An emergency ordinance that allows Petersburg borough officials to take measures to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic has been continued for another 60 days. It was a unanimous vote for the extension but some assembly members were a little reluctant based on local opposition to health mandates.
The local emergency law was first passed March 20th as COVID-19 cases spread around many states. It allows for orders to protect public safety and health and also grants authority for enforcing those measures.
The borough’s incident commander Karl Hagerman reminded the assembly the pandemic is not over yet.
“We have made great strides locally to control it and keep our numbers very low, something that the entire community should be proud o,” Hagerman said. “But in light of the seasonal work force coming into Petersburg very soon and already happening, the risk of an outbreak is very real. So this emergency ordinance will continue the ability of the assembly to act nimbly and take action if needed to protect our local population.”
Emergency powers include quickly called meetings and emergency actions that take only one public vote instead of three. Borough officials also can avoid the usual purchasing procedures if emergency supplies are needed. The ordinance also allows for prohibiting larger public gatherings, closing businesses and even instituting a curfew if needed. The borough hasn’t used many of the measures outlined in the ordinance and hasn’t fined or jailed anyone for violating stay at home orders, face covering requirements or other local mandates that have been imposed.
Assembly member Jeigh Stanton Gregor was supportive of continuing with those emergency powers for another 60 days.
“We are moving into a time of seasonal work force and having our local government I think used the word ‘nimbly’, being able to act quickly in the event we need to,” Stanton Gregor said, adding , “The beauty of it is we don’t need to right now, things feel really good in terms of life returning to a good sense of normal.”
Local health mandates and the pandemic have produced an unusually high volume of public input at assembly meetings this spring, both for and against measures aimed at protecting public health.
Assembly member Taylor Norheim said he’d support a continuation but was a little reluctant.
“I don’t see it as too big of a deal to me, but I am aware that some people do and that’s all I was stating,” Norheim said. “And that’s why I’ll vote for it reluctantly but it’s a good idea for now, just 60 more days, just get us through all the seasonal workers and what not I don’t think it’s going to be the end of the world here.”
The ordinance passed on a 7-0 vote and remains in effect for another 60 days but can be repealed sooner.