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By Toni DeRosa
Wasco Tribune 

CITY DECLARES EMERGENCY

Services affected by coronavirus fears

 

March 19, 2020



An emergency special meeting was called for Tuesday evening at City Hall to discuss the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

It was with a somber mood that City Manager Daniel Ortiz-Hernandez presented a resolution to outline the changes that will affect the city due to the coronavirus.

He mentioned that Dial a Ride will suspend service. “I expect a lot of phone calls regarding this service suspension,” he said.

A sign outside the door of council chambers asked that all attendees sit at least six feet apart.

Ortiz-Hernandez presented two phases of the plan to attendee. Phase I began Wednesday, March 18, where there will be limited exposure to the public while the city prepares for a more significant measure to take place in the future.

Customer service counters will not be in operation; however, employees can be reached by email or telephone. “Email is the best way to get a hold of anyone at the city,” Ortiz-Hernandez said. The number to call is 661-758-7214, and the operator will direct the person to whoever they wish to speak with.

The city will extend the due date for utility bills until March 30. The city council also unanimously agreed to suspend fees and shut-offs during this time.

In addition, code enforcement and building inspections will be limited.

There also will be staff changes beginning Monday, March 23, where city operations will be Monday through Thursday and nonessential staff will split shifts, such as Monday/Tuesday and Wednesday/Thursday.

He also said that city employees placed on administrative leave will continue to receive their full paychecks.

City staff considered “essential” will be required to report to work to maintain core services and operations such as water, sewer, sanitation and animal control for the welfare of shelter animals. He estimates the date this will become effective will be March 30.

Ortiz-Hernandez added that the city expects to restore normal operations on Monday, April 13.

In addition, he said that crucial operations will continue, such as paying bills and payroll.

The council members unanimously approved the resolution to accept the changes while dealing with the coronavirus pandemic situation.

Following the special meeting, the council went into the regularly scheduled meeting.

Senior Planner Keri Cobb presented possible changes in the ordinance covering weed and rubbish abatement on vacant lots. The first option would keep the ordinance as is, that weeds of any size and rubbish need to be removed by the owner of the property or the owner will be cited with a fine.

The second option stated that if weeds were higher than 12 inches, the owner would be cited and fined.

“When I presented this to the council members, I did not mean that 12-inch weeds would be acceptable and anything over that would not,” Councilmember Gilberto Reyna said. “I would rather there be no weeds.”

The council unanimously agreed to leave the current ordinance unchanged.

Director of Public Works Biridiana Bishop presented two options to help in the safe crossing of Highway 46 and Margalo.

Further, the city discussed CalTrans’ negative response to placing a four-way stop at Highway 46 and Margalo for the school-age children who walk that route to school.

The second option was to install flashing beacons and high-visibility crosswalks.

The council unanimously agreed to purchase the HAWK beacon light system, which is a traffic control beacon device used to stop road traffic so pedestrians can cross the street safely. It is only activated when needed.

“We can use Traffic Impact Fees to install the HAWK system,” Bishop said. “We have $2 million available.”

The council voted to pay for the HAWK system.

[CORRECTION, 3/19/20: The original subheadline was changed to more accurately reflect the story.]

 

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