NEWBURY — As teleworking becomes the “new normal” for town employees this week, Director Michael Reilly of the Emergency Management Agency — and police chief in town — said the transition to working from home has been fairly smooth so far.
News of how municipal workers were adapting to the altered work environment was one of several updates issued by Reilly, who is serving as the town’s public information officer during the local and national states of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“All employees have remote access to voicemail and emails, and are working daily. We haven’t encountered any problems or delays to date,” he said.
Many of the transactions residents need to conduct with the town can be done through its website at www.townofnewbury.org, he added. The website also provides links for updates on the coronavirus from the state and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If needed, residents can also call 211 — an around-the-clock phone number set up to answer questions related to viruses.
“If you can’t get through, leave a message and they will return your call,” Reilly advised, noting that issues or emergencies related to Newbury should be reported to the communications center at 978-462-4440.
“The communications officer will direct you to the proper place to find your answer,” he said.
Reilly said although the Senior Center remains closed, the Council on Aging has been proactive in reaching out to elders in the community to help with groceries or prescription pickup during this time of social distancing.
There are also numerous online services that can assist people in need of these services, he added.
The CDC recommends people keep six feet between themselves and others to lessen the risk of being exposed to COVID-19.
High-risk individuals — including people over the age of 60, those with underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems, and pregnant women, should avoid large gatherings and public spaces.
On March 14, Newbury’s Town Offices, 12 Kent Way; the town library, 0 Lunt St.; and Senior Center, 62 Hanover St., were closed to the public, with nonessential employees ordered to work from home.
In addition, the town requested that local organizers cancel or postpone all public meetings for at least two weeks to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus around the community.
Town officials are working to establish conference call-ins so members of municipal boards and committees can continue to hold meetings as necessary.
The sessions — including Board of Selectmen meetings — can be livestreamed on the Newbury channel or accessed later via the town website or YouTube.
“The IT director is working on establishing a platform for teleconferencing in the future,” Reilly said.
Following an executive order from Gov. Charlie Baker issued March 12, certain aspects of the state’s Open Meeting Law are suspended during this public health emergency.
The order allows state and local governments to carry out essential functions during the outbreak. Among the adjustments, it suspends the requirement under the law for public access to the location where a public meeting is taking place, as long as there are other means of access available — such as livestreaming.
In addition, a quorum of members does not have to be present at a public meeting and they may all participate by remote or virtual means.
On the agenda as new business for the virtual selectmen meeting Tuesday night was an update from the police station construction committee, a request by Selectwoman Alicia Greco to use selectmen’s letterhead for a letter of recommendation, approval of the 2020 commercial clamming permits, and a discussion on distribution of correspondence to the board.
Also scheduled were a discussion of an 40B comprehensive permit application for the Village at Cricket Lane, 55R Pearson Drive.
Selectmen were to have an executive session scheduled for contract negotiations with the town administrator and fire chief, and collective bargaining with the Department of Public Works.