NORWOOD — Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the public were not able to attend Tuesday night’s village board meeting under an executive order passed by Andrew M. Cuomo Friday, according to Village Mayor Timothy Levison.
Mayor Levison said, like other municipalities, the village also closed the municipal building at 11 S. Main St., Tuesday morning and that it would remain so indefinitely.
Services will be completed by a phone call and bills can also be paid by mail.
“Definitely don’t come in the office if you are under the weather,” Mayor Levison said. “We are going to be here most of the day doing the work that has to be done but we are trying to discourage any foot traffic in the office when it’s not necessary.”
He said that was also part of the reason why the village was shutting the doors to the public for Tuesday night’s meeting,
He said he and Village Trustees will discuss what steps to take moving forward, but he said the meeting will be closed to the public, in compliance with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive order.
According to the order, “Article 7 of the Public Officers Law, to the extent necessary to permit any public body to meet and take such actions authorized by the law without permitting in public in-person access to meetings and authorizing such meetings to be held remotely by conference call or similar service, provided that the public has the ability to view or listen to such proceeding and that such meetings are recorded and later transcribed.”
Mayor Levison said he was also trying to abide by the governor’s order to have no meeting exceed more than 10 people.
“That’s the bottom line from the governor’s office,” Mayor Levison said. “Public buildings, he doesn’t want anyone in them, anything more than 10 people. It’s our monthly meeting night, we’re obviously going to pay the bills and then we are going to adjourn the meeting.”
State Committee on Open Government Assistant Director Kristen O’Neill said that the pandemic of COVID-19 has changed the nature of a lot of government operation.
She said under normal circumstances, closing the meetings to public would not be permissible under the Open Meetings Law, but as of the Friday executive order, it is now permissible.
“What they are supposed to do instead and what may be posing a challenge for some of the smaller, low-tech municipalities is if they are going to, for example, hold their meeting by teleconference or video conference or just hold it in person but block access to the public, they have to make the meeting available through some remote assess, so that the public can , at a minimum, listen to or view the meeting as it is occurring,” she said. “What I have been telling some of these smaller, low-tech municipalities is that they should at least, at a minimum, be looking into conference calls. Can they hold a conference call and post the number for calling in on a meeting notice, so instead of having public access, if you would like to listen to our meeting you can call in and listen at that number.”
Mayor Levison said the village was going to have the minutes of the meeting from Tuesday the following day for public review and would look at getting what was necessary for public access following the meeting.
“We’re just trying to get through this meeting and figure it out,” he said.