Over the weekend, First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice continued to update residents nightly about the town’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the messages she communicated:
What Reopening Really Means
Vanderslice explained what is next for the town and the state, starting on Wednesday, May 20, when Connecticut begins the official start of Phase 1, the state’s four-phase plan towards reopening what she called “a somewhat different Connecticut.”
“Up to this point, the measures implemented by the Governor and the Town were about slowing the spread of the virus, so as not to overwhelm the healthcare system. That goal was achieved. Phase 1 is about moving forward, without retreating backward,” Vanderslice wrote.
She acknowledged that the subject of reopening is confusing for many residents, and there are widely varying opinions about it.
“Not surprisingly, I hear from residents with varying views, ranging from the State and the Town having gone too far to the State and the Town are not doing enough, and pretty much everything in between. That’s okay. We all need to accept that everyone isn’t going to agree on the approach. Yet the fact remains, we are a society with a representative government elected to work in the best interest of our collective society,” she wrote, listing the several public officials that call Wilton home and who are “working and making decisions every day to help the residents of the State and the Town of Wilton throughout this emergency, including the CT Commissioner of Insurance, the Executive Director of AdvanceCT/Member of the Advisory Committee to ReOpen CT, one of our State Representatives and our Chief of Police and Emergency Operations Manager.”
Vanderslice strongly encouraged all residents to abide by the restrictions and rules that have been set during the pandemic by Gov. Ned Lamont. She wrote:
“Now and throughout Phase 1, the most important thing you can do to protect yourself and others is to follow the law:
- “When in public and a 6-foot distance is unavoidable from another person, wear a required face covering, unless doing so would be contrary to your health because of a medical condition. This applies whether outside or inside a retail establishment.
- “While outside exercising alone, if you aren’t wearing a face covering, maintain a 6-foot distance from others running or walking on the same road, sidewalk or trail.”
Vanderslice boiled down the basics for making things work in Wilton: “As Wilton residents, we too need to work collaboratively and respectfully, of each other and the rules, as the honest truth is to do otherwise will only slow our progress.”
As for what to expect with some of the businesses allowed to re-open or expand what they offer during Phase 1? Vanderslice says it will depend on each individual business, and she asked residents to be “respectful and understanding.”
“Restaurants and additional establishments will be opening in a limited manner. Not all businesses will be ready on Wednesday. Others, particularly restaurants without prior outside dining, are choosing to wait and see what Phase 2 brings. Please be respectful and understanding that there is no one-size-fits-all solution and continue to support Wilton businesses, no matter their decision.”
Summer Camp and Fall Childcare
Vanderslice answered the question, “Will Parks and Recreation be offering camp this summer and childcare in the fall?”
“Yes. Right now, Parks and Recreation’s number-one priority is to help residents get back to work by continuing to provide, and perhaps expand, programming [that] parents have come to rely upon as childcare, whether all-day camp in the summer or after-school care in the fall, where new childcare concerns are likely to develop. We are looking to fill the unmet demand caused by previous childcare options that are currently unable to operate,” she wrote.
The Town and WHS Seniors
Vanderslice answered questions she said were posed by residents about Wilton High School seniors:
- What, if anything, is the Town doing to recognize WHS spring sport senior athletes in these unusual circumstances? Parks and Recreation Director Steve Pierce, Parks and Recreation Chair Anna Marie Bilella, WPS Athletic Director Chris McDougal and sport booster parents are all working collaboratively to develop concepts for recognition, while meeting the Governor’s executive orders, including the 5-person restriction for leisure and sport gatherings.
- What, if anything, is the Town doing to recognize graduating WHS seniors in these unusual circumstances? A Graduation Committee, comprised of WHS students, WHS staff and parents of WHS students, is developing the proposal for this year’s recognition of the WHS Class of 2020. Chief of Police and Emergency Management Director John Lynch and I met with the Committee this week to review the Governor’s executive orders, including the 5-person restriction. This year, as with every year, the citizens of Wilton will fund those school-sponsored graduation activities through a line-item in the Board of Education budget.
FY2021 COVID-19 Related Tax Deferment Program
Vanderslice explained the FY2021 COVID-19 related tax deferment program.
“As required by a Governor’s executive order, the Board of Selectmen voted to adopt a 90-day tax deferment program for qualified residents and businesses for FY2021 property taxes, due on July 1, 2020. To qualify residents must attest and provide third-party documentation that since April 1, 2020 they have either been furloughed without pay, had hours reduced, or have become unemployed and that this resulted in a 20% reduction in their income. Non-profits, businesses, and landlords must meet different requirements, which are viewable on a sample application on the State website. The Wilton application will be available prior to July 1 [and] noticed in a future update. Delinquent FY2020 or prior taxes are not eligible for deferment.
Town Hall Updates
- Vanderslice reviewed changes made to policies for town recreation facilities: “Sign up began Friday for family doubles and non-family singles at the WHS/Route 7 tennis courts and for use of the Stadium track and turf field. The turf field has been divided into two sections to maximize availability for Wilton families. Please review the rules when you sign up for tennis or the Stadium.”
- She also reminded residents about how to notify town officials about how to report issues or problems around town. “Warmer weather often means more work requests from residents. Please use the Town’s SeeClickFix issues reporting system on the town’s website or download it onto your mobile device.”
- Reopening changes at Town Hall: “Just as businesses are making physical adjustments to their interior employee work areas and public spaces, we are doing the same at Town Hall, the Annex, Comstock Community Center and the Transfer Station to allow appropriate distancing for all employees and visiting members of the public. Once completed, we’ll be offering by-appointment services in addition to drop-box services.”
Other Answered Questions
Vanderslice answered several other questions residents have asked her:
- “Regarding outdoor dining–does the 6-feet apart refer to just the tables themselves or also groups of customers at each table? This refers to the distance between customers. This is the initial guidance provided: ‘Rearrange space to maintain at least 6 feet of distance between customers… Distance shall be measured from the closest chair at one table to the closest chair at another table.'”
- “Why aren’t nail salons being reopened? Nail salons require hand contact. Hands are often a means of transfer point for the virus.”
- “When are playgrounds likely to open? Unlike tennis courts, playgrounds are filled with touchpoints. I expect the guidance from the State will require detailed and time-consuming cleaning protocols between each child’s use. They will likely open in a later phase.”
- “Are residents from more than one family allowed to ride bikes at the school parking lots at the same time? Yes. More than one family may use a school parking lot for bike riding. Each family group cannot exceed 5 members, as per the Governor’s order. Face coverings must be worn by each individual who cannot maintain 6 feet of distance from any other individual unless the individual qualifies for an exemption based on medical health or age.”
- “When will the suspension of the requirement to accept redeemed bottles & cans be lifted? The following is from the Department of Environment and Energy Protection website: “DEEP is working with representatives of grocery stores, retailers and redemption service providers as they develop plans to resume state-wide redemption of deposit containers at retail locations where redemption services were suspended during the COVID-19 response. The plans will provide at least limited redemption activities beginning on May 20, 2020 and full redemption services by June 3, 2020.’”
- “When will the DMV expand in-person services? We don’t have that information at this time. All renewals were extended until June 30. State officials expect to be in Phase 2 on that date.”
- “Does the State publish by town by age total for cases and deaths? Why aren’t Wilton deaths included in your daily update? CT Department of Public Health doesn’t provide the town data by age. The Town Clerk is able to compile deaths by age based on the certificates she receives. Certificates issued by other municipalities are received mid-month. My April 30 update included information received through April. When the information is received this month, I will share it. The State provides total deaths by town on its CT Coronavirus website, but those numbers are often subject to revision as they come from multiple sources, which may or may not have the correct town of permanent residency.”