Dear Guilderland residents:
In its daily update today, the Albany County Department of Health reported that there are 238 confirmed cases with 27 persons hospitalized, with 12 adults in the intensive care unit. There are now 401 persons under mandatory quarantine and 202 persons in precautionary quarantine. I thank Mary Rozak, County Director of Communications, for weeks of daily press releases with useful information for Town residents that I have been using in my email updates.
Today’s update on how the Town is functioning under “essential services” restrictions focuses upon the Building, Zoning and Planning Departments. These departments’ service counter and conference rooms would typically see heavy traffic, particularly with better weather, with homeowners bringing plans and asking questions about decks, fences, pools, sheds, family apartments, and even hen houses, and local business owners and developers looking to renovate and expand buildings or develop lots. And while some of these services, including applications for building permits, subdivisions, site plan review, special use permit, and other applications, are available on the Town website and can be submitted by mail, applicants and Town staff benefit from personal interactions. We understand that most of these projects are very important to families. Please rest assured that department staff are still reviewing and processing applications, and issuing building permits.
Under the Governor’s Executive Orders, the “essential services” performed by these departments include fire and building code inspections for new construction. As you may know, construction activity was largely exempt from public gathering restrictions until the issuance of Executive Order 202.6, which requires the shutdown of all construction activity except emergency construction, construction of roads, bridges, transit facilities, utilities, hospitals or health care facilities, affordable housing, and homeless shelters. The restriction does not prohibit work performed by a single worker if she or he is the sole worker on a job site. Since then, there has been even more confusion with new guidance which allows construction work on multi-family apartments so long as the projects include affordable housing. The work of these departments is most impacted by the over 200 directives whose interpretation is itself a time consuming task, and often changed by the next day’s directive or guidance.
I am receiving wonderful emails at 3AMideas@togny.org, a new email address for submitting ideas and suggestions to handle COVID-19. I have not yet had the chance to review the hundreds of suggestions but I quickly discarded an organized bear hunt (I assume the sender meant getting a photo of this elusive animal) and yet find some merit to an online rummage sale for occupants of our collective Islands of Misfit Small Kitchen Appliances.
If you are curious or desperate for distraction, the Census Bureau invites you to track response rates to the Census by state, county, or municipality at: https://2020census.gov/en/response-rates.html. I’ll save you time by letting you know that the responses rates as of yesterday are: Town (48.6%); Albany County (41.6%), New York State (36.1%) and United States (41.3%).
Thank you again for staying safe and calm.
Peter G. Barber