The cities of Biddeford and Saco are closing government facilities to the public, emphasizing services available online or by telephone and are canceling most public meetings in view of the public health threat posed by COVID-19.

In Old Orchard Beach, the Town Hall and public works building on Smithwheel Road was to close Monday March 16 and Tuesday March 17 so staff could put procedures in place that will allow them to continue public services.

School buildings are closed in all three communities for two weeks.

As well, York County government is changing the way it handles some services at the District Attorney’s Office, the registries of deeds and probate and York County Jail.

Biddeford city councilors adopted an emergency declaration order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday evening. City officials said the preventative measures were adopted in light of the need to practice social distancing to lessen community spread of the virus.

The emergency declaration cancels all Biddeford municipal public meetings and all scheduled Recreation Department programming until further notice. Full refunds or account credits will be given for any recreation program or trip that is canceled.

As well, Biddeford city buildings and facilities will be closed to the public, including City Hall, the Fire and Police Departments, the Public Works building and Recycling Center, the Public Access Building, the Wastewater Treatment Plant, and the Community Center and related programs.

“We want to thank our residents in advance for their understanding and cooperation as we work to make difficult decisions during this time,” Mayor Alan Casavant said. “This is an unprecedented situation in Biddeford and we are taking the threat of this virus very seriously in order to protect our most vulnerable community members.”

Biddeford residents are encouraged to access the city’s online services for city business normally done at City Hall. A list of online services is at: www.biddefordmaine.org/publichealth. Residents may also call the city’s service hotline at 284-9020 during business hours to speak to a staff member for assistance with business that cannot be completed online.

Biddeford staff and elected officials will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in Maine and share additional updates on the city’s website as they are announced. For more information, visit: www.biddefordmaine.org/publichealth.

In Saco, all municipal facilities except for the Saco Transportation Center will be closed to the public effective now through April 1. Police, Fire, and emergency services will remain fully operational, according to Saco Mayor William Doyle, who spoke about the situation at Monday’s City Council meeting.

“All public meetings, except for City Council meetings, will be postponed until further notice,” said Doyle. “We encourage community members to practice enhanced social distancing to protect themselves and others from this contagious virus. As such, these meetings will be recorded and streamed live; however, we ask that people do not attend the meetings in person.”

Doyle said City Council meetings will continue to be streamed live on Facebook and added to YouTube the following day. He said those wishing to submit public comment, should email City Administrator Bryan Kaenrath at: [email protected]

Doyle noted that residents can pay city bills, re-register vehicles, and report a problem using the city website, or residents can send an email to the department they wish to contact or call 282-1032 to reach city staff.

The Transfer Station hours and trash collection will continue as scheduled, Doyle said.

A notice on the Old Orchard Beach website dated March 15 noted the Recreation Department office is closed to the public and all recreation department programs, including Gull-Care, are canceled until further notice. Access to the police, fire and wastewater treatment plans by the public remained unchanged as of March 15.

At York County government, several practices were instituted following a declaration of a civil emergency on Monday afternoon.

• At the York County District Attorney’s office, all currently scheduled criminal matters, except for in-custody arraignments and defendants’ motions to amend bail, are postponed by order of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and will be rescheduled after May 1. Access to the District Attorney’s Office is limited.

• At York County Registry of Deeds, recording will be available, and there will be limited access to public computers at the registry, located at York County Court House in Alfred. The public can conduct some business online by going to: www.yorkcountymaine.gov and clicking on the Registry of Deeds tab under Departments, or by calling 324-1576.

• The York County Probate Court will suspend all non-emergency, in person probate court work for cases scheduled through April 15 according to Judge Scott M. Houde. He said some of the cases will be able to be conducted by telephone, but most will likely be postponed. He said the court will attempt to act on emergency matters. Electronic filing will continue. Those with questions may call the court at 324-1577.

• The York County Sheriff’s Office is letting all county law enforcement agencies know that when they bring an arrestee  to York County Jail, the jail medical provider will be asking additional screening questions before deciding whether to accept the prisoner or require agencies to seek additional medical evaluation.

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