The White Salmon City Council is set to vote at tonight’s meeting to ratify Mayor Marla Keethler’s Emergency Proclamation in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, which if approved, would provide some additional benefits for City staff and customers.
Such benefits would include the suspension of late fees, penalties and water shutoffs for customers.
It would also suspend the requirement for retail establishments to charge fees for providing paper checkout bags and would allow them to ban the use of reusable bags to prevent the transmission of Covid-19.
In a letter to City employees dated Mar. 17, Keethler told City employees they were not required to use any form of paid leave in the event their ability to work is directly impacted by the virus, a rule which is effective through April 24. City Councilors will vote to confirm this rule tonight.
Keethler also told employees in the letter that they will not be charged leave in case there are no childcare options and they must stay home to take care of their young.
City employees would be expected to track the hours they are away from work to apply for reimbursement from FEMA.
Along with the emergency proclamation, City Councilors will be discussing and are expected to authorize a payment and reimbursement request to Crestline Construction for work done to the Jewett Boulevard water main line.
The project has been suspended until June 24 in accordance with the statewide “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order delivered by Gov. Jay Inslee, although Keethler noted in an email that date could be moved.
“We anticipate that once the project is up and running again, the crew will need approximately 3 weeks to complete the work in the downtown core,” Keethler wrote in an email.
In response to Gov. Jay Inslee’s Proclamation 20-28, which exempted parts of the Public Records Act, City Councilors are acting only on items that pertain to the ongoing emergency since public comment has been suspended from Council meeting agendas.
One omission in the meeting agenda is any aspect of the six-month housing moratorium, which up until two weeks ago was a centerpiece for city operations.
At the last meeting, Councilors debated the merits of several options to open streams of revenue dedicated to funding attainable housing, including a levy lid lift and a look at grants and loans.
Asked what will happen to the progress made on the moratorium, Keethler wrote that: “a new moratorium calendar is under review, with an adjustment on rearranging much of the background/policy research work to the front end and moving the matters that will require public hearings and full commission meetings to the backend.”
“The [Planning Commission] was able to send feedback to staff after the [Mobile Home] Zone hearing that occurred before the city’s Emergency Proclamation, and that updated zone will see council review in the future. The intent is to keep the housing work moving forward, but also being mindful of staff’s need to support matters related to the COVID-19 situation, as well as keeping critical city functions moving, during this unprecedented period,” Keethler continued.
The council meeting will be held via teleconferencing at 6 p.m. on April 1. Instructions are expected to be up on the City’s website by then. No hard copies of the agenda packets will be provided. No public comment will be taken at the meeting. The public will be invited to attend the meeting via teleconferencing. The meeting will be recorded and posted to the City’s website.
In an update posted on the City’s website, officials wrote that employees are working from home but are ensuring that city business continues, and that critical infrastructure continues to operate. They are asking business to be conducted by email (posted on the city’s website) or to leave a message if you choose to call City Hall at 509-493-1133. They also wrote to emphasize Republic Services are continuing to perform garbage and recycling pickup services, although they are not accepting items that are not contained or bagged.