A sign outside Merrill Auditorium in Portland directs people to the city clerk's temporary office on Monday, Sept. 14. (Portland Phoenix/Jim Neuger)
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Portland officials estimate they have saved up to $150,000 a week by furloughing employees during the coronavirus pandemic.

City Hall, meanwhile, remains mostly closed to members of the public who don’t have appointments.

City spokesperson Jessica Grondin said more than 600 city employees have been furloughed in some capacity since mid-March.

“Of our regular full-time and part-time employees, approximately 125 employees were furloughed from their full schedules,” Grondin said. Additionally, 165 employees were asked to reduce their weekly schedules.

“The balance of employees given temporary furlough notices were the over 300 temporary, on-call, seasonal, and contracted employees who work as needed in programs that we have had to either completely shut down, or greatly reduce,” Grondin said.

A couple waits in line at the Portland city clerk’s temporary office in the Merrill Auditorium lobby on Sept. 14. (Portland Phoenix/Jim Neuger)

Around 80 regular employees have been recalled as needed over the summer, leaving about 40 employees still on furlough. That does not include on-call, seasonal, and contracted staff who only work when needed.

“The majority of the 165 employees working reduced hours will continue to work reduced hours through the month of September,” Grondin said.

She estimated the city has saved between $100,000 and $150,000 per week from the furloughs. That means in the 26 weeks since March 13, when City Hall was first closed, the city has potentially saved up to $3.9 million.

The city still faces a significant budget shortfall due to the pandemic.

When City Manager Jon Jennings unveiled his budget proposal for fiscal year 2021 in early August, the plan called for cutting 65 jobs and requiring virtually every department to slash its budget by 5 percent. Jennings’ office took a 20 percent reduction, while most others were reduced around 5 percent. The $202 million budget included a $12 million revenue shortfall.

For a portion of the pandemic, City Hall was completely closed and all employees were working remotely. City Hall partially reopened in June, but closed again in late July and early August because of protests on Congress Street to draw attention to issues and challenges facing the city’s homeless population.

Jessica and Richard Soriano of Brooklyn, New York, center, after obtaining their marriage license Sept. 14 at the Portland city clerk’s temporary office in the Merrill Auditorium lobby. They are flanked by Carmelo and Irene, two friends who joined them on a two-day matrimonial trip. The Sorianos traveled to Portland to be married because of COVID-19-related administrative restrictions in New York. ”It’s beautiful, am very impressed,” Richard said of Portland. ”The pace is different than in Brooklyn.” (Portland Phoenix/Jim Neuger)

The Treasury Department, parking office and city clerk’s office reopened again as of Aug. 11.

But City Hall is closed to the general public, so residents must make appointments for treasury services, including vehicle registrations and tax payments. The clerk’s office is accepting walk-ins for vital records registrations – marriage licenses, birth and death certificates, dog licenses – in temporary space at Merrill Auditorium.

The parking office is also accepting walk-ins for residential parking stickers at the entrance on Myrtle Street. Residents who already have a current parking sticker and have not seen their zone change have automatically been renewed, and are being asked to avoid going to City Hall for new stickers.

Various city parks and open spaces have also reopened, including Riverside Golf Course, city playgrounds, basketball and volleyball courts, and tennis and pickleball courts. Athletic fields have been open for rentals. The William B. Troubh Ice Arena reopened Sept. 8 for some figure skating lessons, but the arena remains closed for public skating.

Riverton and Kiwanis pools reopened over the summer, but Kiwanis is now closed for the season along with the pool at Reiche Elementary School.

A handful of city streets will remain closed to vehicle traffic through Nov. 1, most notably portions of Exchange Street in the Old Port. The City Council closed these streets in early summer to allow restaurants to expand outdoor dining service.

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