It’s safety first for Guilderland as it reopens town buildings to the public

Enterprise file photo

Guilderland Supervisor Peter Barber expects to have a plan in place by June 15 to reopen town buildings for the public.

GUILDERLAND — The town is planning to start, in a phased way, reopening its buildings to the public after Governor Andrew Cuomo’s state-of-emergency order expires on June 13.

“That’s a Saturday,” noted Guilderland Supervisor Peter Barber, and the plan for re-opening is to be in place for Monday, June 15.

“We’re subject to so many different entities,” Barber said, each with ever-shifting guidelines, both mandatory and required.

“The first and last principle is safety,” he said. “We’re trying to keep it simple,” Barber said of the plan so the town is not using any metrics in making its calculations.

At first, town buildings will be open to citizens only by appointment or invitation, Barber said, with a limit to how many can be together at once.

Currently, no more than 10 people are allowed to congregate, according to an executive order Cuomo issued before the Memorial Day weekend.

Probably the board room meeting space will be opened first, Barber said, noting it’s easier to keep one room cleaned on a regular basis.

People entering the town hall will have their temperatures taken and will be asked a series of questions on whether they have symptoms typical of COVID-19 such as a cough or chills, Barber said. They will also have to sanitize their hands and sign into a log that will be used for contact tracing if someone gets infected with the disease.

Barber noted that Guilderland’s first responders — its police, emergency medical services, and ambulance crews — have been working “since day one.”

The water and sewer department and the highway department went back to full staffing this week, Barber said. When the state first put restrictions in place in early March, those departments had just one-third of the staff coming to work, and then one-half, said Barber.

In town hall offices, such as the clerk’s and assessor’s, he said, work schedules were staggered.

On Wednesday, May 20, Albany County as part of the Capital Region, entered the first phase of reopening designated businesses.

“We get regular complaints,” Barber said, “about people in parks or stores not wearing masks … The police go out every day, visiting businesses to make sure people are following guidelines.”

Rather than making arrests, Barber said, Guilderland Police have been educating residents and handing out masks.

When complaints are lodged about businesses, Barber noted, the police aren’t there to witness an infraction. They go the next day to “give a friendly reminder,” Barber said.

The goal, he said, is compliance not pressing criminal charges.

At this point, Barber says, he has no plans to lay off or furlough any town workers.

In 2019, Guilderland got $12.57 million in sales-tax revenues from the county. Sales-tax revenues paid for 35 percent of Guilderland’s $36 million budget this year.

Barber said the first quarter of sales tax — for January, February, and March — was actually up slightly.

“The big hit will come in April, May, and June,” he said. Barber is expecting a 20-percent reduction in sales-tax revenues for the second quarter, which amounts to a loss of about half-of-a-million dollars, he said.

But, he said, the town, financially, is “in fairly good shape.”

“We have healthy reserves,” Barber said, describing them as “in the millions of dollars.”

He also said, “We are taking steps to reduce expenses.” This includes curtailing overtime and “thinking twice” before hiring someone to fill a position that has been vacated for retirement.

Barber continues to send out a daily emailed newsletter to town residents and urges people to consult them on the town website for accurate information.

“People sometimes go by what they hear or see in the paper,” Barber said, which can be inaccurate as newspapers summarize rather than drilling down for specific information, he said.

Barber tries to read every executive order, he said, and also looks to the Empire State Development Corporation for guidance.

He plans to continue issuing his daily newsletter at least until June 13 when the governor’s state of emergency is set to expire.

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