City departments restrict public access to facilities
By Kelly Terpstra, firstname.lastname@example.org
The doors to City Hall were locked on Thursday.
The building that houses several city offices including the Charles City Police Department was restricting public access as a safety precaution in an effort to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
City workers were swiping cards, using a key or punching in access codes to gain entry into the workplace.
The policy was put in place Thursday morning after a press release informed the public that all city department offices or buildings are not allowing public access until further notice.
Gov. Kim Reynolds earlier in the week issued an emergency proclamation that closed dine-in restaurants and bars. The directive also ordered no gatherings of more than 10 people in social, community, spiritual, religious, recreational, leisure and sporting events.
Residents of Charles City can keep track of developments or updates by following the city’s Facebook page or visiting the city’s website.
“Things continue to update and evolve with preparations to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus and we are working to implement any needed changes as they arise,” said Mayor Dean Andrews.
People are recommended to implement social distancing techniques when going about their daily activities. Those needing assistance for city services should contact the proper department via phone and are encouraged to pay bills online. Checks for utility bills or other paperwork that needs to be submitted to City Hall can also be placed in a dropbox near the entryway door.
“We have online payments already in place. We have the dropbox outside. We felt that there was plenty of other ways to pay a water bill other than coming in here in person. So we felt comfortable taking that out of the equation and not allowing that,” said City Clerk Trudy O’Donnell.
The city is suspending rental inspections until further notice and O’Donnell said building permits can be handled over the phone.
“They can walk them through how to fill that out. If they fill it out, they can drop it off. If there’s any questions, they can follow up with a phone call,” she added.
Customers who need to apply for water services can call in advance and someone will give them with a form to fill out in the City Hall lobby.
“Just yesterday we set one out on the chair out there. If they call and let us know that they’re coming then we can do that. That works out great,” said O’Donnell. “If someone does need to see us in person, please call ahead and make an appointment.”
City Administrator Steve Diers and city department heads held their monthly meeting on Tuesday. The topic was moving forward with city business while at the same time protecting city workers and the public so they can don’t get exposed to thevirus that causes COVID-19.
“We didn’t come to the decision lightly,” said O’Donnell. “They were all willing to do their part – each department head, which is wonderful.
“We’re all trying, No. 1, to keep our employees safe and to try to keep the public safe just to keep this thing from spreading. That’s really our main goal here is to keep everybody as safe as we can,” said O’Donnell.
The press release also said the City Council planning workshop scheduled for this Monday and future meetings will be held remotely until further notice. City officials will allow public participation via the Zoom meeting application. The public can view or participate in the meeting online.
Details will be released about accessing that link when the council agenda is released prior to the meeting taking place. A limited number of people will be allowed to attend the meeting in the council chambers.
The Police Department has initiated protocols in response to the virus including discontinuing some services.
The police station will not conduct fingerprinting, vehicle inspections, dog registrations or hold tours of the department. Officers will also not accept treats from the public. People can still use the intercom in the lobby to communicate with a police officer.
The Charles City Fire Department has also closed its doors to all non-essential visitors.
The water department will not be doing water meter change-outs and will be postponing non-emergency water main work that might cause disruptions in service.
The wastewater department wants to remind citizens to not put flushable wipes, paper towels or similar items into the sewer system because of the temporary shortage on toilet paper.
The street department’s spring cleanup, originally scheduled for mid-April, has been postponed and will be rescheduled at a later date.
While everyday operations and business dealings have been altered, O’Donnell and other city leaders are trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy for the public amidst uncertain times.
“I just hope that everybody can hopefully cooperate,” O’Donnell said. “We can still keep business going. That’s the key, too, is to make sure people can kind of keep their lives as normal as possible given this serious stuff.”