Vergennes farmers market, youth club canceled for summer

VERGENNES — Two fixtures on the Vergennes-area scene will not be open for this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
At Wednesday morning’s weekly COVID-19 cooperative gathering of Vergennes-area municipal and nonprofit leaders, officials said both the Vergennes Farmers Market and the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Vergennes would not conduct business as usual this summer. 
However, Vergennes Mayor and youth club board chairman Jeff Fritz said the Boys + Girls club was working on online offerings for its members after the board decided it was too risky to welcome them into the organization’s Armory Lane headquarters.
“We will be doing some virtual programming,” Fritz told the 16 attendees of the online gathering. 
Vergennes Partnership Executive Director Julie Basol said she learned on Tuesday night that farmers’ market organizer Christopher Reck had decided to pull the plug on the weekly event on the city’s downtown green.
“Chris said the liability was too great,” Basol said.

A meeting coordinated by Vergennes City Manager Dan Hofman also focused on the practical and legal issues of taking the temperature of municipal employees and visitors to municipal buildings.
According to officials, the CDC has recommended not allowing employees to work or visitors to enter buildings if their temperatures are 101.4 degrees or higher.
Questions arose of liability for those taking the temperatures if it were done improperly, and whether doing so could be a violation of workers and visitors’ medical privacy rights, especially if the information was recorded.
Hofman said he was going to go ahead and order a thermometer, but noted city employees who would be responsible for using it were not medically trained.
“What if I do it wrong and my whole organization gets sick?” he said. 
Panton Selectboard Chairman Howard Hall suggested that “best practice” might be to require employees to take their own temperature and sign waivers, and then maintain social distancing while on the job, thus protecting towns from liability. 
Vergennes Fire Chief Jim Breur said his policy was not to take temperatures of his volunteers and in the case readings of 101.4 or higher, “just send them home.”
“As soon as you write it down it becomes a HIPAA violation,” Breur said.
Hofman said with more workers returning and more visitors expected at town offices the issue would continue to crop up. Ferrisburgh Town Clerk Pam Cousino said that with a plexiglass window guard soon to be installed, residents could soon enter the outer room there as well.
“We’re still doing by appointment only, but we’re trending toward more people in city hall,” Hofman said.
Rep Matt Birong, D-Vergennes, said lawmakers in Montpelier had yet to come up with any easy answers.
“This is a tricky one,” Birong said.
At the meeting, local officials also:
• Welcomed new Bixby Library Director Catherine Hays, who asked how town offices were dealing with visitors who needed to handle record books. Cousino said Ferrisburgh is relying on the honor system to not allow ill visitors and insisting on hand washing before books are handled.
Bixby PR and Organizational Director Maddy Willwerth said allowing time to do the job is the best way to clean books, although guidelines are unclear. She also advised residents to be careful when making use of local “chair libraries.”
• Heard from city public works head Jim Larrow and Willwerth that sanitary wipes are hard to come by, and prices are unreasonable. Waltham Selectman Tim Ryan recommended mixing one-third of a cup of bleach with a gallon of water in a pinch. In general, officials said their supplies of personal protective equipment were holding up. 
• Heard from Fritz that Friday’s city “Clang and Bang” parade would be dedicated to first responders and include surprises, and that Monday’s would be the city’s 50th such event. Ferrisburgh Selectboard Chairwoman Jessica James reported that a similar parade this past Monday in West Ferrisburgh was well received. 

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