At least 20 Colchester Town employees have been furloughed due to the sharp drop in economic activity in response to COVID-19.
At the selectboard meeting on May 12, Town Manager Aaron Frank described the pandemic's grim financial recoil on the town including a purchasing freeze, hiring freeze and furloughs, accounting for a total of 27 absent staff—one quarter of the total government workforce.
To mitigate the drop in revenue, the town instigated sweeping furloughs: four Recreation employees, two staff from the Clerk and Treasurer's office, six Burnham Memorial Library staff, one employee from the Manager's office, one employee from the Colchester Police Department, two staff from Planning and Zoning, and six Public Works employees. Five empty seasonal positions in the Parks department were not filled.
As of May 7, Colchester has the fourth highest number of COVID-19 cases in the state at 41, an increase of two over last week. In his report to the selectboard, Frank noted that an estimated 20 percent of city and town revenue is at risk due to slow business amid the pandemic.
Due to these concerns regarding lost revenue, the town has also reduced or cut Public Works services for the summer.
Three out of 17 work areas will be eliminated this summer, including winter lawn repair, roadside trash removal and staff training. Sign repair, moving, tree removal, street sweeping, and stormwater basin repair services will be reduced anywhere from 12 to 92 percent. Services to remain the same include but are not limited to patching, gravel road maintenance, building repair, and equipment maintenance.
Frank asked for patience with town staff as furloughs "will limit our ability to address complaints and issues."
But while temporary cuts will mean continued strain on government services, Frank also noted some bright spots at the local library and for the future of summer camps.
The Burnham Memorial Library will begin curbside pick-up services beginning Saturday, May 16. Moving forward, curbside hours will take place on Tuesdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
The Town plans to move forward with summer Parks and Recreation programs in accordance with guidelines the state passes down in the coming weeks to determine how camps must operate.
While parks will receive significantly less maintenance this summer, in part due to five seasonal positions to remain unfilled, some park restrooms will remain open. Following discussion at an April 28 selectboard meeting, Frank and Parks and Recreation Director Glen Cuttita agreed to keep Upper Bayside and Airport Park restrooms open from May 23 to Sept. 7; the Lower Bayside restroom will open on June 20.
Selectboard member Pam Loranger also noted that the Conservation Commission intends to hold Green-Up Day on May 30, although not all of the details have been ironed out yet. "We'll post updates as we get closer to the day," said Loranger.