The Bemidji City Council met today via conference call to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor of Bemidji Rita Albrecht declared the local emergency, and the council voted to extend it, past the statutory three days an emergency can be declared without support from council.
According to City Attorney Al Felix, the proclamation allows the mayor and City Manager Nate Mathews to make decisions quickly in response to the emergency.
“We’re asking for enabling action on the council’s part to give your city and staff the ability to respond to whatever’s needed from a local standpoint,” said Felix.
Ward 5 council person Nancy Erickson requested language that would inform council of any decisions made during the emergency period, which was included in the resolution that passed unanimously.
The expenses incurred during this time will likely be reimbursed by FEMA, among other agencies.
The council also discussed platooning strategies of how to keep essential work staff safe.
City Engineer Craig Gray, for example, is using only half of his crew at a time for the various sub-departments including water, sewer and streets.
He reasons that if one crewmembers gets sick with COVID-19, the entire group that person was working with would have to quarantine. This way, there are still healthy crewmembers available to perform the essential utility and infrastructure work.