Bristol Town Hall is open for business with a Covid makeover

Bristol renovates Town Hall to create safety measures and add modern upgrades

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The Town of Bristol unveiled one aspect of its “new normal” when Town Hall reopened to the public Monday morning. After being closed for nearly two months, the Town Hall was buzzing on Monday, with a full crew of employees back at work, residents wandering in to pay tax bills or visit the clerk’s office, and a team of carpenters still renovating the completely remodeled space.

Town Administrator Steve Contente used the last few weeks of Town Hall’s closure to make major renovations to the interior of the building. The town’s on-call carpenter has been busy installing new walls that separate visitors from staff, with large, glass windows open to the public. On Monday, some of that glass had been installed and more was expected to arrive soon. Workers were also still caulking, painting and finishing the renovations.

For those familiar with Bristol Town Hall, the changes are significant. In the “old” building, a visitor could walk in, scan the room and see a couple dozen employees from a range of departments (town clerk, tax assessor, town treasurer, building inspector) in a wide, open space. Today, they walk in and see counters and walls, with windows for each department, in a tastefully redesigned space.

Mr. Contente said this type of renovation was always on the town’s agenda, but the coronavirus pandemic shot the renovations to the top of the to-do list. “We’re happy to be one of the first Town Halls to be open, to serve the residents of Bristol,” Mr. Contente said. “Town Hall needs to be open for critical services. It sends a strong message that the Town of Bristol is resilient.”

For the past two months, a limited group of employees had been working from the building, but a majority were outfitted with laptops and sent home to work. On Monday, they were back in the building.

In addition to the renovations, there are other health and safety changes. Bright, yellow tape outlines the path of travel for visitors. Obviously every visitor must wear a mask. New slide-through boxes are used to deliver papers between visitors and staff. A custodian is charged with cleaning common spaces like counters and public surfaces hourly. And employees are using a new card key access system to enter the space behind the counters; Mr. Contente said this measure was probably long overdue, and this was a good opportunity to add more security.

Lastly, there are upgrades. The new public meeting space will have a couple of video monitors — making public presentations much more effective, and modern. And the walls have a new array of modern, uplifting Bristol photos, many of them taken by longtime journalist Manuel C. “Manny” Correira.

Mr. Contente is hoping that federal CARES Act stimulus money can be used to pay for the renovations.

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