As I write this month’s notes, we are beginning to reemerge from seven weeks of hibernation with the phased reopening of the local economy. There is no dispute that this “new normal” will be based upon adherence to well-settled health protocols including a ban on large gatherings, limits on space capacity, keeping a minimum six-foot physical separation, possible face coverings, and other health requirements.
During this shutdown, Town staff has proposed creative initiatives to provide continued public participation in meetings and expanded access to public records. While this rollout has not been perfect, I commend Town staff for working under very difficult conditions to propose measures that far exceed State requirements during this pandemic.
We will soon announce a Moving Forward Plan which sets forth the mandated steps for expanding services and allowing limited public access to Town buildings as of Monday, June 15th unless further delayed by an Executive Order issued by the Governor. The Plan, which will be monitored by the Department of Emergency Medical Services (EMS), will provide guidance for the safe delivery of services by Town employees to residents, businesses, and visitors including regular cleaning and disinfecting, restricting public access to Town buildings by invitation or appointment only, requiring the wearing of face masks or cloth coverings, installing sneeze guards and physical separation markers at pubic counters, allowing more flexible and staggered work schedules, designating rooms for meetings that are limited to 10 participants at pre-marked tables for later cleaning; maintaining contact tracing logs; and improving audio-visual capabilities for public participation.
The Plan is neither a reopening nor a resumption of business plan because, since the start of the pandemic and issuance of Governor Cuomo’s State of Emergency dated March 7, 2020, most Town functions have been deemed “essential” and have been performed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The EMS Department has been a leading agency in the region’s fight against COVID-19, and has been assigned the responsibility for enforcing the Moving Forward Plan. Its protocols for disinfecting personal protection equipment by using UV-C lights have been adopted State-wide by the NYS Department of Health (DOH). It has transported over 70 positive patients to hospitals in Town ambulances which were disinfected by ozone generators and the UV-C lights, and allowed for a rapid return of the ambulances to service. By strict adherence to health guidelines, the EMS staff has remained safe and has limited any exposure in its ranks.
The Police Department has continued with full staffing to protect and serve the community. This effort has included the enforcement of health guidelines, including daily visits to local businesses to provide face masks, information about the importance of physical separation and facial coverings, and investigation of complaints.
Throughout the shutdown, the Highway Department, with a reduced staff, was still plowing snow, picking up leaf bags, removing winter debris, and cleaning out stormwater basins. It has returned to full staffing and is now paving and performing other road maintenance activities. The Transfer Station has remained open with regular hours and held a successful Household Hazardous Waste Day under COVID-19 guidelines.
The Water & Wastewater Department has returned to full staffing, with scheduled inspections, infrastructure maintenance, and managing the water filtration and sanitary sewer plants. I am also pleased to announce that the pandemic did not stop the construction of a new water connection between the Towns of Guilderland and Rotterdam, and new pump station are now active, which allows the Town to draw more than 1 million gallons per day from Rotterdam. Because this water comes from wells, there is no need for expensive treatment at the Town’s filtration plant and the water can directly enter the Town’s water system. The new connection flows in both directions which, when there was only an emergency connection, allowed Guilderland to provide water to Rotterdam when its aging infrastructure has frequent breaks. This new connection helps reduce the need for expensive treatment of algae and organic material in surface water drawn from the Watervliet Reservoir.
Parks & Recreation Department’s staff has maintained parks, open space, and trails during the pandemic. If this were a typical year, you would now be in possession, via school “back-pack mail” or picked-up at the library or other public places, of a copy of the Town’s Spring & Summer Programs 2020 brochure. You’d also be considering and reserving spots for your children in a wide-variety of sporting and enrichment camps, day camps, and swim programs. Instead, thousands of brightly yellow colored brochures are sitting idle at the Parks & Recreation’s office.
The fact that this is an Upside Down Year has not stopped the Parks & Recreation staff from creating a re-imagined summer recreational program that complies with COVID-19 guidelines. And just as with other important State decisions, there was no prior notice before the Governor announced that summer day camps could open on Monday, June 29th. As I was writing these notes, we had just received the Governor’s news and we are now awaiting the State’s final guidance.
While we also eagerly await the County Department of Health’s (DOH) certification of the summer recreation program and Tawasentha Park pool, the staff has prepared a tentative list of camp activities and a schedule consistent with COVID-19 guidelines. I urge you to visit the Parks & Recreation Department’s webpage for the latest updates and guidelines: https://www.townofguilderland.org/parks-recreation.
On Monday, June 8th, registration will open online at http://www.guilderlandrec.com/ for the 2020 summer recreation program which will start on Monday, June 29th, with the bulk of the programs starting after the 4th of July. The Tawasentha Half-Day Camp will proceed with a reduced capacity and alternate activities. The camp is awaiting receipt of County DOH’s permit and additional guidelines. Enrichment and sports programs will be capped under COVID-19 gathering size limitations. These programs will have a waitlist for additional registrations. Families will be contacted if regulations change and they are able to be enrolled in the program. The modified summer program will be hosted only at Town buildings and parks, and will be drop off/pick up only, with no busing.
We are targeting the opening of the Tawasentha Park pool for Monday, July 6th, subject to County DOH’s certification. The pool’s operations will be subject to health guidelines, physical separation requirements, and regular cleaning and disinfecting. Because of these restrictions, entry will be limited to Town residents. We expect to offer swim lessons, lap swimming, and open swimming.
The Guilderland Performing Arts Center will open for the summer 2020 season with Overture on Thursday, July 9th at 7:30pm. The season’s first three events by Skeeter Creek, Guilderland Town Band, and Damn the Torpedoes will be rescheduled for later in the summer. GPAC performances will be subject to gathering size limitations and physical distancing directives. The spacious grounds should provide plenty of spacing, and provide for an enjoyable outdoor entertainment experience.
The Senior Services Department is transporting seniors to medical appointments and grocery stores. Please call the Department at (518) 280-7607 for more information. The buses are now being operated from the EMS Department’s Station 1 to allow for daily deep-disinfecting with the new ozone generator.
Other departments have provided essential services throughout the pandemic and are beginning to return to full staffing. Building and Fire inspectors have performed safety inspections and issued building permits for mostly homeowner improvements. The Assessor’s Office has satisfied all State-mandated tax assessment deadlines and will hold its grievance day on Thursday, June 18th. The Town Clerk has processed tax payments, death certificates, and other important documents for residents. The Comptroller’s Office has paid vendor invoices, submitted requests for State reimbursement, managed the Town’s finances, and made payroll.
Thank you for your patience as we continue to safely navigate through this crisis. The above summary is a small part of what Town staff has been able to perform during this stressful and anxious time for all. I am very thankful for the hard work performed by Town employees, and we remain optimistic that we will soon to return to normalcy.
Thank you again for taking the time to read these notes.