Winsted Town Hall - from the town's official website.
Winsted Town Hall - from the town's official website.
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NORTHWEST CORNER — While town halls all across the area have been closed to the public due to the spread of COVID-19, municipal officials from throughout the Northwest Corner want to reassure residents that the town operations are continuing to go forward.
In Winsted, Town Manager Robert Geiger said that each of the major offices in Town Hall remains open and staffed with one person.
“I want residents to know that we are continuing to operate the town, just on a scaled-down basis,” Geiger said. “People can call in by telephone or email town officials and we will deal with their requests accordingly. Tax collection is open, along with the town clerk’s office, the land-use office, and the fire marshall. The finance department is operating and we are still paying bills. I completed work on the proposed fiscal 2020-2021 budget, but there will be some budgeting work going forward. The police department, the fire department, and the ambulance service are all still functioning because they are all first responders. The public works department is continuing on adjusted work schedules and there is only one person per truck to maintain social distance.”
Geiger said that town operations are continuing to be as active as possible despite the situation with COVID-19.
“We are continuing to support building construction projects in terms of permits, but the situation has delayed a lot of things,” Geiger said. “Inland Wetlands, Planning and Zoning, and all meetings and commissions have been postponed. We are trying to activate a social media system where we can broadcast meetings via GoToMeeting and Zoom. But we are still working on a process to do so.”
Geiger said that it would take at least a week to set up broadcasting meetings via the internet.
“But we are going to be selective because broadcasting some of these meetings may be difficult,” he said. “At some of these meetings you may have a lot of blueprints and a lot of discussions. All of this can’t be conducted over the internet easily. It just adds another layer of complexity in trying to keep activities moving forward. We are working on trying to do this, but our first concern is the safety and health of the public and our employees.”
In Barkhamsted, First Selectman Don Stein said that business hours at Town Hall will be cut back to 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“Hopefully this is temporary,” Stein said. “Everybody in Town Hall has been set up to work from home. We took steps to do that and we have adjusted. The big change has been that we have not had a lot of activity in terms of buildings or permits. It’s been a very quiet time for us because people are staying at home.”
Stein said that, along with the reduction in hours for Town Hall operations, the town will be putting a building permit application system online on Wednesday, April 1.
Last week, Stein said that postcards went out to every resident for the town to try to locate the elderly and others who can’t leave their home for health reasons.
“We have created a group of 20 volunteers who have all offered to go to the grocery store to buy groceries and deliver to all residents who cannot go out,” Stein said. “When you are in a small town, you try to take care of each other.”
In Norfolk, First Selectman Matthew Riska said that, while Town Hall is closed to the public, it’s still business as usual.
“The selectmen’s office is still open every day,” Riska said. “Our building inspector comes in after people call. He will go out to do inspections so we can keep the building processes going. Some of the hours in our offices are limited, but we are still operating and checking emails.”
Riska added that during this crisis it is important to abide by all of the guidelines that are being given by the state and federal governments.
“Keep your distance because you socially can’t be out with a lot of people,” he said. “What I am pushing for is for people to go out and take a walk in this town. We have a lot of trails and the weather is beautiful for it. I have to add that our school system is doing a great job working with the children on their Chromebooks and doing everything virtually. Everything has been organized very quickly and they are making a big effort into making sure lessons are being taught. As long as everyone keeps their distance and abides by the guidelines, we hopefully will all get this in great shape.”
Similar to other Town Halls, Colebrook First Selectman Tom McKeon said that town operations are still going forward with only essential staff.
“We just want everyone to remain at home,” McKeon said. “We haven’t had any cases in Colebrook. Everything is closed in our small town except for the Colebrook General Store for take out orders.”
McKeon said that Town Hall will continue to operate only with essential staff.
“Everyone needs to understand the severity of this problem,” McKeon added. “Please stay home and stay safe.”

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