Farmington council approves local state of emergency

Farmington city council members may be “Zoomed out”, but they’ll continue with remote meetings through June 30.

Officials started using the Zoom videoconferencing platform after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the state in March 2019. A state order that allowed remote meetings for any reason expires on  March 31.

Local governments have the option of declaring a local state of emergency to continue electronic meetings. City Manager David Murphy on Monday asked officials to take that action, because social distancing would make in-person impractical.

“I could fit the council up on the dais, but that would put the attorney, myself and Clerk Mullison on the ground,” he said, with no room for other department heads. “I would rather have in person meetings the way they were, but that’s not going to happen for a while.”

City attorney Tom Schultz said a state “frequently asked questions” document indicates the current 25-person limit on indoor gatherings would apply only to the council. Others could attend meetings with social distancing in place. He said other communities have used multiple rooms to deal with larger crowds.

City Hall stays closed

Murphy also asked to start taking reservations June 1 for city parks and the Governor Warner Mansion. While parks have remained open throughout the pandemic, the city suspended reservations for larger groups.

City Hall, however, will remain closed, except by appointment.

I’m worried that we have such a small office, if someone gets infected all of us would have to quarantine, and then we’d have nobody working,” Murphy said. “Until the employees get their vaccinations, I don’t want the public in here yet.” 

Council member David DeLind noted a significant uptick in transmission rates over the past week.

“If we’re going to continue on that trend, we need to keep the public servants as safe as we possibly can,” he said.

“Keeping city hall closed down has been extraordinary helpful in keeping employees safe,” Mayor Sara Bowman said. “As much as I’m Zoomed out, as everyone is, it just makes sense to continue with remote meetings.”

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