CHATHAM—Mayor John Howe announced at the Village Board meeting November 9 that as of Wednesday staff in the clerk’s office will return to working remotely and the Department of Public Works staff will go back to a Covid plan that includes not sharing village trucks.
Mayor Howe said that looking at the increase in Covid-19 cases in the county, he felt that “it’s a matter of when do we pull the trigger” on closing the clerk’s office and having employees work from home. He said he thought that time had arrived and he stressed a few times during the meeting that he wanted to be proactive and not reactive.
On Wednesday, the Village posted a statement on their Facebook page saying, “The office of the Village Clerk will be closed to the public until further notice due to the rise in Covid-19 cases in Columbia County. If you have any questions or concerns, please call us at 518 392-5821 ext. 2 or 3 and leave a message. We will get back to you as soon as possible. Garbage Stickers are still available at Citgo, Stewart’s, and Sunoco. You are also able to receive your trash stickers via mail if you leave a check in the lock box at the Village Clerk’s office along with your name, address, the amount of stickers and whether they are $2 or $3 stickers.”
Mayor Howe said at Monday’s meeting, which was held online, that he had reached out to the county as well as the towns of Ghent and Chatham highway departments about a shared aid agreement, since, as he pointed out, the village DPW has only four workers. If one worker gets sick there may be an issue with quarantining the other employees. He worried what would happen in a snow emergency among other situations.
All Chatham village departments have submitted Covid plans to the board, the mayor said.
“I want to start to lock things down,” he said of the village offices.
Mayor Howe said Chatham town and village courts could continue to operate at the Tracy but he will talk to the village justice. He said that though the Tracy Memorial Village Hall may have to stay open, “we will not be in the building.”
He also said the Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative Committee could still meet in-person for now, since they meet in the village firehouse, where they can be socially distant. But he said they will move online if needed.
“I don’t like the trend,” he said of the positive cases of Covid-19.
One proactive step the village took last month was to discourage door-to-door trick-or-treating on Halloween by not shutting down car traffic on Kinderhook Street (the busiest street in the village on that night) and working with the Chatham Fire Department on a drive-thru event at the fairgrounds.
Fire Department 1st Assistant Chief Paul Pratt attended the board meeting online and said that 411 cars drove through the fairgrounds for bags of candy on Halloween. Both Mayor Howe and Trustee Melony Spock thanked the Fire Department for the event and Deputy Police Chief Joe Alessi said the night “went smoothly.”
The board also discussed the Police Reform committee and getting information out to the public about when their meetings are scheduled. The committee will hold a public hearing at some point, but Mayor Howe said for now the meetings are open for the public to view. Trustee Jaimee Boehme, who is on the committee, said she was working on wording for the village’s website and Facebook page about the committee. She also said people can look at the state’s Police Reform Workbook that the committee is working with.
In June, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative executive order requiring local police agencies “to develop a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies and programs in their community based on community input. Each police agency’s reform plan must address policies, procedures, practices and deployment, including, but not limited to use of force,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.
Deputy Chief Alessi pointed out at the meeting that there is a time constraint with the committee’s work since the order says that police forces must adopt a plan by April 1, 2021 to be eligible for future state funding. Deputy Chief Alessi said he wanted to “renew my concerns that there is a time issue.”
‘We will not be in the building.’
Mayor John Howe
Village of Chatham
Mayor Howe confirmed to The Columbia Paper that Chatham Police Chief Peter Volkmann is still on paid administrative leave, which started on September 18.
Also at the meeting:
• The DPW report said that leaf pick-up will continue through the end of the month and there is work that still needs to be done on the retaining wall on Austerlitz Street. The village clerk also pointed out that the DPW would be reading water meters as well
• Mayor Howe said the sales tax revenues came in higher than anticipated. He pointed out that a monthly budget report is now posted on the village website, villageofchatham.com
• The board plans to publish a request for bids for work on the Tracy Memorial soon. The village received a state grant for the work
• The police will beginning ticketing for overnight parking on November 16.
The next board meeting will be December 14 at 7 p.m. For more information on how to attend that meeting go to the village website.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email