By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – The Board of Selectmen unanimously agreed to declare a State of Emergency for the town of Shrewsbury at their March 24 meeting. The meeting was held via remote participation in accordance with Gov. Charlie Baker’s recent directives.
Town Manager Kevin Mizikar proposed to the Board declaring a State of Emergency because “first and foremost the declaration would acknowledge just how serious the situation has become for our residents.”
“Second, it provides authority from the Board of Selectmen to the Town Manager to take extraordinary but measured actions to facilitate and expedite the use of resources to protect our residents. Finally, it allows for certain extraordinary financial and procurement actions to facilitate the operations of the town,” he added.
Selectman Beth Casavant asked what the benefits were to enact the State of Emergency because she didn’t want the residents to think the situation was worse than it already was.
“I want people to understand that it is more of a precautionary measure so that we are ready to act in a certain way if we need to,” she said.
Selectman John Lebeaux said that he agreed with the declaration and that it would cover any contingency and increase efficiency for the town manager. Shrewsbury has called for a State of Emergency before due to snowstorms and it positions the town to receive federal aid.
He said: “This is largely an administrative action…People shouldn’t be alarmed by the fact that the town of Shrewsbury is declaring a State of Emergency.”
Mizikar provided an overview of where the town stands regarding the coronavirus crisis.
He reported that as of March 24, three people have tested positive for COVID-19. In response to Baker’s March 10 declaration of a state-wide State of Emergency and with the support of town leadership, Assistant Town Manager Kristen Las has led the development of the town’s continuity or operations planning for this specific challenge.
“We have had two simple priorities. The first is to preserve and protect the residents of Shrewsbury by taking any and all actions that we can as a local government to reduce their risk to exposure.” Mizikar explained. “Second, ensure the long-term continuity of operations of each and every department of the town of Shrewsbury. Please know that all departments are operating.”
He referenced that they are especially concerned with the most vulnerable and that Meals on Wheels will continue and that students who qualify for free lunch will still be able to obtain meals.
Town buildings and schools with the exception of the Police and Fire departments will remain closed though April 7, 2020. School and park playgrounds are closed until further notice.
“We obviously have to deal with how we are going to handle the Annual Town Election and the Annual Town Meeting. We’ve been waiting on guidance from the state on how we can proceed,” noted Moe DePalo, Board chair. “The state did pass legislation that allows these things to be postponed. Right now, we’ve had broad discussions on this and we will be addressing these issues most likely at our meeting on April 14, 2020…”
For more information, visit the town website: https://shrewsburyma.gov.