CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Town officials voted on Friday morning to declare a state of emergency and continued the closure of public buildings.
Town Hall, the public library, the senior/community center and the school were all closed this past week after a town resident became the first to test positive for the novel coronavirus in Berkshire County. The four buildings have been undergoing extensive cleaning and sanitizing with Town Hall expected to reopen early next week for employees only.
The school will remain closed for another two weeks in line with school districts throughout the Berkshires, although limited staff will be allowed in get materials for developing some online instruction and to feed the animals.
Town Clerk Carol Jammalo questioned locking the front hallway at Town Hall where meetings are posted by law. The town can't just use the town website because it has not been formally adopted as a legal posting site. There is a process that has to be followed, she said, to make that happen. She also suggested posting inside the windows of the Select Board meeting room if the hallway remains inaccessible to the public.
Officials didn't think there would be any meetings to post. Town Administrator Rebecca Stone noted that only one meeting is scheduled for next week — the Conservation Commission.
"I think that all meetings unless there is some emergency type meeting that has a bearing on the town, they should be postponed," said Select Board Chairman Ronald Boucher during the meeting held in the Northern Berkshire School Union offices in North Adams. He said the meeting of the Finance Committee the week after would also be postponed.
Boards and committee have been given latitude through an emergency declaration of the governor to meet remotely as long as the public has some type of access, such as streaming and call-ins.
Boucher said the Conservation Commission could try one of the recommended ways or postpone until the next month.
"As an employee, I do not want the public coming in and out, even in that hallway," said Town Administrator Rebecca Stone. She recommended Town Hall be open only to those who needed access, such as the administrative staff and the Police Department.
Board of Health member Ron Pierce agreed that it would be better to limit access once the sanitizing is complete.
"My initial thought is, we want to get our town offices operating again, we don't want to have the town shut down," said Board of Health member Ron Pierce. "But if we've got phone service, if we've got email service, we should be able to keep it closed to the public. ... The only exposure you can get is from co-workers and even the boards that aren't needed during this emergency don't need to be going in there."
Jammalo also raised the issue of nomination papers and an upcoming election. Papers have to be submitted to the town clerk by April. Boucher thought the town should wait for the state to offer guidance but Jammalo pointed out that postings and elections have to be done a certain way by law.
"By law, right now, as the law stands, we have to have an annual town election on the date that is in the bylaws, and you can't change that," she said. "They're working on legislation to change that but right now is a period where I have nomination papers available."
It was suggested that for now, she have individuals wishing nomination papers meet her outside Town Hall to pick them. Boucher thought April was far enough away this point to give the Legislature time to address elections statewide.
"I understand the importance but I think we need to go day by day with that and see what the next day brings," he said. "Everything's changing on a daily basis."
Boucher also complimented Gem Environmental for the work it's done over the past week in cleaning the buildings. The company was working on the first floor of Town Hall on Friday and was expected to finish up on Monday. Employees are expected to return to Town Hall on Tuesday.
Edited to clarify Jammalo was talking about the procedures for the website, not the building's windows, for posting.
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