Standing 6 feet apart in an empty parking lot, Warren Select Board members held an emergency meeting on March 19 to discuss the town’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the meeting, members urged the public to refer to the Mad River Valley Emergency Response Facebook page for updates related to COVID-19. They also passed four motions regarding the town’s response to the virus.
First, select board members voted to close the town office and the town library, except by appointment with either the town clerk or town librarian, respectively. “We want to keep our staff safe and the public safe. It seems like the right thing to do to take that action,” said Andrew Cunningham, select board chair. He also reminded board members and the public that the staff has the ability to work from home.
Second, the board voted to cancel all nonessential meetings of town commissions and boards until gatherings are once again permitted by the state. “If we make any changes to this, we will convene another meeting,” said select board member Camilla Behn, assuring remote listeners that the select board would not make changes to this meeting protocol in private.
Third, the board voted to allow Warren’s emergency management director, Jeff Campbell, to collaborate with the Valleywide efforts to prepare for coronavirus. “This makes Jeff able to deal with the other EMDs in other towns,” said Cunningham, in support of Valleywide collaboration regarding coronavirus management.
Finally, the board voted to suspend nonessential budgeted spending in order to maintain financial reserves. Board members didn’t discuss how financial reserves might be used in the face of a viral outbreak nor did they mention what specific line items were considered “nonessential.” Still, Cunningham assured the board that the town would keep up with essential projects. “We’re still going to spend money on what we need, what we must have,” said Cunningham.
Coronavirus wasn’t the only topic of discussion at this emergency meeting. While discussing “other business,” Warren Select Board members approved the purchase of a $138,840 Western Star Truck for road maintenance and approved a second-class liquor license for the East Warren Community Market.
As for future meetings, select board members are still brainstorming ways to meet remotely online. “We will have a meeting next week and try to make sure we have the ability to have the public calling in,” said Cunningham. “We should be looking into Zoom.”