Village to crack down on social distancing


The village of Cooperstown will begin taking more actions to enforce social distancing and mask wearing downtown and in stores, following a large amount of complaints from residents about lack of compliance from visitors and store owners.

The village’s Board of Trustees held a special meeting Monday, July 20, to discuss resident complaints and voted unanimously to adopt a statement requiring adherence to state Department of Health standards for preventing the spread of the virus, and a frequently-asked-questions sheet containing updated state safety requirements and information about how to comply in Cooperstown.

The board also unanimously approved setting up a safety station at the Pioneer Park kiosk, where masks and hand sanitizer will be available.

The concerns of the trustees and their constituents come as the coronavirus pandemic rages in other parts of the county and has had an uptick locally and in the region. Otsego County announced four new positive cases over the weekend, including one in Cooperstown. Two of the recent cases have led to hospitalizations, according to a media release from the county’s Health Department.

“We obviously received a great deal of complaints, wisely so, for businesses and individuals who don’t seem to be complying with the public health guidelines for wearing a mask and socially distancing, etc.,” Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh said. “So it is very important we send a strong message from village government.”

The board is expected to introduce a local law this month that will set up fines for people and businesses who do not comply with the measures. The potential law had not been written as of Monday morning, when the board held its hour-plus long special meeting via Zoom and broadcast it on YouTube. Before it can pass, a public hearing will have to be set and advertised, and the law has to be written for that to happen. Trustee Richard Sternberg said he will take the lead on the measure, working with Village Attorney Martin Tillapaugh to set the language as soon as possible.

The trustees also debated if continuing a Sunday “Music on Main” Street program was wise, after multiple reports reached them about a lack of social distancing and mask wearing at the event on previous Sundays.

Music on Main is a joint venture between the village and the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce where a band plays on Sunday afternoons in Pioneer Park at the corner of Main and Pioneer streets. Ultimately, the trustees decided to try to continue the program by stressing to the Chamber and potential audience members that the program can only continue if people follow state guidelines about mask wearing and social distancing.

The trustees also agreed to hold their regular July meeting in person next week. The trustees will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 27, at 22 Main St. in Cooperstown, but will move the meeting to the Village Ballroom, upstairs from the normal meeting room, to allow for social distancing. The state mandate suspending open meetings laws expires Wednesday, Aug. 5, Tillapaugh said, so the village could continue meeting on Zoom next week.

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