TEWKSBURY — Last week, the chairpersons of several Tewksbury boards came together virtually to discuss the business reopening plan for the town. Selectboard Chair Jay Kelly, Economic Development Committee Chair Mark Kratman, Planning Board Chair Steven Johnson, and Board of Health Chair Ray Barry joined Assistant Town Manager Steve Sadwick for the discussion.
Governor Charlie Baker recently unveiled his four-phase plan for reopening businesses which will unfold over the summer; depending on the number of cases and public health guidance, the governor has said that the state may be forced to move back to Phase 1 at any point.
Sadwick explained that the state website has information specific to each industry and sector available at this link: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/reopening-when-can-my-business-reopen.
Businesses can find the state’s guidelines for reopening as well as the safest best practices. Businesses will need to meet the state’s requirements before reopening, and will find necessary resources on the state website that must be downloaded and printed for the workplace.
Businesses must complete a COVID-19 control plan template that satisfies the written control plan requirement for self-certification; a compliance attestation poster for customer facing businesses that owners must print, sign, and post in an area on the premises that is visible to workers and visitors; and employee and worker posters that can be displayed within business premises that describe rules for maintaining social distancing, hygiene protocols, and cleaning and disinfecting.
Sadwick explained that businesses should move to complete all these steps before proceeding with reopening, and should keep documents on file (documents do not need to be submitted to the town).
The program is self-certifying, so businesses will be responsible for following guidelines to maximize the safety of their customers and employees. The town is not a certifying body, but Sadwick said that any business in need of guidance is welcome to call Town Hall for support. If complaints are received, the town will investigate through the health department.
Additionally, complaints may be filed with the state Department of Labor and Standards. In both cases, the enforcing agent will need to see the business’s control plan and will seek evidence on how compliance with guidelines is being achieved.
“This is going to be an educational process,” he said. “If there’s issues, we will come out and take a look to offer assistance... Primarily, the responsibility will be on the businesses.”
Sadwick explained further that the town has established an expedited system to review concepts for change of service delivery. If businesses are looking to change how they service customers, they should contact Sadwick; for example, a cafe or restaurant may want to establish outdoor seating or other types of “creative means” to serve customers.
Sadwick said that while the town is waiting for further state guidance, he is exploring options to forgo certain parking requirements while restaurants are operated at less-than-full capacity — this could allow businesses to set up outdoor seating in unused parking space.
However, there are concerns over liquor license constraints and public safety; Sadwick mentioned that there is a bill in the state Senate seeking to allow towns to make alterations to liquor licenses without having to go through the state alcohol control board.
Guidance on training staff will be forthcoming from the state.
Each phase is planned to last a minimum of three weeks, and the state is continually providing more information.
“The state’s actively rewriting the rules and guidelines, we’re all learning together,” said Kelly, asking businesses to send in their ideas for creative service to Sadwick.
“Don’t wait on your creative plans if you have them!”
Health director Susan Sawyer mentioned that the health department is compiling lists of businesses who would like to receive up-to-date guidance from the town and state on reopening, and encouraged any business owner who would like to get on the list to reach out to her.
“If you have a plan, come to us,” said Kratman. “We’re willing to work with you... as long as it meets our guidelines, we’re going to be willing to listen to what any business needs.”
Sadwick may be reached by email at email@example.com and by phone at 978-640-4300.