Olive, one of Ulster County’s less densely populated townships, has felt busier than usual during the recent weeks of lockdown and social distancing. The new town supervisor, Jim Sofranko, stepped into his new role just before the coronavirus crisis hit.
With a 2010 population of 4419, Olive has had 13 reported Covid 19 cases to date. It installed proper protocols, including reduction of town workspaces by 50 percent, making certain everyone worked in shifts, and putting signage up reminding town residents and visitors to maintain six-foot distancing, and wear masks when closer than that minimum.
“I put a lot of the signs up myself,” Sofranko said.
Olive’s town board decided to keep the parks open as a release valve for residents. Because it’s home to most of New York City’s Ashokan Reservoir, the town has long prided itself on its popular parks in several hamlets.
“The rail-trail is busy, as is the walkway by the reservoir,” reported Sofranko in a phone interview from his town offices this week. “People are walking along roads, It feels more active than ever.”
Town-board meetings have continued on Zoom, with board members coming to the town offices in West Shokan to review bills and other financial papers on an individual basis. Members of the public have signed in to observe and participate, via a link on the town website. The town planning board was set to hold a meeting this week, with the town to follow its April meeting with a May Zoom event next week.
“The biggest challenge has been getting information out to the public,” Sofranko said. “We need to do a redesign on our website, but also realize we’ll be facing serious funding issues moving forward.”
The supervisor noted how he and the board decided to waive fees at the transfer station. “We urged everyone to distance, wear gloves and masks,” he said. “We didn’t expect everyone to take that time to do spring cleaning. Now we’ve got a more strict policy again.”
There’s been some tensions over weekenders: short term rentals, stuff getting sold out at local stores.“But we’re pretty resilient out here. We’re a pretty hardy group in Olive.”
He’s followed the difficulties of distance learning through the experience of his wife, a teacher. He noted the difficulties many faced from lack of Internet access, and the years Olive’s spent lobbying for better broadband.
Olive is planning for summer reopening of its pool and rec programs.
There’s worry about dwindling local revenues. “Everything’s going to be way lower than we anticipated,” Sofranko said. “But we’re also finding we can keep costs lower.”
Sofranko pointed to the success of Project Resilience in Olive, delivering over 125 meals three days a week throughout town. He’s been coordinating routes, joining in the deliveries, reveling in the smiles.
“People are nervous,” he said. “But they’re also a little hopeful that this too shall pass.”