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Davis Motel Causes Rift Between Councilman and Department of Social Services

Gino Geruntino, WIBX

A recent attempt to reopen the Davis Motel is meeting some opposition in the form of Councilman Jim Zecca.

Zecca, along with a handful of North Utica residents attended a recent Zoning Board of Appeals meeting to voice concerns regarding the possibility of sex offenders being housed at the motel.

But, he says the problem isn’t with the owner…

“He’s been contacted a number of times by the County, who has been telling us that they’re not really pushing this,” Zecca said. “Well, he said they’re annoying him and calling him, telling him that they want him to accept the vouchers and to accept the sex offenders.”

Zecca says the owner applied for a variance to reopen the facility, with six motel units and 16 efficiency apartments, but tabled it during the ZBA’s meeting. According to Zecca, only three of the five members were present, which was enough for a quorum, but posed a risk to getting the variance passed.

Calls made to the owner by WIBX were not answered directly, but rather by a person close to him.

In addition, Department of Social Services Commissioner, Lucille Soldato, completely refuted Zecca’s claims.

“I’m not aware of any calls made to the Davis Motel, and we would never be calling anyone asking to relocate sex offenders to the Davis Motel,” Soldato said. “First of all, we don’t know and if we know, we couldn’t disclose that information.”

Soldato says her department places the homeless in shelters or with friends and family first, and use motels as a last resort.

“What we do is talk to them about what resources they have,” Soldato said. “Do they have friends in the area? Do they have family in the area? We strongly encourage them to stay with friends and family, rather than us. But, if they have absolutely nothing we will put them up, the first place we go to are the shelters. If the shelters are full or for some reason will not take them, then we have to put them up in a motel.”

She says once a person is sent to a motel for the night, they must check back in with the Department each day to be interviewed again and receive help finding housing. Soldato also says there are no contracts with any local motels, and that anyone who walks into the office, even if they are a recently released offender, must be helped.

“Released individuals from prison are people that we have to put up,” Soldato said. “They come back to this area because they are originally residents of this area and they have no housing. I mean, some of them will end up staying with family and friends, but others do not. Then it’s upon us to help find them housing as quickly as possible.”

Still, the Davis Motel issue has prompted Zecca to sponsor a Common Council resolution urging the Zoning Board to accept the variance, but with the stipulation that the owner can not accept homeless sex offenders.

The topic will also be brought up during the next North Utica meeting to be held on April 22nd.

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