Warwick declares state of emergency, closes town buildings

Staff Writer
Published: 3/25/2020 12:33:48 PM
Modified: 3/25/2020 3:25:32 PM

WARWICK — After delaying from last week to establish a means of holding a Selectboard meeting via teleconference, Warwick declared a state of emergency Monday.

Chair Lawrence “Doc” Pruyne said Tuesday that town officials, under advisement from Police Chief and Emergency Management Director David Shoemaker, made the decision to further encourage residents to stay home and go out only when absolutely necessary.

“The Town Hall and other public buildings are being closed for business,” Pruyne said. “We’re also holding meetings via conference call, and otherwise limiting interpersonal contact.”

The declaration of a state of emergency does not interrupt vital services, including the Police Department, Fire Department or EMS, Pruyne explained. Rather, the declaration will help Warwick secure grants to cover expenses associated with preventing or combating the COVID-19 outbreak and its lasting impacts.

Gov. Charlie Baker recently installed a temporary amendment to the Open Meeting Law, allowing towns to hold meetings via video chat or phone conference. According to Town Coordinator David Young, Warwick officials used UberConference to hold its meeting on Monday.

“Sixteen people participated or listened in over the two hours,” Young said.

This week, Baker also issued an emergency order to close all “non-essential” workplaces, effective at noon on Tuesday. While Young said every member of town government is essential in one way or another, he noted there are more exempt services than simply first responders.

This includes Highway Department employees who are necessary to repair and maintain critical infrastructure, as well as building, gas and electrical inspectors. All public health workers are essential to compile, analyze and communicate public health information. Administrative employees are also essential to the continuity of town government operations, Young said, and closing the town buildings to the public will help protect their health during this time.

“We are directed to ensure the core functions under their purview continue to be performed, and by only those staff essential to the function,” Young wrote in a town notice.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.

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