COVID-19 causes Woolwich to delay town meeting

Mon, 03/16/2020 - 9:30pm

    Covid-19 concerns caused the Woolwich selectboard to move the April 29 annual town meeting to late May. The board also announced Monday night a precautionary measures at the town office to safeguard staff.

    The town meeting was tentatively rescheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 20 at Woolwich Central School. “Because of the uncertainty (associated with the coronavirus) it’s possible we may need to reschedule it again,” said Chair David King Sr. “If the need arises we could hold off until June.”

    Selectmen asked residents to conduct transactions like motor vehicle re-registrations and buying fish and game licenses and fire permits online rather than in person.

    Until further notice, only two people will be permitted to enter the town office lobby at a time. Access to the municipal building will be limited to the front door facing Nequasset Road. The building’s restrooms will be closed to the public. The hearing rooms will be closed to all but essential meetings. King said as a precaution plexiglass panels will be placed over the three service windows in the office lobby. Fire Chief Mike Demers said he’d cancelled all firefighter meetings and training until April. Until further notice, the fire station is closed to the general public.

    All the changes will be posted on the town’s website, added King. He noted he’d cancelled his plans for a trip to Georgia due to concerns over the coronavirus.

    Selectman and District 53 Rep. Allison Hepler, D – Woolwich, said the legislature was considering emergency legislation permitting remote meetings for public officials, in addition to an emergency spending measure to help municipalities.

    Helper also announced, due to the anticipated financial impact of the coronavirus, the board of directors of Patten Free Library reduced its 2020-2021 contribution request. Library officials are asking for $56,832 from Woolwich, a 2 percent increase over last year’s contribution. The Bath-based library had first asked for a 9 percent increase.

    The selectboard held two public hearings; the first was on the ambulance department proposal to begin charging patients for services other than hospital transports. Before taking effect July 1, the changes need voter approval at the annual town meeting. Also discussed were proposed changes submitted by the Shellfish Committee for the town’s Shellfish Ordinance also to be considered at the annual town meeting. The changes address licenses issued by the town for the harvesting of clams. The town sells six resident and one non-resident license.

    As stated in the proposal, “Grandfathered licenses, any municipal commercial licensed harvester who held a license in the immediately preceding license year and who has paid the license fee and/or completed equivalent conservation work shall be considered grandfathered (eligible for renewal). Upon meeting these criteria renewal licenses may be obtained between June 23 and July 28. Any licenses remaining after July 28 will be dispersed by lottery to applications received as of that date. Any license remaining as of October 1 shall be available to resident and non-residents alike, on a first come first serve basis.”

    Also, “Effective April 29, 2020, both resident and non-resident commercial shellfish licenses being renewed may be obtained without performing conservation work. However, the performance of conservation work will reduce a resident or non-resident commercial shellfish license fee by $20 for each documented hour worked up to 12 hours. The Town Clerk shall deposit all fees received with the Town Treasurer. Fees received for shellfish licenses shall be used by the town for shellfish management, conservation, and enforcement.”

    The licenses cost $600 annually but could be reduced to $400 by the licensee performing the maximum amount of conservation work.

    Other than the selectboard, only three residents were at the hearings. Bruce Engert was reappointed code enforcement officer. Selectman Dale Chadbourne was unable to attend Monday’s meeting.