Also, board pushes for employees to be vaccinated against COVID
The Philipstown Town Board last week agreed to cover Cold Spring snow removal during a pandemic-related personnel shortage; began considering COVID-19 vaccination rules for town staff; and delayed paying Putnam County for a senior citizen outreach job that remained vacant all year.
The five-member board acted at its year-end meeting on Dec. 16 at Town Hall.
Councilor John Van Tassel and Cold Spring Mayor Kathleen Foley proposed that the town Highway Department handle snow-plowing and similar chores in the immediate future for its village counterpart, which Foley said is short-staffed because one worker went into COVID-19 quarantine while others were absent for various reasons.
“Cold Spring has a big problem,” said Van Tassel, the deputy supervisor. “If there were a snowstorm in the next month, they’d have nobody to cover.”
He said the village is expected to reimburse the town for expenses. Van Tassel, who was elected in November to succeed Supervisor Richard Shea, also recommended that the municipalities adopt a reciprocity pact, so that “if we’re in a situation where we can’t staff” the town Highway Department, “the village could assist us.” He said the village and town lawyers would confer in preparing an agreement.
Foley said that “we can imagine a scenario where this could very easily happen again, with multiple folks going out, whether vaccinated or not,” because the Omicron variant “is just crashing through even vaccinated folks.”
On a related matter, Van Tassel reported that he asked the town attorney to draft a policy, forceful “to the limit of the law,” instructing town employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or wear masks and undergo testing.
“I don’t want to fool around with this,” he said. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be 100 percent vaccinated.”
He said the town Recreation Department, including part-time employees, is vaccinated, along with employees in Town Hall. The Building-Code Enforcement Department, in an adjacent office, is also apparently 100 percent vaccinated, according to Van Tassel and Town Clerk Tara Percacciolo. However, Highway Superintendent Carl Frisenda estimates that the Highway Department vaccination rate is 70 to 75 percent, Van Tassel said.
He observed that on Dec. 15 he attended a Putnam County legislative committee meeting at which about 40 people packed the compact conference room. Only five — all from Philipstown (including Cold Spring) — wore masks, he said. “I’m proud of Philipstown.”
“The fact that this thing has become a political ideology, when it’s a health issue, just confounds me,” said Shea.
In other business, the board voted unanimously to delay payment of $15,000 for the town’s half of the salary of a senior citizen program aide based at the county-run Philipstown senior citizen in Cold Spring. The position is vacant.
Councilor Jason Angell said that Michael Cunningham, the county Office for Senior Resources director, told him that three Philipstown candidates turned down the job and “they’ve had no luck” otherwise filling it. According to the county, Angell said, other Putnam employees have carried the extra load, so that, despite the empty office, Philipstown’s $15,000 payment for 2021 “was absorbed.”
“We need some accounting” on that, Shea said. “Specifically, where did the money go?”
Van Tassel said it “is hard to fathom” that, in a pandemic, other county employees could take on additional work. He said he didn’t think the town should pay the $15,000 for 2022 unless someone is hired.
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