Town Council declares State of Emergency in Southbridge

Jovan pledges Town to ‘provide safety, security, and services’ during pandemic

📷 Screenshot courtesy of Southbridge Community Television livestream of March 20, 2020 special Town Council meeting.

SOUTHBRIDGE — Hours after the Board of Health declared a public health emergency, the Town Council has declared a local State of Emergency on Friday evening.

Town Council Chairman Jack Jovan said the declaration would better position the town to receive reimbursements from federal and state agencies while also providing greater flexibility for the Town in a variety of ways.

“I think it’s evident that a state of emergency is warranted,” Jovan said, noting a number of area communities have already done so, including Charlton, Dudley, and Oxford.

Town Councilor Mike Marketti, participating remotely by phone, was the lone dissenting vote on the declaration, which passed 7-1. Marketti explained his opposition to the measure was centered around the possibility of expenditures not being approved of by the Town Council.

“I’m not interested in giving anybody a blank check,” reasoned Marketti, noting he does support the enactment of a state of emergency for the purposes of receiving and accepting funds.

Jovan endeavored to assuade those concerns by assuring the only expenses authorized would be for emergency purposes in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I don’t think we’re giving a blank check to anyone to say go spend whatever you want, this is for the emergency for COVID-19,” Jovan affirmed. “Anything would be just relative to the COVID-19 response.”

The decision came about four hours after an emergency Board of Health meeting in which a public health emergency was declared by a 2-1 vote of that panel. Health Director Andrew Pelletier said during Friday afternoon’s Board of Health meeting that there are three confirmed COVID-19 cases, two suspect cases, and “upwards of 15 people that are under investigation” at Harrington Hospital.

Following the Town Council’s vote, Jovan addressed the general public with assurances of continuity of local government and a call for unity and adherence to coronavirus precautions and guidelines.

“The Southbridge Town Government will continue to operate. We will provide safety, security, and services to the town of Southbridge. Please understand we are in a time of uncertainty … but town government is going on, services are being provided, and if we work together we will all get through this,” Jovan said. “Please follow all the guidance that has been provided by the President of the United States, by the Governor of Massachusetts, by our Department of Public Health. We will get through this and we’ll be fine.”


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