The Star-Herald

Presque Isle closing number of public buildings until April 8

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — On Tuesday and Wednesday, the city of Presque Isle announced that it would be closing a number of its buildings to the public in response to Gov. Janet Mills’ executive order on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several facilities were closed to the public beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, including Presque Isle City Hall, the Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library, the Sargent Family Community Center & Forum and the Presque Police and Fire Department buildings.

Aroostook Waste Solutions, a not-for-profit jointly owned by the municipalities of Presque Isle, Caribou, Fort Fairfield and Limestone, also restricted the public from entering any of its buildings. 

Presque Isle City Manager Martin Puckett said the measures are in response to an executive order issued by Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday ordering all non-essential businesses to close their public-facing businesses until midnight on April 8.

While Tuesday’s executive order primarily addresses non-essential businesess, it also prescribes that essential businesses, such as Presque Isle’s public buildings, follow several rules to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 

The order mandated that essential services have employees work remotely whenever possible and maintain social distancing, including six feet of space between employees as well as members of the public.

On March 18, Gov. Mills banned social gatherings of 10 or more people. Puckett said both executive orders would likely change the way city council meetings operate.

He said it is likely that some city council members will call into the next meeting on April 1, while others will be present in the city council chambers.

Given that the public will not be able to attend, Puckett said the council proceedings would be live-streamed on the city of Presque Isle’s website, or from a broadcast on its public access television channel

Puckett said City Hall was operating with a “skeletal crew” at the premises. Some, including himself, are continuing to work in the building, while many are now working from home. 

While nobody will be able to physically enter the building during the closure, the public will still be able to interact with city hall and its various agencies via email and phone. Puckett said many of the operations, including vehicle registration, are already done online.

He said the plan is for city hall to re-open when the governor’s order expires on April 8. Staff will also decide future plans as they keep current on new developments concerning the COVID-19 virus. He said the city was dialing into weekly phone calls from the Maine Center for Disease Control and the White House.

Puckett did not believe the changes will negatively impact city operations, though he hopes it can operate conventionally as soon as possible.

“I’m eager for things to return back to normal,” Puckett said. “So we can open up the doors once this has passed and continue on with business as usual.”

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