The Town of Westport has declared a state of emergency that will remain in effect until July 31, following the outbreak of the 2019 novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The municipality drafted its emergency proclamation on March 16, at which point it took effect.

The proclamation authorized emergency purchases of services, goods and materials, and costs to the labor force which may result from the town’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The reason for this proclamation is essentially so that we’re able to get at any federal funds that might be available for emergency response,” said town attorney and administrator Tom Wilson. “And following that up with a resolution has the same reason.”

Town-board members ratified the proclamation at a Monday night board meeting, which was held via teleconference due to a State Department of Health Services ban on mass gatherings.

Chair Dean Grosskopf said ratification opens the door to state funding for furloughed workers.

“It sounds like there’s some opportunity for us to get that money recovered from the government,” Grosskopf said, “because that’s what they’re encouraging us to do – to send people home and keep them home. And they’re going to make it alright.”

At least one town staff member has been furloughed already – an administrative assistant – with other staff working from home, and additional furloughs anticipated in the near future.

The town’s administrator said furloughed workers will continue to be paid by the municipality.

Administrative offices remain closed to the public in an effort to maintain sanitation until election day.

“We’re trying to keep the place closed down,” Wilson said, “because it looks like we’re going to have to run the election out of here. So we have to keep it clean. We don’t want to be the Typhoid Mary of Westport, as far as being the spread of this thing.”

Local officials have recommended that residents vote in the April 7 election via absentee ballot, due to public-health concerns regarding the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

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