Amid Reopening, DOH ‘Optimistic’, Boncore Cautious

The Winthrop Town Council met virtually on Tuesday, May 19. Present were town councilors and Council Clerk Denise Quist, Town Manager Austin Faison, Asst. Town Manager/CFO Anna Freedman, and heads of departments. Twenty members of the public also attended.

Council President Phil Boncore opened the meeting with what is becoming a sobering tradition—a moment of silence for the Winthrop residents who have lost their lives to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, including former fire chief Paul Ford.

“We lost a dear friend and longtime Winthrop resident,” he said. “He was a great man and a great chief.”

Reopening Protocols

While Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Monday that Phase 1 of reopening efforts would commence on May 18 with more to come on May 25, Council President Boncore warned that reopening does not indicate a return to normal. Residents are still required to socially distance and obey face-covering directives. A 10pm curfew will remain in place until at least June 1. When beaches open on May 25, it will only be open to members of the same household up to 10 people. Each family group of 10 will have to be 12 feet from the nearest family group. The same goes for boating. This means that friend groups, regardless of size, will not be allowed to gather for beach or boating parties.

COVID-19 Updates

Meredith Hurley of the Winthrop Department of Health reported that there have been 223 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since March, with 151 recovered. An additional 48 remain under self-quarantine in their homes or in area hospitals. To date, there have been 24 deaths. Hurley reported a slowing in the virus in the past five days, which she called “optimistic.” The department is continuing to investigate contact tracing while also helping the community to reopen safely. It is constantly conferencing with experts throughout the state to “ease businesses back in slowly with transparency and expectations.”

Police Chief Terence Delahanty said his department is working as a team to offer assistance to the businesses who are opening under Phase 1 of Baker’s reopening vision.

“We’re here to support these businesses and institutions to make sure they’re doing it right,” he said.

Guest Speakers

Winthrop Police Department Lt. Nancy Dalrymple read a letter to Council in which she asked that the mandatory retirement age of 65 be extended in her case to allow her to continue to work as a full-time police officer until 2023. Council moved the item to its next meeting on June 2.

Dick Hingston of Giusti, Hingston and Company gave an update on water and sewer projections for fiscal years 2020 and 2021, justifying the inevitable rate hike that the town is currently facing.

Students from Tufts University gave a powerpoint presentation about the benefits of creating a planning department for the Town of Winthrop.

All three presentations will be described in greater detail by the Transcript.

Council Committee Reports

The Finance Commission met on May 14, where it reviewed the FY21 budget. It will be presenting its recommendations to the council at its next meeting on June 2.

The Committee on Appointment Commissions and Committees, consisting of three members of council, completed their employee evaluations and have sent the results to the full body. Town Manager Austin Faison received a 4 out of a possible 5 points, and Council Clerk Denise Quist earned a 4.5.

The Miller Field Committee met on May 12. The Field House is nearly complete, with work still to be done on fencing, storage, the dog park, tennis courts and sidewalks. The committee met with SBAC about how to spend the money leftover from the middle high school project. They came to an agreement about funding new technology, vans for athletics and special education and a dishwasher for the life skills department. They hope to move on those items right away. Still up for debate is the improvement of the tennis courts, sidewalks and parking.

School Department Update

The School Committee met on May 11 where it passed the contract for school nurses. Remote learning continues in earnest with the aid of online platforms. Gov. Baker has ordered all schools remain closed until at least June 29, so summer programming is still in the planning stages. The scholarship presentation for the Class of ‘22 will be on June 3. The committee is exploring funding sources for COVID-19 relief.

A senior parade will be held for the graduating class of 2020 on May 22 at 3:30pm, in which faculty will drive by the homes of all the graduating seniors. Senior graduation will be held on Friday, June 5 at 6pm. The prom originally scheduled for June 2 is postponed until further notice.

All dates are tentative and subject to change.

Upcoming Events

The Town has not made a determination regarding the scheduling of Independence Day Events. Boston and other areas hard-hit by COVID-19 have been canceling all summer programming in the interest of public health.

A small memorial day gathering will be held by the veteran’s affairs office at a cemetery on May 25. Presenters and invitees will be observing norms of social distancing.

The Council is still seeking members for the Charter Review Committee. Interested individuals should email [email protected], call 617-846-1742 x 1034, or fill out an application on the town’s website.

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