Wilton First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice reinforced the ongoing seriousness of the COVID-19 health crisis in her Wednesday update to residents. She wrote that Wilton’s citizens need to continue taking precautions.
“On a leadership call today with Governor Lamont, the Governor expressed his concern about today’s one-day increase in hospital admissions, noting the reversal of the previous flattening of admissions in Fairfield County. He stated admissions are going up as fast as they ever had and emphasized that we have not yet bent the curve,” Vanderslice wrote.
She added that Lamont will be implementing stricter measures requiring CT residents to use cloth masks when in public.
For the first time, Vanderslice referenced the number of Wilton fatalities as part of the CT Department of Public Health’s data report–according to the state, 11 people in Wilton have died from COVID-19 related causes.
Across the state, Vanderslice said that the number of fatalities continues to rise. “Disturbingly, deaths rose 29% to 868, with similar growth in Fairfield County to 365.” That number didn’t reflect a one-day increase in actual numbers but a “catch up” in reporting.
Of the 14,755 laboratory-confirmed statewide cases (6,480 or 44% in Fairfield County), the number of cases in Wilton has hit 99. Across the state, the number of cases currently hospitalized increased to 1,908 with an increase of 53 to 784 in Fairfield County.
Can residents use school parking lots?
Vanderslice said residents have contacted her to ask about whether they can use school parking lots. She offered a cautious ‘yes’ and an explanation.
“With the exception of the north lot at the high school, all school parking lots are open for walking, running and biking. Social distancing guidelines still apply. Please, keep your distance from others in the parking lot. This should not be viewed as an opportunity to join other families at the parking lots. The north lot remains closed because it is adjacent to Lilly Field, the location of the greatest number of noncompliance issues,” she wrote.
So why can’t families use the fields? Vanderslice explained:
“Today I was asked, ‘If a family can teach a child to ride a bike in the parking lot, why can’t they go onto the fields to teach them how to throw a ball or play lacrosse? What’s the difference?’ Valid questions. First, it is important to understand the history with the fields and recreation facilities. After the schools were closed, many teammates met at the fields to practice and parents met at the facilities for playdates. This undermined social distancing, creating opportunities for the virus to spread. In response, we closed the fields and recreational facilities. Even though the fields and facilities were closed and clearly marked, residents continued to use them. Even with the recent notice that patrolling has increased and that the police will be issuing trespassing tickets, we are still removing residents from the fields.
“Parking lots, on the other hand, have not generally had repeated issues with inappropriate congregating. Were we to make exceptions for families on the fields, we are confident issues at the fields would increase. We don’t anticipate the same for the parking lots, but would make adjustments should there be issues.”
Governor’s Order for Municipal Taxes
Vanderslice explained a decision that town officials will have to wrestle with, based on executive orders issued earlier by the Governor. It has to do with taxes–and will impact revenues the town typically gets from taxes beginning July 1 each year.
“The Governor’s executive order 7S, requires the Board of Selectmen to offer 90-day tax deferment to qualified taxpayers, as defined, and/or offer a 90-day 3% interest rate (vs. the current 18%) to all taxpayers. The 90 days is from July 1, so it essentially is a 60-day extension of what currently exists for all taxpayers. This order applies to all property taxes, whether real estate, motor vehicle or personal property.
“For residents to be eligible for the 90-day deferment they must have a 20% reduction in household income and since March 10, 2020, they must [have] one or more [of the following conditions] due to the COVID-19 emergency: (1) have been furloughed without pay; (2) had their work hours significantly reduced; or (3) be unemployed. For businesses or a non-profit to be eligible, revenue must be expected to decrease at least 30% in the March to June 2020 period versus the March to June 2019 period at the property. Landlords can also qualify if they offer a commensurate forbearance to the tenants. There are no qualifications for the 3% interest rate. Property taxes held in escrow by banks and mortgage servicers are not eligible unless the account is delinquent.”
Vanderslice said both options will be discussed by the Board of Selectmen at its meeting next Monday, April 20, and make the required decision. She added that she brought the topic to Tuesday night’s Board of Finance and asked for the BOF members’ input. “They agreed the deferment was more preferable as it targeted those with the greater need and likely offered less financial risk to the Town.