Nashoba towns tighten restrictions for public safety

With more coronavirus cases being reported, towns increase public access declarations


TOWNSEND – Less than seven days after receiving its first reported cases of coronavirus, Town Administrator James Kreidler and the Board of Selectmen moved to implement even more restrictions for public access to buildings. Kreidler and the town were not alone in taking that measure.

All six Nashoba Valley towns have taken measures to extend public access restrictions to town buildings and locations in response to more reported cases of COVID-19 that have been reported in the last week. As of Wednesday, Pepperell has eight reported cases, Townsend has six reported cases and Shirley has two reported cases.

Though the Town of Ayer reported on March 22 that a local woman died from the virus, the Nashoba Associated Boards of Health have not returned multiple calls requesting the specific number of confirmed cases of the virus.

Ayer’s Assistant Town Manager Carly Antonellis said that the town is putting out guidance for boards and committees to carry-out remote meetings, while the annual town meeting is rescheduled for June 15.

Harvard Town Administrator Timothy Bragan said that while there are cases of the virus reported, the town will not be announcing how many specific cases there are due to a recommendation from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Town buildings are still closed from public access until May 4, with the annual town meeting rescheduled for June 20 and the town election scheduled for June 23.

The Town of Groton announced one confirmed case of COVID-19 on March 25, though Executive Assistant Dawn Dunbar said on Wednesday that information on the current number of confirmed cases was not “privy” to Town Manager Mark Haddad and the Groton Select Board.

Not to say that Groton isn’t taking action. The Select Board voted unanimously on April 6 to extend the closure of town hall, the Groton Center, Groton Public Library and Groton Country Club to public access until May 4. The board clarified town employees will still be working remotely and answering messages and emails from concerned residents. The board and Haddad also instituted a spending freeze and a hiring freeze.

“The select board and town manager are taking these steps to put the town in the best possible position to address the impacts caused by this pandemic,” Haddad said in a press release.

Shirley Town Administrator Michael McGovern said on Wednesday that he had been meeting with members of the town’s Board of Selectmen, Board of Health, police and fire departments to frequently discuss addressing the virus. These meetings lead to the decision that Shirley’s town hall, council on aging and library will be closed to both residents and staff members from April 13 to April 20.

“The Board of Selectmen thought it was safer for people to stay home and not increase the risk,” McGovern said.

Pepperell’s town departments are reachable via email while town buildings, except for the police department in emergency situations, remain closed to the public. The town also announced that Town Field and playgrounds at the Peter Fitzpatrick and Varnum Brook Elementary schools are closed until further notice.

Back in Townsend, Kreidler said town buildings will also be closed from public access until May 4. Townsend’s annual town meeting and town election have also been postponed to a later date Kreidler said is to be determined.