Avondale Estates City Commission adopts shelter-in-place order
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This story has been updated.
By Zoe Seiler, contributor
Avondale Estates, GA – As the number of cases of the coronavirus increase in the state, cities are taking action to protect residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Avondale Estates City Commission held a special called meeting Thursday night and adopted a resolution that orders citizens to shelter in place.
The City Commission called this meeting to discuss the shelter-in-place resolution and the Department of Juvenile Justice building. The board will not meet for its regular meeting on Monday.
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The resolution orders residents to stay at home as much as possible unless they are performing an essential task, such as going to the doctor, getting medication and food, and exercising or working outside as long as people comply with social distancing by staying 6 feet apart.
Gatherings of all sizes are also prohibited under the resolution. The shelter-in-place order will expire on April 19 unless it is canceled, extended or modified.
Non-essential businesses are ordered to temporarily close but will be allowed to perform minimum basic operations like inventory, ensuring security or processing payroll and employee benefits, according to the resolution.
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Many questions were raised by the commissioners about this topic at the City Commission meeting on Wednesday night. One question raised by Commissioner Dee Merriam was whether or not people who have a business that doesn’t interact with the public could still go into their business and work.
City Manager Patrick Bryant said the resolution as written and City Attorney Stephen Quinn’s opinion that was sent to the board concluded that these activities are not prohibited.
“So just to give you an example that we used [Wednesday] night, an artist can go into their studio and make art as long as they’re not interfacing with the public. Essentially they’re not selling the art directly from that establishment or letting members of the public come in and view the art,” Bryant said.
Essential businesses will be allowed to remain open. Essential businesses listed in the resolution include, but are not limited to:
– Hospitals, clinics and pharmacies,
– Grocery stores, food banks and convenience stores,
– Gas stations and auto-repair,
– Banks and related financial institutions and
– Hardware stores.
More essential businesses and activities are listed in the resolution.
Restaurants will also remain open for carryout or delivery only.
Schools will be allowed to operate only to facilitate distance learning or perform essential functions, the resolution states.
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Additionally, lawn maintenance services are allowed to continue working.
“The board found that because those activities are conducted outdoors and as long as there’s no interaction directly between the resident and the persons providing that service that, that would be exempted from the resolution restrictions. In short, yard maintenance is allowed,” Quinn said.
Construction downtown or done at individual homes will also be able to continue. Quinn said the resolution lists construction as an essential activity so it will be allowed.
Mayor Jonathan Elmore emphasized that this was a tough decision for the board to make and thanked the commissioners and city staff for their work on this issue.
“I know that this is a difficult decision. I know that this is not a situation that anyone wants to be in,” he said. “This is a global pandemic and pretty much by definition, it doesn’t get much bigger. This is affecting everybody everywhere. I feel like we are doing the right thing here.”
The City Commission also approved a tax abatement structure for the Department of Juvenile Justice building.
The Avondale Estates Downtown Development Authority approved a structure on Tuesday, March 24.
“In this deal that we’ve agreed upon, and the DDA did vote to approve it [Tuesday] night, the DDA would technically hold title to the [Juvenile Justice] building for 15 years which is the term of Forum’s lease with the [Department of Juvenile Justice] that they’re executing. As such, no property taxes would be paid for 15 years,” DDA Chair Dave Deiters said at the March 25 City Commission meeting.
The purchase price of the building also increased from $7 million to $7.45 million. The DDA also negotiated a pilot payment, or payment in lieu of taxes, of $550,000 that would be paid to the city.
City Manager Patrick Bryant said that $550,000 is “roughly equal to the 15-year tax collection projection on that property at its valuation upon sale and a percentage increase each year over the 15 years.”
Deiters also mentioned at the March 25 meeting that the agreement completely indemnifies and holds the DDA harmless from any kind of litigation.
“This deal is something that will maximize the price of the building. It will make the city whole in terms of any lost taxes and it completely indemnifies the DDA against any liability,” Commissioner Lisa Shortell said.
The next City Commission meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. on April 22. All meetings will be held via teleconference until further notice, Elmore said.
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