CANTON — The town’s state of emergency, originally declared March 18 and prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, is set to expire Saturday, and Town Supervisor Mary Ann Ashley told Town Council Wednesday evening she does not plan to renew the emergency declaration.
Department heads and staff have returned to offices at the municipal building, 60 Main St., though the building remains closed to the public. The town’s spending and hiring freezes will still be in place until further notice, and weekly COVID-19 conference calls between local municipalities, St. Lawrence County legislators and the county public health department are expected to continue.
Ms. Ashley said town and village officials are “making really good progress” drafting a written reopening plan for the municipal building, as mandated by the state.
The initial reopening to staff involved a building-wide deep clean, and staff members have been provided with personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer, she said.
Canton Town Court Clerk Marc Armstrong reported to council that the state has determined Aug. 1 will be the court’s in-person reopening date. For now, virtual court operations will continue, and town court-specific reopening plans are in the works.
Economic Development Director Leigh Rodriguez said her office has been engaging with small businesses throughout the pandemic, and with final approvals from the town and regional offices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has launched a COVID-19 Recovery Loan Program, an additional tract modified from the town’s existing USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant funds.
The program allows existing town businesses — defined as those that have been in business for more than six months — with 25 or fewer full-time equivalent employees to apply for up to $10,000, to be repaid over five years with zero percent interest and no payments for the first six months. For businesses seeking loans of more than $10,000, up to $1,000 per full-time equivalent employee can be issued, with a cap at $25,000.
Eligible uses of funds include working capital, purchase of sanitation supplies or personal protective equipment, coronavirus-related signage or other expenses related to new procedures necessary to comply with public health guidelines and state executive orders.
Interested business owners are asked to contact Ms. Rodriguez at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to request an application.
Separate from the loan program, Ms. Rodriguez said her office is also considering options for Main Street restaurant owners to offer outdoor dining, which was permitted in the north country June 4, as part of Phase II of the state’s four-phase reopening guidelines.
More information about the Phase III reopening in the north country is expected in the coming days, but in the meantime, Ms. Rodriguez said her office is working with downtown eateries that have limited sidewalk and outdoor space and are unable to “put out tables on their own footprint.” “We’re trying to come up with some options that would allow people to get takeout and find a spot to sit outside,” she said. “Hopefully that will be coming soon.”
The town still has about 250 free, 100%-cotton reusable masks, a supply distributed by the county within a larger, 1.5 million-mask stock manufactured by Hanes and provided to New York by the federal government.
Ms. Ashley said the town has already distributed most of its 2,000 masks to various workplaces and individuals, and those still in need of a mask are asked to contact Ms. Ashley, at 315-386-2962 or email@example.com, or the town clerk’s office, at 315-386-3735 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Arrangements can be made for no-contact delivery or pick-up at the municipal building.