METHUEN — The simple things in life are no longer so simple.
Just ask Methuen Acting Public Works Director Daryl Laurenza, who realized as the coronavirus spread that the city needed Purell. And lots of it.
Because of coronavirus and the extremely high demand for cleaning liquids and hand sanitizers, most of his regular suppliers were out.
Then he heard from another vendor the city does business with: Conlon Products Inc.
They told him they had a pallet of Purell coming in next week.
"Companies we do business with on a weekly basis, and who we have contracts with, they will call us and say, 'Hey, next Tuesday, we'll have a pallet coming in.' So we have an order for 15 gallons of hand sanitizer. They say it's on track for Tuesday."
Welcome to the new normal.
The new coronavirus, commonly known as COVID-19, is transmitted via airborne droplets and can be transferred from one human to the next with a simple handshake or other bodily contact.
While the DPW has pretty much stopped all contact with residents, they still need to work filling potholes, taking care of downed trees, and making sure the water system is running smoothly, among other major duties. That means sanitizing workers and equipment constantly.
At last week's City Council meeting, Laurenza, through Mayor Neil Perry, was seeking approval to spend $15,000 for cleaning supplies, including Purell, Clorox disinfectant wipes and spray, foam lotion hand soap, rubber gloves, masks and eye goggles, among other materials.
While these items have been in short supply for consumers in places like Market Basket and CVS, it is even more difficult for city agencies to find them because they need to be bought in bulk.
The council approved a transfer of $15,000 from a personnel line item that had $95,000 left in it because the city hasn't hired a highway superintendent, according to a letter from Perry to the council seeking authorization for the transfer.
"The city is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic and actively doing what we can to protect city employees and residents," Perry said in the letter. "This has created an unanticipated, high volume demand for supplies, such as cleaning materials, masks, gloves, etc. The city continues to take preventative measures; however, the volume of supplies needed for these measures are extensive, and supplies are very low."
The council unanimously approved the request to transfer the $15,000.
In addition to spending $4,982 for Purell and other cleaning materials from Conlon Products, the city also ordered $1,052 worth of cleaning supplies from State Chemical Solutions, $2,555 in disinfection spray from NextGen Supply, $625 worth of rubber gloves, masks and eye goggles from Wise Safety Corp., and $255 worth of first aid supplies from Crestwood Supplies.
Laurenza said in an interview with The Eagle-Tribune that he had to go to so many different vendors because "not everybody has everything," like in the days before the crisis.
"Some vendors have certain things and some vendors have other things," he said. "I'm calling everybody,."
He said his crews need to continue working but also are trying to do it safely.
"Everything is still going on," he said, noting that he's been in daily contact with the city's trash and recycling contractor to make sure that they are still on schedule to pick up rubbish weekly.
"As of right now, everything is right on track," he said, adding that the tonnage of materials being collected curbside "has gone up."
"We noticed a lot of people are home ... there's a lot of spring cleaning going on," he said.
Water consumption is also going up, as kids are home from school, and more people at home means more water gets used.
Laurenza said he anticipates he will be back before the council again soon.
"We may have to ask again," he said. "We are tracking all the spending and the mayor has been asking for projections going forward. The mayor's right on top of things. We are working as a team."