Code Red: Resident questions use of Burrillville emergency system

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BURRILLVILLE – Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, town officials have used a system set up for emergency alerts to communicate with residents.

Messages have included resources for residents as town officials work to help curb the spread of the virus, and changes to services, such as Town Hall hours.

At the Town Council’s virtual meeting last week, one resident questioned the practice, comparing the notices to, “the boy who cried wolf.”

“The tone and content of these non-emergency calls have been authoritative and, at times, intimidating, which has fostered unnecessary fear, panic, suspicion and stress in our community -a far cry from ‘public safety,'” wrote Mary Ryan, in a letter read by Council President John Pacheco. “Given the number of non-emergency calls in these last weeks, common sense will tell us that these annoying calls will eventually foster an unfortunate complacency.”

It was the board’s first meeting since declaring at state of emergency in March, and Ryan also expressed concern that the council had not held virtual gatherings.

“It is essential that citizens be afforded their right and responsibility to participate in public matters,” she wrote.

The agenda for the meeting, held on Wednesday, May 13 via Zoom, was light. Councilors referred items to subcommittees and addressed communications from surrounding towns.

“I feel like we haven’t met in a year,” said Pacheco. “I’m so glad to see you guys, truth be told. I can’t wait to meet in person.”

Video was taken of the virtual conference, and will be posted on the town website in the near future, according to Town Clerk Vicky Martin.

“This worked out pretty well,” said Pacheco. “I think we’ll be able to get some important things done.”

The board is scheduled to meet again via Zoom on Thursday, May 21 for a public hearing on the town’s annual budget.  Residents can call in, or take part via Zoom, through instructions found here.

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