Letters to the editor June 3 to 9
On Monday, May 24, Sullivan County took another step to re-open from the COVID-19 shutdown by increasing public access to many government offices and facilities. This is good news.
Less reported but equally good news comes from a more local level: In at least five Sullivan County Towns—Fallsburg, Liberty, Lumberland, Mamakating, Rockland and Tusten—elected officials continue to welcome constituents to join public meetings via Zoom, and in most of these towns, elected officials plan to maintain this practice. How is your town spending tax dollars? When will your road be repaved? How many new houses and subdivisions are being permitted? Will big solar installations be allowed? What about that proposed new restaurant or music event? In some towns, when residents can’t get to town hall for a meeting, they will still be able to log in and see officials conducting town business.
Why are those towns maintaining open meetings via Zoom? Because it’s convenient. An option for online participation helps officials and employees participate despite busy work schedules and family obligations. It’s also not expensive or complicated, involving just a basic computer at the town hall with decent camera, microphone, internet connection and an affordable Zoom subscription.
Online access will never substitute for in-person meetings. A lot more can get done when people gather in a room together, and not everyone in Sullivan County has access to high-speed internet or cell phone service. But the trend to provide ongoing access to town meetings via Zoom is good for Sullivan County. Broader access can lead to informed citizens, resulting in more people able to participate in their government. More engagement at a town level helps build the pool of people who can help lead our county.
Online access is also good for democracy. New York State’s Open Meetings Law states, “It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that the public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens of this state be fully aware of and able to observe the performance of public officials and attend and listen to the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy.”
This summer in Sullivan County, as our county, towns and local businesses re-open and expand in the aftermath of COVID-19, all towns should look to the examples of Liberty, Lumberland, Mamakating, Rockland and Tusten and invest in online access to town meetings.
On behalf of the Sullivan County Democratic Committee
The men and women of the 100 percent volunteer Narrowsburg Fire Department have been serving the community since 1902, providing an increasing number of annual responses to a growing variety of calls. We have worked hard to attain the high levels of training and education demanded by today’s fire service along with the equipment necessary to meet those challenges.
In addition to responding to all calls for emergency service in the Town of Tusten, as well as mutual aid throughout Sullivan County, and across the river into Pennsylvania’s Wayne and Pike counties, our members also participate in Sullivan County’s Wildland Search and Rescue Team, the dive team and the fire investigation team.
Our goal this year is to upgrade our utility terrain vehicle to one that is more versatile with greater stability to operate in off-road responses, such as brush fires and lost or injured persons searches. This unit will have the capability to carry a fire suppression module as well as transport an injured person over rough terrain in a safe manner. With the recent increase in Tusten’s population and more outdoor activity along the Delaware River, on local trails and the Tusten Mountain area, we believe that this piece of equipment will better meet these public safety challenges. We are also pursuing grant opportunities to defray costs, but it is a highly competitive process, and receiving one is always uncertain.
We hope that you will be able to support us with your tax-deductible donation, and we thank you for your very generous support in the past. Your generosity last year enabled us to purchase a new thermal imager, which has been successfully used in several responses. Check it out on our Facebook page.
Have a healthy, safe and enjoyable summer; we’ll be here if you need us!
PS: We do plan to host our July 4 chicken barbecue this year. (Tickets are available at www.myrivertickets.com)
Please make sure that your 911 address is properly posted and your smoke and CO2 detectors are being maintained.
Be safe and stay healthy.
Craig Burkle, president
On behalf of the Narrowsburg Fire Department