Village Will Require Face Covering
On Main, Pioneer Business District
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Village Attorney Martin Tillapaugh is preparing a law requiring everyone to wear a mask in Cooperstown’s business district. He expects to have a draft ready for the Village Board by its Monday, July 27, meeting, and the law in place by mid-August.
Tillapaugh was moving forward at the request of Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh, who left a special Monday, July 20, meeting of the village trustees after all concluded the downtown sidewalks, particularly with newly encouraged sidewalk cafes, are too narrow to allow social distancing.
Mandating masks is the only option, Mayor Tillapaugh and the Village Board have concluded.
In Oneonta, the police department already begun enforce mandatory wearing of masks. Mayor Gary Herzig said he believes the city has the authority, under Governor Cuomo’s emergency orders, to do so.
“My instructions to police are to enforce mask wearing in the business district,” he said. “They are carrying a supply of cloth masks; if they see someone not wearing a mask, they will notify them of the requirement and hand them one, free of charge.
“If they refuse, police can issue citations and a fine,” he said.
Martin Tillapaugh called Cooperstown’s situation “a little unique … We know, as long as you’re social distancing, you don’t have to wear a mask. The dilemma here is we can’t social distance, so you have to wear a mask.”
The law – 14 New York State communities are considering similar ones – would require masks to be worn on Main from Chestnut to Fair, and on Pioneer from Church to Lake. Already, the mayor said, she has directed village patrolmen to walk the beat and check into stores on Main Street, to ensure masks are being worn.
The local police officers can only issue citations, she emphasized. Otsego Town Justice Gary Kuch would then determine how great the fines would be: up to $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for businesses.
As of Tuesday, July 21, Officer David Kuzminski, the officer on duty, said no citations had been issued. “Everybody’s very compliant,” he said. “Everybody’s doing a great job” of wearing masks.
Also at Monday’s special meeting, the trustees decided to:
- Tighten and expand a statement that has since been posted on the village’s website and tourism-related sites instructing visitors of the “Masks on Main” program and quarantining regulations they must follow.
- Create a “safety station,” modeled on Oneonta’s at Saturday’s “Thrive and Survive” event, would be set up at the Pioneer Park kiosk, making masks and hand-sanitizer available to the public.
And Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch agreed to explore a Lake George law creating a position like parking enforcement officer or zoning enforcement officer to enforce mask regulations downtown.
Richard Sternberg, the trustee who has been most outspoken in requiring masks to be worn, said he is “fairly satisfied” with the way matters are progressing.