Council will act on resolution ending COVID-19 emergency declaration By John McLoone The Hastings City Council is coming back to work! Well, let’s be fair and honest: Since COVID-19 has forced …
Council will act on resolution ending COVID-19 emergency declaration
By John McLoone
The Hastings City Council is coming back to work!
Well, let’s be fair and honest: Since COVID-19 has forced meetings to the Zoom platform, municipal government has had to work overtime to make public meetings work and work efficiently. They’re actually coming home. As of July 1, all city meetings will be in-person.
The council will return to the council chambers at Hastings City Hall for their first in-person meeting on Tuesday, July 6. A big agenda items will be passing a resolution ending the emergency declaration that has allowed the city to tackle COVID-19-related issues since the pandemic forced city building closures in spring 2020.
Mayor Mary Fasbender ended Monday night’s city council meeting with a declaration of her own, with excitement in her voice.
“We will not be ‘Zooming’ anymore,” she said. “We will be in our council chambers, and I’m looking forward to it as I think we all are.”
“We’re thankful we are that far,” concluded Fasbender.
And the statement came on a night when Hastings City Councilmember Jen Fox perhaps set the distance award for attending a local government meeting. With a perfect Wifi feed, she showed the backdrop of her Hawaii vacation locale where she was “attending” the city council meeting from, complete with ocean view.
City Administrator Dan Wietecha said the declaration allowed for the city to tackle extraordinary things that came up during the pandemic.
“It’s been the basis for some unbudgeted spending decisions,” he said.
It allowed for such things as buying personal protective equipment and technology for remote work for city employees. The city council itself could act on ordinances as they were presented to be able to tackle to myriad of things COVID-19 was throwing at units of government.
“Nearly all of those things were later approved an reimbursed through CARES (the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act) funds,” said Wietecha.
“As Hastings is beginning to return to normal, we anticipate that we could remove that declaration, in with a reso-
“We will not be ‘Zooming’ anymore.
We will be in our council chambers, and I’m looking forward ot to it.”
Hastings Mayor Mary Fasbender lution, out with a resolution, so that likely will be on your agenda July 6,” said Wietecha.
At that time, the council will set a date for the end of the emergency declaration.
“Whether the declaration is still in place or not, really it gives authority as basis for other actions. We will still be returning to in-person meeting in July even if the declaration is in place until August. As we return to normal footing, we really don’t need that emergency authority in place,” said Wietecha.
One thing that will have to be decided in picking the ned date is making sure it gives city residents behind on utility payments ample time to prepare.
“Under our emergency declaration, one of the ordinances was waiting utility late fees and penalties,” said Wietecha. “If someone did not make their payment during the difficulties of the pandemic, we were not going to penalize anyone with late fees.”
He said he was going to confer with the city’s Finance Department to make sure ample time is given to utility customers.
“I think if we suddenly July 6 said here’s the declaration, that’s not fair business. That’s not good dealing with our public. You may want to end the declaration at the end of July,” he said. “If we say we’re ending the declaration on July 7, we’re not going to impose the fees for 30 days. There would be some sort of warning, some sort of notice, some time would be good for our residents who are using that benefit.”
“Staff was comfortable ending in July 31,” noted Fasbender.
“July 31 would work,” said Wietecha, but he said he wanted to check “the timing of utility bills.”
The notification on the end of waiving of late fees could be pursued by to August utility bills.
A busy summer
Fasbender noted in her closing remarks the busy calendar of activities at parks with various entertainment and family programing that makes this look like very much like a “normal” Hastings summer.
“We want to thank the major sponsors that sponsor the events at the pavilion and our around our community. It’s greatly appreciated,” she said.
And for the last time – we pray – the Hastings City Council adjourned its Zoom meeting, leaving council members to power off the cameras on their computers and retire to their living rooms, or hit the surf, if you happened to be logged on from Hawaii, 3,950 miles away.