jefferson Terrace, the emergency was reported as a young man in severe medical distress.
“Officer Arpei responded within minutes of the call and assessed everything. He started chest compressions and continued to do so even after EMS came to take over,” Flinton said. “Unbeknownst to the officer, Jerry had only one working lung as well as a host of other complications. With Officer Arpei’s CPR, his not giving up on our boy and EMS’ help, Jerry was resuscitated.”
Although resuscitated, the young man whose obituary remembers him as an innocent soul with a brave heart who spread love to all who knew him, passed away a week later.
“The officer was asked to be kept in the loop, and we did,” Flinton said. “We informed Officer Arpei that Jerry had passed, and of the funeral arrangements, hoping he would perhaps come. He sure did. And in full uniform. It gave the family and myself great pride to know the Saratoga Springs Police Department would allow Officer Arpei not just to attend, but to salute as we passed by,” she recalled. “With that, my friends, everyone just cried. That was our time. And that was the time he gave us. He not only refused to give up on him, but he cared - and caring and compassion is not always prevalent in today’s society.”
One of the young man’s sisters handed Arpei a keychain, to signify the day her life forever was changed and the moment the officer was welcomed as a member of the family. With the presentation of a statue she noted how they would never forget the officer’s actions.
“When we look at you, we see Jerry,” Flinton said. “Because of you, his mother was able to sit with him for the last few days he had, hold his hand and tell him he could go dance in heaven with his grandfather. His grandmother was able to kiss him one last time and tell him that she loved him. His sisters were able to say goodbye and lay with him as he took his last breath - and we celebrated his birthday - because in some country he was 21,” she told the officer, who joined the city police department five years ago. “These are the moments the family will cherish forever and they know they wouldn’t have had them if it wasn’t for you.” In the crowded council chamber overcome by silence some in the crowd choked back tears.
“We feel it was time to express our family’s gratitude towards one of our own,” she said. “Saying just thanks, we think, is not appropriate. But that’s all we’ve got.” Residents and council members alike stood up and the chamber erupted in a lengthy ovation.
City Approves Purchase of Pitney Farm: Westside Farm to Stay a Farm Forever
After much deliberation, the council unanimously approved the city purchase of the development rights of the 166-acre Pitney Farm on West Avenue.
The city is spending $1.165 million - $1.13 million outright and $35,000 in closing costs – to purchase the development rights to ensure the farm land will remain a farm in perpetuity.
Members of the council had expressed hope that a portion of the 166-acre farm could be used to house recreation fields for youth sports such as soccer, field hockey and lacrosse. DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco was especially adamant that the city may have done a better job negotiating the fields into the land contract, as the city lacks those resources.
The closing is scheduled to take place in mid-December. At the same time, the city will issue a bond anticipation note. The interest will be 0.95 percent, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said.
A contract of sale for the farm was signed between the Pitney Family and the newly created 501(c)(3), Pitney Meadows Community Farm. The vision for the farm includes the creation of a community agricultural resource center to function as a teaching facility and incubator, as well as offering access to the community to cultivate gardens and enjoy nature trails on the property.
City Amends Sidewalk Sitting Ordinance – Penalties Reduced, Law Still in Effect
The city's controversial “sit and lie ordinance,” which was adopted in June and makes it unlawful for any person to sit or lie down upon a public sidewalk, was amended by the City Council this week. The changes include a streamlining of exceptions to the law; those exceptions allow for medical emergencies, or in curbside areas permitted for street performers, as well as easing penalties for code violators.
The previously adopted penalties called for a minimum $50 fine for first offenders, escalating to misdemeanor charges with the potential of up to 30 days of jail time and fines of up to $500 for repeat offenders. The new penalties call for a maximum $50 fine for first offenders. Subsequent offenders would be subject to a fine not exceeding $250 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 15 days, according to the city’s general penalties for offenses, posted on the city website.
The New York Civil Liberties Union submitted testimony alleging both the original law and the amended proposal targets homeless people and is unconstitutional and should be rescinded altogether. Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen – who brought forward both the original and amended proposals – argued that the ordinance was based on other municipalities’ existing ordinances and that “it does pass constitutional muster.” The council members were in general agreement in expressing belief that the ordinance is related to pedestrian safety issues and does not target the city’s homeless population. The amended ordinance was approved 4-1, with city Mayor Joanne Yepsen casting the lone vote against. “I don’t like this law and I don’t see a need for it,” said Yepsen, who also cast the lone voted against the initial proposal in June.
On a High Note, City Center President Says Goodbye
Longtime Saratoga Springs City Center President Mark Baker delivered the City Center Authority’s annual report for 2015 to the council on Tuesday. In 2015, the City Center hosted 154 events and secured 252 days of paid activities - marking the highest number of annual paid events in the building’s history. The 2016 schedule already tops that number, Baker added, and reported $2.1 million in sales tax revenue was generated in 2015 for the local community. More than 155,000 people attended events last year.
“For 33 years it’s been a pleasure to serve for you and with you,” said Baker, who last week announced he will retire as the organization’s president at year’s end. “In the last 33 years I think it’s become most obvious that there is no place like Saratoga Springs – our history, our style, our grace,” Baker said..
‘Eyesore’ at Interlaken to be Demolished, Replaced by Single-Family Homes
The council unanimously voted to support a Planned Unit Development SEQRA determination regarding a property on Crescent Avenue in the Interlaken community. The long-abandoned home will be demolished and the land subdivided into four parcels where four single-family homes will be developed. Residents of the neighborhood addressed the council, alternately referring to the existing building as “an eyesore” and “a neighborhood blight,” and outnumbered those opposed to the building’s demolition by a 10-1 margin.
City Public Art Policy Approved; Changes Coming for City Arts Commission
The council unanimously approved a public art policy that will provide a civic planning process for the acceptance and placement of artwork in public areas.
The city Arts Commission – a 20-member advisory board appointed by the mayor in 2015 - will review submissions using artwork and site selection criteria and may recommend to accept or reject an artwork. The Commission is tasked with reviewing proposals for consistency with the city’s goals and where appropriate, recommending acceptance or rejection of such acquisitions for the city. “Public art,” in this scope, is defined as publicly accessible artwork that enriches the city through its aesthetic qualities, considers the social and physical context of the site, and addresses the goals of the city.
The Arts Commission will also undergo changes to its member bylaws. Starting in January 2018, the committee will be comprised of a maximum of 11 members; four will be selected by the commissioners and the balance appointed by the mayor. Currently, all 20 members have been selected by the mayor.