Government Spotlight

Town Manager Message to Residents | Nov. 11

TO:   ALL TOWN OF NEW GLOUCESTER RESIDENTS                                                     

DATE: 11/11/2020


Hello To All Residents:

I would like to begin my message by thanking each of you who have been supportive and understanding during this most recent Town Emergency situation.  It became very clear immediately following the Emergency Closure of the Public Works Facility & the Transfer Station that some folks did not understand that it truly was/is an Emergency situation.  I know we are ALL tired and disgusted at this point with every aspect of how this COVID-19 virus has impacted our daily lives.

I will do my best to accurately address the more difficult questions, comments and concerns sent to me from citizens yesterday.  I was told by several citizens that they thought my closure of the facility was and I quote “ridiculous” and that, I quote “need to get back to work”.  I assure everyone, I have been working.  I have been asked to refund Tax dollars because they were unable to use the Transfer Station.  I had dirty diapers and household trash thrown at the Transfer Station gate.  I had my Town Clerk sworn at as she placed the sign on the gate at the Transfer Station.  Everyone wanted an immediate solution to an emergency when the Federal Government does not even have one?  This COVID-19 virus is a horrible illness to some who contract it and in certain cases has caused death.  I am taking this very seriously even for those who do not agree.  My job as your Town Manager is to protect you, keep you as informed as possible without taking the privacy away of those who may be directly impacted.

In this day of Social Media, Twitter and instant responses, those avenues are not proper channels for communicating sensitive or complex situations which is why it is called an “Emergency”.  I have and will continue to follow all CDC guidelines and State of Maine Mandates as they are delivered to me.  I have been regularly communicating these Mandates and my expectations to all members of my New Gloucester Team of Employees at all times.  If rules are not being followed, then I will need to know.  I am one person and cannot be all over town at all times.

Until this week, everyone was permitted to not wear face coverings when outside and practicing distancing at a minimum of 6-feet.  There are many other mandates such as sanitizing, and indoor spacing etc.  This past week the Governor changed these mandates, when those were changed, All Town Employees were notified by me and directed to wear masks at all times inside or out regardless of spacing.  However, I cannot monitor everyone at all times.  I also cannot control the decisions that one employee may make which is an utter disregard for the other members of the team.  We all have a responsibility to take care of each other and respect those around us.  If you do not like wearing a mask and feel it is disruptive to your civil liberty, that is your choice but you will not be permitted to come inside any of the Town Buildings without one.  You can choose to conduct your business via Internet and mail instead.  Not everyone agrees here in New Gloucester or in the country about how everything should be managed or the rules in general.  I get it, trust me! 

However, if someone yells at you to get out of the way because they see you about to be injured do you say “why” or do you move out of the way and ask questions later?

We are in the midst of a civil emergency and under Governor Mandates, I have to follow those and I WILL continue to follow them.  If the choice of one individual impacts an entire town, that will be managed in due course as well.  I am a very direct NON POLITICAL individual.  I do not reside in New Gloucester but that does not mean I do not care.  I have been working very hard to keep Town Hall open so that everyone can still conduct their town business without interruption.  We initially reopened the Town Hall ahead of many other towns and we did it quite well.  However, we could be mandated to close again if the COVID-19 numbers continue to rise and the Governor declares it.  I am surprised that the Governor has not mandated testing for Massachusetts travelers or for quarantine of those traveling to and from that state? Today alone, the number of confirmed positive cases in the State of Massachusetts was reported at 2495!

I am not overreacting, making up a story or divulging personal information to folks but I will explain this situation to the best of my ability without breaking any HIPPA regulations or other privately protected information.  I would also encourage everyone who jumps on social media to do the same.   Everyone has to stop and think, if it were me, how I would like to be treated?

So here is what we have:

  1. There was a confirmed COVID-19 positive case closely associated with an employee of the town.
  2. Proper protocol and Town Policy was not followed by the one related employee.
  3. Within 2 hours of my being notified of the occurrence by the Public Works Director, I immediately closed the Town Facilities as mentioned and instructed all personnel to immediately report for COVID-19 testing and (14) day quarantine.
  4. The Transfer Station was impacted on a 3rd level and not directly but out of an abundance of caution; those individuals were also told to report for testing.
  5. All impacted Public Works employees who were DIRECTLY involved with this exposure are quarantined for (14) days pending results.
  6. There are some employees who were not on duty and therefore not at risk.
  7. The direct exposure just occurred Monday 11/9 and was contained 11/10.
  8. Prior to reopening the Public Works facility, it will need to be completely sanitized and we have the equipment and trained COVID-19 cleaning personnel ready to perform this process when we are ready for that step to be performed.
  9. We have already created an alternate plan for rubbish removal and located unexposed personnel to properly man the Transfer Station during this adjustment period.  The limited access to the station is to protect the public and alternate employees.
  10. We have created the alternate Transfer Station process to both maintain safety for the public and employees; while also appeasing the community by providing a much needed service.
  11. The Transfer Station may reopen under normal conditions following all current COVID-19 procedures as early as next week if all testing is satisfactory.  This does NOT include the Public Works facility.  The Transfer Station is in a different category of potential exposure and not at the higher risk of those at the Public Works building facility.
  12. I do care about all 5,777 people in this community and for my entire employee staff and team.  I am doing what is best for EVERYONE and want to keep both my employees & residents safe & healthy.  There is no one size fits all solution that will make everyone 100% happy but it is the best one available for these circumstances.

I will continue to monitor this situation and respond when/if circumstances change.  Please also remember to not follow the rumor mill trail on every story that you hear, chances are you are only receiving one side of the story and it may not even be accurate.  If you have a true concern that you witness, you are concerned and have direct questions, your best option is to contact me or a member of your Board of Selectmen to relay your message.  Everyone will continue to be notified by me regarding public safety and/or for informational purposes.  I take my duty to everyone in this community very seriously and hope that you will continue to be patient with all staff members as we work through this horrible and debilitating COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

Thank you for your time.

Kindly & Respectfully,
Brenda Fox-Howard, Town Manager