By John McLoone The Hastings City Council passed a resolution supporting the Emergency Operations plan after debate at its meeting last Monday night. The council heard a presentation of the plan …
By John McLoone
The Hastings City Council passed a resolution supporting the Emergency Operations plan after debate at its meeting last Monday night.
The council heard a presentation of the plan which guides city operations at times of crisis at its Aug. 4 meeting. Items within the plan aren’t open for public view, and the matter was tabled at that meeting until the council could be brought up to speed on the roles of the mayor and council in times of emergency.
A workshop will be held for the council Oct. 18 on elements of the plan, and Dakota County training for elected officials will happen later this year. However, approval was sought by staff so the city has a current plan in place. Amendments can be made by the council at a later time if the council suggests changes to the plan.
“It really is best to have a current plan in place,” said City Administrator Dan Wietecha, who said there could be implications to
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the city qualifying for grant funding if it doesn’t have a current plan in place.
“We’re requesting that council would act on the resolution this evening and fully recognize we would have additional training and a workshop for the council in the near future,” said Wietecha.
Councilmember Mark Vaughn asked why the matter needs to be acted on at this time.
“I support moving forward knowing we’re working on it,” said Vaughn. “Are we concerned that something might come up that we need to have this?”
Wietecha responded, “I don’t want to belittle it by calling it housekeeping. Really it’s a matter of having a plan in place. If an emergency would occur, we’re operating under a current plan. It’s largely a housekeeping formality, but it’s a significant and important one.”
The plan document presented states as the reason for the plan: “Tornadoes, floods, blizzards and other natural disasters can affect the City of Hastings. In addition, major disasters such as transportation accidents, explosions, hazardous materials releases, pipeline leaks, disease outbreaks, terrorist attack and national security emergency pose a potential threat to public health and safety. An emergency plan is needed to ensure the protection of the public from the effects of these hazards.”
Concern was raised at the last meeting that at the top of the staff organizational chart, the “Mayor or designee” is at the top, and the mayor and council doesn’t really know everything that’s in the plan, which is confidential for security reasons.
“The Mayor will be responsible for providing overall direction and control of city government resources involved in the response to a disaster. In addition, the mayor or designee will brief city council members on incident details and progress,” the slide show of the plan states.
Councilmember Tina Folch said she felt like the council was just “rubber-stamping” the plan without being briefed thoroughly on it.
“That’s how this makes me feel. Being on the council for five years, we’ve never been given a 45-minute briefing on what’s in the Emergency Operations Plan,” she said.
Wietecha explained that the mayor’s role would be to declare the emergency.
“It would be a very remote likelihood that the mayor would actually be the incident commander. It would be the first person responding on the scene: police, fire, public works,” he said. “The mayor’s role is declaring a local emergency.”
If funding is needed for the emergency plan, it would have to come back to the council.
Vaughn made a motion to approve the resolution, and it passed with Folch as the lone dissenting vote.
Wietecha briefed the council that the COVID-19 Delta variant and responses to it are being watched carefully. City employees are asked to mask indoors unless in closed offices or spaced apart. Visitors to city hall are asked to wear masks.
Councilmember Lisa Leifeld asked that the plexiglass be reinstalled between seats at the council table.
Wietecha said that can be taken care of by the next city council meeting.
“This is pretty close proximity to each other,” said Leifeld.