City holds special meeting to discuss COVID-19 steps

by Richard Uhlhorn

The City of Chelan held a special meeting on Monday, March 16, for council members and city staff to hear a webinar on Managing the Impact of COVID-19 in the City.

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Special spacing was set up at the Monday, March 16, Special City Council/Staff Meeting on the COVID-19 crisis.

The City released a memorandum for City of Chelan customers to consider when interacting on City business during the COVID-19 crisis.

To our valued City of Chelan customers. We appreciate the trust you place in the City of Chelan, including our commitment to safeguard your health and safety as you interact with us. That’s why we want to share the steps we are taking in response to COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.

As always, our priority is to protect our customers and employees as we perform our dally business. In the current environment we are following guidance from health experts and elected officials at the state and local levels to stop the spread of germs and reduce risk. Here are some of the actions we have taken to date:

  • First, we are encouraging customers who may be planning a visit to the offices of the City of Chelan to reconsider and avoid making the trip. The City of Chelan website provide a number of tools and resources and you can always connect with us by telephone at (509) 682-4037.
  • Keep in mind that it isn’t necessary to meet with us in person to pay your bill. The ability to pay your utility bill online in addition you may also pay your utility bill by phone through Point & Pay by calling 1-866-706-6609.
  • There are drop boxes conveniently located In front of City Hall and in the alley behind City Hall. • Ifyoudo visit the City of Chelan, you’llfind that we are practicing social distancing and minimizing personal contact (avoiding handshakes, for example). Also, we are frequently disinfecting common areas, workspaces and meeting facilities.
  • Public works will continue maintaining services such as water, sewer and garbage & recycling.
  • Planning and Building asks that the public call or email and limit in office visits unless absolutely necessary.
  • Building will perform all new construction inspections; however, occupied structure inspections will be done on a case by case basis. If your inspection is within an occupied building, please email or call us about your inspection at 682-8017.
  • Parks Department transactions can be conducted by phone at (509) 682-8023. The office is open for business, but we do ask that people come in only if necessary.

These are uncertain times for our state, our country and the world. We fully understand that customers will be apprehensive about several things, including your essential utility services.

Thank you for your patience as we respond to the changing nature of this event. And if you have questions for City of Chelan, be sure to contact us. For information on COVID-19, please visit the Washington State Department of Health website at: https://www.doh.wa.gov/

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City Administrator Wade Ferris imparted information to the Council members on what the City was doing to prepare its staff and departments for COVID-19 issues.

The Mayor, Council and Administration discussed Legislative Body Meetings which cannot be 100% remote because of the open meeting clause that says the public must be allowed the opportunity to attend. “This does not address the situation we are in now,” said Wade Ferris, city administrator. “There is no question about it… it will be a real challenge to hold a public meeting remotely. We are exploring ways to do this.”

The other option open to the City is to decide if it is necessary to even hold a meeting. “Can it be postponed,” asked Ferris. The other option is to minimize the agenda items. In all instances the City must comply with Social Distancing for the meeting site.

Another option would be to provide the public to listen by telephone, computer or live streaming.

The City will be deciding on a remote location in case Council Chambers become compromised.

Ferris commented that the City is currently operating at Level I which allows visitors to enter City Hall, but if the situation warrants, the City will move to a Level II where the offices would be locked down and residents would have to conduct business by telephone or email.

It was related to the Council that the City does have the capability to accept payments by credit card, however with restaurants and other businesses shut down potentially creating a severe impact on hourly wage people, the City is looking for a way to waive certain monthly payments for a time. “There are people out there that live on a margin,” said Ferris.

Councilmember Ray Dobbs asked if payments would be deferred or forgiven. Ferris replied that they would only be deferred. “The City has to be careful about gifting.”

Dobbs said that the City has to look at making life easier for people. McCardle said, “There has to be a structure around that.” Olsen stated it was important to help somehow, particularly this time of year. “This could last well into summer,” he said.

The City is planning with the Fire Department, Sheriff’s Department and other agencies involved in working on the crisis.

Mayor Goedde said, “If it all ends quicker, these measures are all worth the effort.”

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