'Gradually ease back': Adams eyes 'deliberate' road to reopening

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ADAMS — Town officials are studying the governor's reopening plans, analyzing how best to implement them and how they fit into the local government framework, according to Town Administrator Jay Green.

But one thing Green was sure of: The reopening will be slow and deliberately cautious, with no changes happening with town facilities before June 1.

"We going to be very deliberate and make sure we do it right to keep people safe," Green said.

He said town staff would be meeting in the first week of June to figure out how to start resuming operations and still minimize the risk of infection. He estimated that some staff would be coming back to work and city facilities opening to the public — with social distancing and face coverings — toward the end of June.

"We're going to gradually ease back into some level of the new normal," Green said.

Meanwhile, town staff will be analyzing the governor's phased reopening plans and determining how best to implement a slow opening for offices, retail and industrial spaces, eateries and schools.

Green noted that people shouldn't expect to suddenly go back to the way things were before. With social distancing and face coverings still in the offing, life in town will look different going forward.

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"All bets are off at this point," Green said. "We are all going to have to learn to adapt. It's a reality we'll all have to get used to."

For one thing, if town tax revenue falls off, and state or federal aid doesn't make up for it, the town will have to adjust by cutting back on services to its residents — with a budget that is already been cut near to the bone due to a shrinking tax base and widespread resistance to tax rate increases.

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Green said the pandemic and its aftermath will affect every part of town government.

"This permeates everything," he said.

Green noted that fiscal 2020 will end June 30, and the revenue stream wasn't hit that hard as the fiscal year ends. But fiscal 2121 will be a different story.

And since officials can't tell yet how that budget impact will take shape, they are moving forward with a budget based on earlier projections so they can pass it before the new fiscal year begins on July 1.

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So city leadership is tentatively planning for the annual town meeting on June 22. It would be located in an open-air venue that has not yet been chosen.

The town usually receives roughly $2.5 million in state aid yearly. And if that number shrinks, there is no other funding to replace it.

"Any cuts [in state aid] will have an effect on our service delivery," Green said. "But we hesitate to make those cuts now without know what the cuts will look like. But we have to keep the town moving."

If the town can't assemble a town meeting before the new fiscal year begins, it will continue on a month-to-month budget, which would necessitate funding only operational costs and postponing any capital spending.

"It's imperative to have town meeting at some point in order to get a full budget passed," Green added. "But we're ready for either scenario."

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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