MAHOPAC, N.Y. - The Town Hall remains open and the Carmel town government continues to do “the people’s work” in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
At last week’s Town Board meeting (which was closed to the public but could be watched on TV or the town website), members challenged the assertion that some residents have made on social media that the town government has been unresponsive and not proactive during the crisis.
“To say this board is not showing the same concern as any other town board is absolutely ludicrous,” said Councilman Mike Barile. “The building is open; we are on the front lines. [Councilman] Frank [Lombardi] is taking questions from anyone and everybody.”
Barile, who is a contractor by trade, said he’s found that an open government was not always the case when he’s attempted to do business in other communities.
“Because of the business I’m in, I go to a lot of town halls and deal with a lot of different building departments and I find I’m getting, ‘We’re closed,’ ‘I can’t answer that,’ ‘The building department is not in,’” he said. “I want, for the record, people to know that under the direction of the supervisor this building is open. Every department is manned, every department can answer a question as quickly as possible when submitted. This government is open. [Supervisor Ken Schmitt] has lectured me that you don’t close government, you have to be here for the people.”
Councilman Frank Lombardi has been appointed the town’s liaison during the crisis.
“This is a cooperative effort between all five of us [board members],” he said. “We have the daily conference call with the county Department of Health. We are all in on those calls. The information we are getting from them we are putting out there. There is nothing hidden; there is nothing secretive.”
Lombardi said the board has put together a plan for the town hall based on the information it’s received in those daily briefings.
“Government needs to stay open, all five of us have said that. The public relies on us and this is a way for us to disseminate information and try to impart a sense of normalcy,” he said. “The meeting tonight, though, is not normal because we are usually sitting right next to each other, tapping each other on the shoulder and whispering in someone’s ear. We are not doing any of that. Kenny [Schmitt] literally took a tape measure yesterday and measured the 6 feet [we are staying apart]. This is the example the Town Board is trying to show the public—we take this very seriously and planned accordingly.”
Lombardi reasserted Barile’s point and said the Town Hall is open and essential personnel will be on hand to help and answer questions. Further information will be added to the town’s website and Facebook page as it becomes available. When visiting the Town Hall, residents will be brought to a safe area, and the department member will be brought out to meet them.
“We are doing what we need to do, and we will continue to do it,” Lombardi said. “The building is open, and we are here to do the people’s work. Anyone with questions, our email and phone numbers are on the town website. Call any of us and whatever we find out we are putting out to the public.”
Schmitt said the conference calls with county health officials have been helpful and productive but noted that it was important for him to speak up to get the town’s concerns heard.
“During these conference calls, you have to speak up. If you stay silent and don’t talk about it, that’s the worst thing you can do,” he said. “I represent the entire community; we are their voices. If I’m passionate about something I am going to say something because if you don’t ask you won’t know what the answer is.”
Councilwoman Suzi McDonough had high praise for the community for the way it’s responded to the pandemic.
“I think this community has been absolutely unbelievable in helping each other,” she said. “There has been such positivity out there. I think we are going to be better for it after it’s over. We are going to be stronger and nicer to each other.
“We will get through this, but please keep your distance,” she added. “If anyone could visit the ICUs right now, they would know, this is real. If you don’t need to go out, don’t. Stay home.”
Barile encouraged residents if they do go out for food, to patronize local establishments.
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