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Plans being made to re-open the city

GLOVERSVILLE — Mayor Vincent DeSantis on Friday outlined plans to reopen City Hall and City Court to the public next month with new measures in place to ensure social distance protocols are maintained and requiring masks to be worn by all visitors and employees.

DeSantis shared plans for the June 1 reopening of City Hall in tandem with the reopening of City Court during a virtual town hall meeting conducted over Facebook Live.

Both City Hall and City Court, operated respectively by the city and by the state despite sharing a physical location, have been closed to the public since March due to the coronavirus. Essential personnel have continued to be able to access City Hall to conduct business as needed while City Court was completely shut down before recently resuming some proceedings through remote court appearances.

The state Unified Court System recently announced that some court staff would be able to return to courthouses in regions of the state that have begun phased reopenings initially to conduct remote conferences and court appearances while receiving new motions, notices and appeals filed electronically.

According to DeSantis, City Court officials are now making preparations to allow members of the public to once again appear in-person beginning on June 1. To prevent confusion over what in-house services are open to the public and to streamline policies and procedures for the public accessing the building, the city is preparing to reopen City Hall at the same time.

DeSantis noted that building access by the public will be limited to the front entrance facing Frontage Road where officers of the court will aid in providing directions to anyone entering the building.

“When you come from the parking lot you will not be able to get in through the parking lot door,” DeSantis emphasized. “You will have to go around to the front entrance.”

Anyone entering the building will also be required to wear a mask or face covering, as will all employees of the city and the court interacting with the public.

“You cannot come in without a mask on for the safety of everyone,” said DeSantis.

Once inside, individuals will be required to maintain their social distance from others with seating areas to be taped off to ensure no one sits within six feet of another person. A limit of one visitor per city office will be permitted at one time with chairs to be placed in the hallway outside of department entrances for those who are waiting.

Additionally, buzzers will be installed on each departmental entrance allowing city staff to admit each resident one at a time.

To reduce potential wait times, DeSantis noted that all departmental forms will be made available at a central location near the main entrance enabling residents to complete paperwork while they wait for service.

Drop boxes that were placed outside of the parking lot entrance to drop off completed forms or requests to City Hall amidst the closure will continue to be available.

After City Hall reopens, DeSantis said the Common Council plans to begin meeting in person once more in the courtroom with council members and department heads to maintain social distance protocols throughout meetings.

“We have a large enough space,” said DeSantis. “We feel we can fit very safely in that space.”

The meetings will continue to be closed to the public and the media to be livestreamed on the city Facebook page as permitted under an executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on March 13 suspending Article 7 of Public Officers Law, allowing public bodies to meet and take actions authorized by law without allowing the public to physically be present.

The governor’s order also allows public bodies to meet remotely be conference call or similar service as the Common Council has done since March. Meetings conducted without the public present must be recorded and transcribed for public release.

“There will be a camera in there that will be able to show everyone in the room and you’ll be able to watch the meeting live on Facebook,” said DeSantis.

Residents will also be able to make public comments via Facebook during the regular session held on the fourth Tuesday of each month while meetings continue to be broadcast to the public.

As the city looks to reopen City Hall, DeSantis said the city will continue to be subject to workforce reductions for non-essential personnel limiting the number of municipal staff members working outside of their homes to 50 percent of the total workforce until the Mohawk Valley region in which the city is located is authorized to enter the second phase of reopening.

The Mohawk Valley was authorized by the state to begin phase one of reopening on May 15 allowing the resumption of construction; manufacturing and wholesale supply chain; retail for curbside pickup and drop-off or in-store pickup only; agriculture; forestry; and fishing with social distancing guidelines to be maintained and masks to be worn during close contact between staff or between staff and members of the public.

After each stage of reopening, state and local elected leaders and health officials serving on newly formed regional control rooms will monitor the rate of infection for a possible resurgence of coronavirus cases for at least two weeks before allowing regions to move on to the next phase. If cases of the virus begin to rise or regions no longer meet metrics set out by the state to qualify for reopening, the process for reopening may be slowed or some restrictions may be reinstituted.

To qualify to begin the first of four phases of reopening, regions of the state were required to have a 14 day decline in hospitalizations and deaths, new hospitalizations of fewer than two per 100,000 residents over a three day average, hospital and intensive care unit capacity of at least 30 percent, a testing capacity of 30 for every 1,000 residents and contact tracing capacity with at least 30 trackers for every 100,000 residents.

If the Mohawk Valley continues to meet the state’s metrics, the region may be permitted to begin phase two of reopening as early as May 29. Phase two includes the reopening of professional services, in-store retail, barbershops and hair salons, administrative support services and real estate under certain safety precautions to lower the risk of spreading the virus. Each business must submit plans for compliance with the mandated safeguards to the state online.

DeSantis noted that the city plans to follow guidance received from the state encouraging the city to continue allowing staff members to continue working from home where practicable after the city enters phase two of reopening. All members of the Department of Public Works were able to return to work after the city entered phase one of reopening.

Police and fire crews were exempt from the state stay at home order and workforce reduction mandate.

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