“Settling in” with Life in a COVID 19 World
By Gregory T. Federspiel
Life with COVID 19 will be with us for many more weeks. Current expectations are for the number of infections to peak within the next two to three weeks and a similar number of weeks for the number of infections to fade. Governor Baker has extended the closure of businesses and the stay at home advisory until May 4. It is as critical as ever to keep practicing social distancing and important personal hygiene in the coming weeks to beat back this virus.
As challenging as the situation is, new routines are falling into place both on the home front and here at Town Hall. Municipal services are operating under new arrangements. Town Hall is closed to the public, but all departments are available daily for your needs. While we have postponed the Annual Town Meeting and we will be postponing our local elections (stay tuned for the new dates) on-going board and committee meetings are taking place utilizing a virtual meeting platform. The number of residents who are logging or dialing in for these sessions is encouraging. But we look forward to having you rejoin meetings in person as soon as possible. The Police and volunteers are providing extra assistance to residents who need a helping hand.
We continue with a number of construction projects that have been in the works for a while. The renovations of the Town Common progresses well and the new Honor Roll Memorial should be completed with it by June. Water line work has resumed along Ocean Street and, once completed, the contractor will move on to replace the water line on Raymond Street. A new drainage line is being installed at the intersection of Central and School Streets and the new crosswalk layout will be put into place once the new drainage line is installed. And the new elementary school project continues apace as well. All contractors are adhering to new social distancing practices, etc. as prescribed by the state.
While we do not know when the virus will abate enough for normal life to resume, it is a safe to assume that the impacts will linger for months if not years. This includes economic impacts that likely will reverberate locally, nationally and globally. Given the economic downturn that is underway, the Selectmen, Finance Committee and staff will be re-examining expenditures both for the rest of this fiscal year and the new fiscal year that begins July 1.
The proposed budget for next year and the Finance Committee report that presents the proposed budget was finalized a week before the COVID 19 crisis hit. In the coming weeks, a “Plan B” will be developed that looks at ways to reduce costs in light of what is expected to be a much-changed economic landscape. Fortunately, the Town is in a healthy financial position to help weather these uncertain times. The Selectmen will begin their discussions regarding a possible revised proposed budget at their meeting on Monday, April 6. See the Town’s web site for the agenda and log-in information. Voters will have the final say on the new budget when we hold the Annual Town Meeting.
These are challenging times that require us to think creatively, act collectively (even if virtually for now,) and be adaptive to a changing environment. Town boards and committees along with staff have done well in adapting to the OCIVD 19 imposed changes to date. We will continue to work hard to maintain this approach as the situation continues to evolve. We have many dedicated and talented individuals helping us through these new challenges and, with your input and continued support for what is needed, we will come out the other end of all this ready to move forward.
Let us know how we can assist. Be well, remember not to gather in groups, and, of course, keep washing your hands!