Buckfield officials practice social distancing by sitting 6 feet apart during an emergency meeting to discuss limiting municipal operations in response to COVID-19 on Monday night. From left are Town Manager Joe Roach, Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Tina Brooks, Vice Chairwoman Martha Catevenis and Selectman Cheryl Coffman. Erin Place photo

BUCKFIELD — During an emergency meeting  Monday, selectmen opted to close municipal buildings to the public and alter services for at least the next two weeks in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. It’s effective Tuesday.

“My recommendation to you (is) that we consider augmenting our operations – basically closing public buildings to the public,” Town Manager Joe Roach told selectmen. “I know that seems counterintuitive when you’re in public service. My concern is for employees . . . and public safety.”

Board Chairwoman Tina Brooks read Roach’s recommendations before the board passed them unanimously and noted social distancing and other recommendations were similar to what neighboring towns and school districts are doing.

“We apologize for the inconveniences that these measures will cause,” Brooks read. “It is important to avoid the need to shut down entirely through unintended exposure to the virus. We strongly encourage residents to practice social distancing to avoid potential contact but also encourage everyone to call and check on neighbors, friends, and family to avoid social isolation.”

The changes to municipal services will be in place until March 31. Selectmen and Roach will reevaluate the situation and could extend the time period if circumstances warrant it.

Changes to municipal services include:

  • The Fire-Rescue Station will be closed to all nonessential personnel. Residents are advised to continue to call 911 for fire and rescue needs as dispatchers are trained to screen for COVID-19.
  • The Transfer Station will remain open for its normal hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday. Personnel will practice social distancing of 6 feet and not help with unloading trash or other items.
  • The Public Works garage will be closed to the public. Residents with questions or road concerns can call the highway garage at 336-2526 to express concerns and get their questions answered.
  • All committees will postpone their meetings until after March 31.
  • Code enforcement issues and building permits can be addressed by calling the Town Office at 336-2521. Town staff will process as much as possible by phone, email and U.S. mail.
  • General Assistance applications can be completed by calling the Town Office.
  • The Zadoc Free Library is closed to the public and staff will work on special projects. They can assist patrons via phone or email. Those with books checked out are asked to hang onto them until after March 31.
  • The Town Office will be closed to the public, but staff are still working. Those in need of services can call the Town Office and staff will do their best to provide required services.

Selectmen also recommend residents take the following steps:

  • Read and follow the Maine Center for Disease Control recommendations of hand washing, using hand sanitizer and social distancing.
  • Avoid large gatherings.
  • Maintain two weeks supply of emergency food and household goods, but do not hoard them.
  • Check on and help neighbors as needed while still maintaining social distancing.
  • Continue to support local businesses online and via phone when possible.
  • Stay informed through reputable news sources.
  • Call their physician before visiting the emergency room if they think they have virus symptoms.

The Buckfield selectmen meeting for this evening has been rescheduled until 6 p.m., Tuesday, March 31. The RSU 10 workshop was postponed until some time in April. They haven’t set a day or time yet.

Selectmen canceled their Tuesday evening meeting to 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 31. Their workshop with RSU 10  has been postponed until some time in April.

Rescue Chief Floyd “Chip” Richardson asked if online meetings could be held for selectmen and committees.

Roach and board Vice Chairwoman Martha Catevenis noted Maine Municipal Association recommends against holding such meetings because of freedom of access law requirements. Roach added that the MMA director and the governor’s office are working on the issue, but nothing has been changed yet.

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