STONEHAM - Town Administrator Dennis Sheehan last week ordered Town Hall operations to wind down to a skeleton-staff in light of the state's emergency order shutting down all non-essential businesses.

Last Monday afternoon, hours after Governor Charles Baker issued the emergency directive to combat the spread of COVID-19, Sheehan confirmed Town Hall's on-premises workforce would be reduced in force. However, municipal employees — who had notably resisted earlier calls to work from home — have all agreed to answer telephone inquires from the general public between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Monday through Thursday.

"Effective immediately, Town Hall departments will reduce staffing, with employees working remotely to perform essential functions," the town administrator explained in a prepared statement. "Those who need to conduct essential business with the town are asked to email or leave an email with the appropriate department, who will then attempt to make a suitable accommodation to meet."

The newest directive does not effect most operations involving Stoneham's first-responders, including front-line patrolman, firefighters, EMTs, and DPW workers. However, business functions within those departments, including activities related to the issuance of firearms licensing, smoke and carbon monoxide detector certificates, and issuance of soliciting permits will be suspended.

Those seeking firearm FID and license-to-carry license are assured personnel will take actions to ensure renewals are in-place before current approvals are expired. Responsibility for equipping soon-to-be sold homes with fire safety equipment will also temporarily shift from sellers to new homebuyers.

Addressing the Select Board on Tuesday night, Sheehan assured the elected officials that Stoneham's top managers continue to speak regularly to coordinate their response to the COVID-19 emergency.

"We're locating some department heads to the Senior Center and have set up an operation to work on ways to provide resources to residents in extreme isolation and relative to their risk factor," said Sheehan.

The town administrator also heaped high praise on Stoneham's municipal workforce, as employees came together in remarkable ways to safeguard the public and make sure the town's most vulnerable residents were receiving needed assistance. "The willingness of each department to take on new tasks in a very fluid situation has been quite remarkable."

According to Select Board George Seibold, who earlier this week visited Town Hall and was able to witness an emergency meeting, he's never felt more proud of Stoneham.

Every one of Seibold's counterparts later agreed with that sentiment.

"It was so refreshing to see their determination to let residents know they're going to do whatever they can for this community. I'm must so impressed with their professionalism and comfortable knowing these people have our backs," said Seibold.

"That doesn't surprise me, because every time the chips are down in Stoneham, there's a whole lot of unity," senior Select Board member Caroline Colarusso later remarked. "People really appreciatee all the information. They're compliant [with our calls for social distancing] and looking out for their neighbors. I makes me really proud to be part of this town."

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