As I write these notes, our lives remain in limbo with some hope on the horizon. Governor Cuomo has announced that after seven weeks of shutdown and forced hibernation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, that the State is thankfully now on the downside curve of the infection rate, and that there are undetermined plans for the phased reopening of the State on a regional basis. The Governor emphasized that this restart will be carefully monitored and unrushed, and that many questions about next steps remain unanswered. To help, the Governor has created the New York Forward Re-Opening Advisory Board to help guide the State's reopening strategy.
Overarching this uncertainty is the Governor’s commitment that the State’s reopening would be an indeterminate “new normal” focused on health guidelines that minimize the spread or return of the virus. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NYS Department of Health expect an extended time period of restricted physical contact, including a ban on large gatherings, limits on space capacity, keeping a minimum six-foot physical separation, possible face coverings, and other health requirements. A majority of the State’s residents now believe that these physical restrictions will persist for at least six months or even into 2021. Against this backdrop, the Governor stated yesterday that businesses, including local governments, should consider “creative measures” to safely continue to provide government services.
Long before this announcement, and soon after the start of this pandemic, Town staff has been working hard on new initiatives to provide you with continued and improved access to Town services despite the physical restrictions. We have been testing some of these more technologically complicated steps, made improvements, and will continue in our efforts to keep you informed.
Here’s a sample of what we have done and what we’re working on.
The Town Clerk has created easy to use forms, such as marriage license applications and Freedom of Information Law requests, which you can complete, sign, and submit online: https://www.townofguilderland.org/town-clerks-office. We are now working on online editions for other forms.
The Assessor’s Office has adopted creative measures in response to Executive Order 202.22 which made historic changes in how the Assessor interacts with the public. Because of the ban on public gatherings, there will be no in-person inspection of the tentative tax assessment roll at Town Hall. The Assessor will make the roll available online on May 15th at: https://www.townofguilderland.org/assessors-office) where you can also obtain grievance forms and information. Because of last year’s successful revaluation by the Assessor, the Town’s equalization rate and uniform rate (very important but even harder to explain, unless you live Weatherfield and a few other areas) are both at 100%. The Assessor’s Office will also post a schedule for phone inquiries about the grievance process. The rescheduled grievance day is June 18th by appointment only.
The Town Justice Court has installed audio-visual technology improvements for arraigning defendants. Until further notice, Town court proceedings cannot be held. But like other Town Hall gatherings, the future holdings of Town court on Monday and Thursday night, at which more than 300 persons often attended, will not be held for the foreseeable future. The Town Court will be providing greater access to online enabled resolution methods, considering staggered and more frequent proceedings, and employing the Town’s new audio-visual tools for board meetings.
And while Executive Order 202.1 suspended public attendance at board meetings because of the ban on gatherings, the Town went beyond the Order’s requirements of simply broadcasting meetings by adding public participation by calling a dedicated phone number ((518) 579-3721)) during meetings of the Town Board, Planning Board, and Zoning Board of Appeals. Earlier this year, the Town expanded upon its live broadcasting of meetings on Verizon channel 34 and Spectrum channel 1303 by investing in website upgrades for streaming the meetings live on the Town’s website (https://www.townofguilderland.org/town-meeting-videos) and added indexed recordings of the broadcasts on the Town website. And while there have been a few hiccups as we tried the new audio-visual technology in the first two broadcasts, I greatly appreciate the efforts of Town staff to propose, enact, and improving this creative solution.
As part of the Town’s efforts to keep you informed in new ways, starting on March 10th, and each day since, I have emailed daily updates to residents (50th update as of April 29th) at https://www.townofguilderland.org/supervisors-office/pages/town-guilderlands-response-coronavirus-covid-19. You can subscribe to these emails, and other news and announcements, including Nixle notices at https://www.townofguilderland.org/subscribe.
Despite the poor weather, Spring is here. Town trails and open space were readied early this season by the Parks’ staff. We are eagerly awaiting the result of UAlbany's Master Graduate Studio’s pathway project. The report should help advance the Town’s goal of developing a multi-use trail system or “green infrastructure” linking neighborhoods to desired destinations.
After some ambiguity in Executive Orders, Western Turnpike Golf Course is now welcoming eager players under COVID-19 restrictions, including, but not limited to, no gatherings, no carts, and no pro shop. You must have a pre-reserved tee time which you can make online at https://www.westernturnpike.com/ or calling (518) 456-0786. The Nines at Western Turnpike, the course’s new restaurant, will offer daily to-go lunches between 10:30am until dusk by calling (518) 608-1025. A menu for lunches and dinners is posted at: https://www.facebook.com/theninesatwesternturnpike/. All we need is consistently good weather.
I thank you for your support of local businesses, most of which are owned by and employ Town residents. The Guilderland Chamber of Commerce has an online small business hub with regularly updated information about essential businesses which remain open and/or offer take-out and delivery, and businesses where you can shop online or buy a gift card: https://www.guilderlandchamber.com/guilderland-small-business-hub/. To help local restaurants, Lowell Knapp, this newsletter’s publisher, has created an online Guilderland Take-Out Guide with information and active links for restaurants that offer take-out and delivery: https://issuu.com/our_towne/docs/guilderland_take-out_guide.
I also appreciate the support of our community partners who have continued to provide invaluable services to residents. While the library building remains closed, the Guilderland Public Library (https://guilderlandlibrary.org/) remains open, and provides a growing array of choices for downloadable movies, TV shows, how-to-guides, e-books, audiobooks, The New York Times, magazines, Healthy at Home resources, and more. Just use your library card or get a temporary card online at: https://sierra.uhls.org/selfreg. With that card, you’ll have access to the Library’s online resources and all 29 libraries in the Upper Hudson Library System (https://www.uhls.org/).
The Guilderland Food Pantry has helped a growing number of residents and it needs our continued support to fight food insecurity in our community. Please consider donating at: https://guilderlandfoodpantry.ccbchurch.com/goto/giving. Community Caregivers (https://www.communitycaregivers.org/) provides reassuring phone calls, referrals to anyone in need, and just a friendly voice. Please call their office at (518) 456-2898 or website for more information.
In my nearly 50 daily email updates, I have often commented on the strangeness of this Upside Down world, and the unusual daily experiences that we are experiencing. But no matter how odd it gets, our community remains resilient and mindful of the needs of others. I also thank you for the kind words of support.
Thank you for taking time to read these notes. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for staying safe and calm.