By Steve Powell
MARYSVILLE – Within hours of Gov. Jay Inslee’s order Monday to stay home due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Marysville City Council was showing concern for local businesses.
It also was announced Cedarcrest Golf Course is closing and fences were being put up around city playgrounds because children were not staying off them as requested. The Skate Park and public restrooms also are closing, except for the one at the Ebey Waterfront Trail. And the council voted to allow members to attend meeting remotely during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I’m very concerned about our local business community,” Mayor Jon Nehring said. “We need to help jump-start the economy after this. But we want to keep people safe – first and foremost.”
He said assistance is available for some businesses and people who have lost their jobs temporarily, but others have no access to unemployment.
Nehring said some people can work from home, but that’s an overwhelming challenge for some technology departments.
Councilman Jeff Vaughan talked about his own workplace.
“We can’t go long periods of time without revenue. Can we stay open a little while longer” without furloughs and laying off people, which will hurt families? he said. Vaughan said he was glad Inslee spelled out it’s OK to go outside, just keep 6 feet apart. He said people sitting in their armchairs and “wrongfully shaming others are doing more harm than good.”
He said he hopes the council will keep in touch through conference calls because, “More information is better.”
Councilman Stephen Muller said even though some people are being laid off there are other businesses that are staying open that need lots of temporary employees.
Council president Camille Norton said what’s happening to small businesses “is heart-breaking to watch.”
Councilman Tom King volunteers at the Marysville Food Bank said more and more people are going there for help, but that grocery stores aren’t donating as much because they are selling more.
Councilman Mark James talked about, “The domino effect,” of businesses falling – things he hadn’t even thought of.
Regarding council meetings, city attorney Jon Walker said Inslee has discouraged gatherings due to COVID-19, so it would be better for city leaders to meet from home by remote.
Because of quarantine possibilities, there may not be enough council members available for a quorum to conduct the city’s business, he says in written comments.
If members of the public attend, they could hear discussions about agenda items via speakerphone at City Hall.
The longest discussion at the meeting was a plan to hire another janitor to help with the extra cleaning needed during the coronavirus period at a cost of $53,000.
“It would pay for itself” quickly, Chief Administrative Officer Gloria Hirashima said, adding that she’s not sure the city’s new in-house department that started this week would be able to handle the workload. She said private companies have raised rates due to supply and demand at this time.
Norton suggested that the city should wait and see how the two new hires do. Since it would take three months for the hire to get onboard, the council decided to start the process now and see where things stand with the coronavirus before making the actual hire.
“The big cleaning is needed right now,” Nehring said, adding seasonal workers could fill the void in the short term.
Due to coronavirus concerns, visitors to the meeting were greeted at the door to City Hall by finance director Susan Langdon, who asked, “Are you feeling sick at hall.”
You then signed in and encouraged to use hand sanitizer. Once in the board room, there was a sign giving tips on avoiding the virus, along with wipes and more sanitizer. Council members sat 6 feet apart at tables. Walker attended by video, but other department heads missed the meeting to keep the numbers down to 12.
In other news:
•The council rehired Premier Golf Centers to operate Cedarcrest and give them a $15,000 bonus due to their banner year.
•The contract with Marysville Little League was approved. Parks director Tara Mizell was concerned because Little League may not have a season this year due to COVID-19. Because of lighting, turf and other improvements at Cedar Field, Little League was going to pay more this year.
•Hirashima said she didn’t want to close the city’s public restrooms, but that, “everyone’s paranoid.”
•Nehring is concerned about crime possibly going up, and police chief Jeff Goldman said later that’s definitely a possibility.