Providence City Hall to open Monday; sports facilities and fields open Friday

Providence
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence City Hall and other city buildings will open to the public on Monday, with temperature checks, hand sanitizer and plexiglass in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

City Hall has been closed since March, and residents have been conducting business such as paying taxes or registering to vote online, by mail or over the phone.

The new procedure for the reopening of city buildings includes a rotating schedule for staffers, who will go to the office on either Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday, with cleaning on Wednesdays in between the two cohorts. The plan will keep departments at half capacity to allow for physical distancing.

About 500 city workers have been furloughed either one or two days a week, and will work remotely on the days they are not in the building or on their furlough days.

City Hall and other city buildings will be closed on Wednesdays for cleaning.

Mayor Jorge Elorza urged residents to continue using online services if they don’t need to visit city departments in person.

Monday also marks the first in-person City Council meeting in City Hall since March, where members of the public will be able to testify in person to the Council Finance Committee at 5 p.m. about the budget proposal for the next fiscal year. Those who want to testify must sign up in advance by 3 p.m. Monday and will receive a time slot to enter City Hall.

The hearing was rescheduled from June 9, when an attempt to take testimony over Zoom resulted in racist trolls hijacking the meeting.

While the Council Finance Committee is still deliberating on the spending side of the budget, there is widespread agreement to keep the tax rates the same as the current year, and the Finance Committee is aiming to immediately pass the tax levy (a separate document from the spending plan itself) after Monday’s public hearing, so it can go to the full council for passage by the end of the week and tax bills can be sent out.

Chief Financial Officer Larry Mancini said he anticipates the bills will be printed and ready to send out by June 30, landing in mailboxes by July 3. The Elorza administration is asking the City Council to consider authorizing the city to take out a line of credit in case there are cash flow issues while waiting for residents to pay their taxes.

In addition to reopening city buildings, Elorza announced Thursday the city would open athletic fields, parking lots at parks and sports facilities on Friday with new guidelines on how to use them.

The restrictions include a 15-person limit on gatherings, and organized sports leagues must sign up for a permit in order to use the fields and courts for “no-contact drills and training exercises.”

During Phase 2, games are not allowed except in non-contact sports such as tennis. The rules for sports in Phase 3 have not yet been announced.

City playgrounds, pools and water parks will remain closed.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook

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