WESTFIELD – Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr. said that he has been meeting with several department heads on how and when to reopen Westfield City Hall, which has been closed to the public since mid-March. “We will have a gradual phase-in,” he said, although they haven’t yet determined the date to start.
Humason said he has been meeting with Board of Health Director Joseph Rouse, City Clerk Karen Fanion, Facilities Director Bryan Forrette, Purchasing Director Tammy Tefft, Auditor Christopher Caputo and Thomas Curran, building maintenance, to find a balance between providing access to the taxpayers, and keeping residents and staff safe.
“As a group, whatever we do, we’ll be phasing in slowly over the next couple of weeks,” Humason said at the May 18 School Committee meeting.
He said they will work with a skeleton staff, so for example the full staff is never in the collector’s office all at once. “The staff is not that big,” Humason said, adding that if one person in a small office were to get sick, the whole department could be impacted negatively.
Humason also gave the example of the mayor’s office, which has two staff people at desks right outside his door. Currently there is nothing stopping anyone from going into either office. Humason said he’s been imagining putting a rope in the foyer outside the front office, like the ones in a movie theater or bank, to have people wait for service.
He said they will also look into putting in some plexiglass screens in individual offices, so there’s something in between residents and the staff person they are talking to.
Another idea by Fanion that the group is exploring is to put a tent outside with a staff person who is able to find out what a resident’s question or need may be, and using a computer, telephone or two-way radio, contact the appropriate department to assist them.
The mayor also said right now, anyone wishing to pay a bill may put it in the black dropbox on the parking lot side. of city hall.
As for when meetings may return to City Council Chambers,Humason said that may happen sooner than opening the building during the day to residents.
“The ultimate goal is to get meetings back in the Chambers, which we may be able to do before full reopening. We can actually see a way to do that, where folks can get in the Chambers at night, as long as members determine it’s ok,” he said. People would be asked to wear a mask and keep a distance between them.
Humason said this will all be based on people’s comfort level. He said they will also be continuing to track Westfield’s numbers of COVID-19 cases, and any spike that may occur.
“Rouse will keep a close eye on that,” Humason said.