Has COVID-19 put The Valley towns in a state of emergency? Waitsfield said yes, when Waitsfield Select Board members declared a state of emergency on March 23. Fayston rejected that idea at a March 24 meeting.
Members of the Warren Select Board also rejected the idea at a Zoom meeting on March 26. The decision to hold off on the emergency declaration came after receiving input from Warren’s emergency management director, Jeff Campbell.
Campbell explained that in other emergency situations, the benefits of declaring a local state of emergency are clear. If the town were having a shortage of water, the National Guard would bring in water. If the town were having a shortage of food, food would be supplied. “Typically when you think of a local emergency declaration, you think of an ice storm, flooding, a tornado, anything like that. In this situation, people are unsure because this has never happened in modern times,” said Campbell. “This is uncharted territory.”
Potential benefits of declaring a local state of emergency for the COVID-19 crisis include financial support and personal protective equipment. However, according to Campbell, receiving these benefits is unlikely. “Eventually we might get personal protective equipment. But I don’t see that happening because if we get it, it’s all going to go to the hospitals. As of right now there’s no definites,” said Campbell. He even joked, “And I don’t think they’re going to bring toilet paper.”
“I don’t see the reasoning to go for a declaration now,” said Campbell after walking the select board through examples of other towns in the state that had already declared a state of emergency. Most of these towns, like Burlington and Rutland, for instance, declared a state of emergency after seeing positive coronavirus cases within their borders. “Rutland did it just the other day, and that was strictly because an employee at GE tested positive and they were concerned that they were going have to shut down GE,” said Campbell.
If the town did declare a state of emergency the processes would involve the select board voting on it. Campbell would fill out the paperwork. Then the paperwork would be sent to the state for approval.
“My feeling is that if we needed to do it we could get it signed in less than a day,” said Campbell. The board agreed and decided to hold off on the emergency declaration for now.
The Warren Select Board will meet tonight, March 31, at 6 p.m. via Zoom. MRVTV will be filming the meeting for the web and also livestreaming it on Waitsfield Cable on Channels 45/245. The agenda can be found at www.warrenvt.org.