Bryer still contemplating when to fully reopen municipal building

Business office open to public by appointment, selectmen plan June 10 meeting in conference room
Sun, 05/31/2020 - 11:00am

Boothbay selectmen will make their  first attempt at returning to a normal meeting schedule in the COVID-19 era by meeting June 10 in the municipal building’s conference room. Since March, selectmen have either skipped one of their of bimonthly meetings or met by video conferencing, but town officials are hoping June 10 will be the first board meeting with all five selectmen meeting in the same room since March. Town Manager Dan Bryer is preparing for all five selectmen to meet together on June 10 under Gov. Janet Mills’ social distancing guidelines requiring a distance of six feet between people and limiting public gatherings to 10. Boothbay officials will continue allowing public participation by Webex videoconferencing. “We are still working out the details, but selectmen indicated they preferred to meet in the conference room,” Bryer said.

While selectmen are pushing forward returning to normal, Bryer is taking a cautious approach toward reopening the municipal building to the public. Following Gov. Mills’ emergency proclamation, the town office was closed to the public and had a limited staff. In recent weeks, the municipal building opened to the public by appointment and the staff is slowly repopulating. The three business office staffers worked on a rotating basis, but now are all back working a regular schedule, according to Bryer. Code enforcement has one officer working Monday through Friday and Hillary Barrett working three days a week. The building’s door is still locked, and Bryer isn’t sure when the public will have full access to the building. “We’ve installed plexiglass for our staff’s protection, but we’re still not at the point where we can reopen the town building,” he said. “We’re waiting on the governor before taking the next step.”

Despite limited access to the municipal government, Bryer reports municipal revenues are outpacing last year’s. Licenses and registrations are also being processed at high rates. “You can renew them online so that’s why there hasn’t been a drop-off,” Bryer said. “The tax bills went out before COVID-19 arrived so we haven’t seen a drop in revenue. So it probably won't be until fall or next spring when we feel what impact it’s had.”

COVID-19 forced town officials to postpone the May election and town meeting to Tuesday, July 14, the same day as Maine’s primary election. Bryer estimates about 500 residents vote in the municipal election. So far, the state hasn't imposed any special instructions for Election Day. “Still awaiting guidance. There could possibly be staggered voting or possibly holding the election outside,” Bryer said.