The Winthrop Town Council met on Tuesday, April 21, via the online conferencing platform Zoom.
Present at the meeting were the Town Councilors, Council Clerk Denise Quist, Town Manager Austin Faison, Chief Financial Officer Anna Freedman, Dept. of Health (DOH) Director Meredith Hurley, Police Chief Terence Delehanty, Fire Chief Chuck Flanagan, Dept. of Public Works Director Steve Calla and Administrative Secretary Laurisa Wojcik.
Also present were 43 members of the public who attended the Zoom meeting. Although they could not be seen, they had the opportunity to enter a queue to ask questions during the public comment periods. This format allowed residents to communicate directly with council members as if they were physically present at the meeting. The meeting was broadcast in real time by Winthrop Community Access Television (WCAT).
Council President Phil Boncore opened the meeting with a moment of silence for the four Winthrop residents who have succumbed to COVID-19 since the start of the epidemic, including two that were just brought to light that day. He extended a special prayer to “all our first responders and the people on the frontlines of this pandemic who are keeping many more people from dying.”
Dept. of Health Update
DOH Director Hurley talked about the work her department is doing to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Hurley is focusing on disease investigation and contact tracing. The department keeps a list of all current cases by address. As of Tuesday evening, there were 104 confirmed cases in town, 44 of whom had recovered. Sixty-six residents remain in isolation, either at home or in hospital.
The Board of Health met on Tuesday at 5pm to discuss efforts to prevent transmission of COVID-19. They drafted an order that would mandate face coverings for anyone who enters an essential business, residents in multi-unit dwellings, and workers in the food service industry. The board is hoping to have the order go into effect on April 23.
“My big concern is asymptomatic spread,” said Hurley. “We’re seeing cases of people not showing traditional symptoms.”
Hurley also gave an update on the nursing home where a resident recently tested positive for COVID-19. She said she is in “constant contact” with the home’s leadership and there is an ongoing effort to test all residents.
Council President Boncore praised Hurley for her hard work
“She has traced every single person that tested positive in an effort to keep us safe,” he said. “She’s working 80 hours a week, Saturday and Sunday, too.”
Fire and Police Chief Update
Chiefs Delehanty and Flanagan are working in close collaboration with the DOH and the Emergency Operations Center to stem the tide of the coronavirus outbreak.
Council President Boncore and DOH Director Hurley heaped praise on the chiefs.
“[They] have the institutional knowledge of crisis management,” said Hurley. “I would have easily drowned, but they’ve allowed me to combat things on the local level.”
As an example, she stated that 120 people were tested on Monday in a matter of hours due to a joint effort of the two departments combined with the DOH.
Chief Delehanty praised the “team effort” of his department along with local business owners and volunteers. Chief Flanagan also deflected praise onto his crew.
“It’s my firefighters and Action Ambulance that are interfacing with the public every day. They don’t know what they’re walking into,” he said. “I can’t say enough about them. I’m proud to represent them here tonight.”
He added that personal days and vacation days were canceled to accommodate growing needs in the community.
Town Manager’s Report
Town Manager Faison reflected on the strangeness of the times in which we’re living, rolling out a new public service announcement about COVID-19 preparation featuring the various department heads. He also presented the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget, which will be summarized in our next publication on April 29.
Council Committee Reports
The Committee on the Appointment Commission & Committees met regarding employee evaluation forms. A change was made to the form and a copy will be ready to go out later in the week ending April 24.
The Joint Committee of Town Council & School Committee will meet by April 24 to discuss rezoning for the middle school, with an emphasis on creating a robust public input process. Contractors will be drafting a zoning ordinance.
The Finance Committee met on Thursday, April 16, with CFO Freedman to discuss the draft of the FY 2021 budget. It will be meeting weekly on Thursdays.
The School Building Assistance Committee hopes to meet the week ending May 1 and may present a number of emergency motions. It is currently in communication with department heads, the DOH, Chief Delehanty and Chief Flanagan.
Future Meeting Access
Residents are invited to join future meetings of Council remotely via Zoom by going to zoom.us/j/93667460758. The link will open in a browser window or prompt you to download the Zoom application. Residents can also access the meeting by phone at (312) 626-6799 or (646) 558 8656, entering the following Webinar ID: 936 6746 0758. In addition, questions can be emailed ahead of time to the clerk at [email protected] As always, meetings will be broadcast live on WCAT’s Government Channel 22.