City council’s declaration isn’t meant to scare residents, but to open the door for potential future funding
By Per Peterson
Calling it an “unusual circumstance,” Tracy’s new City Administrator Erik Hansen on Monday addressed the city’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and an official state of emergency was declared during what he termed an electronic meeting of the city council.
“This is my first council meeting, and it’s been kind of interesting and unique as we go along,” Hansen said.
Tracy City Attorney Matthew Gross said the state of emergency declaration isn’t meant to cause panic in town. Instead, it’s more of a legal mechanism that allows the City to access local, state and federal resources to deal with the pandemic.
“If we get into a situation where we need to buy a bunch of supplies we won’t need to put out bids,” Gross said. “It’s doesn’t mean that the city should panic. We’re doing this … to access resources.”
“At the end of the day, we have to do these kinds of things under very strange circumstances,” Hansen added. “Everybody’s pulling together so we can provide good services to the people of Tracy. That’s what we’re all about at the end of the day.”
Hansen was joined at City Hall on Monday by Deputy Clerk Diane Campbell and Public Works Director Shane Daniels. Council members took part from their home or office via video conferencing.
“I think this kind of sets the tone for the public, saying that we’re social distancing here as much as we can,” Hansen said.
Hansen outlined what the City is doing in terms of closures, policies, operations and communications, as the threat of the virus spreading into the area grows.
As far as closures, the Multi Purpose Center was closed on March 14, and that closure for now extends to March 27. The Veterans Memorial Center gymnasium was also closed through March 27; the Department of Motor Vehicles department at City Hall was also closed, but other city services will still be provided.
“We’re going to continue to monitor the situation, and we’ll make closures if we’re required to do so or if we think it is unsafe,” Hansen said. “It’s non-essential services only — we’ll still have emergency services. I don’t want people to be concerned about that. It all depends to a certain extent what the state does.”
There have been some changes to the City’s human resources policies. City employees have been instructed not to come to work if they are sick or feel like they have been exposed to COVID-19. All employees whose facilities or functions are closed or suspended will continue to be paid and have been told to report to work for other duties. Also, employees who voluntarily take leave due to COVID-19 will be paid according to the City’s paid leave policy. Some self-quarantine may be required for City employees returning from vacation.
“We’ve generally been following procedures outlined by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control),” Hansen said. “In all the cases so far … if they come back from vacation, we’ll follow recommendations from that country or the United States. We’re being really careful with employees because we want to make sure they are safe. And we have a limited number of people. If all of our police department got sick, that would be a problem for us.”
Hansen said that Police Chief Jason Lichty has been on vacation in Mexico, which is a Level 2 country. He was to return to Tracy on Tuesday. Lichty’s wife, April, also is a City employee.
“We’re following the CDC’s guidelines … it doesn’t require self-quarantine from Mexico — other countries it does, but not Mexico,” Hansen said. “If they were coming from Canada, for example, it would require a self-quarantine, but in this case, it does not. We expect them, unless they’re sick or unknowingly were exposed to someone else (who was sick) to be back to work on Wednesday.”
As far as internal operations at City Hall, sanitizing efforts have been ramped up, as hand sanitizer stations have been placed at all public points of entry. The City has also implemented limitations of one customer at a time at the city clerk’s office and financial tracking systems for future potential reimbursement so the City can keep track of what they’ve spent on precautions.
“This will help us in the future if there’s federal or state assistance for reimbursement for any kind of efforts related to the pandemic,” Hansen said.
Hansen added that all official city communication will come through the communications team of Deputy Clerk Campbell, Acting Police Chief Adam Hansen and the city administrator.
Hansen said an information sheet about COVID-19 has been created and is in today’s paper, as well as the Shopper.
“If you want to have a quick reference, this has some really important stuff,” Hansen said. “This is something that is really handy.”
Hansen also reminded the council that a Community Working Group was initiated on March 13 that consists of representatives from the City, Sanford Tracy, Tracy Ambulance, Lutheran Social Services, the school district, Prairie View and Twin Circle Apartments. Tracy Fire Chief Dale Johnson III is chairing the meetings.
“It’s been a really good learning experience as far as learning what other people have and what they might need in the future,” said Hansen.
In other business Monday …
• The council passed a variance request at Broad Acres from Jeremy Whipple.
• The council approved a resolution to appoint Rosemary Martin to the Charter Commission.
• The council passed a resolution authorizing the city administrator to suspend in-person meetings of subcommittees, boards and commissions during the pandemic.