OGDENSBURG — City Council had its first meeting of 2021 on Monday night, starting the new year off with a short and quiet meeting.
The Lockwood Arena, set to reopen on Jan. 16, was a main topic of discussion by councilors and residents. The topic was spurred by two letters sent by city residents, which emphasized the community need for the arena, notably for local hockey players and figure skaters.
“I believe that these players need some sense of normalcy in their lives,” Ogdensburg Minor Hockey Vice President Paul Wert wrote in one of the letters. “I believe we as a community can do that for these kids if we get the arena open and get them back on the ice as soon as possible.”
Mr. Wert went on to suggest the arena should be reopened earlier than Jan. 16.
“Lockwood Arena should not be treated the same as other city buildings,” he wrote. “It’s use is unique and its safety protocols are easier to enforce in its controlled environment.”
Councilors Daniel E. Skamperle, Nichole L. Kennedy and Steven M. Fisher agreed with the letter’s sentiment, each voicing their support for reopening the arena at an earlier date.
“Under the current guidance in place, whatever that may be, I’m OK with that as long as we’re following the state and county guidelines,” Mr. Fisher said.
Ms. Kennedy echoed Mr. Fisher, and noted the potential economic benefits of the arena being open.
“The city is also a business and operating the Lockwood Arena does generate quite a few funds for us as a city,” she said.
Ms. Kennedy also noted that if the organizations don’t use the arena responsibly it is well within City Manager Stephen P. Jellie’s power to shut it down immediately, but she would like to at least see those organizations given the opportunity.
Mr. Jellie voiced concerns about opening the rink with the city’s high positive COVID-19 cases. Currently, St. Lawrence County has 906 active cases, and Ogdensburg has 75, according to public health.
“Keep in mind, St. Lawrence County has one of the highest rates of COVID now in the state and Ogdensburg has the highest in the county,” he said. “I understand everyone’s concern, but I also think everyone can appreciate that we have got to put this COVID to bed.”
Mr. Jellie stood by his decision to continue the arena closure for one more week and continue to evaluate on a day-by-day basis.
“As of right now I’d like to continue with the plan of reopening on Saturday, if we can do it sooner we will,” he said. “But depending on what the information looks like with the cases of COVID, in particular, how schools may be impacted, it may not be the 16th either. We really just have to keep evaluating and assessing as we go. This isn’t a cut and dry topic, things can change tomorrow with this.”
In other business, Mr. Jellie also provided an update on the steering group created to lead the city’s police reform efforts.
“The steering group currently consists of myself, the police chief, the school superintendent and a representative from the (District Attorney’s) office,” he said. “I’m looking for one other city executive leader to serve on this steering group.”
Mr. Jellie noted he’s hopeful that more information will be available by the next City Council meeting.