How to reach Montague officials in midst of limited Town Hall access

  • At Montague Town Hall, only the foyer of the front door is still accessible. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • The foyer at Montague Town Hall has an information table with commonly requested forms and a list of phone numbers for town departments. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/23/2020 2:48:48 PM

MONTAGUE — Access to town buildings has been severely limited, but all town departments are still fully staffed and, for the most part, fully operational — even if the public’s means for interacting with them is different.

The town closed its buildings to the public this week, in sync with worsening news of the COVID-19 pandemic and emergency measures from state Gov. Charlie Baker that include extreme restrictions on restaurants and a closure of schools.

Yet, in an emergency meeting Sunday afternoon, town officials assured residents that the town would not be shutting down, and that services would still be available.

“You’ll be able to get a dog license,” Town Administrator Steve Ellis said at the time. “The process might be different ... but you’ll still be able to get a dog license.”

Town Hall access

Town officials are directing residents to do business through the town website, montague-ma.gov, and to contact departments by phone whenever necessary.

At the Town Hall building itself, only the foyer of the front door is still accessible. In there is a mail slot, where residents can drop off paperwork, taxes and other payments. Cash payments are discouraged. Ellis recommended using checks or money orders.

Also in the foyer is an information table with commonly requested forms and a list of phone numbers for town departments.

“It’s difficult and frustrating for us as well, not being able to interact as directly as we are accustomed to with the public,” Ellis said. “It’s part of what makes our jobs enjoyable, frankly.”

Meetings

Committee meetings have been limited to only the most essential. Because members of the public cannot attend in person, the town is experimenting with different systems for remote participation.

“In so many ways, nothing beats face-to-face communication. But these tools have been implemented, not only in government, but certainly in the private sector, for many years,” Ellis said.

Information on how to remotely participate is listed with meeting agendas on the town website’s calendar. Ellis noted that Montague Community Television still records and broadcasts meetings when possible.

Emergency notifications

An emergency notification system is available for sign-up on the town website’s homepage, at the bottom of the “Quick Links” column. Residents who sign up will be notified of any important changes by phone, text message or email. Residents are strongly encouraged to sign up, Ellis said.

First responders

At the Public Safety Complex, which houses the Montague Police Department and the Turners Falls Fire Department, the public can still access the main lobby and talk to Police Department employees through the dispatch windows. That physical separation gives sufficient social distance, Ellis explained.

Turners Falls Fire is accessible through its business phone number, 413-863-9023. Chief John Zellmann can be reached by email at chief@turnersfallsfire.org. Information will also be available on the department’s Facebook page, Zellmann said.

If residents need to meet in person, the procedure will be to call ahead and set up a time and place, Zellmann said. But he added that most business can be done by phone.

“We’re trying to reduce our exposure,” Zellmann said. “Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. Even in the firehouse we’re practicing social distancing. We’re doing what we can to keep our people safe and, hopefully, free of it.”

Reach Max Marcus at
mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-930-4231.




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