3/17/2020 meeting summary: actions to address COVID-19

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This is not the meeting summary I had expected to write, but we are experiencing difficult, unique, and rapidly-changing times. I am certain that if we work together we will emerge stronger. We addressed some brief, regular business at our meeting today, and the remainder of the meeting we addressed issues related to the city’s response to COVID-19. I will start with the regular business summary:
 
1. We approved a new route for the R-Line. The R-Line is the city’s zero fare downtown circulator that has been in existence in some form since the 1980s. In recent years, the R-Line has experienced a decline in overall ridership, due to the changing downtown landscape and increase in transportation alternatives. A stakeholder group assessed the downtown transportation needs and the R-Line circulator service and recommended a new bi-directional service route. The newly-approved route will remain zero fare and will utilize the city’s new 30-foot Compressed Natural Gas buses.
 
2. We received an update on the Compassion Fund program. During the February 4, 2020 Council meeting we authorized the transfer of $25,000 from the Council Contingency Fund to establish this new Compassion Fund to assist families with children living in hotels who can pay daily lodging rates but lack the funds to pay first month’s rent and security deposit to move into permanent house. We approved guidelines for the fund and authorized staff to move forward with engaging Oak City Cares or a similar entity as the fund manager. We also authorized staff to work with the fund manager to seek contributions from the private sector to grow and maintain the fund.
 
The remainder of our decisions mostly related to COVID-19, including:
 
1. We delegated additional authority to the City Manager for the duration of this State of Emergency so that the City Manager can take actions to keep the business of the city moving forward. I think in times of crisis and uncertainty, it’s important that the public knows the government is working. The delegated authority includes the ability to execute construction contracts and leases of real property and equipment necessary for the conduct of city business and operations. The City Manager shall provide a report to City Council within 30 days following the end of this State of Emergency.
 
2. We authorized the reinstatement of previously-disconnected water service, without requiring the accounts be paid in full, including waiving any charges for reconnection and fees. The city had had already announced that no existing water service would be cut off for nonpayment during this crisis. The action today turns back on any water that was cut off before that decision was made.
 
3. We exempted ordinance rules that regulate and restrict the hours for unloading and delivering materials, goods, or other supplies. During this State of Emergency it’s extremely important that stores are able to receive stock as soon as possible to provide food and supplies to the community. Those items can now be delivered at any time without restrictions.
 
4. We moved all public hearings to April 7, 2020, or the next regularly-scheduled City Council meeting. We canceled all committee meetings and boards and commission meetings until April 15, 2020. We asked the city attorney to come up with options for having remote meetings, with priority to finding ways to have remote City Council meetings, Planning Commission meetings, Board of Adjustment meetings, as well as a few other meetings necessary to keep the business of the city moving forward during this State of Emergency.
 
5. We authorized a change to our on street parking ordinance, allowing on street parking to be reserved for purposes the City Manager determines to serve the public good during a State of Emergency. Specifically, this change will be used to facilitate curbside pick-up at our restaurants, given the governor’s executive order to close dining rooms.
 
I also asked for an update on what the city is doing to support our small businesses. Any small business owners can find detailed information hereThe page will be updated as new information is received by our Economic Development team.
 
We can also do our part to help small businesses too, some great ideas here.
Please take care of each other during this difficult and confusing time.  I know many of you are scared; I have felt scared too by the uncertainty and impact on the most vulnerable members of our community. We will get through it together. I promise to remain engaged with you, and I am confident that we will come out of this stronger, soon. In the meantime, if you’re able, please stay home and stay safe.

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