Hudson declares state of emergency; closes public meetings

1624

By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer

A screenshot from Hudson local access station HudTV’s live stream of March 24’s selectmen meeting shows town officials respecting social distance. (Photo via HudTV)

Hudson – In a surreal joint meeting March 24, Hudson’s Selectmen and Board of Health unanimously voted to declare a state of emergency amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

They did so as they sat six feet apart in a closed meeting with just executive assistant Tom Moses and a producer from the town’s cable access station, which livestreamed the meeting, also present.

Selectman Fred Lucy leaned forward, elbows on his knees, wearing a bright teal face mask and blue rubber gloves in the back of the room. Colleague John Parent sat in his own chair, in what would normally be a seating area for the public, nameplate on the seat next to him, microphone in his lap.

“Be well everyone,” chairman Joe Durrant said after the vote.

“Remember to stay six feet apart,” responded Board of Health member Christie Vallencourt, who was participating remotely via telephone.

First hinted at days before it took effect, the state of emergency declaration allows the town to reallocate employees of currently closed arms of town government, like the recreation department and the library, to new departments now swamped by the needs of the COVID-19 crisis, like the health department.

“[This] was done out of an abundance of caution,” Moses elaborated in an email. “It allows our Health Department to make important decisions quickly.”

Decisions have announcements indeed, been coming quickly from the town of late.

After confirming the town’s first two cases the previous week, the Board of Health announced Thursday that a third resident, a woman in her 80s, had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and hospitalized.

Before even that news dropped, the town responded to tightening restrictions from Gov. Charlie Baker by closing the few remaining public buildings and outdoor spaces that were still open. They also banned in person public attendance of municipal meetings and suspended live broadcasts of meetings as the town operated HudTV moves to protect its own staff.

“We have had significant concerns about meetings coming directly from board and commission members and the public,” Moses explained. “…We will do our best to make our public meetings as transparent as possible during these times and will encourage public participation through technology where appropriate and practical.”

Moses said the town is in the process of purchasing a premium Zoom subscription which, he hopes, will enable public participation in meetings.

Regardless, whether it’s moves like that, or the emergency declaration from March 24, Moses reiterates that all the town’s decisions are being made with health in mind.

“Health and safety are our highest priorities,” he said.