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McGovern applauds COVID-19 response

  • McGOVERN

  • WEDEGARTNER

Staff Writer
Published: 5/20/2020 4:28:46 PM

GREENFIELD — In a Facebook Live discussion with Mayor Roxann Wedegartner and two other municipal leaders, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern said he is impressed with how they have handled the COVID-19 crisis.

McGovern said he has the utmost respect for Wedegartner, who was elected the city’s third mayor in November; Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, who was elected in 2011; and Auburn Town Manager Julie Jacobson, who joined the conversation along with other city and town leaders across the state.

“I’m proud of the leadership you’ve shown through the pandemic,” McGovern told the three.

Wedegartner said she never expected to have to deal with a global pandemic when she was elected in November, but she has done what she had to do.

“This was not what I planned to do,” she said. “I had a lot more positive things in mind. This was not what I bargained for.”

The city has gotten through because of the “wonderful people” who work for Greenfield, she said, including its emergency management team — the police, fire and health departments.

“They are all talented, really good people,” she said.

Wedegartner said the Emergency Operations Center was up and running quickly, and has done a great job containing the virus.

“All of the people around me know what they’re doing,” she said.

COVID-19 has affected everyone socially, economically and psychologically, Wedegartner said. But through it all, city employees, even though many have been working from home, have maintained services. For example, the City Council passed a $53.9 million fiscal year 2021 budget last week.

The mayor said that while she’ll be happy to see everyone back in their offices, the city has created a permanent work-from-home policy so that people will have the option in different scenarios. She said the previous administration didn’t want anyone working from home for any reason, but after seeing what COVID-19 has done, she wants to have a policy in place just in case.

She plans to open City Hall starting next week. Members of the public will be allowed in between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. for three days a week to start.

“We’ll do this with strict measures and see how this works,” she said.

The city will open slowly, per Gov. Charlie Baker’s guidelines, the mayor said, noting she thinks there was “good, solid thinking” as the governor and lieutenant governor put their plan together.

“It’s based on data and science and health,” she said.

Wedegartner and everyone else she knows would love to see a more robust opening because cities and towns survive on revenue, but she understands that no one wants to open too quickly and cause COVID-19 cases to increase.

“We want to be successful, so we’ll start on a small scale,” she said.

She and other city officials have been meeting for daily briefings, although have now gone to meeting twice weekly.

“We’ll be doing that for quite some time,” she said.

Wedegartner touted the city’s contact tracing efforts, which she said helped keep the numbers of COVID-19 cases reasonable and helped flatten the curve in Greenfield. She said she would like to see the state provide funding to “beef up” health departments in the next year or so, because no one knows when treatments, a vaccine and sufficient testing will be available.

White House leadership has been poor, she said, so cities and towns need to look to state government for continued leadership. She added that individual cities and towns will each figure out what works and what doesn’t for themselves.

“All cities and towns are different,” McGovern said. “We’ll be providing resources with flexibility.”

The congressman and mayor agreed that everyone is ready to get back to “normal,” but everyone will do it with caution. They said all cities and towns will have to be creative, but it will happen.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.



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