By JOHN HOWELL You can browse through the latest books and take ones home from the Warwick Public Library; you can leave your pre-school child off at daycare; and you can dine in a restaurant, albeit at a secluded table and with a limited number of
You can browse through the latest books and take ones home from the Warwick Public Library; you can leave your pre-school child off at daycare; and you can dine in a restaurant, albeit at a secluded table and with a limited number of people.
But if you want to pay your taxes in person because you have cold hard cash, or you’re thinking of running for one of the 21 Warwick seats up for election this year and want to pick up declaration papers from the Board of Canvassers, or you want to get married, or file for a building permit, you’ll need to make an appointment.
Although Phase 2 of the reopening plan that started last Monday allows for the controlled reopening of public buildings, city offices remain closed and will remain so for the indefinite future. On Wednesday, the mayor’s office announced that Thayer Arena would reopen on June 29. City parks are playgrounds have been reopened.
In an email, Chief of Staff William DePasquale wrote Wednesday: “All our offices have been operating for a while now on a scheduled basis with drop boxes (working out well) so that we can control occupancy meet the phase 2 criteria and clean in between visits. What drives these office provisions is in person occupancy for both
staff and patrons. And as such their needs to be measured control in allowing staffing and public access to the building. As restriction loosens we could embrace other measures to increase the occupancy in our public buildings with social distancing and cleaning measures.”
DePasquale also said board and commission meetings would resume on Zoom and that “test” meetings are planned.
Warwick is not in a unique position.
Brian Daniels, executive director of the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, said Tuesday many municipalities are slowly reopening. He said municipalities are installing Plexiglas shields at public counters and are ensuring employees have the proper personal protection equipment including masks and gloves to interact with the public. Measures are also being taken to ensure at least 6 foot spacing between visitors, there is no crowding and that hand sanitizer is available.
Daniels made available an eight-page set of guidelines for the reopening of governmental organizations that gets down to such finite detail as the ingredients needed to make disinfectants meeting EPA approval.
Requirements include the screening of employees and visitors that can be supplemented with health-related questions and temperature checks. Procedures are also spelled out should a city employee become sick and measures to disinfect areas and touchpoints that that employee might of come in contact with.
“They want to make sure that the staff and the public are safe, so this guidance is helpful in providing some direction and best practices,” Daniels said of municipalities.
As it now stands, City Hall and City Hall Annex offices are minimally staffed with most people working from home. Posted on entrance doors are the phone numbers of various departments with the directive an appointment is required.
The requirements are making for some adjustments and, as Republican City Committee Chairman Richard Cascella observed, the elimination of the bi-annual 4 p.m. watch at the Board of Canvassers. Prospective candidates are given three days after obtaining declaration papers to file them, with the deadline being at 4 p.m. on the third day. In prior election years, candidates have waited to the last minute to reveal they are running for an office, thereby surprising an incumbent or other possible candidates. Similarly, incumbents have not revealed they won’t seek reelection so their choice of a successor doesn’t face a primary.
In an effort to avoid snags, Dottie McCarthy, director of the Board of Canvassers, met with Cascella and Kim Wineman, chair of the Democratic City Committee, to provide them with declaration papers (also available off the Secretary of State’s website) and to go over procedures. Candidates will be able to pick up signature papers on June 30 that must be returned by July 10 at 4 p.m. Depending on the office, candidates are required to obtain a certain number of signatures (200 is the maximum for a citywide office) in order to qualify.
McCarthy is uncertain how to manage the return of signature papers. At this point, candidates will need to make appointments to return them.
Pat Pasqualle found himself in a similar situation outside the annex building in Buttonwoods Tuesday. Pasqualle was looking to talk with people in the assessor’s office and was carrying a packet of papers he wanted to show them. Instead, he ended up taking down the appointment phone number on the sheet posted on the glass door.
Meanwhile, on the first day of Phase 2, the Central branch of the Warwick Public Library reopened. The library is following guidelines on the number of visitors allowed in the building (25) and has restricted visitors to the inner lobby where visitors have access to new book releases and can make requests of the staff for other materials.