Gardiner declares state of emergency, shuts town hall

Governor Andrew Cuomo did it for New York State on March 7; county executive Pat Ryan did it for Ulster County on the 12th; and this Sunday, March 15, town supervisor Marybeth Majestic declared an official state of emergency for the town of Gardiner. In a memorandum to municipal employees, elected officials and board chairs, also forwarded to all who have signed up for the town’s mailing list, Majestic announced that town hall would not reopen after the weekend on March 16 and remain closed through March 29. The supervisor projected that “Regular office hours will resume Monday, March 30,” but she left open the possibility of an extension of the hiatus, saying, “I have declared a State of Emergency effective through April 14th.”

“The intention of this closure is to clean and decontaminate the building as well as to reduce the exposure and spread of COVID-19,” the announcement read, noting that the town’s highway department offices and transfer station were not yet included in the shutdown.

“Elective officials fulfilling essential responsibilities that may require their access to the building may do so as long as precautions outlined by the Ulster County Center for Disease Control at the time of their entry to the building are followed,” the memo continued. “Town staff are encouraged to self-quarantine and to fulfill any duties of their position, as each may be able, from home.” Staff and officials will continue to be paid during the Town Hall shutdown.

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The emergency order to shut down town hall followed hard on the heels of a state of emergency declaration issued the same day, in which Supervisor Majestic said that she would “exercise the authority given me under Section 24 of the New York State Executive Law, to preserve the public safety and hereby render all required and available assistance vital to the security, well-being and health of the citizens of this municipality. I hereby direct all departments and agencies of the Town of Gardiner to take whatever steps necessary to protect life and property, public infrastructure, and provide such emergency assistance deemed necessary.”

A state of emergency is a situation in which a government is empowered to perform actions or impose policies that it would normally not be permitted to undertake. A government can declare such a state during a natural disaster, medical pandemics/epidemics, civil unrest or armed conflict. Such declarations alert citizens to change their normal behavior and orders government agencies to implement emergency plans. On a local level, this might, for example, allow the municipality to purchase lifesaving equipment or supplies without waiting for the usual bidding process, in order to save precious time.

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