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FLORENCE — The Town Council met by a conference call March 18 to declare a local emergency in response to COVID-19.

Declaring an emergency eases procurement requirements, frees up funding and shortens time frames for key decisions, Town Manager Brent Billingsley said at the meeting.

He said town staff is monitoring the situation around the clock, and there is a link to information and resources on the town’s website, florenceaz.gov.

The emergency declaration reaffirms and incorporates the town’s Emergency Response Plan and specifies the town manager is the local emergency director.

He may make, amend and rescind orders, rules and regulations necessary for emergency functions.

These, however, shall not be inconsistent with orders, rules and regulations promulgated by the mayor of Florence or the governor of Arizona.

Mayor Tara Walter said the town’s guidelines at this time are recommendations.

“We’re not making anything enforceable. I want to make sure that is very clear,” she said. She continued the town is “honoring individual businesses” and how they choose to conduct business during the coronavirus pandemic.

She said local restaurants “would definitely appreciate your support at this time,” with either takeout or delivery. “I know a lot are also looking at delivery. Their supply is good; it’s strong. I know in the grocery stores it looks very weak out there. I assure you their supply is strong and they would love your business during this time,” Walter said.

“On behalf of town staff and employees, everything is in place,” the mayor said. “We want to make sure our citizens are safe; we want to make sure our town staff is safe; we want to make sure we have procedures and protocols in place.”

She continued that Florence’s police and fire chiefs “have done an amazing job of facilitating every scenario that could come their way. They’re prepared, they’re ready, and we’re ahead of this curve right now.”

Billingsley said the town has been asked to actively monitor the health of its employees and the town will do so consistent with Pinal County’s policies.

Employees who are especially at-risk of infection will work from home. Meetings that may attract more than 10 people will be conducted by phone.

Town parks are open, but other facilities such as the library and senior center are closed.

The town is canceling all nonessential work travel, and will seriously consider alternative schedules or staggered schedules for employees. “In some departments it makes sense to do that,” Billingsley said.

The town has also provided stress-awareness information to employees, “because we know a lot of folks are stressed about what is currently going on,” Billingsley said.

The town is working to make sure it has the proper personal protective equipment, or PPE, for employees who come in frequent contact with the public. A federal emergency equipment and supply stockpile has been released and Arizona will receive a shipment.

“We’ve got an order in to try and get some of those supplies,” Billingsley said. “We encourage everyone, anyplace that could have 10 or more people, to practice social distancing, which is a 6-foot distance between individuals,” Billingsley said.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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