COOLIDGE — “The one constant is change,” Mayor Jon Thompson told council members and those in attendance at Monday’s council meeting shortly before council voted to declare a state of emergency in the midst of uncertainty sparked by the coronavirus outbreak.
The resolution to declare the state of emergency was approved unanimously by the council, with Councilwoman Tatiana Murrieta absent. It enables the mayor to issue proclamations that can help city government respond faster in a time of crisis.
“This just allows (the mayor), if there is a need, to (fill) it through a proclamation as opposed to having a council meeting and passing a resolution or ordinance,” City Attorney Denis Fitzgibbons said.
Proclamations that Thompson could potentially issue as the situation with COVID-19 progresses might include notifying the public that a quorum of council members may be present at ongoing meetings and briefings about the virus, Fitzgibbons said.
The proclamation, he noted, would act as a broad public notice instead of the routine notices that are posted by the City Clerk’s Office listing the potential meetings where a quorum might occur.
The declaration may also enable local businesses to secure additional avenues of funding that might become available admits the economic plight the measures taken to combat the virus have created.
In addition, the city itself may have the opportunity to receive a 75% reimbursement from the federal government for money it spends to provide essential services during this time.
“There has to be a very detailed accounting of where our resources went,” City Manager Rick Miller said. “Law enforcement (and) first responders are absolutely one of the eligible items we can seek reimbursement for if we have to have additional responses there.”
Councilman Steve Hudson revealed during Monday’s meeting that the Coolidge Police Department had already been sent to respond to grocery stores for security purposes within the city as trucks unload. With only so many officers to patrol the city and respond to other emergency situations, Hudson asked if the declaration of emergency would also enable the mayor to call on the national guard to provide additional support if needed.
The answer, according to Fitzgibbons, is yes.
“The mayor has the authority to call upon all regular and auxiliary law enforcement agencies and organizations within or without the city to assist in preserving the keeping of the peace,” he said.
Under the resolution, if the need arose, the mayor could also issue proclamations over areas such a curfew and street closures.
However, even though the declaration of a state of emergency gives the mayor certain capabilities, Fitzgibbons noted that the operation and responsibility of overseeing the day-to-day functions of the city would still fall to the city manager.
“The only thing constant about this kind of event that we are experiencing right now is change,” Thompson said. “Things will change from tonight to tomorrow to the day after tomorrow and you can count on that. And when it changes this city will have to change with it.”
Thompson issued a statement on March 18 informing the public that although there currently are no known cases of COVID-19 in Coolidge, all programs sponsored by the city have been suspended.
However, Thompson indicated that the city currently has no plans in place for staff to work remotely.
The Coolidge Adult Center, Youth Center and Public Library will remain closed to the public at this time. Coolidge Parks & Recreation staff noted that the Adult Center is currently only providing meals in a drive-thru fashion to registered seniors who have reserved their meals in advance.
But for other city departments including the city court, animal control, public works and development services, it is business as usual and will remain open at this time.