The entrance to Riverhead Town Hall has been closed off with a pressboard wall and a noncommercial interior door since March 2020.

Riverhead Town, which has closed town hall and other town facilities to the public under an executive order issued by Supervisor Yvette Aguiar Thursday, has erected a temporary wall at town hall’s main entrance to prevent access to the building by members of the public.

The wall creates a new vestibule inside the building, adjacent to a reception window that is typically no longer staffed. However, it is now staffed by a Riverhead Town police officer.

“We wanted to protect the public and our employees,” said Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller, the town’s emergency management coordinator.

Visitors to the building will be confined to the vestibule, while the department the visitor sought to access is contacted., Hegermiller said. Then a staff member from that department will come to the vestibule to assist the visitor, he said.

Photo: Peter Blasl

“We’ve established a phone for people to use to talk to offices.
There are gloves there for them to use,” he said. “We’re taking all precautions necessary.” The chief said he was working on getting hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes placed within the vestibule.

The space is large enough to allow for “social distancing,” he said. Health experts say people should remain at least three feet away from others — six feet if a person is sick.

Anyone who wants to go to town hall should call or email first, Hegermiller said. He also noted that the town clerk and tax receiver accept payments online.

Courtesy photo

The wall went up some time between the supervisor’s executive order declaring an emergency Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.

The executive order closed town hall and other town facilities to the public until further notice — with the exception of the police and court complex located next to town hall on Howell Avenue.

Court remains in session pursuant to guidance from the N.Y. State Office of Court Administration, said Riverhead Town Justice Allen Smith.

All town employees are working as usual, Hegermiller said. CDC and health department guidelines are posted in all buildings throughout the town.

Public meetings are canceled, at least for the coming week, Hegermiller said.

“We’ll be making a decision about April,” he said.

Hegermiller said he expected the engineering department to take care of any modifications to the door from the new vestibule into the building to ensure it complies with state building and fire codes. The chief said he felt confident all employees in the building could safely exit in case of an emergency.

Photo: Peter Blasl

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.