Cape reopens town hall, library for walk-in service
Authorities reopened Cape Elizabeth Town Hall and the Thomas Memorial Library for regular walk-in service on Tuesday, marking the latest pandemic-related restrictions to be lifted in the city.
“It was good to take that step for sure,” said general manager Matthew Sturgis.
City hall closed in March 2020, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the state, Sturgis said. Since then, residents have been doing business by phone or online and could go to town hall by appointment. Walk-in service has remained suspended so far, in part because the size of the building made social distancing difficult.
With the easing of restrictions statewide and current data from the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating that more than 89% of residents have been vaccinated, officials were able to reopen City Hall, a Sturgis said. Residents are still urged to maintain social distancing inside the building where possible, but masks are no longer needed, he said.
Thomas Memorial Library Director Rachel Davis said the library also opened to walk-in traffic on June 1.
“It was really fun seeing people,” she said.
The library, she said, only requires masks in the children’s room. Social distancing is recommended, but “We’re not social distancing cops or anything.”
During the pandemic, Davis said, the library engaged in new online initiatives and programs. While the library typically offers fewer programs during the summer, Davis said the online gatherings and presentations have been so successful that she believes many will continue despite the library now fully open.
“We will continue for now,” she said.
As the city reopens, the impact of the pandemic on local businesses is difficult to quantify. Quincy Hentzel, CEO of the Greater Portland Chamber of Commerce, which covers Cape Elizabeth, said it’s hard to say for sure how many businesses have been able to shut down across the region.
“It was tough for just about everyone,” she said.
Restaurants have been the common victims of the pandemic restrictions, and Hentzel said she personally knew three in Cape Elizabeth that have closed in the past 18 months. But even in those cases, she said, it’s hard to know exactly what was to blame.
“These types of businesses, I think, have been hit the hardest,” she said.
As for the future, Sturgis is optimistic that tourism-related business will be better than last year. For the record, he said he knew of a hotel that received a lot of bookings, and noted that parking receipts last week at Fort Williams Park were up 40% from the previous week. He said he believes this trend will continue.
“We are looking forward to a great summer,” said Sturgis.
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