WATERLOO – Seneca County Board of Directors has approved two measures that sparked much discussion.
At the meeting of the full board on Tuesday, it was mandatory that employees and visitors of all facilities in the district wear face covers. In addition, the overseers took the first step to introduce regular inspections of private sewage treatment plants.
The board meeting on August 24 attempted to impose mask requirements but did not find enough support to hold a vote. Undaunted, Cindy Lorenzetti, D-Fayette and chair of the Government Operations Committee, called a special committee meeting ahead of Tuesday’s regular board meeting to consider the issue.
The committee voted 4 to 1 for a motion that required masking and sent it to the full board. While the motion to reintroduce a universal mask policy for all district buildings resulted in a 7-7 tie, it was adopted with 419-331 votes with immediate effect.
Lorenzetti, Kyle Barnhart from Lodi, Michael Reynolds from Covert, the Seneca Falls Trio from Mike Ferrara, Paul Kronenwetter and Ralph Lott, and CEO Bob Hayssen from Varick voted in favor. The Waterloo trio of Don Trout, James Cleere and Michael Enslow, Ernie Brownell of Junius, Joseph Borst of Ovid, David Hayes of Romulus and Ron McGreevy of Tire opposed it.
“The state and federal governments say mask mandates are not necessary,” said Hayes. “Do we know more? The workers tell me that wearing masks at work is too much. “
“Many of the county employees have and do masks, and our HR director says masks are not an issue,” Barnhart replied. “This helps protect the health of our employees and the population. We were told that one in 13 residents in the county has COVID. “
“Look at the numbers. They’re going up again, ”added Lorenzetti.
Prior to the motion and debate, Vicki Swinehart, the county’s public health director, gave the board the latest statistics on COVID-19.
“We had 19 new cases today. Two of them were fully vaccinated, but most of them weren’t, ”she said. “We have 300 people in quarantine, five in hospital and one death.”
She said the health department is stepping up COVID tests and vaccination clinics. After meeting with local school officials, she added that the county is increasing vaccination clinics for 12-18 year olds and healthcare workers; The state is ordering the latter group to be vaccinated, though a Utica judge’s decision on Tuesday could affect when it happens.
The board was also divided over proposed legislation that would provide for regular inspections of private sewage treatment plants.
A motion to introduce local law requiring all wastewater treatment plants to be inspected at the time of sale and every five years otherwise, with two cities inspected each year, was rejected. Some have wanted to limit inspections to lakeshore properties or systems within 75 meters of a lakeshore, rather than implementing a nationwide mandate.
It has been determined that there is a government grant program in place to help lakefront property owners who need their sewage treatment plants to be replaced or repaired, but only for those who live on Lake Cayuga.
Cleere moved to amend local law to restrict inspections to lakefront or 250 feet of lakefront property.
“The whole county is in one of the two watersheds,” argued Ferrara.
“I fear that this will overwhelm the health department to require the inspection of all wastewater treatment plants in the district,” replied Cleere. “I say stick with the lakefront areas and add more later.”
After further debate, Cleere’s amendments were accepted with 10-4 votes. The weighted vote was 569-181. Brownell, Ferrara, McGreevy and Enslow were against it.
The amended main motion was then adopted by the same vote, setting the stage for a public hearing on October 12 ahead of the supervisory authorities meeting in Ovid.