ELLSWORTH — Trash pickup is on and code enforcement, assessing, planning and economic development are still business as usual, but City Hall has been closed to the public in order to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, officials reported at an emergency City Council meeting on Sunday afternoon.
Officials are calling for residents to do business online, by phone or via the mail. If you do have business that must be done in person, call City Hall — someone may be able to meet you outside the offices.
There will be a lock box for payments for water, sewer and tax payments (last week was tax week, said Deputy City Manager Tammy Mote, so most payments are in). If you need access to City Hall, visit the back entrance on Church Street, where there’s a phone and a dispatcher who will be able to direct you.
Police will be handling more complaints by phone when possible and prioritizing issuing summonses over making arrests, which require physical contact.
The Fire Department is trying to obtain medical-grade N95 facial masks, but Chief Richard Tupper noted that current demand has made the masks virtually impossible to get.
The Ellsworth Public Library, a quasi-municipal building, will be closed until Monday, April 6.
City councilors emphasized the need for individuals in the community to work together and look out for the vulnerable.
In a reference to the empty shelves in many stores, Councilor Michelle Kaplan noted, “Toilet paper is not what you need for this virus. You need Robitussin, Tylenol and facial tissues.”
Local small businesses, especially restaurants, are already struggling after seeing a substantial drop in business since last Monday, said Gretchen Wilson, executive director of the Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce.
Asked whether many of the area’s small businesses could survive a virtual pause in ordinary business for a month, she answered, “Frankly, no.”
Businesses around the state struggled to make the decision whether to stay open. Some of Maine’s cities and towns have enacted restrictions such as curfews on bars and restaurants, including Portland, Brunswick, Rockland, Augusta, Bangor and Waterville. Massachusetts ordered all sit-down bars and restaurants to close through April 6, and a number of other states have imposed similarly strict measures.
Wilson said local restaurants, already subject to strict hygiene practices, have stepped up their efforts to reassure nervous customers.
“The comment was ‘We’re cleaner than your homes,’” she said of feedback from restaurant owners.
Officials called for the public to remain calm and make fact-based decisions.
“Diminish the fear, take a deep breath,” said Council Chairman Dale Hamilton. “Because it feeds on itself.”
Reporter Kate Cough contributed to this story.