By Pattie Pacella, Neighb News Correspondent
At its regularly scheduled meeting on 10/6, the Acushnet Selectboard heard from the school department, the fire department, and the health department on COVID related matters.
Kristen Flynn, the School Department’s Business Manager stated that they began “Phase 3” on October 5, with some of the children back to school in two groups, A and B.
She stated that the two groups were organized to be in school on alternating days, with all students on remote learning on Wednesdays. Ms. Flynn also stated that Kindergarten and first grade were at the building four days a week.
Health agent Joseph Correia also attended to continue the conversation regarding COVID-19 and the Town Hall re-opening plan.
Selectboard chair Kevin Gaspar, who admitted he was “a lot confused,” read from the “color coded map,” as he described it that the state has created to notify residents of the COVID-19 risk in each community.
“I’m not sure who made up this cockamamie chart. It doesn’t apply to Acushnet as it is based on 100,000 residents with a percentage versus 100,000. We need to focus on Acushnet and our own numbers,” Mr. Gaspar said.
Mr. Correia said he was there to give an update and have a discussion with the Selectboard on how to move forward to “try and get the best services to our residents.” He said through the Board of Health their number one priority is the health and safety of all Town residents. He said there has been an upswing in COVID cases.
“As we all know,” Mr. Correia said, “Disruption comes in one case, as in Trump and Cam Newton of the Patriots.”
Mr. Correia went on to say that close contact is cumulative and the infection takes 5-14 days to present itself. He said there have been 12 positives in two days in the month of October thus far, and 14 positives in September.
“We are having an upswing in COVID cases,” he said. “And we need to be prepared on how we are going to handle it.”
Mr. Gaspar stated that they knew there would be an upswing based on when you contracted it, as there is an incubation period.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to drive around Town and see huge tents in people’s yards and think to yourself, ‘that’s not going to be good,” Mr. Gaspar said.
He added that there was absolutely no way to determine how one is getting the COVID-19 virus, but regardless of the Town Hall being opened, someone may get the virus here or there.
“The moral of the story is we are never going to prevent anyone from getting COVID-19 in any of our buildings, unless you lock the doors up and not allow anyone in ever,” he said.
Mr. Gaspar went on to say that he was under the impression that the town has done a lot to prevent the spread by adding the temperature kiosks at the town buildings, hand sanitizer, requiring that all entering wear masks. He said he wanted to move forward with the opening and servicing the residents on a daily basis.
“I understand the concept that the state is asking us to follow, but it’s bogus,” Mr. Gaspar said. “Let’s talk about the red…”
“It’s coming,” Mr. Correia stated.
“And so is Christmas,” Mr. Gaspar stated. Mr. Gaspar stated that Acushnet needed to work with the Board of Health to determine their own data for infection rates.
“Because what I’m reading from this paper, from the state is crap,” he said. “If we use this as a guideline, we will never open Town Hall.”
Selectboard member David Wojnar agreed that the state guidance paperwork was confusing. He said that his best guess to minimize or reduce COVID risk was to go from a seven-hour day to a three-hour window per day as they had suggested.
“From day to day we are servicing our residents,” Mr. Wojnar stated. “From what I understand building permits have increased, people are paying their taxes, it’s all getting done.”
Mr. Correia agreed: “Yes, we don’t want a disruption and yes we want people to be and feel safe.”
“We’ve done everything to assure people’s safety,” Mr. Gaspar said. “I don’t want to get caught up in we’re open, we’re closed; we’re open, we’re closed.”
“If you’re that freaked out about COVID 19 then stay home; it doesn’t matter whether there is one case or ten,” he said.
Mr. Correia just reiterated that if Acushnet continues to go in an upward swing of positive cases it is something that will need to reevaluate.
In other business, Chief Kevin Gallagher explained how his department was conducting antibodies testing at the School Department for anyone who wanted to take the test. He said he and his team are there every Wednesday for anyone who wanted to take the test.
Chief Gallagher was also asking for the Selectboard’ s support in a town-wide COVID testing for Saturday (10/10) for Acushnet residents.
“I can’t commend you and your staff enough for all the work you have done for the safety of Acushnet residents,” Mr. Gaspar stated.
After the testing Chief Gallagher posted on Facebook that 157 Acushnet residents were tested (see story on page 16).
Mr. Gaspar stated he was hoping that some of the CARES ACT monies could go to help support local businesses, either with a break in their tax bills or liquor license renewals that are coming up.
“It’s not a lot of money,” he said. “But a small gesture to say that we support our local business.”
Town Administrator, Julie Hebert stated that she has heard of other Towns either waiving the fees or prorating them for the amount of time the businesses were open.
Mr. Gaspar stated he was good with waiving the liquor license fee. Mr. Wojnar stated they could help with any bill the Town provides, such as the water bill.
The board asked Ms. Hebert to look into it so it could be discussed at a future meeting.
Business Manager of the Department of Public Works, Kathy Silva was present to advise that after many discussions with the three vendors that could possibly do a big bulky item day, they advised they did not have the shredder to do it at this time.
Ms. Silva said that SEMASS did commit to providing a big bulky item day in the Spring of 2021.
Ms. Silva told the board there were different options for residents to trash big items. They can call Waste Management directly for a fee of $28.00, and they would advise what day they could pick it up.The resident also has the ability to drop off items at the Town’s recycling center at 700 Mill Road on Fridays and Saturdays, 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Ms. Silva noted that the resident would need to go to the Department of Public Works to pay for the item they wanted to take to the Recycle Center.
In her Town Administrator’s report, Ms. Hebert advised there would be no town sponsored Halloween Parade this year.
Ms. Hebert also read a letter from the Council on Aging attendees thanking the Selectboard as well as Jim Marot, the Building Inspector, for the wonderful building pavilion that was built at the senior center.
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