|North Adams Declares State of Emergency, Limits City Hall Access|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff |
07:48PM / Friday, March 13, 2020
|Mayor Thomas Bernard, back by administrators, public safety officials and Adams Town Administrator Jay Green and Williamstown Town Manager Jason Hoch, declares a state of emergency for the city in light of the COVID-19.|
The mayor says processes are being put in place to protect employees and citizens while still providing services.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — North County towns are declaring states of emergency or taking other actions to better deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Thomas Bernard, speaking at City Hall with Adams Town Administrator Jay Green and Williamstown Town Manager Jason Hoch, said he was making the declaration "in line with our overall planning and preparedness and it ensures that we are able to protect the public health and safety, as well as to expedite the procurement of goods and services that we will need to respond to the coronavirus pandemic."
Clarksburg declared a state of emergency on Friday morning and the city of Pittsfield on Thursday.
In North Adams, a plan is being finalized to adjust operations at City Hall to protect employees and the public from the novel coronavirus.
The Peter W. Foote Veterans Memorial Skating Rink has been ordered closed along with other state-owned rinks after Gov. Charlie Baker limited events to no more than 250 people. The city is also limiting access to other public buildings including the library and the Spitzer Center.
"Both facilities have plans in place to serve the community while access to the building is restricted," said the mayor. Those plans are still being finalized, he added, but the library will open for business as "new usual" on Tuesday after a deep cleaning.
City Hall will be closed beginning Monday, March 16, and dropboxes will be installed at the entrances for any paperwork or documents that can't be faxed or emailed.
"I want to just make one thing clear that is despite the changes in standard standard operating procedures that we're talking about the regular business of the city goes on," Bernard said. "Here's a really good example of that: The IT team in it continues to pay close attention to cybersecurity and preparedness against online threats. ...
"This is especially important during times of increased stress scammers prey on people's vulnerability and they only succeed when people respond with emotion, usually fear or out of a sense of urgency rather than with thoughtfulness and healthy skepticism."
The mayor said he's seen an uptake in phishing attempts in his own email so citizens and staff should be cautious.
The administration is also reviewing the governor's emergency declaration allowing remote participation for governmental meetings and will be providing guidance for chairs of boards and committees.
Green said the municipalities are collaborating with both North Adams, Pittsfield and state and federal agencies. The town closed its Visitors Center and Council on Aging for three days this week for sanitizing and reopened for use but suspended the senior lunch program. The town's declaration can be found here.
"The town of Adams has not taken as many steps as the city yet, we're slightly smaller, but we'll be assessing that as we go along," he said. "I'd like to thank the support from Northern Berkshire EMA and the city with with assistance for our services."
Hoch echoed Green and said Williamstown is mirroring some of the city's actions.
"The Williams town library is closed and we're investigating alternate means of service delivery, Council on Aging programs have been discontinued," he said. "We will also be closing our Town Hall, similarly to the public, on Monday. And just as the city is doing, we really appreciate the relief from the state for some of the most challenging parts of the Open Meeting Law and we're working now to figure out actually how to implement that to keep engaging the public."
The Police and Fire departments in North Adams have not yet been affected by the virus but Police Chief Jason Wood said officers will move to summonsing in appropriate cases to reduce the amount of person-to-person contact. Policies to that effect and in dealing with COVID-19 were sent out Friday, he said.
Town Administrator Jay Green says the municipalities are collaborating with each other and state and federal agencies.
"I think it's inevitable — I'm sure it will touch us at some point," he said. "But we've been fortunate that we're still offering it 100 percent."
Northern Berkshire EMS General Manager John Meaney Jr. said the ambulance service has been toughing it out over the past week with seven emergency medical technicians out on quarantine. So far none have been symptomatic and the personnel shortage should ease a bit this week with some coming back on shift.
Bernard had been homebound most of the week until City Councilor Jason LaForest tested negative for the virus. The two had attended the Western Mass tournament together to cheer Drury and LaForest had some symptoms a couple days later but tested negative.
There's been a lot of talk about social distancing as a way to reduce to spread of the coronavirus, the mayor noted.
"But I'm also seeing people suggesting that we reconsider these ideas and instead of thinking about caution to reflect on the fact that we have a duty of care and concern to our families, friends, neighbors colleagues and fellow residents," he said. "I've said a lot that I'm encouraged and inspired by the strength of our community. I know this strength will continue to sustain us over the coming days and weeks."