Residents stand beside cones waiting for Auburn Hall to reopen Wednesday morning. Submitted photo

AUBURN — A small line formed outside Auburn Hall on Wednesday prior to the doors opening at 9 a.m.

Outside, a few residents stood next to orange parking cones, staggered along the walkway between the parking garage and the rear entrance.

For the first time since March 17, Auburn Hall is open to the public, but with limited hours, services and safety precautions in place. Access to the building is limited to the tax office, city clerk’s office and the Planning & Permitting Division on the first floor, as well as the Police Department on the ground floor.

All other city departments will require an appointment.

According to Liz Allen, communications manager, plexiglass barriers have been installed at all counter locations, along with decals on the floor. Only a limited number of visitors will be permitted in the building at one time, and only the rear entrance is accessible.

For now, hours will be 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“Staff will be in place at the door to assist with your visit to Auburn Hall, but delays should be expected as we all navigate these adjustments,” she said Wednesday. “We encourage the wearing of face masks for anyone unable to maintain proper social distancing. We look forward to seeing you here at Auburn Hall.”

Assistant City Manager Phil Crowell said Wednesday that most of the early customers were registering vehicles.

The reopening of Auburn Hall comes as the conversation among city officials has turned to economic recovery. The City Council was among the first among major municipalities to return to in-person council meetings, receiving a full attendance this week. (Two councilors wore masks.)

Crowell said only about five additional staff members have returned to working at Auburn Hall, on top of some who have continued to work there during the pandemic. He said if an employee is teleworking from home “they will continue to do this for now.”

All employees who come into the building, as well as vendors, must conduct a self-screening upon arrival at a station set up on the second floor.

“We have conducted trainings with returning staff who are considered ‘public facing,'” he said. “They have proper procedures in place and (personal protective equipment) available.”

Across the river in Lewiston, City Hall remains open by appointment only, while officials are urging residents to take advantage of online services to do business.

“We are hopeful that this will allow us to avoid a huge rush, large delays and lines by serving those who absolutely must come to City Hall before we reopen to regular business,” City Administrator Ed Barrett said Wednesday. “This should help us deal with at least some of the backlog of necessary trips.”

Barrett said most city staff has returned to regular work stations, with the exception of “those who fall into the at-risk categories.”

On Tuesday, the Lewiston City Council voted against a resolution that would have asked Gov. Janet Mills to reconsider her inclusion of Androscoggin County among the four counties with the most stringent guidelines.

Many pointed to a steady rise in new cases in Androscoggin County, which has seen the number of active cases double over the last two weeks.

The Lewiston City Council has continued to conduct meetings remotely via Zoom.


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