Story by Katie Bisaro
With the increasing efforts to limit and slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the need for “social distancing” and restrictions on large gatherings, municipalities and public services doing their best to keep up with changes in the way they must now do business as well as trying to continue to serve the public.
Village Hall Closed to Public
Effective Tues., Mar. 17, Village Hall, located at 77 Main St. in the Village of Warwick, has been closed to the public.
In a statement drafted and adopted at the Village Board meeting on Mon., Mar. 16, the Village Emergency Response Plan outlines the Village’s response “in regard to the COVID-19/Coronavirus in our community for the safety of their constituents and the Village’s employees as it relates to access to Village Hall and the Justice Court, as well as public meetings and events.”
The most sweeping change is that Village Hall will be closed to the public until further notice. Village employees in the Building and Public Works departments, as well as the Planning Board, Zoning Board and Justice Court offices, will continue to report to work and will be conducting work via phone and email. The main number for Village Hall is 986-2031.
Planning Board and Zoning Board meetings have been postponed until further notice.
During a work session prior to the Board meeting, the Board discussed the possibility of staggering when Village employees report to work to minimize the number of employees present at one time in Village Hall.
Michael Moser, Department of Public Works (DPW) Supervisor, reported that he is spreading his crews out in smaller groups. He also reported that crews will not be entering homes unless it is an emergency situation such as a water line break. Moser is cognizant of balancing the health of his workforce with the needs of the Village.
Village Municipal Payments
Village municipal payments such as water and sewer bills can be dropped off in the Deposit box located right outside Village Hall. For water and sewer payments, no cash is accepted, checks or money orders only. Payments can also be made online at the Village’s website, www.villageofwarwick.org.
Traffic Court has been cancelled for the month of March; appearances will be rescheduled by mail. Traffic tickets can also be paid via the Deposit box at Village Hall, note that payments must be Cash or Money Order only, no checks are accepted. Traffic court payments can also be made online at the Village’s website.
Village Services Suspended
The following services are also suspended until further notice: Municipal ID’s; Notary Public Services; Garage Sale Permits; and Facility Use Requests. Handicap stickers will be available by appointment only.
Village Election Postponed
The Village of Warwick election for two Trustees, slated to take place on Wed., Mar. 18, has been postponed until Tues., Apr. 28. An executive order by Governor Andrew Cuomo was issued postponing Village elections state-wide.
Town Also Monitoring Situation
The Town of Warwick is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation as well. In his weekly column, Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton reported that the Town is in daily contact with Orange County Emergency Management and that recommendations have been implemented.
Meetings of Town Senior Clubs have been suspended until the end of March and no meetings with more than 20 persons will take place in Town facilities.
“Here in the Town offices we are open for business, public surfaces are cleaned daily, hand sanitizer is available and staff is ready to serve you. Our transportation system of buses are cleaned every day and common surfaces wiped down so the public should feel confident in traveling via the bus system,” Sweeton wrote. Warwick Town Hall is located at 132 Kings Hwy. in Warwick and, as of this writing, is still open 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Updates from the Town of Warwick are available on its Facebook page and at www.townofwarwick.com.
Police Department Curtails Services
Warwick Police Chief Thomas McGovern has also issued a statement outlining changes in procedures for his department.
The Warwick Police Department will no longer be engaging in the following activities until further notice: non-life-threatening medical calls; requests to unlock vehicles; walk-in requests for police reports or motor vehicle accident information; fingerprinting requests; ride-along programs; courtesy transports; station tours; and public appearances for informational purposes. Additionally, the drug “drop-off” box is off-limits.
Lt. John Rader, who attended the Village Board meeting, commented that while members of the Police Dept. greatly appreciate the public’s concern and support when dropping off food, the department can no longer accept such gifts.
The department requests that residents call 986-5000 for any police contact and should not come to the station as many requests can be taken care of over the phone. Officers will respond to messages “as soon as is practical.”
Finally, in his statement Chief McGovern asks for the public’s understanding in the event an officer does respond to a home and the resident is asked to step outside to speak with the officer.
“We need to minimize our potential exposure to be able to continue to provide the best, safest service possible to all of you,” McGovern wrote.