LAKE PLACID – Councilman Greg Sapp asked that public use of the town’s facilities during the pandemic be placed on this week’s agenda for discussion during the regular Town Council meeting. Previously, Town Council members gave Town Administrator Phil Williams discretion as to who/when to rent the Lake Placid Government Center.
The discussion was prompted in part by the cancellation with two weeks notice of a social event that was scheduled for Oct. 3. The application was dated March 13, 2020. The event coordinators found another venue to host the event, despite having only two weeks to do so. However, as of Oct. 14, the organizers said they had not gotten their deposit back from Town Hall.
Under Phase III of reopening, Sapp said the building should be open to host events. Williams asked for additional guidance or instruction from the council going forward.
“Whenever I agreed to the emergency ordinance two months ago, I wanted to be clear that we wouldn’t do anymore than the county, state or federal government suggested,” Sapp said. “Right now, we are in Phase III with the state and we should be open. I see people have made applications to use the building. What are your plans? If you’re going to shut it down, let’s do it now and lock the place down. If you’re going to let them do it, let’s let them know and not make changes at the last second.”
Sapp asked Williams if he has been in contact with the applicants.
“The people who have applied, I believe, were told that everything is tentative, depending on the COVID virus and how it develops,” Williams said.
Williams stated the people who are applying do not have to schedule events at the town’s facility and are doing so in uncertain times. Williams also said that no one was told the application was approved. Rather, the applications were accepted and the event scheduled with the understanding the event could be canceled depending on the coronavirus situation closer to the event.
Town Clerk Eva Cooper Hapeman stated there was a caveat on the application regarding COVID.
Williams also stated he was responsible for the Town Hall’s employees. The Town Hall employees did have a scare back in the primary election when an election worker took a COVID-19 test and reported to work while waiting for the results. The election worker tested positive and could have potentially exposed the workers in the Town Hall offices to the virus.
“As long as I have any authority, staff welfare will always come first. Pursuant to OSHA or just plain common sense, workers have a right to a safe workplace,” Williams said in an email Tuesday.
Sapp suggested Williams not take any applications if events were going to be canceled. On Tuesday, Sapp said he just wanted everyone treated fairly and he didn’t want anyone left waiting to find out if they could have an event or not. He said he wanted the applicants to be told now so they could make other arrangements. He suggested applications be put on hold until Williams felt comfortable with the building being open to events.
Councilwoman Debra Worley said she has had to schedule events before and would need time if her event was canceled in order to find a new location.
Councilman Ray Royce suggested a specified time before the date of an event to give the customer a yes or a no. The customer has some responsibility of keeping in touch with Williams to make sure their event is still scheduled, Royce said.
Sapp wants Williams to have total discretion to say yes or no as soon as or within hours of the application being taken.
Town Attorney Bert Harris III suggested moving “rule” 32 to number one on the application.
“32. Reservation for Town Facilities and the Government Center are being taken and placed on the calendar. The Town will follow the Governor’s guidelines regarding COVID 19 and permittees are required to do the same. The Town reserves the right to cancel any event pursuant to ongoing developments with COVID 19 warnings or any other warnings regarding emergency situations. Rules and reservations are subject to change depending on factors influencing Town Government,” per the town’s application.
Harris also said there was a lack of communication and perhaps Town Hall should have a “drop dead” time to cancel before the date. He said the application should include a paragraph where the renters should keep in touch.
“As far as what they want me to do, from the motion, move some things on the form (application) around, keep doing what I have been doing, social events not so desirable as government events and events that help the area, if event (is) to be canceled try to notify parties sooner,” Williams said. “Denied parties can come to Council and request to have the event if denied, pretty much as it said in the application before the discussion. It’s desirable to have good communication.”
Royce moved to give Williams direction to further define the application to “provide notice to any applicant as to the conditions of the use.” He also said large social gatherings should not be booked until Williams “revisits the issue with Town Council.” Sapp seconded and the motion carried.