CHATHAM – The Town Board held an emergency meeting Monday afternoon, March 30. The board members used a video conference call so they did not have to be in the same room. The session was streamed live on YouTube for residents to watch.
Supervisor Donal Collins said the board would not have public comment during the meeting, which was attended remotely by all the board members, Town Attorney Tal Rappleyea, Town Clerk Beth Ann Rippel and Tammy Shaw, the administrative assistant to the supervisor.
The board passed a motion to authorize a freeze on all nonessential spending starting March 31. Spending requests will go to the supervisor, who will decide whether the funds are for an essential service.
Supervisor Collins started the meeting by talking about safety precautions residents should be taking during the pandemic, including having no large gatherings and staying home if possible. He also said he had handed out hand-sanitizer at the town hall to residents. He said that he was grateful to the County Emergency Management agency for giving the town the sanitizer.
He told residents to go to the town website www.chathamnewyork.us and town’s Facebook page for more information about organizations that can help during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also said that if residents knew of anyone that needed help they should contact him at 518-330-1019 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On March 19, Chatham Town Hall was closed to the public until further notice. A message on the town’s website says, “However, town offices will remain operational and will be conducting day to day business through the mail, email and via telephone. Feel free to use the drop box to the right of the main entrance for any town related business. The tax collector will continue to accept property tax payments via mail (postmark applies), drop box, or to pay your bill online go to egov.basgov.com/chatham .”
The main topic of the March 30 meeting was budget concerns, especially construction work at Crellin Park on the pavilion by the pond. Supervisor Collins said that due to businesses being closed and “everyone being shut down,” the town was “going to lose serious revenues.” He said the board was told to look at stopping capital projects.
Work by town Highway Department in mid-March had been underway at the park and there were plans to pour concrete for the flooring and put in pipes for plumbing at the pavilion.
The board discussed the issue of what construction work would be deemed essential during this time. Several board members talked about the safety issue at the park now that the pavilion floor was dug up and there was fencing around it. The board felt that getting the concrete down would make it safer at the site and that it could be paid for through budget reserves for the recreation program.
Councilman John Wapner, who is on the Recreation Committee, wanted the board to come up with a plan if the town decides to move forward with the rest of the construction project after the pandemic restrictions are lifted. The board borrowed money last year to do the work. The town will have to make a payment on the borrowed funds in the 2020 budget.
Board members decided that they needed more information about the payment on funds the town had borrowed and what penalties they would have to pay if they do not move forward with the rest of the project.
They also discussed what to do about the summer recreation project, which runs weekdays from July to August.
“I think it would be hasty to call it off,” said Mr. Collins of the canceling summer program. Mr. Wapner suggested the board needs to make a decision about it before May.
The board also talked about using the video conferencing for future meetings, especially for meetings of the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals and committees.
“They are all interested in proceeding with what they’ve got on their plates right now,” said Mr. Rappleyea, referring to the Planning Board and ZBA members. He said that one of the projects currently being reviewed by the Planning Board was ready for a public hearing and he thought the board could use the video platform. People can call in to the meeting to make comments during the public hearing or write comments during the live stream.
“It’s as open as any other,” Mr. Rappleyea said of the way the meeting video conference system works. The March 30 meeting was streamed live and recorded on the county Board of Supervisors YouTube channel. There is a link to the meeting on the town’s Facebook page.
‘I think it would be hasty to call it off.’
Supv. Donal Collins
Town of Chatham
Councilwoman Abi Mesick pointed out that having a public hearing that was not an in-person meeting was not optimal.
The board also talked about how committees will meet and get information about those meetings posted. The board will look into having a town YouTube channel to stream the meetings.
The board met again, over video conference call, Thursday, April 2, with the Planning Board and ZBA chairs and the clerk for both boards, Erin Reis, about moving forward with meetings and hosting a public hearing. The Planning Board was planning to have the public hearing on a project on Pitts Road April 14.
Ms. Mesick said that town should have a YouTube channel ready to go soon but again she said she felt the platform was not an “optimal way to meet,” for the public hearing. “I think it puts the public at a disadvantage,” she said.
“This is a pandemic,” she pointed out, saying that she was concerned about putting public at a disadvantage “right now for these projects.”
ZBA Chair Daniel Persing said that what Ms. Mesick was pointing out was “a concern we should have.”
Planning Board Chair Gabriella Sperry said she would talk to her board about the public hearing. Mr. Rappleyea said he would talk to the lawyer for the applicant.
At the April 2 meeting, the board passed a motion saying that the plumbing and concrete work at the Crellin Park pavilion was essential work.
The board normally meets on the third Thursday of the month, so the next scheduled Town Board meeting should be April 16 at 6:30 p.m.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email email@example.com