CARBONDALE — In a special meeting held via telephone and video conference Monday, the Carbondale City Council passed two ordinances — one authorizing a state of emergency within the city because of COVID-19 and another providing specific guidance on how to enforce violations of the governor’s executive orders.
While students begin distance learning this week, municipalities are engaged in distance governing as government functions find a way to keep …
During the discussion, Mayor Mike Henry noted that he has been reluctant to pass any kind of emergency declaration. “I didn’t want to alarm citizens unnecessarily,” he said.
However, as the situation with the COVID-19 respiratory virus has escalated, the city saw a need to address the situation. Henry said while many of the measures in the emergency declaration ordinance are benign, he and others thought it important to fit them all into one ordinance so that Council action was not needed for each small decision.
The ordinance declaring a civic emergency gives the mayor or City Council the power to declare “a Civil Emergency for a period of time not to exceed 60 days, unless later extended at a regularly scheduled City Council meeting.”
The ordinance also gives the mayor the emergency power to cancel all committee meetings that he appoints members to. The mayor can also suspend “licenses or permits for special events that have been approved if the event could impact the public health of the community.”
As Southern Illinois enters unprecedented territory in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19, businesses and city leaders are trying to find the best path forward to keep restaurants and bars afloat while also paying the city’s bills.
Under the emergency declaration, the city manager is also able to close any city facility in order to ensure the health and safety of city employees and the community.
It also gives powers for the city manager to enter into temporary agreements with bargaining units to ensure continuation of city services and to adjust personnel policies “as are reasonably related to ensuring sufficient staffing during the term of the emergency.”
The ordinance allows the city manager to designate “loading zones in and around restaurants in the downtown area to assist with carryout and curbside pick-up of food.”
The ordinance also makes official several items that the city was already doing, namely not charging late fees for water and sewer as well as stopping the disconnection of water and sewer service for non-payment. It also officially extended the payment deadline of the city’s food and beverage tax, as well as its package liquor tax to May 20. It also extends the payment due date for municipal motor fuel taxes and municipal hotel/motel taxes until April 30.
Effective immediately all Carbondale Park District basketball courts, soccer, baseball and softball fields will be closed. The release said that shelters and barbecue areas will also be closed.
Within the ordinance also are guidelines for the mayor to extend deadlines for licenses issued under the city code.
Before making a motion to approve the ordinance, Councilman Adam Loos said he hoped the ordinance would be repealed after the COVD-19 concern was over. He also asked that a subparagraph be added to declare that the city would not be enforcing its tall grass and weed ordinance during the emergency.
The second ordinance streamlined the process for enforcing the governor’s multiple executive orders in response to COVID-19, including the closure of restaurants for dine-in services and the closure of non-essential business. Normally, a person found to be in violation of these orders “would have to be processed through a report to the Jackson County Health Department who would forward the matter to the Illinois Department of Health … for review,” the meeting’s consolidated council agenda said. The IDPH would then make a determination about whether to forward information on to the county’s state’s attorney.
Under the new ordinance this is changed to process the offenses through the city. The agenda for the meeting said this “prevents a minor violation from becoming a misdemeanor or felony charge.”
The offenses are punishable by up to a $750 fine per day that the offense occurs according to the ordinance.
Also Monday, before coming to the general business portion of the meeting, Henry accepted a petition submitted by William Lo, general manager of New Kahala restaurant in Carbondale, asking that the city forgive the soon-to-be-due food and beverage tax. Lo has said this would help restaurants, many of which have had to temporarily close because of the virus.
Henry said this was something the city planned to consider.
COVID-19 numbers in Southern Illinois
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