Special meeting

The Abilene City Commissioners practiced social distancing at a special meeting Monday afternoon. An opinion by the Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt allowed the commission to meet without a public audience. The meeting was broadcast on Youtube.com. Pictured from left City Clerk Penny Soukup, City Manager Jane Foltz, City Commissioner Trevor Witt and Mayor Chris Ostermann.

Monday afternoon City Manager Jane Foltz said there has not been a reported case of COVID-19 in Dickinson County at a special meeting of the Abilene City Commission.

Also at the meeting, the commission voted 5-0 to end all nonessential facilities and services of the city, sending many employees home for 14 days. The shutdown will be reevaluated on April 8.

The city commission visited with City Attorney Aaron Martin by phone who said the meeting met ßhe Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s opinion.

“The purpose of the special meeting is to update the city commission on matters relating to the COVID-19 public health emergency,” said Mayor Chris Ostermann.

She said the meeting was also called to discuss and take action on a temporary closing of nonessential city facilities and services.

“We worked last week and then again this morning pretty diligently trying to set up a schedule on how, if we proceed forward, to run city business as well as letting our employees shelter in place,” Foltz said. “As you know, we do not have a case in Dickinson County. That has been confirmed.”

Police, fire department, public works and administration will be on an as needed basis.

“We are still going to bill people for their monthly water bills. We are still going to receive payment. We have bills that we need to pay,” Foltz said.

Commissioner Tim Shafer suggested the commission approve allowing the city manager to pay routine bills without going through the city commission which was also approved 5-0.

Commissioner Trevor Witt asked about the city procedure for extending grace for water bill payments for people impacted by COVID-19.

Foltz said that Kan. Gov. Laura Kelly ordered that the city is not allowed to shut off any utility services.

Commissioner Brandon Rein asked about the nonessential employees and what happens to them.

“They will be paid. Our main goal is to make sure that they are not exposed by the comings and goings,” Foltz said.

Outdoor public facilities were locked down on Friday.

“We are encouraging people to go to the parks and stay outside the six foot limit. Don’t use the equipment. We won’t be there sanitizing the equipment,” she said. “We are going to post please don’t use the equipment but we know we need places for the kids to run.”

Decision

A statement was ready by Ostermann.

The decision was made to align with the following:

• The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America: 15 days to slow the spread, which began on March 16 and involves avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people for a 15-day period.

• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance for the next eight weeks, which recommends that organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.

• Governor Kelly’s Executive Order NO. 20-04, effective through May 1 on social distancing to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in Kansas.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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