| Sarah Heinonen
HAMPDEN – The Hampden Select Board called an emergency meeting on March 18 to declare a state of emergency. Interim Town Administrator Bob Markel recommended the action to allow the town to take advantage of funds to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Two people in the town have tested positive for the illness.
At Markel’s recommendation, the select board has directed town employees to work from home, if possible, and otherwise not report for work. The select board had closed the town hall to the public on March 13, but allowed employees to continue working on the premises. This directive will, “establish, as a default, that everyone work from home and we will continue to allow certain department heads, on a very limited basis, to come to the town hall and conduct essential business,” Markel said.
He gave payroll and the preparation of tax bills as examples of tasks that must be done in the town hall.
Cleaning services will continue to work in the building and will be stepping up the sanitation, Markel said.
The employees at the senior center received a similar directive to work from home if possible.
Town employees and those from the Council on Aging are considered essential employees and would have been exempt under Gov. Charlie Baker’s March 23 order for non-essential employees to stay home, were it not for the town’s order beforehand.
Town employees will continue to be paid. Markel noted that the town may be eligible for state and federal reimbursements for salaries and wages during this time.
Select Board member John Flynn noted that there had only been two times that a state of emergency had been declared during his tenure, once in 2005 due to flooding and again after the tornado in 2011 left the town without power for an extended period.
Another topic discussed at the meeting was the possibility of rescheduling the annual town meeting and town election.
The moderator has the discretion to adjust the date of the town meeting by 30 days, Markel reported. No decision was made on the issue.