COPAKE—A year ago the world changed.
When the Copake Town Board met via Zoom Thursday, March 11, 2021 Supervisor Jeanne Mettler reflected that it had been one year since the World Health Organization had officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. She called it “a historic moment.”
In her monthly report, she spoke about where the town has been since then and where it is now headed.
A day after the fateful declaration, the Town Board met in-person. It was the last in-person meeting the board has had since. At that time they appointed a three-person Public Health Taskforce to advise the supervisor about what measures the town should take in the way of plans and protocols to address the coronavirus situation.
The Town Hall and the Community Park Building were closed, boards and committees started meeting via Zoom, highway department workers were put on staggered work schedules and many public events throughout the rest of the year were canceled. The Easter Egg Hunt, the Children’s Summer Program, Concerts in the Park, the Haunted House and the Holiday Light Parade were among the casualties.
“A year later, we are at a turning point, I hope,” she said, noting the number of new coronavirus cases is decreasing. But the number of deaths keeps rising (89 as of March 16) and hospitalizations and ICU rates remain steady. She recounted the recent Covid-19 outbreak in the Department of Motor Vehicles and County Clerk’s office where 7 of 23 staff members were infected and the Department of Health (DOH) closed both offices until March 19.
“We are clearly not out of the woods yet, but spring is in the air and I am getting calls about little league, and summer programs. And I feel optimistic that if we do this right, we can begin to open. We will still wear masks and keep our distance but at least we can come together for some community,” the supervisor said.
After a recent meeting with Bryan and Hollie Van Tassel, the Copake Summer Camp director and assistant director, Ms. Mettler reported they think the summer camp this year can happen.
Educators at Taconic Hills, the Van Tassels “are both experienced with the protocols that can be employed to safeguard children.” They might need extra counselors and have to limit the number of campers “but they are thinking that a summer camp is doable.” The supervisor said she invited them to come to the April Town Board meeting to present their detailed plan.
Likewise, Adam Nielson and Ron Semp with the Taconic Hills Little League Board of Directors, have been in touch with the supervisor and will get back to the Town Board in April with a detailed proposal approved by the DOH for making the Little League season happen.
Also on tap for the April meeting is a comprehensive plan consistent with state guidance for moving forward with the Summer Music Program. Ms. Mettler said she had spoken with the town Park Commission Chair Liana Roberts, advising her that the plan should include not only precautions for social distancing and the wearing of masks but also how the rules will be enforced.
In wrapping up her looking-forward report, the supervisor announced “some very good and exciting news for Copake.” The American Rescue Plan Act, passed and signed into law by the President last week “includes significant assistance to Towns.” She said $370,000 is earmarked for Copake and $11.37 million for Columbia County.
The funds can be “used to fill the shortfall in state revenue (such as CHIPs),” and to pay for the Covid-19-related equipment the town has had to purchase. It may also be available for infrastructure and other benefits, she noted.
‘We are clearly not out of the woods yet, but spring is in the air…’
Supervisor Jeanne Mettler
Town of Copake
“As we mark the end of a really horrible sad year, I am grateful to each of you who have supported our efforts through this journey.” The supervisor said the meeting would close “in perhaps a final moment of silence to honor those who were victims of this vicious disease… our neighbors in Columbia County.”
In other news the Town Board:
*Voted unanimously to take the advice of Ben Wisniewski, the town’s attorney on the Hecate Energy industrial-scale solar facility proposal, and will not sign-off on the final stipulation agreement proposed by Hecate in January. A major drawback to signing the agreement is that the town would waive its right to challenge any of the studies or other contents that are part of the Hecate application
*Acknowledged the retirement of Highway Department crew member Mike Bradway after 25 years on the job. Highway Superintendent Bill Gregory thanked Mr. Bradway for his service, calling him “hard-working and dependable” and someone who he could always count on. Mr. Gregory wished him well, hoping he would find time to relax and enjoy his grandkids
*Agreed to ask the town’s Conservation Advisory Committee (CAC) to nominate members for a subcommittee to handle a new Historic Preservation initiative. The Town Board will make final appointments based on the CAC’s recommendation.
The next Town Board meeting takes place Thursday, April 8 at 7 p.m. Zoom connection information is on the website: townofcopake.org.