Dear Guilderland residents:
In its daily update today, the Albany County Department of Health reported that there was a second death of a person, with underlying conditions, due to COVID-19 in the County. As of today, there are 228 confirmed cases with 22 persons hospitalized, and 12 adults in the intensive care unit. There are now 439 persons under mandatory quarantine and 241 persons in precautionary quarantine.
Today’s update about how the Town functions under the “essential services” restrictions focuses upon the Assessor. Like the Town Clerk, the Assessor’s Office would have dozens of residents appear at her office each day, reviewing tax rolls, filing informal grievances, and asking questions and interacting with staff. This helpful in-person interaction has unfortunately stopped until further notice, hopefully for not too much longer. But, like the Town Clerk, some Assessor’s services can be accessed on the Town website where you will find grievance forms and the complete final 2019 assessments roll, perhaps the Town’s most voluminous document (3169 pages) on the website.
At Town Hall, the Assessor’s “essential services” include updating property records with new building permits and deeds, reviewing applications for exemptions, and considering informal grievances. This work ultimately requires entering resulting data changes regarding property valuations on a secure computer located at Town Hall with access to State software. And while there have been about 201 directives in thirteen Governor’s Executive Orders from notaries to masseuses, there has been no love shown, so far, for Assessor Karen Van Wagenen who remains required to update records for the State mandated deadlines, the closest of which is the May 1st date for filing the Town’s 2020 tentative assessment roll. The Assessor knows that the time spent now and her essential work on the 2020 assessment roll is tied to the August 31st deadline for school tax bills. And, no, the Assessor is aware of her duties and cannot be swayed by public opinion regarding tax bills.
Today is April Fool’s Day (sorry, should be a joke here) and, once a decade, it is also Census Day, the date on which the nation’s population is recorded. The importance of a complete count in determining the Town’s representation in legislative bodies and receipt of sale taxes is well-known in our community and is shown by the Town’s response rate of 42.8%, well above the County’s rate of 36.9%, New York’s rate at 31.1% and the national rate of 36.2%. Way to go Guilderlanders, and please complete your 2020 Census questionnaire online, and call the Census Bureau at 1-844-330-2020, or visit 2020Census.gov if you have any questions.
Since last evening’s launch of the new email address (3AMideas@togny.org) for ideas, suggestions, and comments about the Town’s response to COVID-19, I have received dozens of emails, all positive with good questions, suggestions, and words of thanks. Among them is letting residents know that expiring stickers for Town parks and upcoming Household Hazardous Waste Day remain valid and that residents with new cars or other reasons for a new permit can email the Town Clerk. And, no, sorry again, the 201 State directives does not allow me to cancel school tax bills. Please keep sending your emails but please understand that it may take a while to read them, and I thank you in advance for caring enough to write.
Among the overlooked “essential services” is that provided by Deputy Assessor Heather Weinhold, who is also a Town Marriage Officer. Spring is a popular time for a wedding, maybe the most intimate social event held at Town Hall, and, as a dedicated employee, Heather is trying her best to keep couples happy under strict guidelines. So, while she can maintain physical separation, keep participation to four persons (you can figure that out), and hold the ceremony outdoors, Heather has no control over the weather and even less so over the happiness of excluded mothers-in-law. But, in the end, let’s not blame all of society’s dissatisfactions on a virus, and instead thank Heather for being ready, on her own terms, to perform a joyous ceremony.
Thank you again for staying safe and calm.
Peter G. Barber