Steuben Co Legislature: Mixed Signals From Albany About Phase 1

May 13, 2020

From The Steuben County Legislature:

BATH – Steuben County legislators voiced their strong disapproval Wednesday of the mixed signals they receive from New York State regarding the COVID-19 Phase 1 Reopening now set for Friday (May 15). “We are deeply concerned about the reopening phases, the lack of communication from the state and the lack of logic in some of their decisions,” said County Legislature Chairman Scott R. VanEtten, R-Caton. “Our local leaders, specifically County Manager Jack Wheeler and county Public Health Director Darlene Smith are working hard to lead us through this crisis and they are doing a great job.” “But as a county, we must comply with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive orders and resulting regulations – and they can change from day to day and even hour to hour. It’s nuts.” County legislators are frustrated by the state’s orders they have received regarding the Phase 1, especially the reopening of retail outlets and the decision by the state to keep county Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices closed to most services. “So all those retails stores and businesses have to develop a plan and then reopen with curbside service and no customers can enter the shop,” VanEtten said. “So if you want to buy sneakers at a shoe store, you have to point to the ones you want to buy and the clerk has to bring them out for you to try on? Or you want to buy a laptop at an electronics shop but you can’t go in to compare the models? “Meanwhile Walmart has been selling shoes and everything else to customers in their stores since these this whole closure started.” Retail and small businesses owners were given one week’s notice of Phase 1 guidance, and have contacted county officials for guidance, and many times, officials do not have clear direction from the state to be able to provide solid feedback. The state’s continued strict rules regarding transactions at DMV offices anger county lawmakers, too, Van Etten said. The state’s Phase 1 regulations require all DMV offices in Steuben to remain closed, with only dealer sales transactions made by calling and making an appointment. According to the state’s Phase 1 regulations all other DMV business – such as license renewals – still must be sent to the state DMV for processing. “Keeping our DMVs closed, except for dealers sales doesn’t make sense to the people on our Legislature and we’re hearing that same thing very loudly from our constituents,” VanEtten said. “The U.S. Post Office has remained open for two months and those front-line postal clerks do the same kind of work DMV clerks do, behind plastic screens and distance decals. We want our DMV clerks give that same service the post offices do and we will be glad to install same safeguards. It’s that simple.”
VanEtten said the county Legislature is frustrated by state government and public health restrictions based on an urban one-size fits all basis,and called for Cuomo to meet with state and local leaders representatives from rural counties. “Jack (Wheeler) and Darlene (Smith) are working long hours and days and the rules they must abide by, by state law, are changing, all the time,” VanEtten said. “No one has any problem with guidance that keeps us safe and guards our well-being. “The county Legislature thinks it’s time some common sense prevails and we get some solid framework to use to restore our livelihoods and our way of life.”