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Dalton Board of Health Urges Town Hall Reopening
By Joe Durwin, iBerkshires Staff
01:30AM / Tuesday, April 06, 2021
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DALTON, Mass. — The Board of Health on Monday further endorsed a reopening of Town Hall that had originally been slated for that morning, but was delayed due to lingering concerns.
Health Agent Jayne Smith told the board that despite announced plans to reopen Dalton's municipal hub for walk-in business on April 5, there had been "a lot of anxiety" about it from employees in the building, in part because recent local news about the UK variant COVID-19. 
Smith said Dalton's current numbers "aren't alarming," but looked to board members for additional county perspective.
"I don't think there's been enough of a change in the prevalence to justify delaying the reopening of Town Hall," said Chair Dr. Daniel Doyle. "All Town Hall employees should be vaccinated by now, and if they're not, that's by their own decision and not lack of access."
"Pittsfield continues to drive the prevalence in the county," he observed, noting new cases continue to be largely among younger residents, something attributed to both social activity and the county's high rates of vaccination among seniors.
News of the UK variant found in Pittsfield wastewater in late March loomed large among the anxieties expressed by some Town Hall employees, but Smith agreed with Doyle that the government building was safe to reopen.
"When we reopened earlier in the summer, we weren't getting a ton of traffic," Smith pointed out. "Ninety-five percent of the stuff can be done online, but it has taken a toll on people, in some cases."
Smith said imminent town voting was another factor adding to the need to reopen.
After some brief discussion of alternative options, the board conveyed a consensus that Town Hall should resume in-person business as of this week as planned.
As of last week's public health report, Dalton had had 21 new cases in the last two weeks of March, putting it in the "yellow" category, for a total of 252 since the start of the pandemic. The 14-day positive average rate was 2.12 percent, lower than the state.
In other actions, the board endorsed its proposed annual fiscal 2022 budget, which remains level with no increases over FY21.
Members also reviewed proposed revisions to the Health Department fee schedule, which included increases to permitting fees including such enterprises as camp grounds, recreational kids camps, combined retail and food establishments, and temporary food permits (excluding agricultural products by farmers), and Title 5 inspections. The board will continue review of these fee changes, which would go into effect next calendar year, to its next monthly meeting.
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