ANDOVER — Masks are now required at the Robb Center and Memorial Hall Library in Andover, with more public buildings to follow.
The Select Board approved the mandate in a 5-0 vote that also solidified the mask mandate that was already in place at the Cormier Youth Center. The three most used buildings in town that have programs most days are the first to require masks, but Town Manager Andrew Flanagan is following up next week with a plan to reinstate the town-wide mask mandate in other public buildings.
Board members and town officials said they received lots of comments asking that a mask mandate be in place in public buildings where vulnerable populations tend to gather.
People on both sides of the issue voiced opinions through email and public comment, but the board ultimately decided at a remote meeting Monday to go forward with mask mandates. For employees who work alone at their desks for the most part there will be more intricate rules, Flanagan said, explaining previously masks were only required for those employees when in close contact with others.
The board also decided to have its next meeting remotely because of potential health concerns.
“I feel that it’s a condition waiting to happen for our own safety and that of the public that we aught to consider requiring masking at a minimum or going to virtual meetings,” said member Dick Howe.
However, Vice Chair Alex Vispoli pushed back to having all meetings held virtually.
“We lose something when we are apart,” he said.
Chair Chris Huntress said the board should take it meeting-by-meeting.
Board members also discussed recent questions about their following of open meeting laws, including two complaints lodged for meetings held in August.
Both residents — Mike Meyers and Kathy Grant — filed complaints with the state alleging town officials broke the law by not answering their questions or taking up the topics they asked to be put on the agenda.
The board instructed Town Council Tom Urbelis to respond to the complaints.
“In my view, there is no violation of the open meeting law in either complaint,” Urbelis said. He explained the state’s open meeting law says that residents must be able to attend and see how the board comes to its decisions, but the board is not required to acknowledge such specific requests.
Urbelis also gave an update on the town’s two investigations into Andover Youth Services — one for claims made of a “toxic work environment” and another for the staff potentially accepting illegal payments. The four full-time staff members were asked to participate in interviews for both of those investigations in their remaining days as employees because all resigned collectively on Sept. 2.
One employee said he could not participate in the interviews because of health issues, Urbelis said.
The other three participated in the investigation into their work environment, while they did not appear for interviews for the investigation into the payments, he said.
However, the investigations are continuing, he said.
At the same time the town has hired a temporary transition leader and seven temporary program coordinators to lead AYS.
The temporary transition leader is Patricia Carey, who recently retired from a three-decade career where she was most recently the Director of Parks and Recreation for the town of Needham.
Programs at the center have been steadily picking up since the town reopened its doors on Sept. 7, said Jemma Lambert, the director of community services. The center had 9 middle schoolers attend on the first day of school and by Monday there were 61, she said.