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Decatur City Commission declares state of emergency due to coronavirus pandemic

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Decatur City Commission declares state of emergency due to coronavirus pandemic

The City Commission held a quorum-only meeting on March 16 where they declared a State of Emergency in response to COVID-19. Screen shot taken from a live stream of the meeting.
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This story has been updated. 

Decatur, GA- The Decatur City Commission at its March 16 meeting declared a state of emergency because of the coronavirus pandemic and granted the mayor emergency powers.

Due to social distancing measures, the meeting was a quorum only, consisting of Mayor Patti Garrett, Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers and Commissioner Kelly Walsh.

The city is not ordering the closure of bars and restaurants, but Mayor Garrett said that option remains on the table for now.

In a related measure, the city also expanded its leave benefits and granted paid sick leave for parttime employees, like school crossing guards who are out of work now that the schools have closed indefinitely.

Just before the meeting, the city announced that all city buildings are closed until further notice. This includes the cancelation of municipal court through April 13. A full announcement on that is published at the end of this article.

The expanded leave policy allows employees to use unearned leave, City Manager Andrea Arnold said, and expands the time employees would need to provide medical documentation. If employees can work remotely, they will be expected to work their regularly scheduled hours. Full-time employees who cannot work remotely will be on paid administrative leave. The new policy will be evaluated every 30 days.

Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution declaring a public health state of emergency which temporarily gives the mayor some emergency powers and relaxes some city regulations.

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The city manager will recommend the adoption of certain measures that may be necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Competitive bid requirements will be temporarily suspended.

Under the city’s code, the mayor temporarily has the power to:

– Enforce all rules, laws, and regulations relating to emergency management and to assume direct operational control over all emergency management resources;

– Seize or take for temporary use, any private property for the protection of the public;

– Sell, lend, give or distribute all or any such property or supplies among the inhabitants … and to maintain a strict accounting of property or supplies distributed and for funds received for such property or supplies; and

– Perform and exercise such other functions and duties, and take such emergency actions as may be necessary to promote and secure the safety, protection and well-being of the inhabitants

Source: City of Decatur Code of Ordinances.

The resolution expires on April 16 unless it is renewed.

“The thought behind this was even though we have a state of emergency at the state level and national level, this assures us we are able to work at the local level in a quick and expedient manner if it is necessary,” Garrett said. “It gives us the legal authority.”

Mayor Pro Tem Powers said the resolution gives the city authority to consider things like a curfew and closing or limiting restaurants and bars.

“It’s a fluid situation,” Powers said. “It’s probably going to change daily at best, if not hourly.”

Mayor Garrett said the resolution could also make recovery funds available to the city after the crisis has ended. Garrett noted that city-sponsored events have been postponed, after school programs have stopped and business-related travel for employees has stopped.

Garrett said the number of people restaurants over the weekend was a concern for her.

“It is concerning that we have residents that are not doing this [social distancing] and we saw it over the weekend and I hope as our restaurants are continuing to be open at this point, I hope that social distancing is important enough to everyone to take those good health and protection recommendations seriously,” she said.

But she stopped short of calling for those businesses to close and announced that city-owned parking would now be free for 30 minutes so people can pick up to-go orders from restaurants. Garrett said any closures would need to be coordinated with other cities and the county. The city of Brookhaven has already moved ahead with a temporary closure of restaurants and bars, except for delivery and take out.

“County and cities within the county are giving serious consideration to closing all bars and restaurants,” Garrett said. “We understand the financial hardships.”

Mayor Pro Tem Powers said there will be hard days ahead.

“It’s going to be a challenging time,” he said. “Every day is going to be different which is going to require a lot of personal sacrifice and a lot of patience, but at the end of the day, we need to maintain that level of civility. That’s what’s going to get us through this.”

Here’s the full announcement from the city regarding the closure of city buildings and changes to city services:

In order to continue to protect the health and safety of our employees and community, City of Decatur office buildings are closed to the public beginning tomorrow, Tuesday, March 17. Police, Fire and other city services will remain fully operational during this time.

Police

Patrol functions and response to 911 calls will operate as normal.

– Incident reports that do not involve a suspect present at a scene or the processing of evidence will be handled by phone.

– The Police Department is closed to the public. However, if you need to visit in-person, please press the button on the intercom at the front door and an officer will meet you.

– Open records requests for police matters should be made via email to Deputy Chief Scott Richards at richards@decaturga.com.

– We strongly urge you to obtain accident reports through https://buycrash.com/.

– Background check services, alcohol server permits and door-to-door solicitation permits are not being provided at this time.

– All classes, meetings, events, ride-a-longs and tours are temporarily suspended until further notice.

For all non-emergency questions and concerns call 404-373-6551.

Sanitation

Sanitation and Recycling services will remain as scheduled with the following exceptions beginning Thursday, March 19:

– Curbside pickup only. Please call 404-377-5571 if you are unable to bring your trash to the curb.

– Yard trimmings will NOT be collected until further notice.

– The Neighborhood Clean Up days has been rescheduled for the fall.

Design, Environment & Construction (DEC)

All DEC services will continue during the building closure.  Services will require the following modifications:

– Permitting Questions and Trade Permitting (Electric, Plumbing, HVAC)- Call 404-377-6198. For now, payments shall be made by check only until other options become available.  Checks should be made payable to the City of Decatur.

– Construction-Tree-Engineering Questions- For all inquiries and pre-application meetings, contact staff directly to arrange a phone call or teleconference.

– Plan Submittal- For now, plan submittal will be carried out on an appointment basis or by email depending on the scope of work.

Contact staff at 404-377-6198 to arrange for drop-off or email submissions to:

Bell@decaturga.com (Engineering)

Evanovich@decaturga.com (Trees)

ABrumbalow@safebuilt.com (Building)

– As Built Plan Submittal- Plans can be emailed to Hedgebeth@decaturga.com

– Inspections- Inspections will be handled as usual by online requests only at decaturga.com/inspections

Call 404-377-6198 with all other questions.

Municipal Court

Municipal court sessions are canceled through April 13. If you have a court session scheduled from now through April 13, it will be rescheduled for at least 60 days out. Court staff will contact defendants via mail with new court dates. Defendants for court sessions related to the School Bus Crossing Arm will be contacted by American Traffic Solutions via mail with new hearing dates.  However, the ability to pay a citation online remains available in most cases.  Continue to check the city’s website for updated and on-going information regarding court operations. You may also contact the court at 678-553-6655.

Visitors Center

Decatur Visitors Center is closed until further notice.

Active Living and Children & Youth Services

– Ebster and Decatur Recreation Centers are closed until further notice.

– Oakhurst Indoor Pool are closed until further notice

– Playgrounds are off-limits until further notice.

– After school activities are canceled until further notice.

Other

Now is a good time to make sure you are registered for Smart911, Decatur’s emergency alerting system. To register, visit smart911.com.

And don’t forget to take a few minutes to check on the seniors in your neighborhood.

Additional updates and closures will be posted here, the city’s website, and all official City of Decatur social media platforms.

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