When the coronavirus hit the Hudson Valley, a decision was made early on to close the town hall and have employees work safely from home. This decision was not made lightly, but after considering the open floor plan and employees’ ages and underlying conditions, it was the right decision to make.
However, while town employees may not physically be “at Town Hall,” we are still working from our homes, which was not as easy to set up as it sounds; technical help was needed to allow employees access to email and internet servers that are based in the Town Hall. The Governor amended the Open Meetings Law which makes it possible for Gardiner’s boards, committees, commissions and tasks forces to meet remotely using the various platforms available.
The Town Board has streamlined its agenda, addressing housekeeping and financial items to keep the town up and running. If town employees do need to come to Town Hall to do their work, these are carefully scheduled, after considering individual locations and social distancing concerns.
The number of COVID-19 cases, and the time it took for Gardiner to report its first case, provide evidence that suggests that the early closure of our library and Town Hall was wise, and helped to keep our case numbers comparably lower than neighboring towns’.
Gardiner Town Hall was established as a meal distribution center for Gardiner, Shawangunk and Plattekill, through Project Resilience, a community fund and local food distribution effort set up by Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan in partnership with the United Way. It supports residents impacted by COVID-19 and simultaneously provides support to small businesses. At the time this was written we were delivering over 100 meals to Gardiner residents in need, three days a week. As we’ve seen the need for this service increase daily, we’ve also witnessed a surge in the number of people volunteering to help deliver these meals to meet the growing need.
We are tremendously grateful to these volunteers and proud to live in Gardiner. Without a doubt, our collective response to this crisis underscores what a great community Gardiner is! Our employees, residents and businesses have really stepped up with offers to volunteer and provide whatever services are needed.
We are also facilitating the New Paltz Community Foundation’s program called Help Your Neighbor 2020, which provides meal vouchers to local residents in need. [See Gardiner Responds to the Pandemic to find out how to get a voucher.]
We’ve also received support from County and State government leaders. For example, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan and his team have been incredibly supportive in offering daily update calls, working tirelessly to provide mobile testing sites, increasing hospital capacity and securing additional supplies needed to combat the virus. Governor Andrew Cuomo provided strong leadership to municipal leaders through the PAUSE initiative, which has been used as a tool to guide decision-making.
I’ve found that during difficult times like these, it is important to look for the silver lining, to rearrange the priorities in life. Some positive changes I’m hearing about that are a common theme in our community are parents spending more time with their children, neighbors checking up on one another, and businesses offering services and providing valuable supplies for distribution in our community.
When I was contacting folks personally to see how they were doing, one gentleman responded by saying, “If you have to quarantine, there is no better place to quarantine than Gardiner in springtime.” So, yes, we have been forced to slow down, but in today’s fast-moving times, I think there is something to be said for slowing down to evaluate all that life has given us. Stay strong, be safe and together we will get through this.