Weatherford City Council heard a COVID-19 update at their regular meeting on Tuesday evening.
Council had the meeting between themselves and staff in council chambers, but the public was invited to attend the meeting over the phone using a dial-in system.
Council approved extending the Declaration of Local Disaster to midnight May 12. Last week, Mayor Paul Paschall signed the declaration, which can be used to obtain federal dollars for reimbursement of the city’s current efforts to address the virus.
“This in no way goes against the county’s order that was adopted on Monday, which is active for a total of 30 days which closes all non-essential businesses for up to a term of 30 days,” City Manager James Hotopp said.
Parker County Emergency Management Coordinator Sean Hughes presented at the meeting and said the county has only one positive case of COVID-19.
Parker County Judge Pat Deen Wednesday afternoon announced that a second positive case had been confirmed in the county.
The more testing is done means waiting longer for test results, which is taking five to seven days, Hughes said.
Hughes defined exposure to COVID-19 as spending two hours or more within six feet of someone who has the virus. Hughes said he is working to dispel rumors and meets regularly with public safety chiefs.
In a report on the COVID-19 situation, Hotopp said he has been in contact with Paschall, County Judge Pat Deen, Hughes and State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford. King and Hughes are helping the city provide protective personal equipment to first responders.
“There’s obviously a large amount of stress on the supply chain right now, and trying to get proper PPE for our first responders is a very difficult task right now,” Hotopp said.
Hotopp explained the city’s response to the outbreak, which includes closing the library, which is still available for curbside book checkouts, and the animal shelter, which sees a lot of volunteers. Employees in city hall, who mainly are behind glass partitions, have been provided with masks and gloves if needed.
“In general, I think one of the big things that we’re trying to stress throughout this entire thing is our exceptional customer service,” Hotopp said. “Just because we may be going through a local crisis, we don’t want to suffer in regards to customer service.”
Firefighters and police are being scanned frequently for vital signs to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Hotopp said. City staff is working to purchase thermometers for all city buildings.
“It goes without saying that police and fire are obviously prepared for these types of events,” Hotopp said. “They have gone through and done an extensive level of staff training to be able to respond in events like this, and that’s quite honestly exactly what we expect and that’s what the public demands. They expect that local government can function in a time like this, and we can and we’ll be able to provide that exceptional customer service that our residents have come to know and expect.”
An internal task force, with police and fire chiefs, the assistant city manager and department representatives, is working on staff training to secure resources, planning for facilities and infection, and resource planning in terms of police and fire in case of infection in those departments, Hotopp said.
Paschall said decisions being made by the city are not being taken lightly.
“Our intent is to work in a unified fashion as the county and cities that constitute Parker County, and that we make the most and best effort that we can in a calculated manner to slow the spread of this virus,” Paschall said. “Some of the steps we have taken and supported have been very difficult and have an impact on families. As soon as things can be reinstated back to the way they were in a safe manner, we’re certainly going to do that.”
The city is working with the chamber on a plan to help local businesses recover from the economic impact of the coronavirus, Hotopp said.
“We know that all of our businesses, whether they are small or large, have a vital impact to the city of Weatherford, and we want them all to be successful,” Hotopp said. “We realize that we are going to have to reinvent some things, we’re going to have to do some things differently as we go through this process to be able to help them get back on their feet.”
Assistant City Manager Brad Burnett said the virus outbreak will negatively impact sales tax revenue and other revenue, but the city is prepared to offset reductions and maintain financial flexibility.
Information on the virus is available on the city’s website as well as at city hall, Hotopp said.
Council also took action on several items regarding plats and zoning. Council approved the city’s updated thoroughfare plan and amended subdivision regulations, which included clarification of plat requirements and corrections of minor errors and omissions.