Story by Katie Bisaro
Despite the ever-present health crisis brought on by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the requirements for “social distancing,” the Village of Warwick Board of Trustees met remotely for the first time on the Zoom online meeting platform on Mon., Apr. 6. Although, it was not without its challenges and glitches.
It took a few minutes for all the participants in the meeting to connect and make sure they could be heard. Village Clerk Raina Abramson has had a crash course in the operation of remote meeting platforms. Once settled in, it appeared that a “side effect” of online meetings was present at this one – “zoom bombing” by participants who seemingly had no particular interest or business with the Village Board, yet tuned in anyway and were somewhat disruptive to the proceedings.
Until they were muted by the Village Clerk, these young adult “participants” were ‘out of order,’ randomly commenting on such things as the backdrops and locations from which the Trustees were participating in the meeting and their responses to motions.
Typically, this first meeting in April would have been the reorganization meeting with the swearing in of Trustees elected in March. This year’s Village Trustee election, however, was initially postponed until April, and now probably until June at the earliest, due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation.
Trustees Barry Cheney and Eileen Patterson continue their current terms on the Board until such time as a new election can take place. Patterson will be stepping down from her position, Cheney is running again as an incumbent.
Public Hearing on Budget
Village Accountant Michael Vernieri gave a general outline of the parameters under which he would be working to make a formal budget presentation to the Board of Trustees on Mon., Apr. 20. The tentative budget will be presented at a Public Hearing that evening at 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall located at 77 Main St. in Warwick.
Vernieri reported that the tax increase should not exceed the two percent state tax levy cap although there are concerns about some aspects of state funding due to the coronavirus situation. Details with more exact figures will be presented at the Tentative Budget Hearing.
Trustee Eileen Patterson thanked Vernieri and Village Treasure Cathy Richards for their work on the figures for the budget taking into account all the information gathered from the Board, as well as the heads of the various departments. Mayor Michael Newhard agreed commenting on the unusual circumstances.
“This year was very unusual because it [budget process] was so difficult and disconnected because of all the things we’re dealing with now and it definitely made for a completely different environment to create a budget,” stated Newhard.
Be Mindful of Waste Disposal
Trustee Barry Cheney reminded residents to be mindful of waste that is being disposed of in toilets and through the sewer system. Cleaning materials such as wipes and cloths should not be flushed into the sewer system as it causes blockages and back-ups into homes and businesses.
Cheney also noted that the Board, just that evening, approved a $375,000 screen for the Orchard St. Pump Station project – these screens are necessary to ensure that items that do not belong in the sewer system are filtered out.
“I’d like to remind our residents to pay extra attention to what they’re flushing and not flush anything other than toilet paper…other alternatives to toilet paper such paper towels, facial tissues and sanitary wipes, even if the package states they are flushable, should not be flushed into the sewer lines,” Cheney stated.
Newhard also commented all trash should be bagged and tied for the safety of waste management haulers who are out and still doing their job. Additionally, the Village has received complaints about the disposal of face masks in municipal parking lots. He commented on the disregard for the Dept. of Public Works by doing so and asks that these items be disposed of properly as there are plenty of public receptacles.
Finally, Newhard reported that those who order take-out from local restaurants should be aware that the take-out is meant to be taken home, not eaten at tables or benches outside local establishments.
The next meeting of the Village Board of Trustees will take place on Mon., Apr. 20, at 7:30 p.m. via the Zoom online meeting platform. Information on connecting to the meeting is available on the Village website at www.villageofwarwick.org.