A brief but far-reaching agenda during the May 26 meeting of the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen included two items, a letter that will be sent to business license holders and the planned reopening of some town buildings.
Selectman Paul Silva, who was on this night solo, said the meeting could move forward without a quorum since there were no actionable items, only follow-ups to previous decisions debated and voted on with a quorum.
First was the letter which the selectmen had asked Town Administrator Mike Lorenco to write during the previous meeting. The letter will be sent to all licensed and permitted business in the community and outlines the town’s role in protecting residents during the pandemic while allowing businesses to reopen. Lorenco confirmed with legal counsel the town’s rights and responsibilities regarding business licenses in the event that measures are needed for violators of safety guidelines.
Lorenco read the letter into the meeting minutes. The letter noted the governor’s May 18 phased reopening plan. Lorenco read, “We too want to see businesses reopened, but we recognize the benefits of a deliberate and phased approach. We support the reopening plan and we ask that you all do your part to comply with the portions of those orders and guidance that apply to your type of business.”
The letter goes on to say, “Although we fully expect the business community’s cooperation in complying with these requirements, you are reminded that the Town has the responsibility to take enforcement action when any violations are found to exist. The Town has the authority to assess fines and to seek court orders to take corrective action against non-compliant businesses. This action can be levied on any license holder in violation of local regulations. We will continue to emphasize education and voluntary compliance through written and verbal warnings, but, due to the serious consequences that may flow from failing to follow appropriate COVID-19 safety protocols, we will pursue enforcement when necessary for the health and wellbeing of all our residents.”
Lorenco also confirmed prior to the opening of the meeting that people from out of state entering Mattapoisett for the season are required by the state to self-quarantine for 14-days.
Silva and Lorenco also discussed the plans for reopening town buildings. “As of today, May 26, the town hall is open,” Lorenco said. But he stressed full and free access to the building is not possible. Instead, he asked the public to call and make an appointment if direct contact is needed with such departments as the Building Department, Planning Board, Conservation Commission or Board of Health. He assured the public that town hall is fully staffed but that limited public hours, Monday through Friday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, is a necessity to ensure that sanitation of high-touch areas can be performed.
“There are two walk-up windows offering the services of the town clerk and tax office,” Lorenco said. Anyone approaching the windows will be required to wear a face covering as well as waiting at the marked locations outside the building. “We want to make sure our employees are also safe.”
If a member of the public needs immediate access to a specific office in the town hall, Lorenco said that the front reception desk will be staffed and someone will be there to assist. Again, anyone coming to a service window or entering the building will be expected to wear a face covering, he said.
The library does not currently have a schedule for reopening, Lorenco said. He said that the installation of safety windows and other measures need to take place first. He said that library staff has provided some free materials in bags outside the library building and that in the near future curbside pick-up would begin. “We need to make sure that staff have all the (personal, protective equipment) and other materials before we can open up the library and the (Council on Aging).”
On the subject of the upcoming election presently scheduled for June 16, Silva asked that the town clerk, Catherine Heuberger, attend the next meeting of the board to discuss how the election will be handled to maintain distancing and sanitation of surfaces.
Lorenco asked that voters contact the clerk’s office and request an absentee ballot as a safe and easy way to cast their votes.
Regarding town meeting, Silva said that he wants to wait a couple of more weeks to monitor how COVID-19 reacts before moving forward with plans for this annual meeting. “We need a little more time behind us,” he said.
Before closing the meeting Lorenco paid tribute to Josephine Pannell and Robert Gingras. These Mattapoisett residents were hailed as being vital members of the community as volunteers and board members over many decades. Pannell passed away on May 21 and Gingras passed away on May 19.
To contact any municipal department, call 508-758-4100 or visit mattapoisett.net for both telephone extensions and email addresses.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen has yet to be announced.
Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen
By Marilou Newell