Local municipal offices and public buildings, including libraries, will remain closed to the public until at least the end of April, as leaders seek to minimize in-person social interactions to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Personnel considered essential, like public works and public safety employees, are still showing up for work. Some offices will be available for in-person visits, by appointment only.
Libraries, including those in Meriden, Wallingford, Southington and Cheshire, are closed. Library officials are asking patrons to hold onto their books and other materials for now. Patrons will not be charged fines for overdue materials during this time.
Meanwhile, patrons will have access to online services, digital materials, and audiobooks offered by libraries. Some, like the Meriden Public Library, have turned to Facebook live to offer children's storytime hours and other virtual events.
In Southington, Town Manager Mark Sciota said town offices and buildings are closed to the public. Calendar House, the town's senior center on Pleasant Street, is also closed until further notice. Individuals in need of meals can contact Bread for Life at 860-276-8389. Bus services for medical appointments are still available.
The town has drop boxes for residents to drop off payments for sewer and water bills or to submit permit application forms. Many of these applications are online on the town's website. Payments can also be transmitted online.
Sciota said interest and other fees for late sewer and water bills have already been waived.
“When taxes come out for July, the council is working with the governor to see what we can do to implement a grace period,” Sciota said.
Kristi Sadowski, executive director of the Southington Public Library and the Barnes Museum, said when the buildings reopen is up to town officials. For now the buildings will be closed, but online services will continue.
“We're doing our best to figure out how we can operate remotely,” Sadowski said, explaining that the library has purchased digital e-books, audiobooks, movies and other materials for patrons with a library card to access.
The Barnes Museum is offering virtual exhibits, including board games and Songs of the Steinway player piano exhibit, online.
Sadowski said while it is difficult not being able to provide in-person services, library staff are doing “as much work as they possibly can” to provide those same services online. Staff will still be checking their emails daily.
Cheshire Town Council Chairman Rob Oris Jr. said it’s too soon to say when buildings will re-open to the public.
“We'll play it by ear each week and take it one step at a time,” Oris said, adding the month of April will bring more social distancing. “It's going to be a tough month.”
Community members in need of assistance should contact town's human services department by phone.
“They will get you the assistance you need,” Oris said, adding, “Our community always rallies around those in need.”