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Village and Town of Lansing

The saying is, 'life goes on'.  But with increasing restrictions coming down from Albany and local governments this past week it may need to be changed to, 'life's on hold'. That is true of the Town and Village of Lansing as local government officials scrambled to put new policies in place that would maximize 'social distancing' for municipal employees and citizens, including closing their municipal halls and in-person attendance at public meetings to the public.

"I urge everyone to follow the guidelines with respect to social distancing, hand washing and avoiding unnecessary travel, etc.," said Village of Lansing Mayor Donald Hartill.  "We are a Village and with that in mind watch out for you neighbors if something doesn’t seem right."

The schools also posted closing notices. While most Town of Lansing students and some Village students attend Lansing schools, many Village students attend Ithaca City schools.  Lansing School Superintendent Chris Pettograsso and Ithaca City School District Superintendent Luvelle Brown closed their schools through April 12.

"We recently learned that the Tompkins County Department of Health recommended all schools close effective at midnight on Friday, 3/13/2020 and remain closed through April 12, 2020," she wrote.  "This closure includes any and all school sponsored events and activities.  You will be receiving further communication from LCSD within regarding food services, academic and related services, and mental health services."

"Meals are available for any student Monday-Friday from 8:00-9:00 a.m. and 10:45 a.m.- 12:15 p.m. in the parking lots and bus loops at six locations: Beverly J. Martin Elementary School, Caroline Elementary School, DeWitt Middle School, Enfield Elementary School, Lehman Alternative Community School, and South Hill Elementary School. If you do not have access to transportation or cannot leave your home, call 2-1-1 to arrange food delivery," Brown wrote.

Both the Town and Village Halls are closed to the public, at least for face to face business. Both Lansing governments announced their buildings would be closed, and employees would come to work for essential business.  Lansing Supervisor Ed LaVigne posted the new rules for the Town Hall Tuesday:
  1. The town hall building is closed.
  2. The offices are open for essential business.
  3. Contact numbers have been posted on the front door.
  4. Please call by phone , email or text if possible if you have any questions.
  5. Entering the building is the last option and again only if necessary.
"I am so proud of our residents as we continue to work together and find ways to help each other. This is what COMMUNITY is all about, HELPING each other," LaVigne wrote.  "Stay calm, stay connected and interact with each other electronically if possible."

Hartill had a similar message for Village residents in Tuesday's Village newsletter.

"In response to this and following the guidelines issued by Gov. Cuomo yesterday I have asked Jodi Dake, Clerk/Treasurer and Mike Scott, Code & Zoning Officer to work alternate days and keep the Village Office locked," he wrote in the Village Newsletter. "The lock box in the entrance way is available for bills, etc. They can be reached by phone or email to set up an appointment if necessary. For our Department of Public Works staff, I have sent Nolan and Chris home. John Courtney, Supt. Of Public Works, will continue to work. Staff not at the garage are on call in case of an emergency. John's cell number is posted on the garage entrance door for deliveries, etc. The doors will be locked at all times. This keeps one person available in the garage each day of the week and our equipment safe. If one of our staff becomes ill, we have backup in place from either the Town of Lansing, our contractors, or Bolton Point."

Early in the week the press was notified that reporters would not be allowed to attend the Wednesday Town Board meeting.  The Town makes a video of Town Board meetings available, but there has been no word, to date, on whether planning and zoning board meetings, also open meetings' will be recorded.  The March 23rd Town Planning Board meeting was canceled.  It was unclear Monday whether press would be able to cover the Village Board of Trustees meeting, but that was made moot later in the day when the meeting was cancelled.  None of the Village board meetings are typically recorded, so it as unclear whether the press and the public would have access to the meetings n a timely manner (it can take a month or more for meeting minutes to be approved and posted, because they are approved at meetings subsequent to the ones they record).

Tompkins County also closed its meetings.  In a statement Tuesday the County said the public could access the meetings through Zoom online conferencing.  The statemeant read:

"Out of concern for the health and safety of the public and County employees, and in order to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, Tompkins County Legislature Chair Leslyn McBean-Clairborne is directing Standing and Special Committees of the Legislature to postpone or defer non-essential in-person reports and presentations.

"In accordance with the executive order suspending the requirements of the Open Meetings Law, Committee meetings will be closed to in-person attendance by members of public. County staff and members of the public will be able to listen to meetings by utilizing Zoom conferencing. The call-in number for this option will be available on Committee agendas as it is available."

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