08 Sep

In-person attendance again permitted at Chemung County Legislature meetings


Since March, members of the public have not been permitted to attend meetings of the Chemung County Legislature pursuant to a New York State Executive Order that allows municipal governments to meet remotely without public attendance in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

All meetings (aside from one due to technical problems) were live-streamed on Chemung County’s website, and recordings and Minutes were later published in accordance with the Executive Order and New York’s Open Meetings laws. The recordings and Minutes can be found here.

Although the Executive Order remains in effect, starting tonight members of the public may attend meetings of the Legislature subject to specific protocols set forth below:


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19 Aug

Q&A with County Executive Chris Moss regarding COVID

Image: Star Gazette

Throughout the past few weeks numerous questions have been asked on several social media platforms and through email about Chemung County’s response to COVID-19 and the specific acts that are being undertaken by our local government.

Today County Executive Chris Moss held a press conference where he answered many of them.

I also put several questions in writing to County Executive Moss based on what I have read on social media and in email correspondence from the public, and he took the time to provide me with thorough written answers to share with the community.


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27 Jul

UPDATE: Economic predictions for Chemung County & a proposal for live-streaming meetings

While there are a host of serious issues facing Chemung County right now, two require special attention. First, the economic predictions for Chemung County brought on by COVID-19 are dire and will necessitate some very hard decisions when local officials begin preparing the 2021 budget this fall.

Second, the Chemung County Legislature’s Multi Services Committee will vote on measure to provide live-streaming at all meetings of the Legislature, something that can be done at an exceedingly minimal cost and will go a long way toward promoting transparency for our community.

Dire Economic Predictions

Chemung County, like many communities across the United States, faces an increasingly uncertain economic future. New York State’s Association of Counties published an updated report setting forth its economic predictions at the end of last week. A copy of the report can be found here and is also embedded below.

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Several charts are particularly interesting as they begin to show the scale and breadth of what looks to be a looming economic crisis for New York State.


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06 Jul

Widespread financial impact of COVID-19 on local municipalities beginning to take shape

There has been little debate throughout the past few months among local officials surrounding one key aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic: the financial impact on municipalities, including Chemung County, will be substantial.

Sales tax proceeds, a key component of most municipalities’ operational budgets, has diminished drastically since March. Specifically, Chemung County is approximately $2.5 million behind projected revenues through mid-June, and losses are expected to continue throughout the remainder of the year.

Moreover, Chemung County has been advised to expect delays in payments from New York State for various reimbursement programs, and to anticipate the possibility of a 20% reduction in assistance from the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) for at least this year. Together with the potential for fixed costs such as utility rates and insurance premiums to rise throughout coming months, there is no question we need to begin looking for ways to help ease what may be significant budgetary shortfalls in 2020.


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10 Jun

COVID updates for Chemung County residents

This morning Chemung County Executive Chris Moss provided members of the Legislature with an extremely thorough update of matters related to COVID-19 and the reopening of our community.

I am sharing Moss’ update on this forum with his permission:


Local Infection Rate

The overall rate of positive infections continues to decrease throughout not only Chemung County but the Southern Tier Region, to which we are assigned.  We have definitely flattened the curve and now the main focus involving public health safety is about avoiding clusters and having appropriate tracing if we do discover clusters or a spike in the numbers.  Pete Buzzetti and his team continue to do a phenomenal job on a daily basis involving the overall pandemic.

Park Station

Chemung County will be opening Park Station for camping on 06/15/2020.  The county uses a company called Reserve America who handles reservations for Park Station.  The majority of our 40 campsites have already been booked for the summer, as bookings started previous to the corona virus outbreak.  Several new protocols involving cleaning and disinfecting, new signage and new waivers have all had to be completed in order to open the campground.  One of the main obstacles for opening the beach are the guidelines provided by the state.  Multiple cleanings and disinfections to bathrooms, changing rooms, sanitation stations and etc. have to be conducted on a routine basis.  The county has been able to secure the correct number of lifeguards and had to bring them on this week in order to secure them or they would have been looking for other jobs.    The park is currently open for fishing, hiking and picnicking.  The main pavilions at Harris Hill and Park Station remain closed via the 10 person maximum gathering Executive Order signed by the Governor.

Horse Shows


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29 May

Confusion surrounds New York’s economic re-opening process

Image: WETM

*Please note this is a developing issue. I wanted to get a post out as soon as possible to help provide some guidance about what is happening, but things may change rapidly. I will do my best to provide updates as new information becomes available.

**UPDATE – Governor Cuomo has announced that the Southern Tier Region, where Chemung County is located, can move to Phase 2.

To say what is happening right now in New York is confusing would be a gross understatement.

Last month Governor Cuomo announced a series of four phases to re-open New York’s economy. The official website describing the re-opening process, called “New York Forward”, is found here.

Under the plan, New York is divided into ten regions based on geographic location. Chemung County is located within the Southern Tier Region.

Currently all regions aside from New York City have met the criteria for entering into Phase 1, under which manufacturing and construction businesses were permitted to re-open. The Southern Tier Region entered into Phase 1 on May 15th.


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11 May

Starting to bring the fiscal impact of COVID-19 on Chemung County into focus

NYSAC graph showing trends in sales tax collection for New York

There is no question Chemung County, like all counties in New York, faces very serious fiscal impacts from COVID-19 and the “New York Pause” program created to respond to the virus.

Local officials in Chemung County, including Chemung County Treasurer Jennifer Furman and Chemung County Budget Director Steve Hoover, are working very hard to formulate a plan to responsibly deal with the economic fallout caused by plummeting sales and room tax, reductions in state and federal aide, and the potential for increased expenditures related to the virus. As anyone with any familiarity of county government can appreciate, attempting to addresses these shortfalls while also trying to avoid property tax increases and large numbers of county lay-offs or furloughs, continuing to share sales tax revenue with the towns, villages and City of Elmira, and maintaining a reasonable fund balance is a very tall task.

The New York Association of Counties (NYSAC) authored a startling report last week on what may be coming for county finances – and it’s not pretty. A full copy of the report is embedded below:


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13 Apr

How to participate in and listen to legislature meetings

Image: Time

Like all entities, the Chemung County Legislature has been forced to adapt its practices to meet the challenges presented by COVID-19 and the social distancing measures currently in place.

Under ordinary circumstances, New York’s Open Meetings Laws (OML) requires elected bodies to allow members of the public to attend meetings, and the rules of Chemung County’s Legislature permit anyone to speak for up to five minutes on any topic at the start of full meetings.

Executive Order temporarily changes Open Meetings Laws

However, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo passed an Executive Order on March 7th that suspends parts of the OML in order to allow local governments to attend to important matters without requiring officials to gather in crowds. The full text of Executive Order 202.1 is found here and the relevant portion is embedded below:


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10 Apr

Proposed local resolution at odds with state, national cooperation efforts

Image: NBC News

At a special meeting of the Health and Human Services Committee this upcoming Monday evening, the Chemung County Legislature will consider a resolution opposing an Executive Order by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that requires hospitals and other medical facilities to inform New York’s Department of Health (NYDOH) of the amount of ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) they have and allows NYDOH to redistribute up to 20% of these items from areas that are not experiencing high levels of COVID-10 infections to places that are currently in crisis.

This resolution is moot, misleading, contrary to a spirit of cooperation being fostered in New York and around the globe, and – ironically – against the best interest of people living right here in Chemung County.

We are all in this mess together. Working together without regard to politics is the only reasonable path forward.


On April 7th Governor Cuomo signed the Executive Order in question. A full copy of it as well as an isolated portion of its relevant portion are embedded here:


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02 Apr

Updated COVID-19 information for Chemung County residents

As a disclaimer, my name is Christina Sonsire. I am the author of the Chemung County Matters blog, an information-sharing site I created in December 2017.

The information in this post is true to the best of my knowledge and is based on what I have learned both firsthand from local officials and by closely following the news about the global pandemic. Please excuse me if it is inaccurate or outdated in any way.

How can I get tested for COVID-19?

This is a question I have been asked many times over the past two weeks, and I have seen a number of posts on social media describing concerns about how testing is being undertaken in Chemung County.

Contrary to the notion that everyone who wants a test can get one, it is critical to recognize that there are not enough tests…not enough tests here, in New York City, in the United States or in the world. Companies across the globe are working hard to develop a rapid test to scale that would allow widespread testing, but the capacity simply does not exist right now.

A report published yesterday on NPR, found here and embedded below, speaks to the overwhelming demand for tests across the United States.


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