NEWFIELD, N.Y. — Despite a lengthy attempt by Newfield Town Board members to try to salvage some form of summer camp for the town during the Thursday, May 14 monthly town board meeting, all summer camp services have been canceled.
With COVID-19 painting a dim financial picture for New York state and Tompkins County, the board also began discussions on how to save money this year in preparation for budgetary issues that may be ahead.
A copy of the agenda can be found here.
Board members attempted to find a way to open summer camp in the town in a way that would comply with current regulations and allow children to receive social stimulus but were unable to find a legitimate solution and canceled summer camp.
“When you get right down to it, the decision has been made for us, we can’t do it for many reasons… We don’t have a place to go and don’t have the blessing of the state and county to go forward,” Town Supervisor Michael Allinger said.
While there were other mitigating circumstances, the main issue came down to the town’s inability to find a suitable replacement facility since Newfield School District schools were not available which prevented the town from developing a suitable emergency plan. Some of the alternatives that were shot down included allowing students of different age ranges to attend for one week at a time which would inherently limit the amount of staff needed. With no solution in place the board decided they had no choice but to vote to cancel summer camp.
“With so many deadlines needing to be met and so many unknowns and with the school being shut down to the public and outside organizations, and social distancing requirements for large groups, we feel we have no choice but to cancel,” said Recreation Supervisor Austin J. Kuczek in a letter posted on the town website the day after the board meeting.
Despite the cancellation board member Christine Laughlin expressed some optimism that some programming during the summer might be salvaged.
“I am in agreement (for canceling summer camp now) but if in July or August we want to run a soccer camp for a week, I’m not thinking about daycare for kids just the kids themselves,” Laughlin said.
In his letter to the town Kuczek said he is still working on possible programs for the summer.
“The Recreation Department will work on developing recreation programs/activities that we may be able to offer this summer. We will be working with the Health Department for guidelines on how to make this work. We want to be able to offer some activities this summer if it is deemed we can with proper protocols for the kids and families in this great community. Safety is everything in all decisions.”
Board members and Kuczek also expressed remorse at the cancellation due to the impact it will have on working parents.
After hearing presentations on the current status of the 2020 town budget the board scheduled a work session for May 28th to analyze the current budget in an attempt to avoid any shortfalls in the current fiscal year while also attempting to save money for the following year.
“The closing of everything in the county has had effects on county sales tax collection. What that means is that some of the funding we had planned on could potentially be decreased, so we want to take a look at that and find some ways to adjust the budget so we don’t have a shortfall at the end of the year,” Allinger said after the meeting.
Along with ensuring there is no budget shortfall this year, Allinger said the board would like to keep next year’s tax rate as flat as possible.
“We want to keep our tax rate flat because on the county level who knows,” Allinger said.
While no changes have been made to the budget yet, Allinger said he anticipates changes to be proposed during the May 28th workshop.
Despite appearing before the board to tell them the town would most likely not be chosen to participate in the Cornell Design Connect program, Planning Board Chairman Leo Tidd said after the meeting that he was mistaken and that Newfield has been chosen to participate in the program.
Initially, Tidd told the board that he believed that Newfield was most likely out of running, but said afterward he made a mistake reading the Cornell website.
“We have just heard back from Design Connect and Newfield was selected for their Fall 2020 slate of projects after all,” Tidd said Tuesday, May 19th.
Tidd said Newfield applied to participate in the program, which allows Cornell students to analyze, study and design municipal upgrades, to look at revitalizing the hamlet in the town.
“It’s a student-run program… and our application was specific to hamlet revitalization, making the area more pedestrian-friendly and more of an active center of the town,” Kidd said.
Featured image by Barbara Friedman