There was good news and bad news coming out of the Town of Gardiner’s annual reorganization meeting on Jan. 4.
The bad news concerned the growing number of town residents infected by COVID-19.
Supervisor Marybeth Majestic reported that Gardiner recently had recorded the largest number of COVID-19 cases for town residents since the pandemic started, according to the latest numbers on Ulster County’s COVID-19 dashboard.
While Majestic said 99 Town of Gardiner residents had COVID-19 at the time of the meeting, the number rose to 133 active cases by the end of the week.
Due to the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, the Town Board decided to return to virtual meetings with no one from the public allowed to attend. Four of the five board members did attend the meeting at Town Hall, while the fifth board member Laura Walls joined the meeting via Zoom.
“We decided to limit our exposure to the public due to the increasing number of COVID cases,” Majestic said.
Additionally, Majestic said the town had distributed over 250 free rapid at-home COVID-19 test kits to town residents over the past two weeks at the Town Hall. They had been delivered to the town by Ulster County officials.
“They went very quickly,” Majestic said. “Residents were very grateful. Some were a little upset they couldn’t get one for each family member. We did the best we could. If you’re not vaccinated or boosted, we urge you to do so.”
Although the increase in COVID-19 cases in Gardiner was unwelcome news to hear at the board session, there was good news to report on the financial front for the town.
Majestic said after the second mortgage tax payment was received the town exceeded the projected total in the 2021 budget by $328,528.
“It is mortgage tax, so it is attributed to sales and refinancing in Gardiner,” she said. “Any news of unexpected revenue is good news since municipalities have limited revenue sources.”
Councilman Franco Carucci also had good news for town residents with the announcement of a “soft opening” of the Riverbend Trails at Gardiner Park effective immediately.
Riverbend Trails is located by the Town Transfer Station on Steve’s Lane. The trail is open when the transfer station is open, which is Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.
The gate for the transfer station gets locked at 3:45 p.m. Cars that are parked inside the gate at that time will not be able to leave.
Majestic said the Hoagerburgh Road Bridge will be closed on Jan. 10 for repairs. The McKinstry Road Bridge remains closed in the town.
Walls reported there was a conference meeting regarding the Shawangunk Mountains Scenic Byway with Ulster County Planning Director Dennis Doyle, Deputy Director Amanda LaValle and Tourism Director Lisa Berger.
“It was about the challenges the Byway is experiencing,” Walls said. “They all agree that it’s a very important component of our community and of the County. We’ve begun a dialogue about how the County can play an institutional role. It was productive and it will be ongoing for a while, I suspect.”
The board approved an increase in fees for using the EV charging station located in the parking lot entrance to the Gardiner Library. Until May 31, there will be no fee for two hours and a $1 per hour fee after that. Starting on June 1, EV users will be charged $1 per hour.
The board approved an increase to Majestic’s salary from $42,867 in 2021 to $50,000 in 2022. Board members received a 5 percent increase to $5,091 annually.
Majestic welcomed new board member Carol Richman to the council.