Things are getting quiet in Rockville Centre, at least in public. Schools are closed, meetings are postponed and most activities have come to a halt for at least the next couple of weeks. Though no cases of coronavirus have been reported in Rockville Centre, the village officials decided, “out of an abundance of caution” to close Village Hall, the Sandel Senior Center, John A. Anderson Recreation Center and Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center for two weeks, starting Monday, March 16 and reopening on March 30.
"The Village of Rockville Centre has been in regular contact with local and state officials, as well as Health Department officials regarding the Coronavirus, known as COVID-19, to provide a coordinated response for our village," Mayor Francis X. Murray said. "We are monitoring the situation closely and conferring with these experts as the ongoing situation warrants.
"With that in mind and out of an abundance of caution, I am declaring a state of emergency in the Village of Rockville Centre effective immediately," Murray continued. "This declaration will allow the Village to more efficiently respond to the situation and potentially be reimbursed for costs associated with the pandemic."
The village is shutting down all non-essential services for two weeks. All essential services, including the sanitation, electric, water, sewage, and police department. All other employees will be working remotely during this time.Residents who need to make electric and water payments, as well as pay for parking tickets, can pay online through the village's website. Payments can also be left in the drop box outside Village Hall or mailed to Village Court.
Additionally, the village has suspended parking enforcement for two weeks.
"This is not to encourage social gathering," Murray said, "but to help patrons avoid touching meters and further spreading germs."
While the decisions are necessary, people at all ages are affected. The Sandel Center serves as a social outlet for many of its members.
“As much as I hate to close the center, I believe it is the most responsible thing to do,” Sandel Center Executive Director Christina O’Leary said. “As the situation escalates...we feel it’s the best thing to protect our members, many of whom are in the high-risk brackets.”
Sharon Sheppard, assistant director of the MLK Center, said there are about 20-25 kids, ages 5-14, who participate in the free afterschool program. The closure will be an inconvenience for parents who rely on the center for child care while they work, forcing them to find alternative means of care.
“They’re not happy about it,” Sheppard said, “but they understand.”
Ginger Creegan, superintendent of the John A. Anderson Recreation Center, said that those who have signed up for classes during this time frame will be notified via email with information about possible make-up classes or reimbursement for missed classes. Staff members will be available to answer any questions at 516-678-9238 on Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the closure.
Murray stressed that closing of the facilities is an effort to minimize the effects of the virus on the community.
“We want to make sure we make the safest decisions possible to protect our residents and employees,” Murray said, “while maintaining service to our community.
“We will reevaluate the rapidly evolving situation at the end of the two weeks,” Murray added. “I am confident that as a community, we will weather these challenging times together.
The Rockville Centre Public Library is closed through March 29, and is expected to reopen on March 30. No fines will be charged during this time.
“As a precautionary measure, we are suspending all library programming, events and meetings for all ages,” director Catherine Overton said, noting that staff will heighten its cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and advising patrons to also take steps to protect others.