Sandown Selectmen Decide To Stay With Current Mask Policy

By John Seidenberg

SANDOWN – Despite divergent views expressed at the last meeting, the Sandown Board of Selectmen will continue the town’s position on wearing masks at present.

The town’s regulation, which is not a formal ordinance, will be considered again when the board next meets May 10. 

Gov. Chris Sununu last month allowed the state’s mask mandate to lapse. But his action did not prevent towns or cities from still requiring masks as Sandown has done.

As of May 7, NH’s other pandemic-related safety measures will be lifted including for restaurants and retail businesses.

At that point Sandown may decide if it wants to move beyond the current policy, members said at their April 26 meeting.

Selectmen Tom Tombarello and Robert Nickerson differed the most in their opinion on masks though each said they understood the other’s views.

“The mask thing really stinks,” Tombarello declared in saying that as someone who had COVID and has now received both vaccine doses perhaps he shouldn’t have to wear a mask any longer.

However, he didn’t feel the mandate should be ended locally yet because of the movement toward lowering case numbers and the remaining mask requirement in Rockingham County.

With some reluctance he still favors continuing to wear masks at the town level. Tombarello noted he recently was at the Tuckaway Tavern and was conscious of being one of the few people there with a mask on.

Nickerson responded he found it absurd to wear a mask in a restaurant while going to a table and then removing it after sitting down as though COVID can’t reach the table.

He pointed to the conventional wisdom that masks don’t help. “It’s a false sense of security that people have become accustomed to,” he said.

Nickerson cited a Stanford University study contending masks don’t work. His view is they should be optional but anyone more comfortable wearing one should be free to do so.

Selectman Darrell Hudgins added the town police are essentially ready to move on while town hall employees are accepting of maintaining precautions for now with the flow of traffic in their workplace.

Some personal contact is unavoidable even with Plexiglas barriers, others thought. 

Once the state’s stay at home requirements end this week, the selectmen can revisit the mask issue when they next meet.

Turning to the topic of goals and objectives for the coming year, the board may look at auctioning of town properties, research on the history of properties and how they were acquired and owned, and compile a list of such properties.

Other related areas are office renovation to save construction costs and capital projects that the Planning Board is working on as part of updating the building infrastructure list.

Any projects under $10,000-$15,000 that arise could be handled as a budgetary issue, said Town Administrator Lynne Blaisdell.

Separately, the board approved a recommendation by assessors to remove an elderly exemption on a property in town – identified only as on Tax Map 27, Lot 82 – for the 2021 tax year.

The reason for the action was land owned elsewhere with the asset limit exceeded, ending eligibility for the exemption.

In addition, members approved an assistant plumbing and gas inspector for Mike Harnett, the current inspector. While not a formal hiring, Dave Field who does inspections in Plaistow and Kingston and is a municipal employee in both towns, will be on call to assist Harnett when needed.

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