The Carbondale City Council has declared a state of emergency in the face of the coronavirus threat and granted new powers to the mayor for the duration of the crisis -- a responsibility Mayor Mike Henry has pledged to be "very conservative" in carrying out.
At a special meeting Tuesday conducted by video conference, the council passed an ordinance declaring a civil emergency for 60 days, although the council can adjust the duration with future action.
The action grants the mayor the capability to act unilaterally on a number of issues, including extending licenses or permits during the emergency, canceling board or commission meetings, suspending permits or licenses for special events if they are deemed a public health risk, the awarding of some contracts, and extending deadlines for payment related to amounts owed to the city.
The ordinance, passed unanimously, also authorizes City Manage Gary Williams to adjust personnel policies related to leave time or benefits for city employees, enter into temporary agreements with bargaining units, and close city facilities to protect the health of the community.
Henry said he takes the new responsibilities seriously.
"I don't anticipate anything of any major significance, but things like waiving these water fees and so on and so forth is something that we could do without council action," Henry said.
As of now, the city's state of emergency will come to an end on June 5. This week, Henry canceled all in-person meetings of city boards and commissions through April 30.
The ordinance also temporarily suspends the disconnection of water and sewer service for non-payment, as well as any late fees accrued during the emergency. Also, it authorizes the city manager to establish temporary loading zones around downtown restaurants to assist with carryout and curbside pick-up.
In addition, the city has extended the payment due date for food and beverage taxes and package liquor taxes until May 20. It also has extended the payment due date for municipal motor fuel taxes and municipal hotel/motel taxes until April 30. Liquor licenses that expire June 30 have been extended until July 30.
Concerns from council members Adam Loos and Jessica Bradshaw also prompted the addition of a measure suspending enforcement of the city's weed and tall grass ordinance.