Avondale City Commission discusses temporary policies amid coronavirus pandemic
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By Zoe Seiler, contributor
Avondale Estates, GA – Avondale Estates is taking measures to protect city staff and residents during the coronavirus pandemic. The City Commission met this morning, March 16, to discuss temporary policies to suspend public attendance at city meetings, postpone city permitted events, suspend the municipal court, change how garbage is collected and discussed employee compensation.
The City Commission adopted a policy to prohibit public, in-person attendance at all upcoming meetings.
“All public meetings of city-related boards, commissions and committees, including the Board of Mayor and Commissioners, will be available through virtual teleconferencing as permitted by Georgia law to protect public health,” Mayor Jonathan Elmore said.
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Those who would like to participate will be able to call in through a teleconference number that will be provided on the city website and e-news prior to meetings. Residents will also be able to watch a live stream of meetings on the city’s Facebook page.
“We are all interested in getting back to normal as soon as possible. We want to have our public in our meetings as soon as common sense says is possible or health officials say is possible,” Elmore said.
In addition, all public events permitted by the city through March and April will be postponed or canceled and new permits will not be issued at this time.
The municipal court is also suspended until further notice. The municipal court will work to reschedule appearances once the suspension is lifted, Elmore said.
“Over the weekend the Georgia Supreme Court basically suspended all courts, all court deadlines so this would be in keeping with what the rest of the state is doing,” City Attorney Stephen Quinn added.
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The City Commission also approved changes to how garbage will be collected. The city is suspending back door sanitation collection. All residents and businesses are asked to put their garbage containers on the curb on scheduled sanitation days and to avoid face-to-face contact with sanitation workers.
If someone is physically unable to perform these tasks, they may apply for a waiver to request assistance.
Commissioner Brian Fisher emphasized that this policy, and all policies adopted today, are temporary. He said that there is a lot of interaction between public works employees and older residents specifically, so this policy is a way to limit that interaction and protect residents and city workers.
Elmore said that the idea with the policy is that the city is introducing a practical policy on social distancing by asking residents to not interact with residents.
Commissioner Lisa Shortell also pointed out all of the various things sanitation workers may touch if they are collecting garbage from someone’s back door, so the policy is also meant to protect the workers and residents from spreading the virus as much as possible.
“While we all understand that we know the virus can be on the garbage can and can take measures to protect ourselves from that after we touch the garbage can, we aren’t going to be so cognizant of where else the public works folks have touched,” she said.
Lastly, the City Commission adopted a temporary policy to continue to provide regular compensation without affecting sick leave balances if a city employee is put on quarantine by a doctor or is confirmed to have the coronavirus.
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“If an employee is confirmed to have contracted the virus the city manager may determine that all nonessential personnel should remain isolated at home to avoid further exposure to city staff and residents. In this case, the affected employees will continue to receive regular compensation without affecting sick leave balances,” Elmore said.
In a statement posted on March 12 to the city’s website, Elmore said that as a small community with a vulnerable population, it is necessary to be proactive and reduce risks for possible community spread of coronavirus.
“Additionally, we must be cognizant that staff exposure or infection could dramatically reduce the availability and resources of the limited number of staff members,” Elmore said in the statement.
The City Commission will meet again for its regular work session at 5:30 p.m. on March 25 at City Hall, 21 N. Avondale Plaza.
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