ROCHESTER — City Manager Blaine Cox and Mayor Caroline McCarley wish to provide regular updates to the community regarding the City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as officials continue to monitor the crisis locally and nationally.
Mobile Shower and Bathroom Facilities for Homeless Residents
Beginning Thursday, April 9, residents will be able to use the facility on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. The facility will be located at the Community Center, 150 Wakefield St., on the side facing Wakefield Street. City staff will be on-site during these times to monitor usage, keep the unit clean and sanitized, and assist with the safe usage of the unit.
Community members do not need to sign up in advance and users will get 15 minutes each to use the facility. The shower will have soap dispensers installed and users will be provided a clean towel to use.
Those waiting for their turn will be asked to practice social distancing — keeping at least six feet between each other — while they wait.
The shower was donated by A&D Archambault Plumbing. The towels will be taken daily to Cleary Cleaners for laundering.
In addition to this shower unit, portable restroom facilities are located at the Rochester Community Center (near the shower unit) as well as at 38 Hanson Street and the Rochester Common. Gallon containers of drinking water available for the city’s homeless residents are located near the portable restrooms for homeless community members as well.
Recreation and Arena
Both the Recreation Office and Arena voicemails and the general department email ([email protected]) are actively being checked. Weekly ‘check in’ calls are being made to senior citizens associated with department programs. Staff are currently working with Program Leads to post videos of online classes for “Virtual Senior Power Hour” and “Virtual Senior Yoga” to the City’s Facebook, Instagram and website on a regular basis. Program Coordinator Cindy Lamie is uploading fun, family resource lists such as “Boredom Busters” to the Recreation Department’s website, Facebook and Instagram. Assistant Director Lauren Krans has also developed an online survey to coordinate help from city staff for other departments as needed.
The Rochester Public Library is continuing to provide access to its online collections for library cardholders. Library users can download and stream books, audio books, movies, television shows, and magazines. The library is exploring additional online resources, such as virtual versions of popular programs. Click here for updates.
Planning and Development Department
All Planning functions are currently being conducted online or via phone by calling 603-335-1338. Applications, project narratives and Technical Review Group responses are all being handled electronically. Application and notice fees are still being charged and arrangements to pay those fees will be made at the time of processing applications. If meetings of the Planning Board, Conservation Commission or the Historic District Commission need to be held, they will be conducted virtually. All non-essential meetings are being postponed in consultation with applicants.
The Legal Department is fully operational and functioning remotely.
Economic Development is collaborating with partner organizations to send out the most recent and relevant information, including the Chamber of Commerce, Main Street, Small Business Association (SBA). Check-ins on local businesses are being made through email and phone calls, and staff are continuing to respond to questions and comments as they arise.
Department of Public Works
The Department of Public Works continues its operations and key services in providing drinking water, wastewater disposal, and a functioning transportation and utilities network will continue. Residents may still contact DPW at 603-332-4096 during regular business hours of 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. After hours, Dispatch is available at 603-330-7128. DPW will continue to work with developers, agencies, businesses and residents by telephone or remote meeting technologies to the fullest extent.
The Welfare Office is available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Rochester residents experiencing homelessness, emergency financial assistance or general resource information from the City Welfare Department can call 603-332-3505 or email [email protected] to schedule a phone assessment and appointment if necessary. Residents experiencing a homeless situation outside of business hours can call “211” for information regarding available resources.
All calls continue to be addressed while limiting face-to-face contact as much as possible. Citizens are being directed to the new online reporting software whenever possible, which can be accessed on the department’s website. Other non-emergency calls are being handled via phone and statement forms can be facilitated through email. Emergency calls continue to be handled as usual, with the addition of dispatchers asking questions of callers to determine their risk levels. Records staff are present and available to process requests through electronic means or by phone, and records are being transmitted electronically.
Waste Management has waived fees for bags and/or stickers for household trash at the Residential Drop-Off Facility. They are currently maintaining the facility’s regular hours of Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Information Technology (IT)
IT is enabling and supporting the City’s remote operations and trainings. City defenses are being bolstered against cyber-attacks and IT is deploying additional best practice security tools. Technology solutions have been configured to assist emergency operations. IT is working with Government Channel staff to create a virtual meeting environment that will allow the City to continue functioning within the governance established by local, State and Federal regulations.
Building, Zoning, and Licensing Services
Permit applications can be submitted online or by mail to “31 Wakefield Street, Attn: BZLS, Rochester, NH 03867”. The Building Inspector will not be going to occupied buildings to conduct inspections. As an alternative, video feeds and/or pictures can be submitted for review and will be an acceptable means of inspection and emailed to [email protected]. The main line is available to call for assistance at 603-332-3508, opt 0. The Building Inspector is available via the main phone line to review and discuss required inspections for job sites by live video feed. The Building Inspector will also continue to conduct outdoor inspections for new home construction, or those with extremely limited social interaction. These inspection requests can be submitted over the phone or online.
City employment applications continue to be processed via mail or emailed to [email protected].
Decisions regarding abatement applications will be mailed on or before July 1, 2020. Change of Mailing Address forms can be found online and either mailed to “19 Wakefield Street, Rochester, NH 03867” or emailed to [email protected]. Requests for Land Use Change Tax (LUCT) and any current use questions can be submitted via email to [email protected]. Questions can also be addressed over the phone by calling 603-332-5109. The deadline for Exemptions and Credits (Elderly, Disabled, Blind and Veteran) has been extended until June 15, 2020 and copies of required documentation may be submitted via mail. Property Assessment Record Cards can be requested over the phone or by email. All intents and reports for timber and excavation may be mailed or emailed to the Assessing office, and associated inquiries may be made by contacting the office via phone or email. All field inspections will temporarily be conducted from the street only and properties will not be entered until further notice.
Burn permits are available online here. General customer questions can be addressed by calling 603-335-7545. Access to the fire station to the public is limited at this time and residents are encourage to call for all non-emergency matters. Residents should call 911 for any emergency and the department will continue to respond as normal.
City Clerk’s Office
The online portal is available on the City’s website for dog licensing and requesting vital records. Requests can also be submitted via mail to “31 Wakefield Street, Rochester, NH 03867″. Staff are available to answer questions at 603-332-2130 or email at [email protected]. Marriage Licenses are being arranged by appointment only by calling or emailing the office.
Tax Office and Utility Payments
Motor vehicle registration renewals can be processed online on the Tax Collector’s page. Property Tax payments and payments for Water & Sewer bills can be made: online, over the phone using a credit or debit card by calling 603-332-1136, by mail addressed to “Tax Office, 19 Wakefield Street, Rochester, NH 03867” or dropped off in the night drop box outside the front of the building at 19 Wakefield Street. Staff are available to answer any questions by phone at 603-332-1136.
Elimination of Fees, Charges and Delayed Deadlines
The changes to fees, charges, as well as delaying deadlines associated with those are as follows:
- Interest from late payment of Water/Sewer bills mailed to customers on March 20, 2020 or later (and until further notice) will be waived.
- The library has waived all fines that are accruing on items that were checked out before the library closed to the public. The library has also waived the requirement that library users fines be paid down in order to access online resources, and has extended the expiration date on active library cards so that as many Rochester residents as possible can continue to use the library’s resources.
- The deadline for Exemptions and Credits (Elderly, Disabled, Blind and Veteran) has been extended until June 15, 2020.
- Economic Development has given the option to our Job Loan customers to forbear their monthly payments for a period of 90 days. During this time, no interest will accrue on their loan balances.
- The Police Department has waived fees associated with records requests.
- Recreation is exploring low to no cost Summer Camp options and extending due dates of payments for Contracted Arena Ice balances.
- The fee associated with processing Property Assessment Record Cards has been temporarily waived.
Support for Residents and Local Businesses
Expanded City efforts to provide information to residents and support local businesses are as follows:
- The Economic Development Department is currently developing a Micro-loan program for Rochester businesses.
- The library website and social media pages are being updated to share information for residents about the Covid-19 crisis, accessing the 2020 census, filing extensions for income taxes, and other subjects.
- City departments are promoting the use of local businesses wherever possible, and the Economic Development Department is promoting the use of local businesses additionally through partner connections.
- The City’s Emergency Operations Center is facilitating multiple communications channels with local businesses and nonprofits.
- Timely information is regularly being published and distributed. This information can be found on the City of Rochester Portal here.
- Essential board and committee meetings will be held & broadcast remotely with multiple options for public input. Information about these meetings and where to submit public input will be posted on the City’s home page City’s home page or the Rochester Portal
Additional updates will continue to be provided to residents as information becomes available.