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Town halls grapple with masking rules, remote meetings

Confused about whether or not to wear a face covering while visiting municipal offices? Unsure about whether a board, budget or commission meeting will be held in person or virtual?

The answer lies within each municipality, whose leaders are responsible for making those decisions based on the town’s risk level for COVID-19, according to an informal survey of town clerks.

For example, anyone visiting Town Hall in Sharon is required to wear a mask. Not so at town halls in Falls Village, North Canaan, Salisbury or Kent, where face coverings are optional. And while masking is also an individual’s choice at Cornwall Town Hall, the public is required to maintain 6-foot social distancing.

In Salisbury, First Selectman Curtis Rand reported that board and commission meetings have been mostly remote, which are a popular option among both board members and the public. As a result, he said, meeting rooms at Town Hall are being outfitted with new technology to accommodate hybrid options in the future.

“People want to remain virtual,” he said.

Kent recently required all town boards and commissions to record their meetings and make them available on its website in the event someone is unable to attend. Meetings there are either via Zoom or hybrid.

Cornwall holds some meetings strictly via Zoom, others are hybrid. Weather permitting, meetings are sometimes held outdoors to allow for safe social distancing, or at nearby St. Peter’s Church, according to the town clerk.

Sharon’s meetings are held either in person or virtual at the discretion of the individual boards or commissions, so attendees are advised to check the meeting agendas for information on how to participate.

Falls Village has been going the hybrid route for most commission meetings but plans to hold budget hearings and town meetings in person.

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