By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Kevin Kress, who was raised in Richfield Springs, brought his family from Little Falls to Cooperstown last weekend, and was neither surprised by the village’s new mandatory-mask law, or that most everybody seemed to be obeying it.
“We were in Lake Placid last weekend; they had done the same thing there,” said Kress, who was aware – and undeterred by – the new restrictions, which he’d heard about in a report on WKTV-TV, Utica.
Locally, Village Board members who had crafted the law, and businesspeople who may have worried about it, seemed to unanimously agree that the first weekend of the new strictures had gone smoothly.
Saturday, Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch went into the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market while hubby Gary Kuch, the town justice, sat in the car waiting and watching.
“What’s your take, Gary?” she asked on finishing her shopping. “He said, ‘Easily, 97 or 98 percent are compliant. Those who don’t wear it have it around their necks.’”
“I walked Main Street a little bit,” she said. “I found the same thing.”
Village police patrolled, but didn’t have to give out any citations, the mayor said. They asked a few people to put on their masks, and they did. (She emphasized: If they had been issued citations, fines – they are authorized to $1,000 – wouldn’t go to the village, but into state coffers.)
Trustee Richard Sternberg, who has been most hawkish about the need to require mask-wearing, had a similar experience. “I thought I was seeing a higher percentage of masks,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s just a statistical variance. Some people weren’t aware of the new law yet.”
Jess Lanza, new board chair at the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, estimated adherence to the law “in the 90 percentile” along Main Street. In Kate’s Upstate, the fashion store he operates with his wife, “we haven’t had any issue with people coming in and fussing about it,” even under the less strict state order.
“We didn’t have any issues or anything,” agreed Laurie Fink, Tin Bin Alley proprietor. “From my perspective, the first weekend went very well.”
The Village Board unanimously passed the law Monday, Aug. 10, requiring masks to be worn on Main Street between Fair Street and Pine Boulevard, and on Pioneer between Church and Lake. The law was reviewed by Village Attorney Martin Tillapaugh, then filed with the New York secretary of state by week’s end, and it went into effect.
The law enhances Governor Cuomo’s executive order requiring people to wear masks within six feet of each other; because of sidewalk cafes, the trustees were worried pedestrians are unable to maintain the required distance on downtown sidewalks.
Concerned that there be enforcement, Sternberg said he had engaged village patrolmen in conversations about their plans to walk Main Street sidewalks.
But that was before he and the rest of the trustees received an email from the mayor clarifying the chain of command: “She is the sole authority to speak to police,” as well as Village Administrator Teri Barown, he said. “She is correct.”
(However, if Tillapaugh and Barown are both out of town, he continued, the Village Board can meet and designate an acting mayor until one of the women returns.)
Meanwhile, the “Masks on Main” effort to alert out-of-towners to the new law is continuing, with signage, “masks required,” placed in the rain gardens along Main Street, the mayor said.
“We ordered more signage after the law passed Monday night,” she said. “Sandwich boards should be in this week,” she added.