On March 16, 2020 Town Hall was closed to the public due to the Coronavirus pandemic. We were one of the first towns in Ulster County to limit public access because we felt strongly about protecting our employees who work in an open floor plan. Even though the doors were locked to the public, we were “open for business.” Some departments continued to come into town hall on a limited schedule and others worked remotely. While working we also assisted with food deliveries to many in Gardiner through the County’s Project Resilience program and had a plethora of volunteers to assist us. Where are we now?
Since the pandemic, several changes have been made at town hall. Tempered glass and hand sanitizers are now at our counters and a doorbell was installed for visitors to ring in to minimize contact time with staff. There is a sign-in sheet to document contact tracing if one must enter the building. A drop box allows for contact-less document submissions such as: real estate taxes, building department and planning board applications, as well as payment and immunization records for our summer recreation program.
Town Board meetings remained on schedule and were held by Zoom. As a result, we are currently working on having the meeting room outfitted to accommodate in-person board meetings which will enable remote attendance by the public post COVID. In my opinion, boards seem to discuss and deliberate differently when meeting remotely so I feel it is important to have board members meet in person to be most effective. The Town Hall staff is currently fully vaccinated and we hope to open our doors to the public soon. They may even be open by the time this issue of the Gardiner Gazette goes to press.
With everyone wanting to escape to the outdoors, and our proximity to NYC, we witnessed increased tourism in our town because of COVID. At the same time, the State Park reduced attendance and less parking was available. Route 44/55 on the mountain became hazardous to travel with cars parked on both sides of the road and folks walking on state highways. Working with our neighboring Town of Rochester, we have alerted the Ulster County Transportation Council of the issue and requested a study be done addressing this hazard in the future, which they have agreed to do.
As the weather improves and vaccination rates increase, we believe we must continue to follow CDC guidance. Social distancing, use of masks, and hand sanitizers have proved effective for COVID. These simple protections will help us keep each other safe in the future for any contagious illnesses. Perhaps we can consider this a cultural kindness amongst our residents and towards our guests. Not having a local police department and our State Police serving a sub-region greater than just Gardiner, cultural kindness can and will help fill this void.
On the town website there is a “Gardiner’s Greetings” tab, where newcomers and visitors are introduced to topics such as: safe use of our local roads, caring for our environment, and quietly enjoying our vistas, night skies and more.
My gratitude goes out to our residents, our greatest assets, for helping to keep our community safe throughout COVID, for respecting pandemic protocols, and for the amazing volunteerism we currently enjoy. Residents, please watch your mailboxes for information on how you can participate with the town board’s current focus of updating our Comprehensive Plan, the plan for Gardiner’s future. Once again, please visit our website at www.townofgardiner.org. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. Have a safe and happy summer!