Maple Grove Declares State of Local Emergency
Maple Grove joins other cities in the northwest metro in declaring a state of local emergency. The move came in an emergency city council meeting held early Friday, March 27. The council voted to declare an emergency unanimously, with no discussion.
The declaration gives the city options to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak that wouldn’t normally exist. This includes authorizing the mayor to act unilaterally if the city council can’t meet because council members are sick or in quarantine. Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center, Crystal, Golden Valley, New Hope, Osseo, Plymouth, and Robbinsdale have already declared their own states of local emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
State of Local Emergency: Staff Policy Changes
Maple Grove also changed some staff policies. During the state of emergency, employees of the city can use up to 80 hours of sick time even if they have no sick leave accrued. And employees deemed non-essential and sent home under Governor Tim Walz’s Stay-At-Home order will be paid their full salaries through April 10. That, also, was passed in a unanimous vote.
Utility Late Fee Changes
Finally, the council voted to waive late fees on utility bills until the state of emergency ends. Those measures were adopted unanimously, but with council member Karen Jaeger voicing the lone objection during the discussion. “It’s a nice gesture, but if I don’t pay my Chase account they’re not gonna give me any time for my fees if I don’t pay it. Nobody that I know of takes the fees away.” Jaeger added, “If you’re gonna do something then it’s the utility bills you should be lowering, not worrying about the fees.” Council member Kristy Barnett responded “When the federal government is collecting zero interest on student loans and putting off payments for several months, as well as certain mortgage companies, if they can do it, I think we can do it on our utilities.” Despite her objections, Jaeger joined the other council members in voting to adopt the late fee suspension.
Update on City’s Response to COVID-19
Fire Chief Tim Bush updated the council on the city’s actions to address the coronavirus emergency. As we reported earlier, the city has opened their operations center, from remote. Called the Virtual Emergency Operations Center, Bush told the council the process is working well, with most meetings not being held in person to avoid possible exposure to the virus. Bush strongly encouraged the public to conduct business with the city over the phone or via email or the city’s website rather than in-person.
To watch a replay of the emergency council meeting, click here.
For more coverage of the COVID-19 impact on the northwest metro community, click here.