Little change in municipal building routine as emergency ends

Jun 15, 2021

Although Gov. Charlie Baker lifted the Covid state of emergency Tuesday, June 15, visitors to town buildings should see little immediate change, according to officials.

Town Hall has been open to the public for “several months now,’’ Town Administrator Shawn MacInnes said. “It’s been going well.’’

Visitors who have not been vaccinated are being asked to wear masks, he said, but no masks are required for those who have received the vaccine.   

Social distancing is encouraged, which he said is relatively easy to maintain in the spacious building.

“It’s been nice to see faces again’’ now that masks are no longer required, the town administrator said. 

Although remote meetings with staff members were effective, he said he welcomes the return of “in-person, internal meetings’’ among employees.

“There’s been a lot of collaboration and communication’’ at the revived face-to-face gatherings.

Questions remain, however, about whether remote municipal meetings will be allowed to continue, he said.

With the state of emergency lifted, remote meetings are officially no longer allowed and are being canceled, he said. 

Any meeting planned for June 15, for example, must be rescheduled to allow an in-person meeting agenda to be posted for the required 48 hours ahead of the meeting date.

Baker has filed a bill extending remote meeting measures through Sept. 1. The Senate approved this legislation, but it remains pending in the House.

MacInnes said he is keeping an eye on the status of that legislation before determining the status of next week’s government meetings. 

“I’m hopeful they’ll take some action,’’ he added.

The two town libraries, Southworth and the North Branch, also lifted many of their restrictions in May, library director Lynne Antunes noted.

“It’s great,’’ she said. “We’re seeing people we haven’t seen in a long time — people are happy to be back.’’

Appointments are no longer needed and all seating is once again available. 

One pandemic-era change that will remain, Antunes said, is the use of plastic partitions since they might help keep people healthy, particularly during flu season. They cause little disruption, she added, so “I don’t see any point in removing them.’’

Curbside service, which Antunes jokingly calls “library takeout,’’ also remains available. 

The children’s room at Southworth is available most hours that the library is open, she said, but the room has to close occasionally because of staffing limitations unrelated to Covid.

With the end of the fiscal year approaching, staff members have to use up vacation time, she said, which has resulted in occasional hours of closing for the children’s room.

The children’s room at the north branch is available during all hours the library is open, she said, because the layout of the building makes the children’s area more accessible to staff in other parts of the building. 

The Council on Aging is also back to in-person services, but only for scheduled programming as part of a “phased” manner, MacInnes said. 

“We still want to maintain the health and safety of the public and the staff,’’ he said.