Retail shops, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues weren’t the only places closing their doors to the public in March when the governor declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Local governments also closed their offices and police station lobbies to the public, with North Riverside going so far as to order all of its parks off limits, while Brookfield and Riverside shut down playgrounds and athletic facilities.
When the state moved into Phase 3 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan on May 29, those restrictions started to ease, although local leaders continued to call for caution from the public.
Although all retail businesses, including the North Riverside Park Mall, are clear to open their doors to the public, Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. said his executive order mandating that customers and employees wear face coverings while in or in the immediate vicinity of a business remains in effect.
People do not need to wear masks while patronizing a restaurant or bar’s outdoor service area or while in village parks, Hermanek said in a notice sent to residents on May 28.
Hermanek said the village’s parks would reopen, with groups of 10 or less allowed as long as they practiced social distancing. Playgrounds, however, remain closed.
Government offices at the North Riverside Village Commons, 2401 Desplaines Ave., reopen as of Monday, June 1, and all visitors to the building must wear face coverings. The village will continue to enforce capacity limits inside the building.
The village board will continue to meet virtually, said Hermanek, at least until the governor declares the state is ready to move to Phase 4 of Reopen Illinois, which would allow gatherings of up to 50 people.
Video gambling parlors remain closed under Phase 3, as do entertainment venues such as movie theaters, adventure parks such as Urban Air and entertainment centers such as Round One.
Village offices inside the Riverside Township Hall, 27 Riverside Road, and the Parks and Recreation Office, 10 Pine Ave., won’t open until mid-June, said Village Manager Jessica Frances but staff will being transitioning from remote working to reporting to the office over the next two weeks.
“We think it’s important for staff to get acclimated to the new [onsite health and safety] standards in place,” Frances said. We also ask for the public’s patience as we begin that.”
When the public is invited back into the office area, they’ll need to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing. Hand sanitizer stations will be located in the main hallway and at individual staff work stations.
Riverside playground equipment will remain off limits at this time, but athletic fields and tennis courts will be open for use.
Youth sports, such as baseball and softball, will be limited to practices only and for groups of 10 or fewer, who need to maintain social distancing. No competitions are allowed and if multiple groups are using fields at the same time, they need to stay at least 30 feet apart. Participants are also asked to use their own equipment as much as possible.
Tennis is limited to singles play only, and anyone using athletic fields and tennis courts must wear face coverings, according to guidelines issued by the Parks and Recreation Department.
The Riverside Village Board will meet in person for the first time since early March on Thursday, June 4 at 7 p.m. in Room 4 of the Riverside Township Hall, 27 Riverside Road.
Members of the public wishing to comment – on the agenda will be a public hearing related the creation of two new business districts along Harlem Avenue – likely will be asked to wait in the township hall lobby until they are called in to speak.
Elected officials and village staff have the option of attending via teleconference, said Village President Ben Sells.
Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel said his officers will resume reporting to the village’s police station at 31 Riverside Road by mid-June after spending the last couple of months physically separating officers by creating a temporary substation elsewhere in the village.
Until May 19, that substation had been located at the Scout Cabin on Fairbank Road along the banks of the Des Plaines River. But when heavy rains produced flooding in that area, police abandoned the location.
Within 48 hours, the substation had relocated to a meeting room on the second floor of the Riverside Township Hall. Weitzel said an agreement hammered out with Riverside Township allows police to use the room until June 15.
“We may try to transition out of there before that,” said Weitzel, who said Township Supervisor Vera Wilt “bent over backwards” to accommodate police.
Weitzel said the move back to main police station would be “phased” but that police would also be opening the police station lobby to the public when village offices also reopen, although police will limit the number of people allowed inside the lobby at one time to two.
When all police move back to the main station, they’ll still take precautions to maintain separation. Weitzel said only one officer at a time would be allowed in the lunchroom or at a work station.
Indoor roll call would remain suspended, and the day shift will be directed to come to work in uniform, go to their squad cars and begin patrol without entering the station. Officers are being asked to complete reports in their cars and eat lunch in their cars (something not allowed before the pandemic).
Any suspect interviews will be done at the North Riverside Police Department where the consolidated lockup facility is located.
“I don’t see us doing roll call [inside the building] until there’s a vaccine,” Weitzel said. “Our roll call room is the size of a bathroom.”
Village Manager Timothy Wiberg said there’s no date for when offices will reopen to the public at the Brookfield Village Hall, 8820 Brookfield Ave., but staff will begin those discussions this week after spending last week helping local businesses, restaurants and bars prepare for the transition to Phase 3, allowing outdoor dining and stores to welcome customers inside.
Parks are open to the public as are athletic fields and sport courts, with baseball and softball teams allowed to practice on ballfields as long as groups are kept to 10 or fewer. Basketball courts and tennis courts are also open, but social distancing must be maintained.
Brookfield Police Chief Edward Petrak said there was no set date for consolidating all police operations back at the main police station at the village hall.
With officers placed on 12-hour shifts and two of those shifts being assigned temporarily to a substation set up in the gym wing at S.E. Gross School, it may take a few weeks to return to a normal routine, Petrak said
“The guys have been given a schedule that goes to the end of June, but in two-week blocks,” said Petrak, who said realistically the end of the month looked more likely.
The S.E. Gross Middle School administration has scheduled the gymnasium floor for refinishing in July, which will necessitate police leaving the facility before then.
“We’re good for the month of June,” Petrak said. “I’ll be meeting with the command staff [this] week about whether to continue 12-hour shifts to separate people, about wearing masks and about best practices for police.”