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Town issues parking permits to limit delivery service

Camden to offer interactive meetings

Town office staff work remotely until April 1
By Susan Mustapich | Mar 18, 2020
Camden town office

CAMDEN — The town of Camden is setting up interactive meetings and offering assistance to local businesses.

The Select Board met briefly March 17 to postpone its scheduled meetings and public hearings until March 24. Officials were planning to host interactive system by that date.

The March 19 Budget Committee meeting is postponed until March 26. All other non-essential committee and board meetings are canceled for the next two weeks, according to Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell.

The plan is to set up a system where the public can remotely view and participate in Select Board meetings, Caler-Bell said.

She explained the town is looking into options that will allow both Select Board and Budget Committee members, as well as members of the public, to participate remotely during meetings broadcast live on the town's YouTube channel.

Caler-Bell also invited comments on any agenda items to be sent to her or to the board via email. The email address for the Select Board is tocselectboard@camdenmaine.gov. Email addresses for individual board members and Caler-Bell are available online.

Comments from the public will be read on the record during live meetings, she said.

Caler-Bell said remote participation might not be feasible for the Budget Committee, which has 30 members. She said using the Opera House, where members could sit apart from one another might be feasible. Board Vice Chairwoman Alison McKellar mentioned the use of Zoom video conferencing technology as a possibility, depending on the willingness of committee members to use this option.

“We're going to still conduct business remotely, so anybody will still be able to call the town office,” she said. Regarding any payments to the town, such as property taxes, due April 16, or vehicle or boat registrations, she said these can be made either online or over the phone using credit cards or by mail. She said hopefully the office will be back open by then, but if not, interest will not be charged to anyone who can only make cash payments.

While the majority of town staff will be working remotely from home, the town office telephone system, reached by calling 236-3353, will continue to connect callers with staff.

Caler-Bell reviewed a list of closures originally announced March 16. The Camden Public Library is closed until April 1, and the Opera House is closed and events canceled through the end of April.

Board members who attended March 17 included Chairman Bob Falciani, McKellar, Marc Ratner and Taylor Benzi.

Police, fire and wastewater department staff will continue to come in to work, according to Caler-Bell. Public safety shifts will be modified somewhat to lessen exposure to one another, to prevent a whole unit from becoming ill, Caler-Bell said. Wastewater Department staff will be set up to work at a distance from one another.

The town is trying to expand its Good Morning Camden program serving the elderly population in Camden and Rockport with daily check-in telephone calls. The expansion would provide more support to elderly homebound residents, such as the drop off of supplies, as well as others who cannot leave their homes for medical reasons, Caler-Bell said. Police officers and fire department personnel can assist in this. The town is asking people who need assistance with obtaining supplies to call the Police Department Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Outside of those hours, a call to 236-3030 will contact Knox County Regional Communications.

In response to a question from McKellar about more emergency measures such as declaring a civil emergency and curfews, Caler-Bell said the town's form of government requires a special town meeting for those decisions to be made. She said under the current circumstances, everyone agrees that is not appropriate. McKellar said a new law now allows virtual town meetings.

Under questioning from Falciani, Caler-Bell said municipal leaders have the ability to issue a non-binding resolve regarding behavior they want or expect to take place.

Falciani referred to the new state law McKellar mentioned, and how changes are occurring rapidly. He said town officials need to study the new law to understand what it offers to town government, businesses and individuals.

Board member Marc Ratner said before moving to Camden, he worked with Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for more than 30 years, during which a major riot, earthquake and fires took place. He has seen that during these situations, people rise to the occasion, deal with it and work their way through it and come out well on the other side. He called for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, though nothing like this has been seen in over 100 years, with reason, logic and common sense. He credited the town for moving in the right direction.

Board member Taylor Benzi pointed out that if the Budget Committee does not want to meeting in the next few weeks, the new state law gives the town flexibility to move the date of town meeting.

Caler-Bell said the town will make things easier for these restaurants to reserve spaces in front of their establishments to facilitate the take-out business. She encouraged any restaurants using this model to call the town office to arrange for the necessary permit. Falciani said this does not need to be limited to restaurants.

She also asked that any business that closes may reach out to her or Planning and Development Director Jeremy Martin. The Department of Labor is trying to get information so that they can help the employees, she said.

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