Johnson officials are adapting to the challenge of providing services despite a state directive to stay home to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Local officials, educators and social service providers are working to preserve the safety net for the neediest residents.
The Johnson Food Shelf remains open, 9 to noon Tuesdays and Fridays and 4 to 6 on Wednesday. People seeking food are asked to call ahead at 635-9003. The food will be left outside the building at 780 Railroad St. Demand is increasing at the food shelf, and there is a donation box at Johnson’s Sterling Market.
On March 25, Lamoille Community Food Share temporarily closed its doors due to health concerns among the volunteers; however, it reopened Tuesday, March 31, and will remain open 9 to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, and 9:30 to 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Volunteers are placing prepared packages of nonperishable food on a table outside the building so people can pick them up one at a time, without going through the usual paperwork. Clients are asked to send one person to pick up the food, and to remain in their vehicles if someone is already there.
Residents can expect to see an increase in the number of sheriff’s deputies patrolling the area, as many businesses remain closed for the time being.
Police will respond to emergencies as needed, but are handling what they can remotely, said Lamoille County Sheriff Roger Marcoux Jr.
One thing that can’t be done remotely is serving legal documents for lawsuits and evictions.
“That doesn’t make me comfortable, because that means a lot of face-to-face contacts, but we will continue,” Marcoux said.
Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Dodge is working with volunteers to coordinate delivery of groceries and medications for people who cannot leave their homes.
Johnson Village Manager Meredith Dolan said crews are ready to deal with emergencies related to water, sewer or electric services.
“We still have plenty of staff available to address any emergencies,” Dolan said.
Gov. Phil Scott has closed school until this fall, but some households lack internet service for their children’s online instruction.
“We do have some families that are struggling with internet access,” said Johnson Elementary School Principal David Manning. “Most have some capacity to access the internet, but there are definitely some who people who have no access or, more often, they have access but it’s not fast enough to get things done.”
While students aren’t allowed to attend classes, they can still go to school to learn. The elementary school has expanded the range of its free and open WiFi, with no password needed.
“If you’re at the school, behind the school where you have the angled parking, all of those spots have pretty good coverage,” Manning said. “In front of the school — the basketball court and the play structure — that whole area has coverage.”
Much like the school, the Johnson Public Library is closed; however, free and open WiFi access is available in the library’s parking lot.
The Johnson Recreation Department has canceled all spring classes and sports, and is issuing refunds. It’s also offering suggestions for how people can recreate safely — from yoga to step counting — at bit.ly/johnsonrecreation.