Protections Bring Public Meeting Changes, Library Closure, Senior Relief, Event Postponements

Haverhill City Council. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Program Advisory: Haverhill Public Schools Director of Health and Nursing Services Katie Vozeolas appears live on 97.9 WHAV FM after the 8 a.m. Local News, Tuesday. For all cancellations and updates, see COVID-19.

The state’s ban on gatherings of 25 or more people is bringing changes to how municipal meetings take place, more building closures and continuing event cancellations.

Such measures—many of which were underway even before Gov. Charlie Baker’s executive order Sunday, have brought a mixture of relief and criticism. Speaking live over WHAV Monday, Haverhill state Rep. Andy X. Vargas provided his perspective.

“Some people may think they’re overreactions, but from what we have learned from Italy and from China and from other places in the world where this has happened already, the advice that we’ve gotten is that if it doesn’t seem like you’re overreacting, then you’re not doing enough,” he said.

Latest Massachusetts Department of Public Health figures now indicate eight confirmed coronavirus disease cases in Essex County and 197 total statewide. Officials say almost 1,300 Bay State residents have been tested with 189 preliminarily testing positive. The numbers do not include eight earlier positive test results from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Rockingham County, N.H., there have been 10 cases reported—the most of any county in the state. Granite State officials say there are 17 total COVID-19 cases.

In Haverhill, besides being unable to partake of inside dining and drinking at restaurants and bars, residents are also being asked to observe city government meetings at a distance. When the Haverhill City Council meets at 7 p.m., Tuesday, the Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. City Council Chambers will be open to officials only.

City Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua is expected to ask his colleagues to postpone all public hearings—particularly the planned debate on changing zoning ordinances—until after the ban of public gatherings end. Although not listed specifically on the meeting agenda, the councilor told WHAV he is also seeking to allow citizens in need to delay paying water and sewer fees and taxes if they have no income.

Bevilacqua also wants to expand programs for feeding Haverhill’s school children to senior citizens.  He explained, not every senior is eligible for Meals on Wheels, should avoid the risk of standing in lines at supermarkets and be spared empty retail shelves.

“At least in my lifetime, we haven’t gone through this,” he explained.

The City Council meeting will be broadcast live by 97.9 WHAV FM, HC Media Comcast Channel 22 and a Facebook livestream. Procedures for obtaining public feedback are still being worked out.

Other city meetings this week have been cancelled outright. These include the Diversity Committee of the School Committee, Hillview Montessori Board of Trustees and Merrimack Valley Planning Commission. Still scheduled as of Monday night are the Haverhill Appeals Board, 7 p.m., Wednesday, in City Council Chambers, City Hall, and Haverhill Public Library Board of Trustees, scheduled for 8:30 a.m., Thursday, at the library.

Speaking of the library, it closed Monday for the duration. Library Director Sarah Moser said, “During this time, we will closely monitor the developing public health situation and make decisions about when to resume all activities.” Moser said staff will be in the building, responding by telephone, email and social media. Visit for more information.

Likewise, the Friends Shop at the library is closed.

Whittier Birthplace, 305 Whittier Road, said it is delaying its planned April opening.

The April 3 Haverhill River Bards poetry night with featured poet Zara Raab has been canceled.

Asperger Works is postponing its annual “Dinner of Hope,” originally planned for Saturday, April 18.

Haverhill Special Education Parent Advisory Council’s planned Resource Fair has been postponed until fall.

Groveland’s Langley Adams Library has canceled or postponed all programs. Residents are also asked to conduct town business remotely, if possible. Visitors who must come to Groveland Town Hall or the library are also asked to adhere to social distancing policy.

Georgetown Town Hall, Georgetown Peabody Library and Council on Aging offices are closed to the public until at least Monday, April 6.

West Newbury town buildings are open to employees, but closed to the public. Officials said materials such as tax receipts, nomination papers, planning board materials, dog license applications, building permits and fees, etc. may be left in the box in the entrance lobby of Town Hall.

North Andover has closed Stevens Memorial Library, Senior Center and Youth Center until April 6.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini and Haverhill Board of Health Chairman Romie N. Mundy provide a recap of the local situation and take calls when they appear live over both WHAV and HC Media Channel 22, Thursday night, at 7 p.m. Frank Novak hosts the discussion on his “Point of Reference” program.

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