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State Delegation Endorses Bindelglass Re-Election

David Bindelglass launched his campaign for re-election at a rally in Easton June 27 with enthusiastic endorsements from Governor Ned Lamont, Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz, state Rep. Anne Hughes (D-135), and fellow Easton Selectman Bob Lessler. 

Elected in 2019, Bindelglass has served with fellow-Democrat Lessler in the first Board of Selectmen with a Democratic majority in Easton since 2005. Both are running for re-election this year, after guiding the town through a tropical storm, extensive power outages, the COVID-19 pandemic, and all the problems and successes faced by small town America.

Elected in 2019, First Selectman Dave Bindelglass has served with fellow-Democrat Selectman Bob Lessler in the first Board of Selectmen with a Democratic majority in Easton since 2005.

“My first two years as first selectman saw unprecedented challenges,” said Bindelglass to the crowd of supporters. “We administered with leadership, dedication, listening and competence, so that kids could stay in school and vital town services and the Senior Center could continue operating and helping.” 

“Our commitment to transparency in government brings more information which generates more debate,” Bindelglass said. He said that Easton was one of the first towns to hold a town meeting once COVID regulations allowed it, and that all five measures referred to a machine vote were passed by the voters. Two months later, voters approved the town budget, restoring essential cuts made in previous years from education and public works.     

Bysiewicz announced Lamont’s and her endorsement of the Bindelglass-Lessler team, and described the productive collaboration between her office and Bindelglass during the pandemic. “How smart and visionary were you, Easton,” she asked, “to pick a medical doctor during this critical moment?” She said that, with the Bindelglass administration, “Families know that public health and education are priorities” in Easton.

Hughes commended Bindelglass for leading the move to join the local health district just in time for the pandemic and the collaborative health services the merger delivers to Easton. Hughes agreed with Bysiewicz that Bindelglass’s constant communication with them, and his responsiveness to the needs of Easton, directly translated into low infection and high vaccination rates and maintaining essential resources open for the town, especially for its most vulnerable citizens. Commending the Bindelglass administration, she said, “This is what responsive, transparent, inclusive governing looks like.”

Lessler said that only once before in its 175-year history has Easton successfully re-elected a Democratic First Selectman because of the — until now — overwhelming Republican voter registration. Today, for the first time ever, there are more Democratic voters in Easton than there are Republican. “It is only by continuing this Democratic leadership that Easton can continue to benefit from responsive, proactive and effective government,” Lessler said.

In addition to guiding the town through COVID, other significant accomplishments of the Bindelglass administration include completed construction of one bridge on Park Avenue and another one underway; creation of a representative task force that is examining options for the South Park property; and increased transparency of town government through weekly public updates to citizens, extended public comment at Board of Selectmen meetings, a Town Hall presentation for newcomers, brown bag lunches, and several other open forums. Bindelglass is also improving Town Hall procedures and expanding Park and Recreation projects for seniors.

Bindelglass, 62, an orthopedic surgeon, lives in Easton with his wife, Gloria, an emergency room nurse at Bridgeport Hospital. They have two grown sons.

Easton Democrats support the Bindelglass-Lessler ticket at a campaign rally June 27 at the Easton Village Store.

Photo at top: First Selectman David Bindelglass launched his campaign for re-election at a rally in Easton June 27 with endorsements from Governor Ned Lamont (not present), Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz and state Rep. Anne Hughes (D-135).




Notre Dame of Easton Celebrates Lenten Season

Notre Dame of Easton is actively observing the Lenten season even while the pandemic enters its second year.  Meanwhile. Governor Ned Lamont announced expansive reopening plans and the easing of Covid-19 restrictions that went into effect March 19.

The new protocols lift the capacity restrictions for religious institutions but still require face coverings, social distancing, cleaning and sanitation.  

“Safety has been the most important priority at our church,” said Jeanine Pagliaro, Notre Dame of Easton parishioner. “Our pastor, Father Lyons, has made every decision with the safety of parishioners as the top priority.”

Some of the safety precautions that have been initiated include pre-registration for in person services to limit the number of people in attendance. The pre-registration form for services can be found on the Notre Dame of Easton website

The mass services were also moved to the lower church hall to accommodate more parishioners and allow for social distancing. Chairs are sanitized after each service. 

Father Lyons leads the service from an elevated stage that is safely distanced from the parishioners. He also wears gloves when he gives Communion to those who wish to receive it. 

“So far all of these precautions have kept us safe and we’re grateful for his efforts,” said parishioner Cheryl Constand,

Weekly church bulletins are available online for those who are unable to attend in-person services. Liturgical resources are also posted on the church’s website for anyone who wishes to use them to help strengthen their faith.

“We invite you to use the resources below as a means to help you strengthen and build up your faith during these times when we don’t have the opportunity to be directly in the presence of the Lord,” reads the Notre Dame of Easton website. 

A Lenten reflection is posted on the church Facebook page every Sunday. The reflection corresponds and follows the weeks of the Lenten period. 

“Lent is a time for prayer, fasting, and sacrifice, and Pope Francis said that this year during Lent, Catholics should focus on faith, hope, and love,” said Pagliaro. “The Lenten season is also a time for reflection and personal growth.” 

While most people tend to cut things out of their daily lives during Lent, it is also a time for reflection and growth, especially during this difficult Covid-19 time. 

“Lent has begun and years ago it was ‘what treats can I give up?’” said Constand. “This year I feel I must take more responsibility to seek out experiences to nourish my spirituality in a meaningful way since most parishes have limited services that I can plug into.”  

The church has also begun to offer the Stations of the Cross every Friday night which has been a positive experience for parishioners. The Stations of the Cross occurs in the main church and parishioners must sign in upon entering. Social distancing and mask wearing are strictly enforced.

Bible studies are held on Tuesdays using the chairs that are set up for services, while still adhering to social distancing. 

For more information on services and Lent visit the church website, www.notredameofeaston.com or Facebook page.  To find more information on Governor Ned Lamont’s reopening plans, visit the State of Connecticut website or the most recent press release on the reopening plans, https://portal.ct.gov/Office-of-the-Governor/News/Press-Releases/2021/03-2021/Governor-Lamont-Announces-Plans-To-Ease-Some-COVID-19-Restrictions-in-Connecticut.




Easton Budget Process Under a Pandemic

Last year the Easton Courier published an overview of the Easton budget process. The article went into some detail about how the town budget is developed and how the Board of Finance (BOF) works to prepare a budget request to present to the town for its approval. It was the process that the BOF has followed, with little variation, for many years.

The article was published just as the new Courier was launched, on Feb. 29, leap day, and shortly after, things changed. During the first two weeks of March 2020, all department heads, along with their respective boards and commissions, met with the Board of Finance to present and review proposed budgets. These public budget meetings were held in person as usual at the Senior Center.

But while the budget process was continuing as normal, the Coronavirus situation was gaining more attention. On March 10, the governor issued Executive Order 7B announcing the suspension of in-person open meeting requirements and authorizing towns to conduct remote public meetings over video conference and/or conference call. Town organizations were beginning to react.

In his frequent message updates our First Selectman David Bindelglass noted changes to town government operations and the town’s public facilities. On March 12 it was announced that schools were closing, and the Senior Center and library cancelled programs. On March 16, all public meetings were postponed. On March 17, Town Hall was closed to the public with only a skeleton staff maintaining town operations.

The next step in the normal budget process was to have the Board of Finance conduct a Public Hearing on the budget. This hearing was scheduled to be held in the Samuel Staples Elementary School cafetorium on March 23. It is a time for the public to provide the board their opinion of the budget. But the governor’s limit on public gathering size meant that this meeting would not be possible.

What Changed in 2020

The Board of Finance decided to reconsider its usual practice and determine alternate ways to; (1) get budget information to the public without a public hearing; (2) continue meeting with selected departments; (3) alert the town to the Board’s final budget decisions without a Town Meeting and, finally; (4) conduct a Referendum on the budget.

On April 2 the BOF convened its first “ZOOM” meeting to discuss those issues. BOF Chairman Matt Gachi noted that the budget presentation, which would normally be made at the public hearing, was instead posted as a link on the town website, and he encouraged others to add it to other online groups with Easton members. In addition, the link was emailed to all residents registered for e-mail alerts from the town.

The post on the town website asked readers to submit comments via e-mail to BOF@Eastonct.gov by April 30. The Board planned to wait until after the April 30 deadline before making any final budget decisions.

On May 1, Governor Lamont issued Executive Order 7HH prohibiting towns from conducting budget referendums. It ordered the budget-making authority of a town, in Easton’s case, the BOF, to adopt a budget and set a mill rate and suspended any requirement for a vote.

At the Board’s May 5 regular meeting Chairman Gachi made a presentation, Easton BOF Data Overview, containing data on the serious impact of COVID-19 restrictions to the U.S. and Connecticut economy. Yet, it also noted the governor’s plan to start a phased reopening of the Connecticut economy beginning May 20, 2020. 

At its regular June 2 meeting the Board adopted a budget of $44,639,809. Assuming a reduced tax collection rate of 98.5% and allocating $3,125,000 of unassigned funds to the budget, the board set a mill rate of 31.00, a reduction of 1.05%.

What is Different This Year

The plan to start reopening the Connecticut economy in May of last year was put off as cases spiked. As this year’s budget season is starting, the town is under many of the same restrictions it encountered last year. But COVID cases and hospitalizations are in decline and people are finally getting vaccinations. These are reasons to be optimistic, but the town is being cautious about opening up completely.

Town Hall now has a complete staff, some meetings are already scheduled for in-person and people can make appointments to do things in Town Hall if they need to. Town board, committee and commission meetings are still in virtual mode, but some are starting to consider having in person meetings, or a hybrid ZOOM and in-person meetings. Our schools are now completely open with an option for a student to attend remotely.

The first selectman has been meeting with department heads to review their budgets. The Board of Education is also working on its budget and recordings of their meetings can be found at the Easton Minutes section of the ER9 website. The Board of Finance is planning the schedule for public meetings with each department to review its budget request.

The Board of Finance has been meeting virtually instead of in-person since April 2, 2020 when the board convened its first “ZOOM” meeting. — Paul Lindoerfer Photo

The current schedule for meeting with the largest departments is below. Smaller department reviews will be spread over those days. The meetings can be seen live with the ZOOM link in each meeting’s agenda posted on the Agenda, Minutes and Recordings section of town website and a recording of each meeting is also available there. 

Town of Easton Schedule of BOF Department Hearings
Date/Time: Department Hearing
2-Mar Tuesday 7:00 p.m. Senior Center  Insurance Commission  Assessor and Bd. Of Assessment Appeals  Building Department  Emergency Management  Police (Communication, Police, and Animal Control)
3-Mar Wednesday 7:00 p.m. Registrars of Voters  Conservation  Zoning Board of Appeals Commission for the Aging / Social Services  Library
4-Mar Thursday 7:00 p.m. Pension & Employee Benefits  Town Clerk  Tree Warden  Public Works, 660 Morehouse Road, Recycling, Street Lights
9-Mar Tuesday 7:00 p.m. Planning & Zoning Emergency Medical Service  Tax Collector  Parks & Recreation Fire Department Fire Marshal 
10-Mar Wednesday 7:00 p.m. Board of Education
11-Mar Thursday 7:00 p.m. Reserved

After the first round of BOF hearings with town departments, the tentative plan to produce a final budget and set the mill rate includes:

  • March 15 — Special Town Meeting: to hear presentations on matters having a potential impact on the budget (tentatively virtual or hybrid)
  • March 22 — Public Hearing on the Budget
  • March 23 to 30 — BOF meetings with selected departments
  • April 6 — Regular BOF meeting
  • April 26 — Annual Town Meeting
  • May 4 — Budget referendum

Plans for these events are in progress so check back here and on the town website for the final schedule dates and times.




Connecticut Residents Over 65 Can Register for COVID-19 Vaccination Appointments Starting Thursday, Feb. 11

Governor Ned Lamont today announced that Connecticut residents over the age of 65 will be eligible to schedule COVID-19 vaccination appointments starting on Thursday, Feb. 11, as the state rolls into the next part of phase 1b of its vaccination program. Vaccinations for individuals over the age of 75 and those within phase 1a will continue.

With approximately 350,000 individuals in Connecticut between the ages of 65 and 74, and a slightly increased but relatively small weekly supply of the vaccine being received in the state from the federal government, Lamont and state public health officials are stressing the need for patience on the part of Connecticut residents.

Currently, the state anticipates receiving about 60,000 first doses of the vaccine per week from the federal government.

“In a perfect world, we would receive enough doses of the vaccine to make it available to everyone in Connecticut right now, however each state is being given a very limited supply, which is why we need to phase it in and give priority to the most vulnerable populations,” Lamont said. “I know that people are anxious to receive it, and I will continue advocating for our state to receive increased allocations in the coming weeks and months.”

“COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted older individuals and individuals in traditionally underserved communities,” Connecticut Public Health Acting Commissioner Dr. Deidre Gifford said. “Now that we’ve vaccinated the majority of our highest risk age group, we are ready to move to those over the age of 65. However, we want to ensure that within this high risk group, we focus on getting vaccine to individuals within the group who come from communities that have been hardest hit by the virus, namely our Black and Latino communities. We are working with our vaccine providers and other community partners to identify underserved areas and focus vaccine resources into those areas, including providing transportation assistance and other solutions to address barriers to vaccine access.”

All eligible residents are required to make an appointment in advance of receiving the vaccine. To find available vaccination clinics throughout the state, residents can visit ct.gov/covidvaccine and enter their zip code.

Appointments can be made utilizing the following tools:

  • VAMS online system: VAMS is the Vaccine Administration Management System and can be used to schedule appointments at multiple clinics across the state. To make an appointment using this system, click here.
  • Call Connecticut’s COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment Assist Line: Connecticut’s COVID-19 vaccine appointment assist line is open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., seven days a week. To make an appointment, call 877-918-2224.
  • Hartford HealthCare: Hartford HealthCare has multiple locations throughout the state, including large clinics in the Hartford area. To make an appointment using this system, click here.
  • Yale New Haven Health: Yale New Haven Hospital has multiple locations throughout the state, including large clinics in the New Haven area. To make an appointment using this system, click here.
  • Stamford Health: Stamford Health is operating a clinic seven days per week at Stamford Hospital. To make an appointment using this system, click here.
  • Walgreens: Walgreens is currently offering the vaccine at 12 different locations and will soon be adding many more across the state. To make an appointment using this system, click here.
  • CVS: CVS is currently offering the vaccine in four locations (Colchester, Putnam, Waterford, and Windsor Locks) and will be expanding to 12 more locations in the next week. To make an appointment using this system, click here.
  • Walmart: Walmart will be offering the vaccine at seven locations across the state (Hartford, New Haven, North Windham, Norwalk, Torrington, Waterbury, and West Haven). To make an appointment using this system, click here.

For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 vaccination distribution plans in Connecticut, visit ct.gov/covidvaccine.




Covid Vaccine Sign-Ups Roll Out for Qualified Residents

UPDATED To Include Statewide Plan for Phase 1b Posted Today on Connecticut’s Official State Website

The next phase of the state’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout (aka Phase 1b) includes seniors 75 years of age or older. What exactly does this mean to Easton residents? Easton seniors 75 years of age or older may sign up for the first in the two vaccination series.

If you are 75 years of age or older, you can now register to make an appointment for your Covid-19 vaccine. Please see the link below that enables you to upload your information into the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) which is the online enrollment system you will use to register for vaccination.

https://dphsubmissions.ct.gov/OnlineVaccine

Details are posted on the Easton website. Seniors with questions can also call the state Department of Health at 877-918-2224. Gov. Ned Lamont released the phone number today.

Note that each individual must have his or her own unique email address to be entered into VAMS. No duplicate emails can be used. If you do not have email, you should have a family member help you obtain an email address so you are able to sign-up in VAMS.

Each individual will receive an email from CDC.GOV/VAMS which will allow them to make an appointment to receive the vaccine. Numerous locations for vaccinations are available; please choose a location most convenient for you. A list will be provided with the email and includes sites in Fairfield, Monroe and surrounding towns.

If you are an Easton resident and do not have a computer or means of transportation, contact the Easton Senior Center 203-268-1145, and they will discuss alternate arrangements with you.

As additional information becomes available, the Courier will update the latest developments. Connecticut is currently in Phase 1b of the statewide Covid-19 vaccine rollout plan. Read more about the state rollout here.

Phase 1b

Vaccine access will be phased in for the following groups in Phase 1b: 

Currently Scheduling:

Scheduling Soon:

  • Front line essential workers (please see additional information below)
  • Individuals between the ages of 65 and 74
  • Individuals between the ages of 16 and 64 with comorbidities
  • Individuals and staff in congregate settings (please see additional information below)

Details on congregate settings:

Congregate settings include individuals and staff in halfway homes, inpatient mental health facilities, corrections facilities, homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, substance use and residential treatment facilities along with others. More information about congregate settings will be available soon.  

Details on Phase 1b Essential Workers:

Frontline essential workers face work-related exposure to COVID-19 because work-related duties must be performed on-site, in proximity (<6 feet) to the public or to coworkers AND are in one of the following sectors:

  • Healthcare personnel not included in Phase 1a
  • First responders
  • Agricultural workers, including farmworkers
  • Food service and restaurants
  • U.S. Postal Service workers
  • Manufacturing workers
  • Grocery store and pharmacy workers
  • Food banks and meal delivery services for the elderly
  • Education and child-care workers
  • Solid waste and wastewater workers
  • Inspectors working on site in the above locations
  • Frontline public and social services



Year in Review 2020

In a trying year, Easton had many bright spots, proving that our community had grit and grace in the face of the pandemic. The editors struggled to identify the top 10 events of 2020 and concluded there were many more than time and space allowed. Nevertheless, we will roll out several at a time, beginning in this issue, in the hope that readers will send in their own 2020 highlights.

What a year it turned out to be, unlike any other in our lifetime, unlike any time in recent history since the Spanish flu in 1918. Early in the year, everything had seemed rosy and bright, aside from growing news reports about a deadly novel coronavirus (Covid-19) first reported in China and spreading in Europe and here in the U.S.

People started greeting each other with elbow bumps rather than handshakes but were otherwise unaware of how rapidly and drastically everything would be turned upside down. After a promising start and a calendar full of meaningful events, life as we knew it came to a grinding halt in mid-March. Connecticut schools closed. Distance learning replaced classroom instruction. Town and school events were canceled. Just about everything stopped or changed.

Acting under state-sanctioned executive orders, Gov. Ned Lamont ordered all but essential workers to stay at home as businesses, stores and public places closed. Homes became workplaces, school houses and shelters. First Selectman Dr. David Bindelglass updated residents about local developments through his weekly messages. He made the pronouncement on March 23 that Easton had its first laboratory-confirmed case. Tragically, several longtime, older residents died from Covid-19 infections.

Patty Jurielewicz, aka the “Balloon Lady”

Throughout the crisis, Eastonites helped each other and kept the faith that things would get better again. The so-called “Balloon Lady,” Patty Jurielewicz, kept people’s spirits high during the shutdown with regular balloon art displays on Westport Road.

At the close of the year, the coronavirus has killed more than 330,000 Americans, and the number keeps growing.

But the arrival of vaccines brings renewed hope. Dr. Bindelglass, an orthopedic surgeon, and his wife, Gloria, a nurse, have received their vaccinations. and Easton’s first responders will be receiving theirs over the next week or so. The vaccines will be available to all over the course of the next few months.

The virus remains a threat, and social distancing, mask-wearing and hand washing requirements will remain in effect for the foreseeable future. But, as 2020 draws to a close, 2021 brings the promise of much better times ahead and life restored to a new normal.




Lamont Launches COVID Alert CT Exposure Notification App

Governor Ned Lamont today announced that the State of Connecticut has launched its official COVID-19 exposure notification app, COVID Alert CT. The app, available for Apple and Android mobile devices, informs users if they may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 – all without sharing any personal information.

Here’s how it works:

  • First, users should visit ct.gov/covidalertct, where they can find instructions on how to download the app for their specific device.
  • Once installed, the app uses Bluetooth to sense whether a user’s device has been within 6 feet of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more in one day – without sharing any personal information.
  • If a user has been near another person who has tested positive and is also using the app on their personal device, an alert will be triggered notifying the user that they may have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • A notification will not be triggered if two devices in this scenario are just passing by for a short duration or stay more than 6 feet away from each other.

If a user tests positive:

  • A contact tracer from the Connecticut Department of Public Health, their local health department, or their higher education institution will ask them if they are willing to share the “close contact” codes their app has logged while they may have been contagious.
  • If the user agrees, a contract tracer will provide them with a verification code.
  • Once that code is submitted through the user’s app, those individuals who came within 6 feet of that user for more than 15 minutes and who also are using the app will receive a notification on their device that they were in close contact with someone with COVID-19.
  • Sharing this status is secure and private. The app will never reveal who the user is to anyone else.

The governor explained that this app is not a replacement for the state’s contact tracing system, but can supplement it in an incredibly helpful way. When people test positive in Connecticut, they are directed to get in touch with a contact tracer.

“We’re making every effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Connecticut,” Governor Lamont said. “This app is another tool to make sure that every resident of our state has what they need to combat this pandemic from the ground up. This app also complements – but doesn’t replace – our broader contact tracing program, which is an invaluable resource in combating the pandemic and ensuring those who need it have the tools necessary to self-isolate or quarantine.”

“To stop the spread of COVID-19, we each need to do our part, and we hope everyone with a smartphone will participate in this new program,” Connecticut’s Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe said. “This is just one example of how we are leveraging modern technology to fight this pandemic and keep Connecticut safe.”

“Contact tracing is a critical part of the public health response to COVID-19,” Connecticut’s Acting Public Health Commissioner Dr. Deidre Gifford said. “Any effort to supplement that program could be a crucial step in stopping the spread of the virus. If even one person is in touch with a contact tracer and discusses their contacts for the past 14 days, it could result in a chain reaction that stops dozens or more from getting infected.”

For instructions on how to download the app and to read other information about its use, visit ct.gov/covidalertct.




Op-Ed: University of Bridgeport’s Unconventional and Innovative Collaboration Enhances Education

The seaside campus of University of Bridgeport (UB) led by the academic leaders of UB, Sacred Heart University, Paier College of Arts and Goodwin College together have announced an unconventional and innovative educational enhancement plan for those higher education institutions to collaborate and combine academic programs.

It was clearly demonstrated by the leaders of Sacred Heart University, Paier College of Arts, Goodwin College and University of Bridgeport that all four higher education institutions have formed an amicable working relationship with the common goal of offering a diverse population of college students a vast array of quality fields of study.

The language used by UB’s Interim President Stephen Healey of, “a new model of higher education,” is encouraging and reiterated the focus on enhancing the educational experience for current and future students.

I am encouraged that the diversity and excellent academic contributions of the University of Bridgeport to the city of Bridgeport and Fairfield County will be preserved under this creative enhancement partnership established by these actively engaged institutions.  UB has over 92 years of history serving students from around the world, and is a cornerstone of the community.  That legacy will be preserved and enhanced under this uniquely unconventional and innovative model to collaboratively grow and thrive in a difficult higher education environment.

I am grateful for the presence and support of Governor Ned Lamont on this announcement and the voiced desire of community leaders to insist on preserving the community connection of UB with the residents of Bridgeport.

This collaboration, if successful, could be a model for future collaborations of other higher education institutions to bring quality instruction and learning experience for Connecticut students and possibly serve as a model for all levels of education institutions striving for excellence in learning and alleviate the widening academic achievement gap based on socio-economic stratas in Connecticut.  Ultimately, this model will enhance and propel Bridgeport and Fairfield County’s educational and economic toward sustainable growth and success.


State Senator Tony Hwang represents the 28th Senate District in the Connecticut General Assembly. Hwang is Deputy Minority Senate Leader and the ranking legislative leader on the Higher Education & Employment Committee with cognizance on Higher Education Institutions. Hwang is also the ranking Senate legislative leader on the Public Safety and Security Committee and Housing Committee and serves as a member of the Transportation Committee.




Phase 2 Reopening Set for Wednesday, June 17

Governor Ned Lamont announced earlier this month that he was advancing the second phase of reopening Connecticut. Many businesses will now reopen on Wednesday, June 17 – three days earlier than the previously scheduled date of Saturday, June 20. This is welcome news to the many businesses that closed or reduced operations since the start of the COVID pandemic. Residents are also looking forward to exercising in the gym, going to a movie theater, dining indoors, finding a good book at the library, and other activities that signal a return to “normal” routines.

Here are some of the businesses included in the June 17 Phase 2 reopening:

Indoor Dining in Restaurants

Though outdoor dining is encouraged, restaurants will reopen for indoor dining at 50 percent of regular indoor seating capacity in order to maintain social distancing standards. Employers will be required to enforce the capacity limits as well as ensure that a thorough cleaning of the restaurant before reopening including kitchen, dining area, bathrooms as well as any other often-touched areas.

Amusement Parks

Outdoor amusement parks will begin to open with a limited 25 percent capacity. Social distancing rules will be practiced throughout, from the parking lot where customers will be directed to park in every other space during peak hours, to leaving empty seating and/or rows on rides.

Hotels

Hotels/lodging must exercise caution throughout the phases of reopening, ensuring strict adherence to protocols. While these rules provide a way to reopen in as safe a manner as possible, risks to guests and employees cannot be fully mitigated. Guests who choose to visit hotels/lodging during this time should be fully aware of potential risks.

Indoor museums, zoos, and aquariums

Museums, zoos, and aquariums may open outdoor and indoor exhibits at 50% capacity in the current phase of reopening. Calculate a maximum occupancy that is consistent with social distancing guidelines or 50% of fire code capacity, whichever is lower.

Indoor recreation (e.g., bowling, movie theaters, etc.)

Indoor recreation businesses may open at up to 50% capacity; however, businesses should limit customers to the number of customers that can be appropriately supervised by staff to ensure continuous compliance with rules for mask wearing, social distancing, and cleaning/disinfecting of equipment and common areas.

Libraries

Libraries can reopen at 50 percent capacity and are encouraged to have guards at the entrance to count and monitor the number of people inside when high traffic times are expected. A six-foot distance between seating must be arranged. Programs including workshops or job fairs must also follow the rules on size of social gatherings.

Outdoor events

Outdoor gatherings are permitted provided that any such large outdoor public gatherings shall comply with these rules and all other applicable executive orders governing conduct in public places. The maximum permitted gathering size will be updated by executive order periodically in response to current public health data.

Personal services (e.g., nail salons, tattoo parlors, etc.)

Personal Services are a high-contact environment that necessitates interaction in violation of social distancing rules. Businesses shall exercise caution, ensuring strict adherence to the protocols listed.

Sports Fitness Centers/Gyms

Gyms, sports complexes, sports clubs, fitness centers and pools can re-open at 50 percent capacity. Facilities requiring customers/participants to wear a mask while exercising must maintain 6 ft of space between equipment, but facilities that do not require customers to wear a mask while exercising must have 12 ft of space between equipment. With respect to youth and high school sports, outdoor sporting events will be limited to two teams, officials and limited family members. Indoor events are limited to 50 percent capacity or 25 people (whichever is smaller) at each field, court, pool, etc. The limit can be exceeded only to include one parent.

Businesses and non-profits planning to reopen on June 17 should visit the CT Business Reopening and Recovery Center website. And visit the Department of Economic and Community Development website for updated industry-specific guidelines for Phase 2.

What’s next?

Health officials urge residents to continue following safety guidelines such as the wearing of face masks while in public and where social distancing is difficult or not possible, frequent hand washing, avoid touching your face, keep common surfaces clean and disinfected, and seek medical attention if you display any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Go to CDC.gov or ct.gov/coronavirus for more information about COVID-19 and the pandemic.

The Governor and local and state health officials will use the data from the Phase 2 reopening as a guideline for going forward. 




Town Seeks State Consent for Town Wide Vote on Health District

First Selectman David Bindelglass pushed hard to achieve permission from the state to hold a referendum on Easton’s annual budget. He believed he had secured permission to hold a modified budget referendum and vote on joining the Westport Weston Health District (WWHD)

But Governor Ned Lamont’s May 1 Executive Order No. 7HH, “Clarification of Executive Order No. 7I, Section 13 – Mandatory Suspension of In-Person Voting Requirements by Members of the Public on Municipal Budgets,” put the kibosh on those plans. 

That hasn’t stopped Bindelglass and Town Attorney Ira Bloom from communicating with Lamont’s office to determine if Easton can hold town wide voting about joining the Westport Weston Health District.  

Bindelglass and Bloom are attempting to clear up ambiguous language in a subsequent executive order, which appears to indicate municipal referendums might be permissible after consultation with local or state health officials.

Section 7B of subsequent Executive Order No. 7JJ states: “Nothing in this order shall be construed to prohibit a municipality from conducting any in-person meeting, approval process, or referendum, provided such municipality first consults with local or state public health officials and conducts such meeting, approval process, or referendum in a way that significantly reduces the risk of transmission of COVID-19.”

“Dave has been very active, making his own inquiries and doing his own review,” Bloom said. “He asked me to pursue it which I did. There was some controversy with people in the state government saying maybe a municipal referendum could be allowed.”

In addition to that, Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill issued Connecticut’s Election Plan in the Face of COVID-19, which includes absentee ballots and in-person voting, conducted according to strict health and safety standards.

Lamont on March 10 issued a declaration of public health and civil preparedness emergencies, proclaiming a state of emergency throughout the State of Connecticut as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States and Connecticut.

He has issued numerous subsequent executive orders to suspend or modify statutes and to take other actions necessary to protect public health and safety and mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Easton is considering  joining the WWHD, “which would provide the town more services at about the same cost as we currently incur,” Selectman Robet Lessler wrote in his May 7 Board of Selectmen notes.  “The town appears to have two permanent options. First, we could hire new staff to replace the existing staff. Second, we could form a relationship with a neighboring health district.

“The two town officials who constitute the professional staff of the department are seeking to retire. If the town simply replaces the existing staff, the expectation is that the costs would significantly increase as we would need to enhance the programs, services and hours of the department.”

If town wide polling isn’t an option, Lessler said the board is considering contracting with the WWHD to provide health services for a period of one year.  “This will insure the town has the necessary services after the incumbents retire and will allow us to test the relationship with the WWHD without formally joining the district.”

A slide presentation is available on the town website regarding the WWHD proposal and video of the March 2, 2020 public presentation is available from Channel 79 on the town website.

According to the presentation, Easton’ s current public health funding is $96,296. The proposed local public health assessment upon Joining the WWHD is $100,000. The following estimated costs were also given to staff a full time municipal health department to meet all regulatory requirements:

  • Full Time Registered Sanitarian $54,000 to $123,760 + benefits
  • Full Time Director of Health range $95,500 to $173,000 + benefits

Those skeptical of any town proposal to join the WWHD argue that an additional cost analysis should be part of a “Plan B” scenario in which Easton didn’t join the WWHD and brought its Health Department into compliance with state regulations. Residents made their opinions known in letters and at a series of Brown Bag Lunches that Bindelglass held prior to the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. Read more here.

Board of Finance Acts

The town of Vernon, which held drive-by voting, was the only Connecticut municipality to hold a budget referendum before Executive Order No. 7HH was enacted.

In the case of Vernon, “People didn’t get out of their cars but identified themselves as voters,” Bloom said. “No paper was exchanged. They gave a thumbs up to support the budget. No other town can do that now.”

The Board of Finance has met, called back various departments and taken into consideration public input. At its May 21 meeting, the Board of Selectmen is expected to authorize the Board of Finance to approve the 2020-21 budget and set the mill rate. A mill represents the taxes paid for every $1,000 of assessed property value. 

The important point according to Bindelglass is that the decision should reflect what the majority of voters in Easton want. The Board of Selectman’s goal is to authorize a referendum vote if the town is able to get the green light from the governor. If this isn’t permitted, then the town could maintain the status quo or consider joining the WWHD on a trial basis for one year.