Ancram plans for the next pandemic

ANCRAM—The hope is never to have to use it, but in the event of another public health emergency like the current pandemic, the town now has a plan in place to deal with it.

Back in September, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation (S8617B/A10832) requiring all public employers to create plans to adequately protect workers in the event of another state disaster emergency involving a communicable disease. The state and localities, including school districts—all must have these plans.

Plans had to be submitted to unions and labor management committees within 150 days, and plans have to be finalized by April 1.

At the March 18 Ancram Town Board meeting Supervisor Art Bassin announced that the town’s new Health Emergency Management Plan was “complete and ready to go.” The plan was primarily put together by Councilperson Bonnie Hundt, with some assistance from Councilperson Madeleine Israel and technical support from Mary Murfitt. Three other Columbia County towns are using the template crafted by Ms. Hundt, the supervisor said.

The 11-page document includes the identification of essential positions, facilitation of remote work for non-essential positions, provision of personal protective equipment, and protocols for supporting contact tracing.

In a follow-up phone call, Ms. Hundt said the town was given a template for plan development by the county, but that the template had to be tailored to the town’s needs since the county is a much more elaborate operation with multiple courts, many departments, unions and employees.

‘I hope we never have to use it.’

Councilperson Bonnie Hundt

Town of Ancram

While the town has many other plans and policies, what to do in a public health emergency involving a communicable disease was not among them until now.

She said crafting the plan “took a long time” and “wasn’t easy” and required much back and forth to make determinations about essential personnel and priorities.

Instead of trying to figure out how to handle the situation in a theoretical way, she said it made more sense to write down how the town has actually handled the current pandemic to come up with a plan specifically geared to Ancram that is in accordance with state and Columbia County mandates along with federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols and guidelines.

Ms. Hundt said at the meeting, she thinks the town is well-covered by the plan, though, “I hope we never have to use it.”

The Town Board unanimously approved the Public Employer Health Emergency Plan, the complete text of which will be posted on the town website at

In other matters, the board heard that the first webinar about the Solarize Ancram project was conducted March 17. Last November, the town partnered with Solstice Community Solar to bring affordable, clean energy to Ancram residents, town buildings and businesses.

Here is a link to the story about the project that appeared in the November 26, 2020 issue of The Columbia Paper, “Ancram embraces solar offer,”

Ancram residents are eligible to join a nearby shared solar farm and save 10% on their electric bills through the New York State Community Distributed Generation Program—with no upfront costs or changes to their property. A link to the webinar and further information about the project and how to sign up is on the town website.

Climate Smart Community Task Force (CSCTF) member Colleen Lutz told the board that flyers about the initiative will be sent out, that a second webinar will be conducted in mid-April and a third in mid-May. Residents can sign-up for the program until June 1.

Thirty-three people preregistered for the first webinar and 22 attended. So far, three people have signed up and another nine have expressed interest.

Ms. Lutz said 74 properties in Gallatin including the Town Hall and Town Court have enrolled in the program. The goal in Ancram is 25, though organizers expect to exceed that number.

On another matter, the town board heard an extensive report from Ancram Hamlet Planning Group Chair Jay Corcoran. The primary hamlet issue of concern continues to be the State Route 82/County Route 7 intersection. Mr. Corcoran recounted incidents reported by hamlet residents of fearing for their physical safety when walking the dog or unloading groceries from the car due to speeding motorists coming down the steep Route 82 hill into the hamlet.

He also cited noise pollution, a lack of space, increased traffic and near misses that could have resulted in death. He said the future of the hamlet’s economic development depends on doing something to improve intersection safety and slow traffic down.

Supervisor Bassin noted that the town’s efforts to get the state Department of Transportation to lower the speed limit or put in a new traffic light that would require drivers coming up or down Route 82 to stop have not been successful.

James Kennedy, who owns, lives and works in the Simons General Store building in the hamlet center called Route 82 a main artery in a rural hamlet, noting speeding trucks passing through sound like freight trains. He said that if one of those 18-wheelers jack-knifes coming down the hill “everything in the center of Ancram will be gone.”

Mr. Bassin said he will arrange a meeting with a DOT representative, the hamlet group and himself to air concerns.

The Town Board meets next April 15 at 7 p.m. via Zoom.

To contact Diane Valden email

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