Council decides to close all city buildings to the public

Wednesday, March 18, 2020
With in-person attendance limited to 10 people in response to COVID-19 concerns, only key officials were present for Wednesday’s City Council meeting with some participating via phone.
Photo by Joseph Hopper

Holding an emergency meeting with in-person attendance limited to 10, the Spencer City Council convened Wednesday evening in the council chambers to take action in response to the spread of COVID-19 across the state. Council members, some participating by phone, unanimously voted to close all city buildings to the public until further notice.

“As you’re all aware, the governor yesterday issued a state of emergency which required the closure of bars and restaurants, senior centers, gyms and casinos to the public,” Spencer City Manager Amanda Mack said. “Restaurants can still offer carry out or delivery options, but no dine-in seating. So we’ve been talking internally about how that impacts our operations and what we should be doing one, to make sure we’re still able to provide services to the community, two that we’re making sure the community is safe and protected but also that our employees are safe and protected, especially our employees in police, fire and dispatch.

She continued, “What we know from the hospital is this virus is extremely contagious, often times people are carriers with no symptoms which is why they are strongly pushing the social distancing right now. Because we’re not at peak yet. While we don't have any confirmed cases in Clay County, it could be here very soon and we want to be sure we’re very prepared for that. … We do not want to overwhelm our health care system because they will not be able to deal with the impacts if we don’t take this seriously.”

Despite the immediate closure of all city buildings, city officials stressed the services the city provides would continue.

“The intent is we would still be conducting business,” Spencer Mayor Kevin Robinson said. “But to close the access to the public to come in and out of the facilities. … To be very clear, city business is not closed. So the business of the city is still being done. So the departments are still working, we’re doing social distancing inside of the facility, we’ve got some telecommuters so the business of the city is still going to continue. We are solely talking about the public access into the building. We're trying to limit the face to face implications. There's two big reasons why this would make sense. The first is, when it comes to the operation of a city, the key people in that city to keep it going are city staff and we want to do everything that we can to mitigate their exposure to potential carriers of the disease. No. 2, the bigger goal and the reason all of this is happening at the federal, state and local levels is to protect the capacity of the health care system.”

“The planning department will still go out and do inspections, we are asking that you give as much notice as possible and that none of the crew is on site when they go and do the inspection just to minimize that exposure,” Mack said. “The building permits are online now. You can download the permit, fill it out and call Steve or Anna and they can walk you through any questions you might have. There’s a dropbox that’s been setup at the east entrance of the main doors of city hall you can put in there. … If someone needed one printed, just call.

“Another thing that we are planning to do during this time, we don’t typically take credit card payments over the phone and we don’t encourage that. We just don’t but we will during this time if necessary. … As far as staff goes, admin, finance, planning, staff is all reporting as normal. … The fire department, all the full time firefighters are reporting to their shifts as normal, volunteer firefighters are not allowed in the fire station unless they are called to respond, and in that case the bunker gear has been spread out. It’s get in, get out, sanitizing as normal.

“The closure also includes our park shelters, our shelter houses, we will not be opening those up to the public which includes the bathrooms. … The solid waste division, which is the transfer station, the building is going to be closed to the public. Staff will report as normal, curbside garbage and recycling is going to continue as normal. … The recycling containers that are currently at Walmart are going to stay in place unless they become abused. … The same with the tree site, we’re going to monitor that, if it starts to get abused we will close it. We are closing the Northern Plains Regional Landfill to the public. … The airport, Leading Edge Aviation is going to continue their operation but the facility is closed to the public.”

Discussing the current COVID-19 global pandemic and its effects, council members expressed concern for a potential negative economic impact locally with Robinson sharing comments from area businesses.

“I would like the citizens to know that I have reached out to Fareway and Hy-Vee and Walmart as well as Menards just to let them know we appreciate all the strain that’s been placed on their businesses,” Robinson said. “I asked them if they would like me to reiterate anything back out to the public as it relates to how this is impacting their roles. No. 1, they would like to remind people to be courteous and patient with their staffs, they’re under a load strain right now to try to restock shelves and not only the cleaning procedures these stores are going through on a daily, sometimes multiple times a day, throughout their store which is a tremendous task. Just please be patient with them. They talked a little bit about supply chain, so of course the shortages are not because the supply chain was disrupted. The shortages are because people bought more than they normally buy, and we run a just in time supply chain throughout the country. That’s how everything is from the distribution centers to the stores and the producers above that.

He continued, “Some products depending on demand will take a little longer to resupply but they wanted everybody to know trucks are showing up every day they are stocking shelves every day, product is coming back in but please be responsible with what you buy. When you short the shelf, you’re shorting your neighbor. When you short the shelf you’re shorting somebody who may really need it and truly might be out. So while it’s a noble idea to make sure you’re taken care of please be mindful of everyone else. … We thank all of the retailers and suppliers for what they’re doing, we appreciate their staffs and to the general public, just please be patient and understand what they’re going through in their stores and their daily lives. You know they need these products too and while they’re stocking these on the shelves they’re also working. Just keep that in mind.”

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