City of Baxter declares local emergency
Special session set up options as the efforts to combat COVID-19 continue.
BAXTER — The Baxter City Council met in a 10 a.m. emergency session Friday, March 27, to declare a local emergency in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic in a unanimous vote.
“Over the last couple of council meetings, the council has already taken a lot of action, prior to today, getting ready for today, but the staff has spent a lot of time enhancing that and bringing us to where we are today,” Mayor Darrel Olson said to start the meeting. “As of midnight tonight we are entering into a whole new world, so to speak.”
A council memorandum prepared by Brad Chapulis, city administrator, noted the recent peacetime emergency declared by Gov. Tim Walz.
“The world that we live and function in continues to change and evolve in an effort to combat COVID-19,” Chapulis stated.
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Chapulis noted the city has taken temporary steps to do its part, along with the state and federal government, to help deter the spread of the virus. After its last meeting in March, the council planned a longer break until April. Temporary measures were set to expire on April 7.
“It is very apparent and clear that this is going to go beyond that date and thus the reason we called this emergency meeting,” Chapulis said.
Olson and council members Todd Holman and Connie Lyscio sat a distance apart from each other at the front of the council chambers.
The council also adopted the COVID-19 operations plan, which identified the essential services the city will continue to provide with the state’s stay at home order and directed staff to implement protocols and strategies to ensure public services are maintained.
Chapulis said with the advanced technology employees can work from home. A work plan will be established for each employee with a scope of work to complete while they are at home. Employees will also be able to answer phones from their homes. Chapulis said they will be able to continue to provide services, just not the way they have been used to doing. The order also directed city staff to request and coordinate appropriate aid from surrounding jurisdictions and the county, state and federal governments when needed.
All city meetings, including city council meetings, will be conducted by phone or other electronic means allowed by state statute. The council members began training from Todd DeBoer, information technologies director, and setting up Zoom for meetings and video conferencing on their computers at the end of the meeting.
As for the emergency declaration, Chapulis said, it was in recognition of the health care emergency the world is facing and the city needs to respond and make sure it continues to provide services, albeit modified to protect public health.
“We are tracking all cost related to this pandemic so that we can be prepared should the state or federal government provide funds available to reimburse us for those expenditures,” Chapulis said.
Holman said he would like to see something similar in the city to the way the state has had one spot to track all of the changes in this fluid situation. Lyscio commended the ability to continue to stay connected via the technology.
“I know everyone in the office is doing more than they have ever had to before,” Lyscio said.
Council members Zach Tabatt and Mark Cross were not present.
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