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10th Town COVID-19 meeting features Assemblyman Thiele

At the 10th Town Board informational meeting over the last three weeks providing updates on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic on Shelter Island, Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) joined the discussion.

The meeting was closed to the public, similar to the other meetings, but live-streamed over the internet and then broadcast on channel 22.

Police Chief Jim Read, the town’s emergency management coordinator, noted that new regulations from the governor’s office requires: all businesses must ensure that employees wear masks or face coverings to help prevent the spread of the illness. This order would take effect Friday at 8 p.m.

As the chief and Supervisor Gerry Siller noted, the town had already put that requirement in place. Both ferry companies have been advised of the governor’s order and will make passengers aware of it in English and Spanish. Chief Read said that North Ferry, especially, has many walk-ons and bicycle riders who interact closely with deck crews.

A directive from North Ferry on Saturday morning requires all passengers, even those in vehicles, to wear masks, and if they don’t, they will be refused passage.

He also said that the county’s information reports 4,200 cases where no address has been given.

A reporter asked why the numbers of reported cases isn’t done by ZIP code and it’s left up to “the police chief” to interpret the information. Mr. Thiele said that the number of cases are released by the county and the information comes from a “self-reporting system,” and reliable numbers are coming from the East End hospitals.

Assemblyman’s report

Mr. Thiele gave a brief report on the passing of the state budget on April 3, noting that it was in many ways a work in progress. “It isn’t written in ink. It’s written in pencil,” he said, referring to an ever-changing landscape of fiscal concerns and executive orders dictated by the pandemic.

“Most policy is done by executive order,” the assemblyman said, noting that the legislature passed a bill in March allowing the governor to declare a state of emergency. “The governor can adjust funding levels based on the fiscal picture,” he said.

But, he also emphasized that representatives meet with the governor daily to give input on constituent needs and concerns.

The state’s budget has kept funding for municipalities and school districts intact, Mr. Thiele said.

Supervisor Gerry Siller noted that there is “frustration” in interpreting some executive orders that seem to change week-to-week and sometimes day-to-day. He was especially concerned about authorizing orders on the construction business and landscaping. Mr. Thiele agreed, noting that the “vagueness” of some orders have caused “confusion” and the definition of essential businesses “has become a moving target.”

That confusion over the construction regulations seems to have been settled, with construction companies allowed to seek waivers from the Building Department to do emergency work that safeguards the public, such as putting in fencing and pouring foundations.

A list of the locations of all construction sites allowed to continue work is on the town’s website.

Mr. Thiele said that opening pools and maintenance has been deemed essential and companies could proceed.

There is still some confusion regulating marinas and docks, Mr. Thiele said. The governor’s executive order pronounced them “recreational,” and therefore non-essential businesses, he said, “like they’re some kind of park.”

But private and public marinas and docks should be looked at as transportation venues, Mr. Thiele added, since people use them when travelling to the East End.

Mr. Siller asked what he termed a “personal question,” about garden centers, one of which Mr. Siller owns on the Island.

Again, there was confusion in the regulations, Mr. Thiele said, noting that it was O.K. to sell someone a tomato plant, because it was food production, but not a rose bush. “There needs to be common sense,” he added.

Businesses and employment

Mr. Thiele said one of the main priorities of his office is helping constituents navigate through the state’s system of filing for unemployment benefits. The Department of Labor’s systems started slowly, with many people failing to file because of technical glitches, but that seems to have evened out, he said.

As for businesses seeking small business loans through banks from federal programs, it’s been uneven, Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams said. Before the official start of the meeting, she noted that in her role as an accountant, several clients had said they had trouble with Capital One, which she described as “completely fallen down.”

Other clients reported that Bridgehampton National Bank had been responsive to applicants and that Chase was “a mixed bag,” Ms. Brach-Williams said, and that the bank was not taking on any more applicants.

But if and when more funding is available, “the first in the queue” will be served, she said.

Councilman Mike Bebon said last week that he had received calls from “a number” of people who had applied for Small Business Association Loans through Chase Bank, but were having trouble filing and receiving them. He asked anyone with concerns to email him at [email protected]

Contact information on coronavirus

Town Hall 631-749-0015

Senior Services — 631-749-1059

Shelter Island School — 631-749-0302

Shelter Island Public Library — 631-749-0042

Greenport Primary Care — 631-477-0070

Suffolk County Call Center Coronavirus Q & A — 311

Latest developments and health guidance — Suffolk residents can text COVIDSUFFOLK to 67283