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Working overtime to meet daily needs: Weathering the pandemic in the Town Clerk’s office

No one’s life has been uninterrupted during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. But to the extent your needs from Shelter Island government have been met, the four-member team in the Town Clerk’s office has been working overtime to serve the public.

“We work together as a team,” Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar said. The woman who has held that post since 1977 — she was deputy town clerk before her election — said she and her team of Sharon Jacobs, Linda Cass and Kim Reilly  have had to function in what she calls “high gear.”

“The usual work load has more than doubled,” Ms. Ogar said.

The town has more newcomers since the onset of the pandemic, thanks to increased numbers of families moving to the Island.

Many are unfamiliar with town requirements and need more time and attention, Ms. Ogar said. One extra task has been checking personal information on new applications to ensure records are accurate.

Despite the increased work, the staff is spending only part time in the office and the rest of their work week is at their homes.

There were days when only one person was in the office at a time, Ms. Ogar said.

Asked about the work the last few weeks after six months of a new routine, Ms. Ogar said, “It’s just ordinary, but triple, triple, triple,” she said of the pace that has become the new normal.

During summer months, the town clerk’s office traditionally adds Saturday hours to accommodate people applying for beach passes, a duty that added to the work load.

Also, 2020 was the year that resident beach parking permits expired and had to be replaced.

Ms. Jacobs, the deputy town clerk, recalls a single day when she tracked the number of requests for permit renewals at 107. Each had to be checked, and once a permit was approved, there was work involved in getting the new ones sent to the applicants.

Still, with all the work, it has “smoothed out,” Ms. Jacobs said.

What makes the office function smoothly, is team members bouncing ideas off one another to come up with the best way to respond to the many needs that arise. They also find time in their already busy schedules to do what many Islanders do for their neighbors — shop for food for those whose mobility and/or health concerns keep them at home.

There’s a need for a lot of overtime, Ms. Jacobs said.

“Shelter Island is kind of a big family,” Ms. Ogar said about the way people help one another both in her office and the wider community.