WATERTOWN — With continued issues with homelessness, graffiti and vandalism, City Council members believe it’s time to set a time to close the city’s Mayor Joseph M. Butler Pavilion in the J.B. Wise Parking Lot.
On Monday night, council members agreed that the pavilion should not be open at night when it continues to be a haven for people who have nowhere else to sleep.
They instructed City Manager Kenneth A. Mix to draft an ordinance that would set hours that the pavilion cannot be used.
Council members mentioned a homeless man who has set up a tent where he sleeps at night. He becomes belligerent when he’s told that he must leave in the morning, according to city officials.
“Literally, this guy with this tent, he’s got garbage and trash all over the place,” Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith said. “That really all should be taken away. I don’t think you can put up tents on any piece of city property.”
Before it started getting cold this fall, several unhoused people slept under the pavilion every night over the summer. Early on, the pavilion was a place where homeless people congregated at night, using blankets and sleeping bags, and storing their belongings and food there.
But city officials thought the situation got out of hand when it escalated into a situation of homeless-on-homeless violence, drug deals, vandalism to city property and people bringing furniture to the facility.
Councilman Cliff G. Olney III, advocating for the homeless, complained about graffiti and damage to the pavilion.
“I feel bad for some and don’t feel bad for some,” he said.
On a chilly fall Tuesday afternoon, the number of tents increased from one to three, with a handful of other people huddled in sleeping bags.
Mr. Mix said Monday night that he talked to Police Chief Charles P. Donoghue about the situation.
The ordinance would be the first step. A sign would be put up indicating when the pavilion could be used. Police officers would then patrol the area and could arrest anyone using the pavilion when it’s closed, Mr. Mix said.
Councilwoman Lisa A. Ruggiero, the mayor and Councilman Olney said they were in favor of the ordinance.
Jefferson County is working on opening a warming center in the Salvation Army facility on State Street. The center would offer 20 cots for homeless people to stay overnight and leave in the morning.
Transitional Living of Northern New York is about to open a temporary housing facility at 518 Pine St. in the former Angel’s Inn adult home. Extensively renovated, the single-room-occupancy facility will house 18 homeless men and be open 24/7.
An open house for that facility will be held from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
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