Rochester moves toward in-person meetings

Jun 24, 2020

ROCHESTER — After a successful in-person Town Meeting, two Rochester boards are planning meetings face-to-face (or at least hybrid) again, while town officials are still working to reopen Town Hall. 

Selectman Chair Paul Ciaburri opened a June 24 meeting by saying “thank you and a job well done for all that were involved with Town Meeting and voting,” adding that it went “better than we ever could have anticipated.” 

At a June 23 meeting, the Rochester Planning Board said it would be their last meeting entirely on Zoom, as it would move to Rochester Memorial School and hold future meetings in the cafeteria, with Planning Board members up on stage, like at Town Meeting. 

The Planning Board will still broadcast their meeting on Zoom for anyone who feels uncomfortable attending in-person. 

The Board of Selectmen discussed, but did not finalize, having face-to-face meetings. 

However, the Town Hall conference room is so small that just keeping the board six feet apart would be difficult. So, selectmen will have a hybrid meeting, with the board at Town Hall and viewers online.

Selectman Brad Morse was not there to offer feedback on the suggestion, but the other Selectmen asked if meetings could go back to the first and third Mondays of the month, in the evening. 

Opening Town Hall will not be quite as simple, however. 

On June 25, the town will install in-depth air purifiers in all town buildings other than the Fire Department. But even with offices allowed to go back to 50% capacity, space in Town Hall remains an issue. 

Board of Assessors member Jana Cavanaugh asked when Town Hall would reopen to the public. 

Town Administrator Suzanne Szyndlar said it is open by appointment only for space reasons. 

Cavanaugh pointed out that if people cannot social distance they can wear a mask and Town Hall could open fully. 

However, Szyndlar countered that the town can only make its employees wear masks. 

Until Town Hall opens, copies of the Town Report will be available on a table outside the main doors (weather permitting), or through the library’s curbside pickup.