Thursday, May 28, 2020

The City of Prince Rupert's "new normal" will feature less physical contact with the public

Access to City Hall has resumed, however visitors will
only be allowed in one at a time and appointments
must be made prior to arrival

As part of Monday evenings Council meeting, City Manager Robert Long provided for an update on how the City of Prince Rupert plans to return to regular operations, relaying the latest notes on the city's COVID response and measures that have been put in place.

His presentation to Council was brief and featured few details on the city's Phase II plans as it prepares to move forward.

Among those themes that he did share notes on was a look at how the city would be resuming public access on Wednesday but with new restrictions to that access.

He noted that the city would move forward cautiously to ensure for staff safety, sharing some details on  the limitations that they now have in place at the moment at City Hall.

"We intend to open the doors on Wednesday to one person at a time, sort of appointment only service. We just don't have the facility to do any more than that, so we'll move ahead cautiously making sure that the staff are safe and the people coming in our safe ... plastic barriers, plexiglass barriers are up and will be forward facing to the public, all those measures are in place ... Slowly we'll get back to what was, or what will likely be a new normal, but slowly we'll get back to regular, as regular a service as we can "-- City Manager Robert Long with an update for Council on the resumption of civic services

With Property tax payment period almost here, the City's Finance Department is already making note of the changes to the access to City Hall, outlining how appointments can be made, and highlighting that paying by electronic methods is preferable.

You can review more of those notes from the Finance Department here.

Asked by the Mayor about a timeline towards resuming other services, Mr. Long spoke mostly towards themes of outdoor recreation observing that they hope to have the tennis courts reopened by the first week of June, though advising that the City still can't open the Tot Parks until advised by the province, he added that they are continuing on with lawn mowing in some collectively used public areas.

There was however no mention on Monday, towards when such services as those offered at the Recreation Centre and Earl Mah Aquatic Centre may resume, with Mr, Long noting that the city was in contact with the province for guidance on those types of openings. 

Activities at all civic facilities were suspended on March 13th, putting over twenty programs on pause during the COVID Period,

Following up on some questions submitted by Mr. Larry Golden as part of the new process for the Committee of the Whole, the City Manager observed that there have been no official layoffs through the pandemic period, though he did relay to Council that some staff members have gone home for health issues and other issues related to COVID.  

Mr Long also outlined for Council that where work could be  reorganized for city workers they have done it, making note of the efforts of the recreation department, who took on other activities during the last six weeks or so.

As for preventive measures, safety items such as protective barriers have been put in place at civic facilities and in civic vehicles, with all of the distancing measures in place for staff following the provincial protocols.

The City Manager also noted that work continues on infrastructure work such as water-main breaks and others as they adjust to what will be a new normal.

Prince Rupert City Council members have been participating in Council
sessions by phone since early March

There was no indication from Monday's Council session, when the Council members may be planning to return to the City Council chamber for their twice a month public sessions.

Council members last met in person as part of the March 9th Council session, since then those sessions that were not cancelled, have taken place by way of telephone, with the Mayor and some staff based at City Hall, while council members and the City Manager participate by telephone.

On Monday, Mr. Long did not offer any update on the current approach to civic governance and no members of Council made any enquiries as to whether the City was considering finding an alternate venue for Council sessions, one that may allow the to return to their duties, in person, all while following proper social distancing measures.

Nor was the idea of introducing video conferencing to the current set up, something which may assist in the virtual council process that has been adopted since March.

Monday was also the first session to use the new format of submitted questions from the public for the Committee of the Whole, with Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller relaying the contributions that had  been submitted by email or phone.

Council members did not indicate on Monday whether they believe that new process provides for the kind of community engagement that the community might expect when it comes to making contact with their elected officials.

You can review Mr. Longs report to Council from the City's YouTube Video archive, starting at the 31 minute mark.

For more notes on Monday's City Council session see our Council Timeline feature here, other themes of discussion from past council sessions can be explored here.

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