Messages from the Supervisor

June 12, 2020

Fellow Islanders,

Thank you for taking time out of your day to participate in the Public Hearing for Project Olive held June 11, 2020 by the Planning Board and Town Board. 

If you still want to comment, please send your comments in writing to publiccomments@grand-island.ny.us .  The Town Board portion of this public hearing remains open.

If you missed the public hearing, it was recorded and can be found on the Town’s website at www.grandislandny.us. There is a link in the upper left-hand side of the Home Page called “Meetings Live”.  Click on that icon and it will redirect you to the YouTube page where all the meetings are listed.

I want to thank the Planning Board members and Town Board members for putting this together.  In particular, I want to thank Councilwoman Jenn Baney and Councilman Tom Digati for their work in moderating this event. 

I hope to be able to continue this hearing with having the public present at a future time.  The time and date for continuation will be posted by the Town Clerk as well as on the Town’s website.

Best regards,
John C. Whitney, P.E.
Town Supervisor




May 24, 2020 - 
WE’RE OPEN!!! (with restrictions)
Fellow Islanders:

Yes!!! We have opened Town Hall to the public on a limited basis starting Tuesday, May 26, 2020.  Hours of operation will be from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and workers will be present in accordance with Governor Cuomo’s guidelines.  Finally!!!  Working from home and virtual meetings is not the same.  I’m a people person.  I want to see and hear from you in person.  Even now, being open at Town Hall does not guarantee that I can see everyone.  We are restricted to having only 50% of essential staff at work at any time. We have divided the staff into two teams.  So, I’ll be in my office every other week until we can go back to full staff at Town Hall.  I and the others on my team will be working from home during the weeks we’re not at Town Hall.  This is being done to try to prevent cross contamination and to prevent any of our services from being damaged by this virus.
If you need to visit Town Hall, you will be subject to an infrared temperature check, you must wear a mask and we must log your visit.  We will record the date, time and who you need to see during your visit.  This is a NYS requirement for contact tracing should anyone be infected.
I really wish we didn’t have to put you through this, but we’re trying to keep everyone safe and do our best to prevent the spread of this disease.
I sincerely hope everyone can stay safe and the end to this pandemic is soon.
Continue to be safe,

John C. Whitney, P.E.
Town Supervisor



May 22, 2020 - Progress
Fellow Islanders:

During this novel Covid-I9 pandemic, we are finally making progress as evidenced by the opening of Phase I in Western New York under the state’s metrics required for reopening.  We have also been holding press conferences with other municipalities asking the Federal and State governments to help the Towns with financial aid.  There are 933 towns in NY and as of this writing, only two have qualified for aid.  Hopefully, we’ll be successful.
Progress has been limited, but after the last two months, I’ll take it.  Hopefully, we will soon reopen Town Hall on a limited basis.  Entrants will be tested by an infrared thermometer and they must wear masks.  We are going to limit the amount of people in any specific area.
We are keeping in line with the Governor’s mandates and striving to keep our services up to the level you expect and deserve.
On another note, we have received 10,000 masks from Erie County.  They are available for pick up at the Golden Age Center, 3270 Whitehaven Road, between 9:00 AM-4:00 PM, Monday through Friday.  We are limiting the amount to two masks per person. Everyone receiving masks does not need to be present, in other words, a family member can pick up masks for the entire family.
Let’s remember to shop local.  We have many great restaurants that need our support.    Also, don’t forget that the VFW is hosting its third Chivetta’s chicken BBQ on Wednesday.  It’s been a sell out the last two times.
Because of the drop in metrics required to fully reopen, I had to extend the State of Emergency last Friday.  Due to this, we will be forced to hold a greatly reduced Memorial Day Celebration.  I hate that we’re missing these important days.  The Ceremony will be streamed live on the Town’s YouTube page and posted on the Town’s website.
Continue to be safe.

May15, 2020 - Quesions
Fellow Islanders:

At this time, who amongst us doesn’t have questions?  We’re in the midst of a pandemic that is evolving as you read this. 
There are many different opinions out there, some want to stay home, some want to open everything.  Who’s to say what’s right?  The conditions of this pandemic change daily.
I issued a State of Emergency (SOE) on March 16 ,2020 and again on April 15, 2020. These stay in effect for 30 days unless rescinded. There are four specific orders included in the SOE that are good for five days, they have been renewed continuously and are in effect today. The SOE is in effect for 30 days unless I rescind it. If the situation warrants, I will rescind the SOE before the 30-day time period expires.
When will Town Government Reopen?

While Town Hall is closed to the public, we are not out of business, we are still processing payments and vital records through the Clerk’s office.  The Assessor, Building, Engineering and Court are also staffed. Some aspects of Town Government never closed, the Water and Wastewater Plants remained open, their maintenance crews continued to work, the Highway Department performed essential functions.
We are working to fully reopen Town government.  We are working to allow Advisory Boards to meet again and we are working to hold public hearings again.
Many Town employees are back working full time, others are working from home. I assure you that we will bring back our remaining furloughed staff as soon as the Governor’s guidelines permit.This whole situation is horrible, I hate it.  As a new Supervisor, we were just getting into a sense of normalcy and this was thrown into our midst.  We will do our level best to get past this.  We will restore our governmental operations to as close to normal as the new rules allow.
Please feel free to contact me at your convenience.  I need your input, we’re in this together.
Stay Safe,

 

May 8, 2020 - Victory in Europe, 75 years ago
Fellow Islanders:

Try if you might to transport yourself to this day in 1945.  So many of you lost loved ones to the scourge of World War II.  Maybe you had relatives that fell to Hitler’s brutality in concentration camps.  The relief of the end of the war in Europe would have been bittersweet. 
I know there is no way I can make a comparison to the emotions felt at that time and what we are going through today.  I feel that was one of the greatest generations of all time. Now it’s our turn to show our mettle.
We are in the midst of a conflict that pales in comparison to that time, however, we must all pull together and face this with the type of resolve our forefathers showed us.
Hopefully, we’re on the downside of this Covid-19 pandemic.  We are all working to restore our daily operations to our previous normalcy.
Daily operations of Town government have already started to return to normal.  While we are not allowing public access to Town buildings, we are processing transactions at Town Hall.
We are working towards holding advisory board meetings virtually.  These will be able to be viewed live via the Town’s YouTube channel and on the Town’s website.
The Town Board is also working towards conducting public hearings virtually.  We will not close these hearings until all citizens have had a chance to voice their opinions.  We will keep these public hearings open until all residents can be heard, even if we must find a way to offer a safe social distance to hold an in person public hearing.
I would like to commend the citizens of Grand Island.  They have shown so many acts of kindness during this pandemic when we have been sequestered in our homes.  Recently, the River Lea Quilters Guild organized to sew masks and they gave away over 1,000 the past two Sundays!  We have a blood drive scheduled for Tuesday, May 12th from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM at the Town Hall Parking Lot.  This is a joint venture between the Town and the GI School District.  Please join Dr. Brian Graham, Ed.D. and myself to donate to this worthy cause.  Contact Connect Life at 716-529-4270 for an appointment.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill: “We shall defend our Island…We shall never surrender!”
Victory in Europe was 75 years ago, Victory here is imminent.

May 1, 2020 - April Showers.....
Fellow Islanders:
As the old saying goes, April Showers bring May flowers. Hopefully, we can make an analogy that April Showers 2020 were the rise of COVID-19 and May flowers are the demise of this dreadful pandemic. I know its wishful thinking but hope springs eternal.
Yes, hope springs eternal and Spring is here. Spring is always a new beginning, and this year it is truly a new beginning. It’s a time we start planning events that are on our horizon, such as high school proms and graduations, Mother’s and Father’s Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, backyard family get togethers, and the list goes on.
Unfortunately, it won’t be the same this year, but let’s hope this Spring will be a great renewal for all of us on Grand Island. We are going to have to learn new everyday routines. Social distancing will be the new norm, along with wearing masks. It doesn’t mean we can’t have social gatherings; it just means they are going to be different. Proms and graduations may be postponed this year along with our usual Memorial Day and even Fourth of July celebrations. It’s sad, these are rites of passage and celebrations that we all love, and I feel for our residents who must forgo these events.
As your Town Supervisor, I must do my best to keep continuity in our government. While Town Hall is currently closed to public access, we do have a minimal amount of staff working while others work from home. Our Town Clerk has staff working to process bills and vital statistic information. Our Water and Wastewater plants are operating as always, our Highway and Parks Departments are performing necessary operations.  Remember, the grass doesn’t stop growing because I issued a State of Emergency. I assure you that as soon as possible, we will start to implement a return to “normal.” I put normal in quotations because that is a nebulous term. It will have a new definition for all of us as we move forward when post Covid-19 begins.
We are posting new developments and updates as they are available on our website at www.grandislandny.us, under the section “Latest News” on the home page.  The Town Board is still holding regular meetings and workshops the first and third Monday of every month, additional workshops are held as needed.  You can watch these live streamed on our YouTube Channel.  Please visit the website for dates, agendas, meeting minutes and the link for streaming and archived meetings.  You can find this page under the header “Town Government” which will give a drop-down option of “Meetings”.  Discussions have begun to explore virtual meetings for Advisory Boards and other town events.  As always you can also contact me at 773-9600 extension 616 or via email at jwhitney@grand-island.ny.us.  
We are blessed to live in such a great community. I see people reaching out to provide help to others, offering food, masks, going to get groceries or medications for others. Along those lines, the Town of Grand Island and the Grand Island School District have scheduled an Island-wide blood drive through Connect Life for Tuesday, May 12, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. in the Town Hall parking lot, 2255 Baseline Road.  Local hospitals are in need of blood so please join me and School Superintendent Dr. Brian Graham. Ph.D. in donating to this worthy cause.  It is by reservation only so please call 716-529-4270 or visit ConnectLifeGiveBlood.org and use sponsor code 000661.
Please don’t forget to support our local businesses.  Many of our wonderful restaurants are offering take out services during this Covid-19 pandemic and they can use our support.
 As always, remember to practice safe social distancing, wash your hands often, use hand sanitizer, disinfect surfaces, and stay safe!

April 16, 2020 - Thoughts on this dreadful pandemic

Fellow Islanders:
Yes, this is an awful period in our lives. People are out of work, we are isolated, and we are trying to stay in quarantine. Cabin fever is creeping in.
Let’s use this time in quarantine thinking of ways to help each other.
• Let’s thank our health care professionals, first responders, restaurant workers, front line employees in grocery stores and pharmacies, delivery drivers or the many essential service providers who are risking their lives so we may continue to enjoy safety and health. Without them this situation would look much different and it would not be pretty. Imagine if we could not access food and those that at risk would have been without food from the very beginning of this craziness without delivery personnel being available to us.
• Let’s help our local restaurants and order take-out meals for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We have many fantastic restaurants on Grand Island that have always been there for us and now we need to be there for them. Check out the list of restaurants open for take-out in this Dispatch and remember to tip them when you place orders.
I hear a lot of people comparing this Covid-19 pandemic to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. Think about how tough that must have been for those people, especially if they lived in a city. Remember, in that era, there were wealthy families who had their own large homes but if you were not part of that class, you probably lived in a city apartment. Not only that, but back then, large families were raised in those conditions. Social distancing would have been nearly impossible. Also, there was no telephone, radio was scarce, no television, and certainly no internet to provide Facetime, Zoom, Go To Meeting, or other forms of video communication.
Sanitation was still not fully understood back then. Maybe you lived on a farm and you made your monthly trip into town to buy your supplies. You had no way of knowing there was a pandemic and you were driving right into the middle of it.
Today’s information age provides us news instantly.
So, let’s try to keep a positive outlook about the Covid-19 2020 pandemic. I know the amount of restrictions being placed upon all of us are burdensome, but this too shall pass. What new lessons have you learned in the quarantine that you will carry into whatever the New Normal will be?
One of the dangers of being under quarantine in our homes for so long is the risk of depression or anxiety if we try to figure all of this out. We must refrain from falling into those mental traps by staying active. Go for a walk or a bike ride, do an on-line exercise class and think outside of your normal routine to find other ways to stay busy. Make it a point to call, text or face time with family members or friends whom you have not spoken with in a while.
As Islanders, we are fortunate to have many beautiful outdoor spaces to enjoy, especially with the weather breaking. I encourage families to organize walks, runs or bike rides through our New York State parks—Beaver Island on West River and Buckhorn on the East River or take advantage of the long, beautiful bicycle path along the West River or visit our Grand Island parks and trails, such as Veterans Park and Scenic Woods. Visit and walk through the DeGlopper Memorial Park at Baseline and Grand Island Blvd. to reflect on the Islanders who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.
I have offered a lot of opportunities for us to be active during these quarantine times. Let me know how you and your family are handling it or what you are doing to help others by sending a note or a picture to me at jwhitney@grand-island.ny.us or to Rhonda Diehl at rdiehl@grand-island.ny.us We will post some on the Town of Grand Island website www.grand-island.ny.us or our Facebook Page--The Town of Grand Island. If you need to speak with us call 716.773.9600 ext. 616 and it will ring through to my cell phone or Rhonda at extension 617.
As always, remember to practice social distancing, wash your hands often, disinfect surfaces and continue to stay safe!
We will get through this, we must.


April 10, 2020

Fellow Islanders:
Heartfelt Passover and Easter wishes to everyone as we truly live through a pandemic event that none of us could ever have dreamed of.  Restaurants, which would have been packed this weekend, are suddenly relying on takeout business to stay alive but worse, our houses of spiritual worship on Grand Island and throughout New York State are closed forcing residents to praise via the internet or television. 
In accordance with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive orders we encourage everyone to follow social distancing and best management practices to minimize the spread of this virus.  Mostly, though, we encourage everyone to follow the orders of the Governor and Erie County Executive Mark Polancarz and continue to stay away from crowds. 
We join them in encouraging residents to get out for some fresh air and exercise.  We are also fortunate to live on this beautiful island that has two amazing state parks—Beaver Island on the West River and Buckhorn on the East River— which are perfect for walking, biking and fishing.  For bicyclists and walkers, enjoy the beautiful bicycle path along the West River.  Also, our Grand Island parks, Veterans Park and Scenic Woods are available for walking or biking. A ride around the island is 27 miles.  Remember, social distancing!!!  
Just to reiterate my message from last week: The town has reduced our staff to all but essential operations and we have closed all public buildings, including Town Hall, Highway, Library, Golden Age Center and Recreation buildings.  We are asking residents to mail a check for their water bills or place one in the drop box located outside the lower level entrance to Town Hall.  Online payment is another option. 
Please continue to take this virus seriously!  Continue to practice safe social distancing, wash your hands often, use hand sanitizer and wipe down surfaces with disinfecting wipes. 
Be positive and when feeling low, call a friend or take a walk.  If you can, order take out from the many restaurants on the Island. A listing of them is included in this week’s Dispatch. 
Enjoy the holiday and stay safe!

John Letter