Since the beginning of March, the Villages of Patchogue and Bellport have been hosting their board meetings via Zoom, open to the public to view online. However, mayors Paul Pontieri and Ray Fell …
Since the beginning of March, the Villages of Patchogue and Bellport have been hosting their board meetings via Zoom, open to the public to view online. However, mayors Paul Pontieri and Ray Fell said they are eager to reintroduce in-person meetings with measures in place and the proper guidance given by the state.
Fell explained that they are currently permitted to conduct monthly meetings within a certain number of attendees; however, the village has decided to start by reintroducing the Architectural Review Board and Planning Board meetings in-person. The first in-person meeting was held earlier this week by the ARB. However, the Board of Trustees meetings will still be hosted via Zoom throughout August.
“We will see how the other two work out first,” Fell said. “But we are looking forward to the person-to-person interactions.”
Meetings, he explained, can have no more than 8 to 15 people, including the six board members; all members and audience members are required to wear masks and will be separated by eight feet. The rooms will be sanitized and hand sanitizer will be provided.
Though also excited to host in-person meetings, Pontieri said it’s just not the right time. Currently, about 60 to 70 people tune in to their livestreamed meetings, whereas only 10 to 12 people attend the in-person meetings.
“There’s just something more formal about meeting as a board and seeing each other... gauging the tenor of the board and the people who participate,” he added, despite continuing the online meetings for the near future. “We are going to go for a while longer with Zoom,” he added, questioning the advantage of having people come out for a simple general business meeting.
Earlier this month, the village hosted their first in-person meeting, a planning board meeting at the Patchogue Theatre for Performing Arts, to discuss the highly controversial Waverly Avenue apartments project. Pontieri said that the meeting was cumbersome to pull off amid the pandemic with proper precautions in place, and, though warranted, will only be used for special occasions.
Planning board chairperson John Rocco said that being able to host a meeting in the large theatre, socially distanced, was a luxury; however, the planning board does not intend to continue in-person meetings until meetings are able to resume at Village Hall.
“Until then, we will continue with internet conferencing,” he added.
New York State now allows, but does not require, public bodies to suspend the in-person attendance requirement of the NYS Open Meetings Law, which has been extended through Aug. 5. Public bodies are authorized to conducting meetings remotely as long as they allow the public to view or listen, record the meetings, and transcribe meetings within a reasonable time period.
Also, the Governor stated that the original executive order prohibiting in-person meetings was never extended and expired on June 1. This means that public bodies can conduct public meetings and hearings should they wish to do so. However, all who participate are required to follow CDC and NYS guidelines, including 50 percent capacity, social distancing, wearing facemasks and heightened cleaning and disinfecting.
The Town of Brookhaven has also decided to continue to conduct meetings via Zoom, accessible online and on Channel 18, with the public participating in public hearings.