New Scotland to bring Wi-Fi to Feura Bush Park

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

The New Scotland Town Board approved a contract for Hudson Valley Wireless to install Wi-Fi service at Houghtaling Park in Feura Bush. 

NEW SCOTLAND — After a series of vandalism incidents over the past six months at Charley Houghtaling Park in Feura Bush, the New Scotland Town Board at its Sept. 9 meeting signed off on a deal to bring Wi-Fi to the park, a move that will allow town employees to check in on the park in real-time.

During the August town board meeting, Supervisor Douglas LaGrange said there had been,“for lack of a better term,” five recent “vandalism” incidents that had resulted in five outstanding cases with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office. 

Houghtaling Park is already equipped with motion-detector cameras.

“But it’s tough,” Ken Guyer, the town’s highway superintendent, said during the Aug. 12 meeting, “even with the good footage, we’re struggling with catching any of these mischievous kids.” And nothing has come from the town handing over footage to the sheriff’s office.

By installing the Wi-Fi, town employees will be able to monitor the park in real-time, LaGrange said during the Sept. 9 meeting, “So that, if we see something astray, shall we say, we can get somebody down there immediately and maybe catch any acts. Rather than what we’ve had to do in previous times, find damage or issues and then look back at the cameras.”

Two incidents described last month by LaGrange illustrate his point. 

In one incident, “a couple of young gentlemen” with a motorcycle were doing burnouts on the new concrete floor of the park pavilion, LaGrange said, and they left the bike at the pavilion for about an hour and walked up the street — the whole incident probably lasted three to four hours. 

In the other, “a couple of young ladies” were trying to hit something in the pavilion — LaGrange guessed a birds’ nest — and dinged up the new pavilion’s timbers. The “young ladies” were there at the park for at least three hours, he said; at one point, friends stopped by. 

Hudson Valley Wireless gave the town “a very good price and very good deal,” LaGrange said during the Sept. 9 meeting. 

Spectrum was looking to charge about $3,000 to extend its service from the last house on Mathias Place to the pavilion, he said, and would have charged the town a $79 monthly fee. 

With Hudson Valley Wireless, New Scotland is paying the company a $250 equipment-installation fee and $65.35 per month for service and equipment. 

“And that’s part of a whole plan [the company] has,” LaGrange said. Hudson Valley Wireless offers this type of discount to municipalities for, according to the contract the town signed with the company,“providing free hotspot internet access to the community.”

 Hudson Valley discounted its monthly data rate by $130 — the plan New Scotland agreed to usually costs about $180 per month, but instead the town will pay about $50 a month. 

The monthly fee will be paid out of the town’s park budget.

 

Town hall protocol 

New Scotland Town Hall, having been closed since mid-March due to the pandemic, reopened to the public on June 15.

For three months, mask-wearing visitors have had to ring the front doorbell to gain entry to the building. They then had to have their temperature checked and were asked to sign in as to what department they are visiting as well as the time they came into the building and the time they left. 

At the Sept. 9 town board meeting, Town Clerk Diane Deschenes requested a couple of potential changes. Currently, either she or Patricia Barber, the town’s deputy clerk, will answer the front door and determine whether that person needs to enter the building. 

LaGrange, summarizing the town clerk’s request for the board, said Deschenes would like to see the front door to town hall unlocked, and have tables set up right at the entrance “to kind of keep folks in that front foyer,”  

When visitors comes into the building, they could sign in and then Deschenes, Barber, or whomever — instead of having to stop what they are doing to get up to answer the door, could continue with their work and engage with that person once they have signed in, and then notify the town employee the visitor has come to see. 

Deschenes also said that she’d like to do away with the temperature-taking, noting,“I just don’t think most places are doing that, and even people that are not running a temperature can have COVID.”

 Temperature-taking and other symptom-checking methods have largely been found to do little to help to detect the virus. One study of 5,700 New York City patients hospitalized with COVID-19 published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that just 31 percent had a temperature — and those people were in the hospital because they had the virus. Describing the now nearly-ubiquitous infrared thermometer, two doctors from Oxford University wrote, “The current vogue for use of these machines lends more to marketing than medical evidence.”

Studies of individual outbreaks have found that the percentage of people who test positive for COVID-19 and never exhibit any signs of the virus can range from as little as 6.3 percent all the way up to 96 percent; one recent journal article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine examined 16 different outbreaks from all over the world and found that asymptomatic positives appeared to account for between 40 percent to 45 percent of COVID-19 infections. The  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July placed the rate of asymptomatic infection at 40 percent, an estimate based largely on the Annals of Internal Medicine journal article. 

Councilman Dan Leinung agreed with Deschenes, saying he thought “we’re at a stage now” where it’s no longer necessary to keep the door locked, but added that “the biggest thing” was having the tables set up in the front foyer to keep the visitors from wandering too far into town hall.

As for temperature-taking, Leinung said, “It’s more for the protection of the staff who’s interacting with the public. So I’m kind of deferring to whoever’s dealing with the public.”

Deschenes told Leinung that she had spoken to the other employees who work in the front of town hall and they all say they were OK with getting rid of temperature-taking.

Leinung said, “What would be good and I can try to find something to send around,” is some kind of checklist where visitors would have to self-report whether or not they have had symptoms. “I don’t know how effective that is, but at least [it] makes people consciously think, ‘Oh yeah, I did have a sneeze today.’”

LaGrange said the town may need to redevelop its sign-in form as part of the process. Currently visitors sign their names — some of which “you can’t read,” he said — and the departments they are visiting. LaGrange noted a form that asks visitors to print their name, phone number, the department they are visiting, and also included COVID-related screening questions would also help the town do a better job of contact-tracing. 

Councilwoman Bridgit Burke said that the employees of town hall had done an excellent job keeping both themselves and the public safe since reopening, and, if Deschenes felt her proposed changes were an appropriate way to move forward, “I think we should give it a try. And, if it turns out that it’s creating a problem, we can always go back to what we have been doing.”

With the rest of the board in general agreement with Deschenes’s requests, LaGrange concluded, “We’ll try to get this off the ground by Monday at the latest.”

 

More New Scotland News

  • The New Scotland solar law’s prime-soil and soils-of-statewide-importance provisions make siting a solar project in town nearly impossible. 

  • The Voorheesville Central School District in a letter to parents said that “based on the timing of when” a person newly diagnosed with COVID-19 was “last at school, the Albany County Department of Health has indicated no need for further action, on behalf of the school, to have school community members quarantine.” 

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