Local governments closed to public, open for business

The Enterprise — Noah Zweifel

The chairs, spaced for “social distancing,” were largely empty Tuesday night for the regular Westerlo Town Board meeting. 

ALBANY COUNTY — Local towns and villages are working at half-staff amid a directive from the governor but most remain open for business. Area municipalities are asking that residents with any business with town or village hall do it over the phone or online; no one but staff is being allowed inside. 

At 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Guilderland closed all of its town buildings until further notice, according to an announcement from Supervisor Peter Barber. He said phone calls may not be answered and advised residents in need of services to email.

“I cannot overemphasize that there is no change in staffing for responses to emergencies, including Police, EMS, and ambulances,” Barber wrote. “Water, Sewer and Highway Departments will respond to emergency calls ... The Parks Department is readying the Western Turnpike Golf Course, parks, open space, and trails for your ‘social distancing’ enjoyment. Building and Fire inspectors are performing tasks that allow approved home and commercial construction.”

The Guilderland transfer station will keep its regular hours and the Household Hazardous Waste Day scheduled for Saturday, April 11, remains on the town’s calendar but depends upon the availability of state-certified contractors.     

 

Open meetings

Also a victim of the coronavirus is the public’s attendance at upcoming board meetings. In an email to residents, the village of Altamont said that its March 30 planning board meeting and its March 31 zoning board of appeals special meeting will take place but the public will not be allowed to attend. 

Last Friday, the governor signed an executive order suspending certain aspects of the state’s Open Meetings Law specifically relating to the obligation municipalities have to allow in-person attendance at public meetings, said Kristin O’Neill of the New York State Committee on Open Government.

What cities, towns, and villages will now have to do is to make the meeting remotely available to the public contemporaneously, whether that is a livestream over the internet or broadcast on television, O’Neill said. In addition, a recording and transcription of the meeting will also have to be made available to the public at a late date. 

Mayor Kerry Dineen told the Enterprise in an email: “We are currently working to set up a platform for the public to watch and listen to our upcoming PB and ZBA meetings.”

Dineen said when she had more information, she would make it available.

 

More Regional News

  • Forty-three states are now on the travel advisory list. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut also meet the criteria but are not on the list — “It would have a disastrous effect on the economy,” says the governor. However, non-essential travel to those states is discouraged.

  • Two more Albany County residents have died of COVID-19, the county’s executive, Daniel McCoy, reported on Monday, bringing the death toll to 138. He also said that, since the start of the pandemic, suicides and deaths from drug overdoses in the county are “through the roof.”

  • Albany County residents

    On Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that state aid would be withheld from schools that remain open in so-called “red zones,” where the coronavirus is prevalent, and, further, that municipalities in those red zones that are not enforcing closures will also have state aid withheld.

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