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City Officials Vow To Shut Down Unsanctioned Events In Springfield

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno

Citing the pandemic, officials in the largest city in western Massachusetts have announced a crackdown on unsanctioned events. 

Events where food will be sold on public property are being promoted on social media despite not having proper permits from the city of Springfield.

" I am giving you fair warning here," Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said sternly. "Unsanctioned? Don't do it or you're going to be shut down."

He said the city would enforce the permit requirement with cease and desist orders, fines, and if necessary, the police.

" We are not trying to be difficult. We are trying to do what's right and trying to be respectful," said Sarno.

Recently, local health officials in Massachusetts and elsewhere have traced COVID-19 outbreaks back to large parties. 

During his weekly COVID-19 update Monday, Sarno declined to identify any of the events or the people who are promoting them.

" I am not going to start naming them," said Sarno.

He said in some instances, the organizers are planning to charge participating vendors and make a profit.

  Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris said the city’s Board of Health has the authority to “shut down” any event where food is being sold without a permit.

Caulton-Harris said the city will first attempt to contact the people who are promoting the events and ask them to follow the permitting process or cancel.

" I don't want anyone to think this is punitive," said Caulton-Harris. "This is about saving lives in our city and the western region."

To secure a permit to use space in a city park, the application must include a COVID-19 safety plan that conforms to current state guidelines for such things as social distancing and face mask-wearing, according to Springfield parks director Patrick Sullivan.

"We are making the proper decisions to keep everyone safe," said Sullivan.

Currently in Massachusetts, outdoor gatherings can have no more than 100 people.  

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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