Hadley Select Board creates new vaccine policy 

  • Hadley Select Board Chairman David J. Fill II GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Hadley Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/13/2021 4:41:19 PM

HADLEY — Worry that residents and employees who don’t get a COVID-19 vaccine, or other similar vaccinations, will not be allowed inside municipal buildings or onto town-owned spaces prompted the Select Board to create a policy to safeguard public access.

In a 4-1 vote Wednesday, with board member Jane Nevinsmith dissenting, the new vaccine policy states that “the public shall not be denied access to town buildings, facilities, property, or events based upon vaccine status unless otherwise required by law.”

“You make your own personal health decisions, good or bad,” said Chairman David J. Fill II, who wrote the six-section policy. “If you make the wrong decisions, you suffer the consequences.”

Fill said he drafted the policy, which had not previously been on a board agenda, after town employees expressed concerns that they might have to present COVID-19 vaccine cards to use town buildings.

But the new policy had an immediate effect on the operations of the Hadley Senior Center, which since reopening in late winter has required vaccine verification from individuals to access many of the services in the building.

Senior Services Director Hayley Wood announced Thursday that her staff has decided that starting in June, all movement classes will be held outside, weather permitting, and that mask wearing will continue to be a requirement.

The current low-maximum number of participants will be maintained, Wood said, with card playing groups to be outdoors only, and billiards to be suspended. Programs taking place in the classroom or creativity room will continue with numbers low enough to ensure social distancing.

“We will also continue to help Hadley seniors register for vaccines, as we’ve been doing since they opened to older adults in February, and arrange transportation if needed,” Wood said.

Dr. Susan Mosler, chairwoman of the Board of Health, said the policy, which she was seeing for the first time, seemed too broad and possibly “political,” rather than focused on public health. She said her board didn’t have an opportunity to offer any input into the policy.

“It sounded like an anti-vaccine policy. It seemed really general,” Mosler said.

The policy calls getting any vaccine “a personal choice.” It states that public use of town property, and the ability to serve on public boards or in town employment, should not be contingent on which shots a person has gotten.

Fill said if the state government at some point requires COVID-19 vaccines or flu shots, similar to how children need various vaccinations to go to school, the policy accommodates that. Otherwise, though, the Select Board will set hiring and building access policies.

The town could face legal risks if it made being vaccinated a requirement for use of public-funded services, said Human Resources Director Edward O’Connor.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Wood joined Nevinsmith in speaking against the policy, observing that in February the Select Board approved a reopening plan that included making fitness classes, exercise equipment and other recreational activities available if residents could prove that they were two weeks beyond the final dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

“All of our activities and all of our programming decisions have been based on that decision,” Wood said.

Select Board member Amy Parsons said the new policy puts the choice of whether one is comfortable dropping in at the senior center in the hands of those who use the building.

“If we allow this to continue, we are taking away people’s right to choose, and we’re taking away a service,” Parsons said. “If they are afraid and they don’t want to go, that is their choice to go or not to go.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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