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Wilmington approves mask order

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WILMINGTON — Before the town approved an emergency order requiring face coverings inside all public establishments in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Select Board Vice Chairman John Gannon said most people are wearing masks inside the businesses he visited.

"I think this is just another way to encourage people to do the right thing," he said at a special board meeting held virtually Thursday morning. He also serves as a state representative for the Windham-6 district.

The resolution was approved in a 4-0 vote after about three minutes of discussion. It states that starting Friday, "any member of the public entering a business located in the Town of Wilmington that will be open to the public or a Town-owned building must wear a face covering over their mouth and nose that is consistent with the Vermont Department of Health's guidance on face coverings."

Exceptions are made for children under the age of 2, those who have difficulties breathing or those unable to remove a mask without help.

Every establishment in town is required to post signs at the entrance and other appropriate locations stating that members of the public need to wear face coverings by order of the Select Board.

"I think it will help businesses," Gannon said, as owners or managers would not have to decide themselves whether to put up signs of their own.

Asked by Select Board Chairman Tom Fitzgerald if the order is meant to be confrontational, Gannon said no. The resolution includes no enforcement component.

City councils in Burlington and South Burlington approved similar resolutions on Monday. The Brattleboro Select Board approved one on Tuesday. The governor had said municipalities could adopt stricter policies on masks after mandating that retail workers wear them as stores reopened this week.

At a regular meeting Tuesday, Gannon cited a Facebook post by Jacksonville General Store in which different complaints were described — some customers wanted masks worn, others did not. He offered to draft a version of the resolution, which was approved Thursday.

"I think it just encourages good compliance and sets as standard that Wilmington is doing everything it can so that COVID-19 doesn't haunt us any more than it has to," he said Tuesday. "I mean we've had deaths in this area and I don't want to see any more. And unfortunately because we are a tourist town, we have many people coming in here who don't understand what the rules are for the state of Vermont and I want to support the businesses."

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Lisa Sullivan, owner of Bartleby's Books, encouraged the board to put the order into effect for the weekend. Board members agreed to hold a special meeting.

On Tuesday, the board learned that recreation areas at Harriman Reservoir will be open but picnic tables and chemical toilets will not be available.

"We're giving it a try," said Matt Cole, community relations for Great River Hydro, which owns the reservoir.

His group does not anticipate the same crowds typically seen on Memorial Day weekend. Cole said the Windham County Sheriff's Office is instructed to break up picnics. Tables will be removed or roped off.

Cole said the company that takes care of the bathroom facilities does not have enough staff to keep up with state guidance calling for cleaning three times a day. He expected signs about restrictions to be in place by Friday.

Town Manager Scott Tucker said Green Mountain Beach on Lake Raponda was barricaded off with signs. While the town-owned beach could open, he noted it would be difficult to practice physical distancing the state recommends. Fishing along the lake is allowed.

Town officials anticipate the greeter program at Lake Raponda will resume. A greeter is stationed at the boat launch, checking watercraft for invasive species.

Several events in Wilmington were cancelled this year including the Memorial Day Parade, Old Home Week and the Deerfield Valley Farmers' Day Fair. Memorial Hall, a venue for performances and other gatherings, is closed for now.

The board unanimously approved a $5,257 contribution to the Wilmington Trails Committee for annual maintenance of the trails. The funding will come from 1 percent local option tax revenue, money specifically earmarked for economic and community development.

Fitzgerald said if there is anything people will visit this year, it will be the trails.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com and at @CMaysBR on Twitter.


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