Having steered the Town of Woodstock through a year marred by the Covid-19 pandemic, Supervisor Bill McKenna is looking forward to a 2021 that hopefully sees it out of this situation and into better times.
On the near horizon is the renovation of the town offices on Comeau Drive. The $2-million project was stalled during the economic shutdown because McKenna and the town board decided shouldering the extra tax burden wasn’t prudent.
The new year will be different from 2020. “Of course we’ll probably continue to pay attention to the economy and where that goes. Although there’s some thought that a downturn in the economy is not a bad time to build because financing costs go down,” McKenna said. While the first year might be a bit of a task with a tax increase, moving forward into the future. We’re talking about a 20-year bond. Certainly we’ll start that discussion again. The plans are almost complete.”
The project will allow all the public-facing offices to be on the first floor, making it accessible to everyone. The building will be more weather-tight, New heating and ventilation systems will be installed.
In the more immediate future are plans to work with Village Apothecary owner Neal Smoller to distribute the Covid-19 vaccines starting with the most vulnerable residents. “We don’t know what that’s going to look like,” cautioned McKenna. “We’re just starting to have a conversation. There are really no details other than we’re committed to working together on a town and apothecary joint venture.”
Getting as many people vaccinated as possible is key to getting back to some version of normal and getting the economy back into gear, McKenna noted. “How the vaccine works is going to dictate how active we get. My hope is by the summertime we’ll all be able to start to live a little bit more normally.”
“Some folks say it’s never going to be normal again, and I don’t accept that. I believe it will be,” he said. “After the Spanish flu we had the Roaring Twenties. I’m optimistic we’re going to see the second coming of the Roaring Twenties. Hopefully the economy will rebound, and we’ll see an inflow of different cash items and that will help us to do a little bit more.”
The Mink Hollow bridge has been slate for replacement for awhile now. McKenna said there have been discussions with New York City, which is paying for the new bridge because it will allow for greater water flow, a benefit to the Ashokan Reservoir. “But in return for accepting that money, we have to meet their criteria. It’s a lot of additional planning. We’ll continue to look for grants for that, including additional money from the city,” McKenna said.
McKenna said the town government adopted a very tight budget in order to avoid a tax increase. “But the downside is we’re going to have less funds, and we’re just going to have to be really careful and prudent.”
McKenna and the rest of the town board will also work on a fill law to prevent the situation that happened in Shady, where a propertyowner ordered fill from legally troubled contractor Joseph Karolys. The fill contained construction debris and other contaminants and was not properly secured, causing it to slide into a neighbor’s property after heavy rainfall.
The new law would add requirements to disclose the type of fill used and the origin of the material. “We don’t want to burden our residents and our local contractors too severely but we also want to protect our residents from outrageous projects such as what happened up on 10 Church Road,” McKenna said.
Also on the horizon is a review of the town’s recently adopted short-term rental (STR) law given the rising popularity of that type of property use. “We will continue to take a look at the STRs and how our law is operating and what we might want to tweak,” McKenna said.
McKenna wanted to stress how important it was to take the vaccine when it is available. “I know there are some people that are anxious about the vaccine. I know it did come about fairly quickly, but I feel fairly confident and comfortable that they did review it,” McKenna said. “I’m pretty confident that it’s going to be a safe vaccine and that it’ll be appropriate for people to take.”
He’s optimistic about its acceptance. “Most Woodstockers are clamoring to take it. That’s my general impression.”
McKenna credited a lot of the perseverance through the unusual year to the town employees. “I couldn’t ask for a better staff,” he said. “The town clerks, the bookkeeper, my office manager. Everybody just works well together and is responsible.”