Close meetings to public, shutter services
The spread of the coronavirus this week forced local governments to reduce their staffs, derailed public meetings, closed senior centers, potentially sabotaged nuptials and delayed village elections until April.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday (March 20) ordered local governments, including those in Cold Spring, Philipstown and Beacon, to cut on-site staffing and have non-essential employees to work from home and directed that no gatherings occur. The staffing restrictions do not apply to the police, fire, water, sewer, code enforcement or other departments deemed essential.
County Executive MaryEllen Odell said she is collaborating with the county Legislature on coronavirus (COVID-19) policy.
Legislative committee meetings scheduled for Thursday (March 19) were listed on the calendar on Monday morning but were removed later that day. Other committee meetings are still listed for next week.
County Legislator Nancy Montgomery, whose district includes Philipstown, said that “the Legislature is an essential operation. We can meet and, hopefully, we will.” Under the governor’s emergency orders, elected bodies can prevent public attendance and utilize conference calls and similar mechanisms to meet but must record and broadcast or telecast such sessions.
On Friday (March 20), Toni Addonizio, who chairs the Legislature, issued a statement in which she said that, effective March 26, legislative meetings would be closed to the public but that the audio will be broadcast online at putnamcountyny.com/legi.
County Clerk Michael Bartolotti urged residents to avoid the clerk’s office in Carmel except “in an emergency situation” and said appointments are required to visit the DMV in Brewster, which will be open only to county residents. (See putnamcountyny.com/dmv.) A drop box is available for relinquishing license plates, he said.
“If you must visit our offices,” he cautioned, “we will only have limited resources to assist our customers.” For both the clerk’s office and DMV, he promised he will “relax these restrictions when it is safe to do so.”
Bartolotti said residents should use the drop box for pistol permit transactions, business certificate filings, judgment transcript filings, non-emergency court filings, notary public renewals and land recordings.
On Monday, Supervisor Richard Shea suspended all non-essential town operations and asked residents to avoid going to the temporary town hall, justice court or Building Department and to contact agencies by phone or email. The town had already shut down the Recreation Center and its programs and postponed Depot Theatre productions.
The supervisor also offered assistance to anyone needing help in obtaining necessities such as food or medications. His office phone is 845-265-5200.
“We must think not only about ourselves but also about our neighbors,” Shea wrote in an open letter. “This is a time when we need to check on the most vulnerable to make sure that our neighbors are safe and well. The crisis will end.”
Village Hall shut down as of Monday and the village canceled meetings of its Historic District Review Board, Planning Board, Recreation Commission, Tree Advisory Board, and Zoning Board of Appeals. On Tuesday, the village announced that Board of Trustees meetings would continue but be closed to the public and videotaped and posted on YouTube within 48 hours. Services such as police, water, and garbage and recycling pickup will continue, village officials said.
In a message posted online, Mayor Dave Merandy said that the village staff continues to check phone messages (845-265-3611) and email ([email protected]), “so let us know if there is anything we can do to help.” He also noted that “many of our local businesses have been shuttered” in the epidemic but “are offering take-out or delivery service. Please try to do what you can to help them stay afloat. Call your favorite restaurant, pub or gift shop to see what they are doing. If you can, order pizza, burgers or family dinner” or a gift. “I’m sure whatever each of us does will be appreciated.”
The Village Board canceled its Monday meeting and, as the state mandated, moved its election for mayor, two trustees, and justice court judge from Wednesday to April 28 to coincide with the presidential primary vote. All meetings are postponed until at least March 30.
Mayor Michael Bowman backed the election postponement. “The governor absolutely made the right decision to err on the side of caution,” he said.
Residents can email [email protected] with questions or requests for assistance.
Mayor Lee Kyriacou said the service window at the front of City Hall would remain open during regular city government hours. “Municipal buildings are being cleaned twice a day and are safe for the public,” he said. However, he encouraged residents to contact officials by phone or email.
The city clerk suspended appointments for those seeking marriage licenses.
On a trial basis, officials moved civic meetings to a larger space inside the Lewis Tompkins Hose Co. at 13 South Ave. to allow more social distancing.
Trash collection, handled by a private contractor, will continue on schedule, the city said. The recycling and transfer facility on Dennings Avenue also remains open for some services.
New York on Monday ordered town and village justice courts to postpone all non-essential activities. It stated that one special court per county will handle urgent matters such as arraignments and orders of protection. After-hours urgent matters may be handled in a town or village courtroom, it said.