Mayor, supervisors optimistic as they deal with coronavirus

Mayor, supervisors optimistic as they deal with coronavirus
Whitehall Municipal Center.

The year that will be forever mentioned in the same breath as the novel coronavirus was a trying one for all people.

For a place like Whitehall, it threw a wrench in the many projects that were planned for 2020.

A section of North Williams Street remains closed due to the canal wall work that is ongoing and the daily tasks at the village and town offices has had to change thanks to the pandemic.

But for Mayor Phil Smith there was one thing that he said was the biggest disappointment for him.

“The Flat Iron building project did not get completed,” he said. “But everything is in line and slated now to get the parking area finished, graded and paved for the spring.”

Phil Smith

And COVID-19 hasn’t only forced the village to put up plexiglass in the office. Smith said that it has made it incredibly difficult to stay organized.

“Just doing our regular day-to-day work has been hampered by the fact that with COVID we can’t get together, it makes it difficult to communicate and get crews together to work on projects and to have discussions about projects,” he said.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases has been rising throughout the state, and Whitehall is no exception.

The village compliance officer, deputy clerk, and village clerk have all been exposed to the coronavirus at some point on separate occasions, but Smith said that it did not happen at the offices and there has been no positive cases there.

“We put together a policy just defining the office in general as to how we were going to maintain a presence with the public,” Smith said.

The offices have had to close a few times due to COVID, including right now, Smith said.

“I’ve got two people out right now, and that’s why our office is closed,” he said.

Smith said that he hopes to have the offices opened once again later this week.

Town Supervisor John Rozell said that from what he has seen, the people of Whitehall have been taking the pandemic seriously.

“It seems like most of the people in Whitehall sort of respected it,” he said. “Now it’s just stuff we have to do, and I just hope the people I represent in the town will respect others and follow whatever rules we could.”

Paul Ferguson

For the town of Dresden, securing high-speed internet is the main goal.

“The internet is the most important,” said Supervisor Paul Ferguson. “So that our children can have internet so they can do their schooling.”

Smith said that there will be a village election this spring to fill four spots. Three of those spots will be that of village trustees.

The fourth will be his mayor position.

“I will not be running for re-election,” Smith said.

He went on to outline a “laundry list” of projects that are in the works that the next administration will be taking on. This list includes the sewer line rehabilitation project, which Smith says is on phase 1.5 currently with phase two being in the planning phase, repair of the water line that runs across the Poultney Street Bridge, the Flat Iron building parking lot project, disinfecting of the water in the wastewater plant which is being funded by a $30,000 grant and the canal wall work on North Williams Street.

“That should keep the next administration pretty busy,” Smith said. “We have a lot of things in the works.”

The village is also using grant money that was able to be reallocated to help those who were affected by the storm and flooding on Aug. 24.

Smith described the flood as a mammoth amount of water that caught everyone by surprise.

“It was devastating,” he said. “I’m just thankful (the Washington County Department of Public Safety) was there. They do what they do, as well as our first responders.”

John Rozell

2020 was a year to forget for many.

Ferguson hopes that the public can remain optimistic.

“I’d like to stay positive for the new year,” he said.

Rozell shared a similar sentiment for his town.

“I’d like to enter 2021 with everybody keeping their heads up, facemasks on, and Whitehall’s going to beat this COVID thing,” he said. “We’re going to come out on top. We’re Whitehallers, we can do it.”