Yesterday afternoon, the Board of Supervisors' Health and Human Services Committee voted to move ahead with approving the contract between the Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Galvan Foundation for the use of the Galvan Civic Motel to shelter homeless people. There was only one dissenting vote: Kathy Eldridge, supervisor for the Town of Greenport.
Before the discussion of the contract began--a discussion that was postponed until the end of the meeting--Rick Scalera, supervisor for the Fifth Ward and a member of the committee, delivered what seemed to be a prepared statement about his relationship with the Galvan Foundation. He explained that he worked for Galvan on an "as needed" basis. Scalera, who was seated at the table with the committee, announced that he would abstain from the discussion and from the vote, and with that he relinquished his seat at the table. Scalera was no longer in the room when the vote was taken, having explained earlier that he had to leave at 5:00 to go to Kinderhook.
The discussion of the contract, which DSS commissioner Robert Gibson called a "referral agreement," began with Gibson explaining that the revised document before the committee specified that no sex offenders and no violent criminals would be housed at the facility and that security measures must be put in place.
Jennifer Wai-Len Strodl, director of the Liberi School located across the road from the motel and one of the people most concerned about the motel's possible negative impacts, seemed mollified by the terms imposed in the contract but wanted to know what steps would be taken if problems arose. Would the school communicate with DSS or Galvan? The answer was DSS. She was also concerned about drug and alcohol use and asked that there be signage noting that the area was a drug-free school zone. That was agreed to.
Tom Alvarez, whose business and manufactured home community are in close proximity to the motel, was not appeased. He suggested that there be a six-month probationary period before the county entered into a five-year contract with Galvan. He was told by Gibson, "If this is an untenable situation, we will know that and address it." Alvarez reminded the committee of the petition he submitted with the signatures of ninety-four residents of his adult community, people who are, he said, "totally opposed to this." Alluding to past experiences with homeless people housed at the Sunset Motel, Alvarez stated, "I want to be sure the committee knows these are real things that happened." He also expressed concern about visitors who will come "after their friends get situated in the 'Ritz Carlton.'" Commenting on the extensive work being done at the motel, Alvarez asked, "What gives them the incentive to leave?"
Gibson conceded that "they may have to call the police from time to time," but after First Ward supervisor Sarah Sterling asked about a code of conduct, and Gibson explained that it was illegal for DSS clients to use drugs or alcohol, the vote was taken to move the resolution forward to the full Board of Supervisors.
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