WHITMAN — Town officials are working to set up the Town Hall to ensure proper social distancing is in place to safely conduct the Monday, Jan. 31 special Town Meeting, according to Town Administrator Lincoln Heineman.
“We’re thinking about having the check-in table in the foyer and having folks come in primarily through the front door,” he said, noting the lower-level handicapped entrance would still be accessible to those who need it. Six-foot spacing will be marked out on the floor.
The setup would also allow more seats in the auditorium at six-foot intervals.
“Since the Town Meeting warrant has been posted, it is the town moderator’s decision, in consultation with the Board of Selectmen and public safety officials, if he was considering postponing,” Heineman said.
The town marked it’s 11th consecutive week of increases in the positivity rate for COVID-19 — now up to 28.6 percent, reported Heineman, who receives weekly reports from Fire Chief Timothy Clancy. The vaccination rate has also climbed among those eligible to be vaccinated. It’s been climbing at a rate of about 1 percent per week to about 65 percent fully vaccinated.
“I think that we’ve been knowing and believing that the omicron variant would peak and then quickly drop,” he said. “It’s very preliminary, but I was just looking at the numbers today, and the state positivity rate as of [Jan. 17] was 17.44 percent, down from 21.5 percent. So … it would appear as though we may be past the surge there, at least statewide. That’s a little glimmer of hope there.”
The town is also planning a second round of distribution of the COVID test kits it purchased from 1 to 3 p.m., Friday, Jan. 21 at Whitman Middle School. Any Whitman resident is eligible to receive a kit, which includes two tests.
There is a half-day school session that day.
“We have looked into it,” Fire Chief Timothy Clancy said. “The school is booked on weekends from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. until March 17. We had looked at pulling it off this Monday — Martin Luther King Day — when school was [closed]. Obviously, the weather didn’t cooperate.”
Another is being planned for Wednesday, Feb. 9.
Residents are limited to one self-test kit per vehicle. Kits will be distributed on a first-come-first-served basis while supplies last. Residents will be required to show proof of residency at the beginning of the line when picking up the self-test kits.
The Biden Administration also began making orders of four test kits per household available free by mail at covidtests.gov on Tuesday, Jan. 18.
The town’s final planned Moderna booster clinic is slated for 2:30 to 7:30 p.m., today at the Knights of Columbus [see box below].
School audit update
Heineman also updated the board on the bid process for selecting a school audit firm. He has met with Hanson Town Administrator Lisa Green, and selectmen liasions to the School Committee Randy LaMattina of Whitman and Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett of Hanson, to discuss Hanson Selectmen’s decision to proceed with the audit and reissue the invitations to bid and look at the previous invitation to bid.
The only changes were that CARES Act and American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds are for funding COVID-19 efforts and not under consideration for funding audit costs. They also discussed Circuit Breaker funds.
The invitation to bid has been put together and disseminated to potential bidders with a deadline of Jan. 28, 2022.
“In light of the Circuit Breaker issue, it makes it more pertinent now than ever to just make sure that both towns are receiving and benefiting from the funds we’re getting and [that] they’re going in the right place,” LaMattina said.