The Auburn City Council declared a state of emergency Tuesday night in response to increasing concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re in an unprecedented time in our community,” said Mayor Ron Anders.
The state of emergency, approved during a regularly scheduled council meeting, will give the city the more flexibility in handling during the spread of the coronavirus, Anders said.
Decisions such as potentially putting a public safety curfew in place or canceling city meetings will be easier, said City Manager Jim Buston.
“I want to let our citizens know … your staff and your city is meeting every day, as many times as it takes to try to make sure that we’re doing all that we need to do to provide, to make your life safe and to be doing the kinds of things that puts Auburn in the best position to be successful and to get through this situation,” Anders said.
It allows the city to waive certain rules guidelines involving performance of public work, entering into contracts, incurring obligations, employing temporary workers or hiring volunteers. There is also the option of foregoing rules for equipment rentals, supplying necessary materials or facilities, imposing a public safety curfew or to close any public buildings under control of the city.
Buston and Anders will more discretion to act without the usual limits on their jobs during the emergency as well. The measure was proposed during the committee of the whole before the regular business meeting, and council members were each given time to read the resolution before it was voted on.
The council also approved a second resolution — a strongly worded suggestion to local businesses and residents, as described by Buston. It urges businesses to practice social distancing and, for those that cannot, to not allow more than 25 patrons inside.
Residents are also strongly encouraged to stay home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
“It’s a resolution informing the citizens of Auburn of the importance of following the guidelines of the CDC and the Alabama State Health Department,” Buston said.
These measures are a means of resident responsibility, Anders said. Auburn residents who follow these guidelines can help ensure that more serious means are not put in place, such as a curfew.
“Not only is the city of Auburn experiencing a situation that we’ve never experienced before, but so is our state,” Anders said. “And I do believe that everybody is trying to work together to figure things out in a situation that is moving quickly. And we all know that what we think is going on now, by the time we wake up in the morning might be totally different and it’s just happening that way.”
COVID-19The council followed its own recommendations, not sitting in their regular seats but out front and separate from one another.
“We want you to know that the safety and well-being of our citizens and a city work force is paramount,” Anders said in a video published by the city on Monday. “Our COVID-19 task force is in regular contact with regional resources to remain informed of the latest updates and recommendations.”
Buston said the room had been cleaned thoroughly beforehand and would be again afterward.
Free parkingThe council voted to extend free parking in downtown.
The decision to extend free parking resulted from Auburn University’s school closure due to the coronavirus.
The school has closed operations and classes until at least April 10. The city normally offers free parking during university breaks, such as spring break.
Council members voted to extend free parking through April 9.
Local Auburn businesses met Friday morning to discuss how businesses would be affected. Since the university closure, many have seen less business and some have closed.
Business owners discussed free parking as another means to support local businesses.
Megan Crouch, assistant city manager, said at the Friday meeting, that the agenda item also gives City Manager Jim Buston the authority to extend free parking until May 1 if necessary.