Local governments adopt new meeting methods

Bliss

COOPERSTOWN — The next Otsego County Board of Representatives meeting will take place Wednesday, April 1, as scheduled. No, that isn’t an April fools joke. 

As part of his sweeping orders to slow the coronavirus pandemic, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has temporarily loosened state open meetings laws to allow municipalities to meet via the internet or tele-conference, without a quorum or behind closed doors, if needed.

In Otsego County, the loosened rules have allowed municipalities to adopt several different approaches to meeting during the pandemic. 

Otsego County Board Chair Dave Bliss, R-Cherry Valley, Middlefield, Roseboom, said the board and its committees will meet as scheduled, if possible. The meetings will be closed to the public until further notice, he said, but will be streamed via Facebook Live.  Bliss said the board’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee had a meeting last week via Zoom, a video conferencing app, and it worked well. 

“We did that early as a dry run to see how it went,” he said. “That seemed to go well.”

Because the April 1, meeting won’t be open to the public, Bliss said the “privilege of the floor” period for open comments won’t take place, but he encouraged people to mail or email short comments to have them spoken into the record. 

The village of Cooperstown held a public hearing with no public Monday, March 23, but Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh said the trustees will allow comments for an extended period through next month’s meeting, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 27. Most committee meetings have been canceled, she said, but the trustees will continue to meet so the village can pay bills and conduct other essential business. 

Cooperstown has set up a YouTube channel, Cooperstown Village Hall, and will stream its meetings live. Tillapaugh said the village bought camera equipment last week, moving a purchase planned for next year’s budget up to this year’s budget, and is awaiting approval from YouTube to do live streams. 

“I am getting to know a lot about communication equipment,” she said, “and how to set up a YouTube channel.” 

Other municipalities are taking different directions. The village of Milford has canceled all meetings until at least April 15, according to the village’s Facebook page.

The town of Otsego, via a press release, has announced its monthly Town Board meeting will take place as scheduled Tuesday, April 8, but it will wait until closer to the meeting date to announce how the meeting will take place. 

The village of Cherry Valley has no meetings scheduled until the third week of April, and will update residents via its Facebook page, according to Mayor Lou Guido.

The village of Richfield Springs is still assessing how to conduct its public hearings and its Tuesday, March 31 trustees meeting, according to Clerk Dayle Barra.

The Daily Star publishes a list of public meetings daily, and will continue to update that list as more municipalities indicate how they will change their meeting patterns and schedules in the future.

Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at gklein@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7217.  

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