By CONNIE PARISH
Special to the Times
The signs on Lansing City Hall told the story of how the city is handling the national health scare.
And during a council meeting Thursday, while council members conducted some regular business, the most substantive part came at the end when City Administrator Tim Vandall outlined what various departments are doing to modify operations in an effort to keep everyone safe.
Mayor Mike Smith made several impassioned pleas to citizens to do everything they can to support local businesses at this time, including restaurants which are mostly limited to curbside, pick-up and drive-through business.
City offices are locked during the day, though they were open Thursday because of the council meeting. Though offices and all city buildings are closed, staff can be reached by phone or email, Vandall said. Staff are available to answer questions and have occasionally came to the parking lot to speak with a resident. He expects this to continue at least until early April, though council members were loathe to attach a date as to when normal operations will proceed.
Staff are working on social distancing as well, so some desks have been rearranged.
The finance, utility and administrative offices have also modified actions. Trash pick-up Thursday went on as usual, Vandall said, but no large items will be picked up now. Yard waste is also picked up.
Police officers are wiping down their vehicles at the beginning and end of each shift, Vandall said, and they won’t be entering buildings on medical calls. Court dates and trials have been pushed back.
The Lansing Community Center is also closed and events have been cancelled for the next couple of weeks, but he said those who had reserved it have been very understanding. There is no city-related travel, and digital meetings have been used as much as possible.
Vandall asked the council whether it wanted to proceed with next week’s work session regarding a swimming pool as part of the Parks and Recreation master plan. The mayor suggested cancelling all meetings they could, and council members concurred.
The city is also waiving late fees for utility bills, Vandall noted, adding that customers can use the drop box for payments or make online payments. He said they’ve been discussing possible payment plans for utilities for businesses that may be going through rough times now.
Youth soccer is canceled and the activity center is closed. Registration for baseball and T-ball has been extended with the hope the programs can continue, Vandall said. Staff also will be putting disclaimer signs at various parks, such as those with playground equipment since the city can’t guarantee all of it has been sanitized. The signs will say “Use at your own risk.” However, the city has several trails available, such as Angel Falls, Bernard Park and the DeSoto trail. Fishing is also available at Bernard Park.
Smith asked Vandall if the halt in operations for many businesses will affect sales tax collection. Vandall said it probably would. The city is making an effort to recognize volunteer boards and to help businesses by providing members with $40 gift cards to local restaurants.
Construction projects, including DeSoto Road, are moving forward. There’s talk of a federal stimulus package, Vandall said, and if it includes money for infrastructure, the city hopes to have a proposal ready to apply for funds for the roundabout at DeSoto and 4-H roads.
The city’s public information officer, Ken Miller, besides getting information to Lansing residents, is also assisting the county health department, Vandall said.
The library is offering digital media and will provide visitors books at the curbside.
Council members praised Vandall and other staff members for all the strides they have taken during this trying time. Council member Dave Trinkle, speaking on the phone, commended them all, and added that it’s good not to sacrifice health, and added that though it’s definitely a rough spot “we’ll all get through it.”