GOULDSBORO — A positive COVID-19 case in the Gouldsboro town office has prompted the Select Board to require all office staff to wear masks when interacting with the public inside the Prospect Harbor building.
The public, too, is being asked to wear masks as a safety precaution to safeguard their own and others’ health when entering the town office to do business.
The Select Board took the action, in the form of a 4-0 vote at its Sept. 30 meeting, in the wake of a staff member’s positive COVID-19 test Sept. 28 and the town office’s subsequent closure Wednesday-Friday, Sept. 29-Oct. 1. The town office reopened for business on Monday, Oct. 4. The employee, who tested positive, remains in quarantine.
The vote was in response to interim Town Manager Eve Wilkinson’s earlier request that the public and municipal employees wear masks when in the town office in light of escalating COVID cases locally and throughout Maine.
“Any employee who is dealing with a customer should be wearing a mask all the time as well as the public coming in,” Wilkinson told the board.
Selectman Danny Mitchell Jr. didn’t oppose requiring town employees to wear masks when interacting with customers. But he didn’t approve of a mask mandate for the public.
“I don’t think you can force it upon everyone,” Mitchell said.
The town office’s COVID-19 case was preceded by the Select Board’s 4-1 renewal of the town’s Pandemic Virus Policy at its Sept. 23 meeting. Some concerns were raised about compensating at full pay an employee who must quarantine for two weeks after he or she contracts the coronavirus during paid time off or vacation.
At the Sept. 23 meeting, Selectman Wally Moore questioned the practice of compensating town employees, who undertake the risk of contracting COVID-19 during their paid time off and then test positive upon their return, for their required two-week quarantine. The majority sentiment, however, prevailed that town employees should not be “penalized for getting COVID.”
The renewed policy, which applies to all viruses and the potential of a large-scale pandemic, authorizes the town manager and health officer to explore alternate staffing levels and work schedules if employee vacancies escalate during a pandemic. The health officer, who is currently Gouldsboro Fire Chief Tate McLean, is charged with working together with the town manager to address employee COVID-19 cases. The town manager handles the logistics and potential employee leaves. During a pandemic, all work-related travel is suspended beyond Maine.
Gouldsboro’s renewed policy expires June 30, 2022.
“The town of Gouldsboro will compensate employees their regular rate of pay one time and up to 80 hours of time off related to COVID-19 for qualifying circumstances previously granted under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act that expired Dec. 31, 2020,” the approved policy states. “There is no limit on employer paid hours if the quarantine is mandated by the town of Gouldsboro or for a work-related COVID contact.”
In other business, Wilkinson reported that the town’s new assessor, RJD Appraisal of Pittsfield, will be in town Wednesday, Oct. 13, to research and review the recent property revaluations conducted by former assessor Marc Perry, who recently resigned. The interim town manager said she and the assessor’s assistant, Cindy Lowe, had received complaints from at least a dozen property owners of 30 to over 100 percent jumps in assessed property values.