By Mark Schwager
The views expressed below are my own and are not an official communication from the Town Council or Town of East Greenwich.
The Covid 19 pandemic has brought rapid changes and challenges in the ways we live and work in East Greenwich. Since March 16th, the state of Rhode Island and the town of East Greenwich have been under a state of emergency due to the health threat from the coronavirus pandemic. We all need to participate in the restrictions on our activities to minimize the impact of the Covid-19 on our families and businesses. At the same time it is critical that we continue to operate local government during this national health crisis so we can deliver important community services to our residents.
Under this state of emergency, the governor and the attorney general’s office have modified the Open Meetings Act. Cities and towns can now hold their meetings online. But whether our meetings are in person or online, the key elements are the same: The town is continuing to provide important services to our residents, and our community is invited to participate in their town government.
This past Monday, the Town Council held its first virtual meeting in the 353 year history of East Greenwich. Our virtual meeting offered a townwide, community conversation on the impact of the coronavirus and the governor’s emergency executive orders on our town. The online forum included information from Town Manager, Andrew Nota, and his staff, and offered an opportunity for questions and comments by the public. After this public forum, the town also conducted its usual business, awarding bids for equipment, services and employee health insurance. With many residents mostly confined to their homes, the online format for Council meetings provides new ways for our community to view town government, give their input, stay informed and stay connected. Please login for the next meeting, on April 13. Instructions to access the meeting are available on the town website, eastgreenwichri.com.
I want to extend a special thank you to our Town Manager Andrew Nota, IT director Wendy Schmidle , and Town Clerk Leigh Carney for the time, effort and energy expended to make our virtual meeting possible. Thank you also to the first responders in our police and fire departments and to all the town employees who are pulling together to support our community in any way they can, until we can get back to our normal lives. And I also wanted to commend our teachers, school administrators, School committee and students who stepped up to the enormous challenge of successfully implementing a distance learning program in just one week. I am very grateful and lucky that when my family looked for a place to call home in Rhode Island, we found East Greenwich.
Mark Schwager is president of the East Greenwich Town Council.