On Tuesday, Sept. 22, the Town Council met remotely via Zoom to discuss issues impacting the community. In case you were unable to attend, here are the highlights.
Winthrop is still in the Red Zone according to Gov. Baker’s infection map, which means more stringent guidelines for the town. Currently, masks are required on all public property, including playgrounds and fields. Violators can be charged a $500 fine. One fine has already been issued when a group of people refused to socially distance or wear masks.
“We’re going to stay in the Red Zone. The only way out of it is if everyone in Winthrop follows orders,” said Council President Phil Boncore. “You can’t have parties. Use common sense.”
A Massachusetts high school student and their parents were recently charged by police for throwing a house party on Sept. 11 that led to an entire school district going remote. The defendants face a year in prison and a $2,000 fine.
DPH Director Meredith Hurley reported that Winthrop has seen a total of 391 confirmed positive tests for COVID-19 since testing began. Her office continues to liaise with health officials at the state level, who are providing assistance around the town’s enforcement needs. Contact tracing and disease investigation is still underway. Winthrop’s Stop the Spread testing site will remain open until Oct. 31.
Town Manager Austin Faison reported that Oct. 5 will likely see the reopening of municipal buildings to staff members. Regarding the library specifically, all staff are likely to be recalled to focus on quarantining and shelving materials. He emphasized that town buildings will not be open to the public on that date.
“We are still a ways away from that,” he said.
Town Hall is being updated with germ shields, hand sanitizing stations, signage and new daily protocol that will assess personnel symptoms upon entry. Faison is also urging all of his staff to be tested weekly for the virus, stating that he’d rather be “proactive than reactive.”
Winthrop school students returned to the classroom remotely on Sept. 17. Most teachers are teaching from their classrooms, except when disability requires them to teach from home. Chromebooks have been issued to all families that requested them. Free breakfasts and lunches are available to all district students.
A survey will be issued to all parents in the district regarding how remote learning is working for their children. There have already been some complaints about slow internet access, especially when a home has multiple devices running simultaneously.
The district anticipates that a hybrid model of in-person and remote learning could begin as early as Nov. 19. But Council President Boncore reminded that this was dependent on the town’s resiliency to the virus.
“The only way we can open the schools is to socially distance,” he said. “Let’s get Winthrop out of the Red Zone.”
Council held a vote on items that were given a favorable recommendation from the Transportation Safety Advisory Committee. The following motions were passed: reduce town-wide speed limit to 25 mph, amend Resident Parking Sticker Program, eliminate parking on a portion of South Main St., and install a stop sign at Quincy/Cliff Ave.
DPW Director Steve Calla provided an update on construction in the Center Business District (CBD). The project has been underway for approximately five months and has been able to make up some of the time it lost due to delays. Director Calla and Town Manager Faison have given the contractor a strict deadline of Dec. 15 for the project.
Biking infrastructure in town is seeing a massive upgrade, due in part to a $105K grant the town received. Town Manager Faison shared a map outlining where the new bike shared lanes will be marked around town. These are not bike lanes, but rather street markings that will show both drivers and cyclists how to share the roads safely. The next step will be to secure more funding for bike storage solutions in business districts. More information is available on the town website.
Trash and Recycling
The Town’s solid waste contract rate went up and residents are urged to sign up for compost removal with private company Black Earth Compost so that less waste will end up in the town’s waste supply. Black Earth also provides textile removal. Recycling will see a change with the mandatory separation of paper items from glass and plastic ones. A second bin will be provided to all residents.