Members of East Lyme's Board of Selectmen sat spread between two different tables at their Monday night emergency meeting about a coronavirus response, as part of an effort at social distancing (CT Examiner/McDermott)

East Lyme Declares State of Emergency, Closes Town Hall to Public, in Face of Viral Pandemic

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EAST LYME — All town buildings are closed to the public until further notice effective Monday night, after the Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to uphold First Selectman Mark Nickerson’s declaration of a local state of emergency in response to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Nickerson told the selectmen at a Monday night emergency meeting that this declaration was about “being flexible and being prepared to change on the fly as appropriate.” Nickerson used his power to declare the emergency at 1 p.m. and the selectmen voted to uphold it at their 7 p.m. meeting.

Town staff will continue to work, and Town Hall’s phone line will remain open for regular business hours.

The declaration is essential for the town to be eligible to eventually collect federal reimbursements for emergency expenses, he said, and it will allow town government to spend money on emergency expenses from added police overtime and equipment for town staff to work remotely, to hand sanitizer.

“We’re going to incur extra expenses through payroll and through supplies,” Nickerson said. “This could grow and linger for a period of time. We want to be eligible for what has already been declared a national emergency, and more than likely funds will be made available for the citizens of East Lyme.”

At the meeting, the six selectmen sat divided between two tables in what Nickerson said was an effort at social distancing.

The town transfer station will be open, but town staff will not be allowed to assist patrons in unloading items; only credit cards will be accepted as payment, and patrons will not be allowed into the toll house and weigh station.

According to Nickerson’s letter, there will be no public meetings for any commission during the Town Hall shutdown.

He noted that Gov. Ned Lamont had suspended certain requirements of Connecticut’s open meeting laws to allow teleconferencing for public meetings under certain circumstances and then added, “I’d rather not do that until we need to. If this lingers for a while, we will need to.”

East Lyme’s shutdown took effect at the same time as Lamont issued an executive order to restrict restaurants to delivery and takeout service, and to shut down gyms, fitness centers, bars, and movie theaters.

East Lyme’s schools, library, senior center, and parks and recreation programs had already been closed prior to this declaration.

“I ask everyone to take extra caution during this period of time,” Nickerson wrote in a statement explaining the declaration. “Avoiding this virus can mean the difference between life or death, not just in you but in those who may be in contact with you. Please take care of the CDC’s recommendations and take personal responsibility for your own safety.”

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