Londonderry reopens pick-up window, ratifies masking order

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LONDONDERRY — With the town awaiting additional information on the state Department of Health's follow-up testing efforts, emergency management director Kevin Beattie offered this advice on Monday for residents who believe they may have been exposed to the coronavirus: "Act as though you have the virus and protect other people."

"The good news is we're not seeing a rapid increase in cases, so as time goes on things look a little more optimistic," Beattie said Monday during a Select Board meeting.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Dr. Mark Levine, the state's health commissioner, said that of the 65 people who tested positive for COVID-19 at Manchester Medical Center — which relied on antigen tests — only four later tested positive using PCR tests. Between Wednesday and Saturday of last week, 1,613 individuals were tested at venues in Bennington and Windham counties, with all but five people testing negative, Levine said, adding that the state does "not believe community transmission of COVID-19 is occurring."

The Londonderry Select Board previously held an emergency meeting on Sunday, July 12, after learning that someone performing research in the town office's vault had tested positive for COVID-19. After remaining closed to the public from Monday through Friday of last week, the town office's pickup window reopened Monday.

The window "is how we'll be doing nearly all business that can't be done via the phone or email or the mail," Town Clerk Kelly Pajala said during the meeting. The town will also accept two appointments for vault researchers per day — one in the morning and one in the afternoon — and would-be drop-in researchers will be asked to make an appointment to return, she said.

On Saturday, names and phone numbers were collected from 400 people who attended the farmers market in town, Beattie said. "Whether it was useful or not, it was a good wakeup call and public message to put out," he added.

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At Monday's meeting the board also ratified a town-wide mask mandate initially adopted last week.

The resolution, nearly identical to one already adopted in Manchester, states in part that "all establishments located in the Town of Londonderry that invite the public into their premises for the purpose of transacting business, shall require both staff and customers (or visitors) to wear cloth face coverings or face shields over their nose and mouth while inside the building of the establishment."

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The resolution makes exceptions for people who are eating and exercising. It also exempts "employees in a private room ... inside a building that is not otherwise occupied," children under age 5, people who have difficulty breathing "or anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance."

Businesses are responsible for posting signage advising visitors of the Select Board's order, according to the resolution.

Tax rate set

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The board on Monday voted to set its tax rate for 2020 at 0.40401 per $100 of assessed property value. The new residential education rate is 1.6130, while the non-homestead rate is 1.6380.

Board Chair George Mora, citing a "quick, back-of-the-envelope calculation," said that the new tax rate means that a house valued at $200,000 last year will see its total property taxes rise about $200, from $3,800 to $4,000.

"It is a not-insignificant increase," Mora said, "but I think it's really important for the community to understand that a big piece of that is the education rate that we don't have any control over."

The board also voted to waive penalties this year for failing to file homestead declarations on time. "We don't want to put any undue financial burden on our citizens," said Treasurer Tina Labeau.

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