On Tuesday night, selectmen were updated by chiefs of the Fire Department, Police Department and Public Works on how they are handling the state of emergency.
As of that meeting, Fire and Police were still able to staff their usual shifts. For the SFD, that’s around the clock with firefighters living in the new Public Safety Building.
Here are the highlights from the briefings. (Remember, except for where otherwise noted, it is all as of the evening of March 24th.)
Fire Department Update
Fire Chief Steven Achilles noted that social distancing is a challenge for teams working together and sharing an ambulance/fire truck.
As of Tuesday night, 3 members of the crew were self-quarantined based on circumstances around one of the infected patients. The SFD has on call staff lined up if they become needed. And Chief Achilles noted that both he and a Lt. are paramedics. They can step into the roll if necessary.
Both chiefs also said that Southborough and surrounding towns were all prepared to help each other. The towns all share their workforce status in an online system to ensure there are enough regional responders in case of a disaster.
Despite the increase sanitary restrictions, so far they hadn’t seen a decline in their response times.
Achilles said that if staffing levels for shifts need to be reduced they will notify the BOS and Town Manager. Their goal is to avoid that.
To that end, Achilles talked about the sanitary measures the crew was taking. That includes decontaminating rooms at the start and end of shifts. The chiefs and selectmen noted appreciation for the station which has separate sleeping quarters for firefighters. In the old station, there were six bunks to a room.
The SFD had a cache of medical supplies through Southborough Emergency Management (SEMA). But they are concerned about running low. A request for more supplies had been submitted and they were waiting to hear back on whether they would make the list.
[A Facebook post by the SPD this morning shares that thanks to a generous donor, public safety personnel have more hand sanitizer in stock.]*
SEMA hasn’t opened an Emergency Operations Center so far, since the nature of the emergency isn’t geographic and they avoid wanting to bring people into the building.
Both Fire and Police have been dealing with many and frequently changing guidelines.
Police Department Update
Police Chief Kenneth Paulhus said that his officers were bombarded with special orders, policies, updates on policies, directives from the court, the bail, and public health. He said they take the situation seriously and have been taking the changes in stride.
Changes have impacted arrest procedures. Officers are required to ask a series of questions before bringing in prisoners into the building. If there’s a perceived issue, they defer to current guidance. Once in, bail hearings and arraignments are held virtually via ipad. They try to keep the time they are in the building as short as possible. Unless a charge is for something very serious everybody is getting relief with another court date to appear.
Paulhus said that while crime continues, they hadn’t seen an uptick in issues related to domestic disturbances or mental health. The Boros’ shared mental health clinician had to go out of service for about two weeks. But they have another one on call. The revised plan was to only call her in when needed.
After the playground and fields ban, officers put up police tape around playgrounds and asked for more signage. They planned to secure field nets to make the areas less attractive for playing games.
Public Works Update
Public Works Superintendent Karen Galligan said staff helped secure playgrounds and fields. They also put up a notification sign at the Transfer Station. The station remains open during regular hours, though the swap shop is closed.
DPW staff are using multiple lunch rooms to avoid staff eating in close proximity. But they were facing some challenges like being short on sanitizing supplies. She said that she understood public safety was the priority.
TA Mark Purple explained that every day facilities had been telling him about a backlog for supplies. It’s sometimes 3-4 days between a request in receiving. Public Safety has been first priority.
The Main Street Reconstruction Project is still scheduled to begin at the end of April. She noted that construction work lends itself to social distancing. But she followed that the situation with MassDOT was fluid.
Selectmen Sam Stivers and Dan Kolenda wondered if the project could be moved up to start sooner, since there aren’t many cars on the roads right now. Galligan explained that the contractor lays of a lot of staff in the winter months. They won’t have a crew available until the end of the month. Shea reminded that the construction project requires a police detail. He said the project would be another strain on public safety.
DPW and Southborough Rotary are in talks about the annual roadside cleanup for Earth Day. They hope to work out a way to make that happen since it also lends itself to social distancing.
*The SPD Facebook post this morning updated:
M.S. Walker Wines & Spirit has donated over 40,000 bottles of sanitizers to local First Responders, healthcare workers, and other community organizations- in an effort to keep us safe during the Coronavirus Pandemic.
We truly appreciate their generosity, and are very happy to have this additional tool for keeping members of our department safe and healthy.
We’re here doing our part, and we hope that you are too. Stay Home & Stay Healthy, everyone! We will get through this, together.