City hall to limit calls and hours on Tuesdays
“A lot of the stuff we have to do you really can’t do from home, you have to be physically here. And so everything fell behind, the land records and some things related to financial processing and things like that.”
— Interim City Manager Renny Perry
VERGENNES — Facing a coronavirus-related backlog of document recording and financial reporting, Vergennes City Hall workers will not answer the phone before 2 p.m. and will close city offices to the public on Tuesdays until further notice, effective Nov. 30.
City officials will return phone messages after 2 p.m. and help visitors before that hour on every day except Tuesday, according to Interim City Manager Renny Perry, and will respond on Tuesdays “on an emergency basis.”
The Vergennes City Council at its Nov. 24 meeting approved the changes in concept, and Perry, City Clerk Britney Aube and Treasurer Abbie Farrar worked out details on the Wednesday morning following the council meeting.
Perry said with the part-time help of former longtime city clerk Joan Devine and the extra time to catch up he expects the office to return to its normal routine — 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to open and answer the phone — before the end of the year.
“I would imagine it would only take a few weeks,” Perry said. “Joan tells me that once the two of them, she and the city clerk, get on it and are pretty much working on it non-stop, she says they can clear it up pretty quickly.”
In the meantime, Mayor Lynn Donnelly at the council’s Nov. 24 meeting assured residents their calls would be answered.
“We will return all phone calls before anyone goes home at the end of the day,” Donnelly said.
Some of what the city officials are behind on is the recording of mortgage deeds, real estate sales, and other documents that are important for the successful completion of other real estate transactions, including new sales and home refinances, they noted.
Title insurance companies, attorneys, lenders and real estate appraisers often require access to such materials.
The issue is far from unique to Vergennes during the COVID-19 era. In the city, Perry told the council on Nov. 24, city hall workers recently had to prioritize preparing financial records for the annual audit rather than real estate recording.
They were unable to focus on a backlog that dated to back to the early stages of the pandemic, Perry said, when most city officials had to work remotely.
“A lot of the stuff we have to do you really can’t do from home, you have to be physically here. And so everything fell behind, the land records and some things related to financial processing and things like that,” he said. “And we haven’t been able to catch up because it’s been relatively busy, and we just haven’t been able to get to it.”
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