PORTLAND, Maine — The Portland City Council voted Monday to close several streets to help shops and restaurants reopen while still practicing social distancing guidelines amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The City had presented its plan to the Council’s Economic Development Committee on Thursday, where it was also approved.
In conjunction with Gov. Janet Mills’ plan to reopen the Maine economy, the City proposed the plan that would accommodate outdoor dining and retail sales, as well as the expansion of existing outdoor dining spaces onto public and private property. The plan calls for temporary sidewalks, parking lots, plazas, and parklets closures so restaurant seating and retail sales could safely take place. Physical distancing requirements and CDC safety guidelines would still need to be met.
The street closures will take effect on June 1, when the state allows restaurants to reopen for the first time in more than two months.
The plan that passed Monday night will close Dana, Exchange, Milk, and Wharf streets to traffic 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The vote allows the list of street closures to change or grow in the coming weeks.
Portland Mayor Kate Snyder and City Manager Jon Jennings issued a letter to citizens and businesses Monday recapping the City's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and outlining its reopening plans.
Read the full letter here:
The City also says the hosts of the Memorial Day Parade have decided to cancel this year, but representatives from local veterans and friends groups continue to assist the cemetery staff with the placement of flags at veterans graves.
In the letter, Snyder and Jennings outline the City's reopening plans, which includes planning logistics to allow summer camps, opening City Hall to staff, and a timeline for reopening basketball, volleyball, tennis, and pickleball courts.
Portland's reopening timeline is as follows:
Immediate, following all CDC guidelines
- Phased increase of workforce at City Hall with existing staff as appropriate to continue critical operations and prepare for our phased reopening. City Hall and City buildings will remain closed to the public until June 22 (date subject to change).
- Summer Camp Our Recreation Department is planning the logistics and possibility of holding summer camps this year, albeit in a much different format. The current thought is that the department would host camps in July and August utilizing up to five different sites. Each site would have a cap of 45 children in order to allow for greater social distancing and adhere to State guidelines of gatherings of less than 50 people. The Rec Department is waiting for the State to issue their summer camp checklist, and then they will announce final details.
- Property tax payments have been delayed until June 1. Revaluation notices, scheduled for May, have also been delayed. The City will announce a new date as soon as there is more information. The Portland Senior Tax Equity Program (P-STEP) is still available and accepting applications through June 15, 2020.
- Tennis and pickleball courts reopened on May 15 with proper precautions.
- The Portland Rowing Club moved singles and doubles to East End Beach for club use on May 15.
June 1 (tentative and following CDC guidelines)
- City Hall will open to staff only. Staff will be required to wear masks while traveling through the building. Plexiglass barriers have been installed in our Treasury Office to protect staff and the public. Staff will also return to other City buildings. At this time, we expect to reopen to the public on June 22.
- Basketball and volleyball courts will reopen.
- Street closures and expanded outdoor dining and retail begins.
July and August (tentative and following CDC guidelines)
- Athletic fields and playgrounds reopen on July 1.
- Summer day camp starts July 6
- State primary election and school budget validation referendum on July 14
"This is a fluid and rapidly evolving situation that requires close monitoring and the need to adapt quickly," the letter says. "We will continue to modify all directives as appropriate and provide additional updates."
"Please continue to check on your neighbors, especially seniors, and help each other out if and when possible. Let’s remain strong to keep each other healthy and protect our first responders and healthcare providers. We will get through this together."
At NEWS CENTER Maine, we're focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.newscentermaine.com/coronavirus