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New safety protocols will be in place as town, city halls start to reopen

Plexiglass barriers. Floor markers to show proper social distancing. Stepped up cleaning and disinfecting.

Those are some of the safety protocols that will be in place at town and city halls, as officials in the region make plans to fully reopen them, including several next week.

Public meetings will continue to be held virtually, though some municipalities are evaluating options for the future.

Groton

The Groton Town Hall and Town Hall Annex will fully reopen on Monday, with additional safety measures in place. The town is installing plexiglass shields in places where employees and the public aren’t able to maintain sufficient physical distancing, as well as floor markers to show where people should stand when in line, Town Manager John Burt said.

Employees will wear face coverings, unless they have a medical condition that prevents them from doing so, and will be advised to take their temperature and stay home if they have a temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, he said. The town also is asking the public to wear masks and social distance, and is placing hand sanitizer in key locations.

In the City of Groton, municipal services are available by appointment, but the city does not yet have a firm date for reopening the municipal building, though anticipates it to be after June 20, City Mayor Keith Hedrick said. Groton Utilities customer service department has been taking payments over the phone and a drop box also is available.

The city is finalizing its reopening plan, which includes cleaning policies, the placement of hand sanitizers, social distancing practices and mask wearing.

Waterford

Waterford Town Hall reopened to the public, by appointment only, on June 1, First Selectman Rob Brule said. The town has safety protocols that stipulate visitors must make an appointment, enter at the rear of the building and wear a mask and contact the department when arriving so staff can escort them to their appointment. Restrooms are closed to the public, according to the town website, waterfordct.org.

“We will continue to monitor the situation with COVID-19 and may increase access and open more town buildings to the public in the future,” Brule said.

Stonington

Stonington Town Hall will reopen to the public on Monday. According to rules posted on the town website, people should contact the town in advance “when possible to see if we may assist you via phone or email" and use the drop box on the front steps of Town Hall when possible.

According to the rules, people going into the building should put on their mask before entering, and distance themselves from other people by 6 feet. Only one person is allowed in the elevator at a time. The town has posted a list of information by department on its website, stonington-ct.gov.

Preston

Preston First Selectwoman Sandra Allyn-Gauthier said there are no new updates to the way the town has been operating: “We continue to serve our residents and meet their needs by phone, electronically, lock box etc. and will work out other arrangements if need be,” she said. “We will continue to monitor this and will adjust accordingly taking the necessary precautionary measures.”

Ledyard

Ledyard Town Hall will be reopening to the public Monday, though staff had returned full time last week after working partly from home. In order to reduce person-to-person contact, the building will have a modified traffic flow with signs for residents wishing to come in to conduct their business. Residents are asked to wear a mask.

Residents still can use the drop box at the door to deposit paperwork. Departments have extra personal protective equipment, or PPE, and cleaning supplies, and shared equipment like water coolers and kitchen appliances will be cleaned after each use.

North Stonington

North Stonington Town Hall has remained open, and the town took steps to separate staff and stagger shifts to keep employees safe while continuing to provide service, First Selectman Michael Urgo said. The doors remain locked, but town services are available by appointment.

“Everyone in the office will be wearing masks when interacting with each other or the public. Plexiglass has been erected to provide a safeguard between staff and employees,” he said. “We will allow one person in each office at a time to conduct business. Waiting lines outside are clearly marked in 6 foot distances. Anyone entering Town Hall must wear a mask.”

Montville

Though people have been able to access services by appointment, Montville Town Hall will open on June 15 with plexiglass barriers, where appropriate, social distancing markers and signs, Mayor Ronald McDaniel said.

The town also will step up disinfecting and cleaning of the building, particularly the public areas and restrooms, he said

McDaniel said access to the building depends on the public health situation.

“If COVID cases start to ramp up in the community, then we’ll have to reevaluate,” he said.

Salem

Salem First Selectman Kevin Lyden said departments at Town Hall are available to the public by appointment only. Safety measures include daily cleaning protocols, signs requiring masks and social distancing, and available hand sanitizer. Visitors need to wear a mask.

Norwich

Norwich City Manager John Salomone said the city is transitioning to full opening. A committee of department heads has been meeting regularly to figure out space issues in some city offices. The city is aiming at a full opening on or about June 22.

East Lyme

In East Lyme, town employees returned to work on May 26, but buildings have remained closed to the public. First Selectman Mark Nickerson has mentioned in public meetings that town staff are considering scheduling appointments with the public, but when that may happen has not yet been established.

Lyme

Lyme’s Town Hall has been moving through its own phased reopening in recent weeks, as town staff worked to modify the building and work spaces to reflect recommended public health protocols. Staff members were welcomed back May 26, and the Town Hall is set to reopen to the public Monday with plans to be open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. three days per week, according to the town’s website.

A limited number of visitors will be allowed in the building at any given time and all visitors will be required to wear masks inside the building and maintain social distancing. The town is tentatively planning to return to normal Town Hall hours July 6.

Old Lyme

Old Lyme has not yet announced definitive Town Hall reopening plans but in a memo sent to staff this week, town officials wrote that staff members tentatively are planning to report back for regular working hours on June 22. Each staff member must wear a mask when in hallways and other common areas and visits from the public will take place by appointment only.

The public only will be allowed to enter the double doors next to the Meeting Hall, where two greeters will take the temperatures of every person wishing to enter. All must wear a mask, and if they do not have a mask, one will be provided, according to the preliminary plan.

Once a reopening plan is finalized, it will be communicated to the public.

New London

New London’s municipal offices are spread across three different buildings. Mayor Michael Passero said there is limited access to all departments now, mostly by appointment, with more public access planned for the near future.

The Parks and Recreation Department, housed in the Stanton Building, will open on June 22 to coincide with its programming.

The tax office on Masonic Street is partially open, though visitor access is limited to the front portion of the building.

City Hall, a portion of which is currently under renovation, houses the city clerk’s office, planning department, probate court, mayor’s office and City Council offices. Passero said the elevator, which had been broken and forced public meetings to outside venues before the pandemic, is now fixed but the third-floor renovations will continue through the summer. He anticipates a phased reopening with no set date yet.

Day Staff Writers Claire Bessette, Joe Wojtas, Amanda Hutchinson, Mary Biekert and Greg Smith contributed to this report.

k.drelich@theday.com 

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