Eganville – As the second wave of the COVID-19 virus continues to increase the rate of infection in Renfrew County along with the rest of Canada, North Algona Wilberforce staff are making adjustments to their temporary physical barriers.
Among those adjustments will be the closure of the outside service window at the municipal office, a window that has been the main point of contact between staff and residents.
While making his report to council last week, CAO Andrew Sprunt updated council about the service window and other modifications in order to keep staff, elected officials and residents as safe as possible while accessing the office.
“It appears things are getting worse in the province and they are going to a colour-coded system and although our area is not really being touched we do have to take precautions,” he said. “With the coming of inclement weather, although it was 22 degrees today and you wouldn’t know winter is coming, we are going to phase out our outside service window, which means we are going to have to bring people back inside. We will have to put some procedures in place and that will require council’s approval.”
He said once the switchover is complete, staff will enter the building from an alternate door as opposed to the main entrance. To date all staff have been responsible for cleaning, including door handles. However, only one staff member will be assigned that task.
All visitors will be required to wear a mask and remain in the designated customer service area only. Entry by invitation is to ensure that only one patron is in the customer service area at any given time. He noted that in an effort to reduce the amount of contact staff have with objects that may come into contact with several people throughout the day, staff are investigating an automated entry and exit system for the doors.
“Staff continue to try to minimize inconvenience to the public during these restrictive times,” he said. He told council that wellness and safety protocols for staff are continuously being reviewed on a daily basis to ensure the township is informed every step of the way and he said there was a good chance the province is coming out with a possible grant for businesses to cover half their costs.
He said staff will continue to monitor all protocols and with little likelihood of a major reversal of the virusin the foreseeable future, plans are underway to construct additional plexi glass barriers within chambers in order to safely allow 10 people to attend meetings. Newly-appointed Clerk/Treasurer Michelle Mantifel instituted an informal coffee break routine with employees from different departments and the breaks will be held in council chambers with social distancing in place.
Councillor Maria Robinson asked if the afterhours drop box located outside the main building is drawing much activity.
“It is being used, but not so much during the day. They are very much using the window because they know it is there and they are going to get service,” he said. “At night they are using it, but what we are finding is that more people are using the window during the day as opposed to the drop box at night,” he replied.
He notified council there will be additional costs to complete future modifications and the township and all other local governments were waiting for additional announcements from the government to cover COVID-19 related expenses.
Bruce McIntyre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader