Lee warms to idea of reopening town facilities

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TOWN OF LEE — As the snow begins to melt with spring approaching, restrictions on usage of town facilities due to COVID-19 also are thawing.

The Town Board on Tuesday night approved reopening the Town Hall effective March 16 at regular hours, after being closed to regular walk-in office functions since Dec. 21. It also approved having American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) teams use the town park for upcoming practices, and is still determining whether to allow games.

In discussions at the board’s meeting, held in-person at the Town Hall:

• For the Town Hall reopening, the intent is to get business back to normal while observing proper CDC guidelines, said town councilmen in referring to federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention safety protocols involving COVID-19.

Among guidelines will be continued wearing of masks, social distancing, a sign-in sheet, and appropriate sanitizing.

Lee Supervisor John Urtz did note that for Town Court functions, any reopening would need to be separately determined through state judicial district policies. But otherwise, regular office hours at the Town Hall are to resume.

Town councilmen Shawn Finster and L. James “Jamo” Jones Jr. will contact the other various town departments to make them aware of the reopening plans.

Town Hall also had been closed due to COVID-19 from mid-March a year ago until reopening in mid-August for regular public traffic, and then closing again in December other than for appointments.

Among recent improvements in the COVID-19 situation, Finster observed “vaccines are becoming more readily available to everybody.”

• The approval of the youth soccer program’s usage of the town park included requiring procedures similar to a prior Town Board approval for the program’s park usage last fall for practices. Among the procedures will be filing of waiver forms covering all participants.

The latest usage request was presented by local AYSO program commissioner Jeff DeMatteis, who thanked the board for allowing the program to use the park last fall. He said “kids were thankful” for getting to participate in the sport, and parents were thankful as well. There were “no issues in the fall” and “protocols were very effective,” he added.

Finster recommended going forward with the program, with protocols as done previously. Regarding COVID-19 conditions, DeMatteis noted the increased vaccines and also commented “we know a lot more than we did” previously, adding “the public is educated much better.”

DeMatteis said the program also is hoping to use the park for games in addition to practices. But Finster wanted to table a decision on allowing games, commenting “we’ll be in touch regarding games” and adding he wanted to research that aspect.

The hope would be to start playing games by May 1, said DeMatteis. But some town councilmen mentioned wanting to check how the COVID-19 situation proceeds before then. AYSO program registrar Brian Norris told the board that if conditions were to worsen, the program would “pull the plug.”

The park’s concession stand should not be opened, said Urtz. Norris additionally said it would be “perfectly fine” if the park’s bathrooms remained closed also.

The park’s soccer fields still are largely under snow at this point. Finster said after the meeting that soccer usage might begin as soon as the snow goes away.

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