City of Florence declares ‘State of Emergency’


New rules for public meetings as changes are implemented citywide

March 24, 2020 — On March 23, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued Executive Order 20-12, which took effect statewide immediately and remains in effect until further notice. Executive Order 20-12 enacts a host of new, tougher restrictions (See page A2) on public spaces and businesses in an effort to increase social distancing requirements and slow the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

The Florence City Council has responded to the COVID-19 crisis in a similar manner, using Executive Order 20-12 as a template for a set of updated COVID-19 guidelines and an emergency declaration specific to Florence — both of which were adopted at the March 23 meeting of the City Council.

Florence Mayor Joe Henry greeted community members watching remotely online or over Charter Cable Channel 191, making a brief introductory statement and explaining the reasoning behind the city’s plan in preparing for the unknown impact the COVID-19 virus will have on the area.

“I know this is an incredibly hard time. Our day-to-day lives have taken a dramatic shift and our health and well-being are at stake due to coronavirus/COVID-19,” Henry said. “My heart is breaking as I watch the widespread impacts this is having on all aspects of our daily family, social and business lives. We are with you in this, we care for you, we are doing our best as city and community leaders to work through this and lead in this crisis.

“I want to assure you that as a city we have a plan that is dynamic and responsive. I appreciate your patience and support of the city as it works through this crisis.”

The city plan was delivered in the form of two resolutions, beginning with Resolution No. 6, Series 2020: “A Resolution Declaring a Temporary State of Emergency within the Boundaries of the City and Delegating Authority to the City Manager,” and Resolution No. 5, Series 2020: “Temporary COVID-19 Public Meeting Procedures,” which initiates major modifications to the public participation aspect of council and committee meetings.

Both resolutions are designed to be only temporary in duration.

City Recorder and Economic Development Coordinator Kellie Weese was direct in her recommendation that the councilors approve Resolution No. 5, which puts in place temporary changes to the required public participation aspect of city functions and meetings.

Weese detailed the current status of county and statewide efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, explaining that the move to live streaming of public meetings and committee deliberations is an integral part of the city response to the virus. She also expressed the importance of the limitation of live comments and attendance by the public, which also includes limiting of staff reports during meetings and finding alternate means of allowing citizens to speak directly to the council.

City Manager Erin Reynolds then presented councilors with background on the actions taken by the governor, as well as state and county agencies in response to the COVID-outbreak and asked for the adoption of the following Emergency Declaration:

The City Council of the City of Florence Resolves as Follows:

  1. City-Wide State of Emergency: A city-wide state of emergency hereby exists within the City of Florence, which includes all areas within the city boundaries.
  2. City Authority: During this state of emergency, the city may take any legal and necessary steps to respond and recover from the emergency, including but not limited to: requesting assistance, funds and reimbursement from the State of Oregon and federal agencies; adopting temporary rules and policies regarding city facilities, funds, fees, resources and staff; entering into contracts for services and aid agreements with other governmental or private entities; and cancelling non-essential city meetings and events.

This authorized the emergency procurement of goods, services and public improvements. In addition, the city will not send shut-off notices or shut off water for non-payment of unpaid utility bills while this emergency is in place, and may suspend enforcement of other billing department rules, regulations and code provisions, in the city manager’s discretion under the provisions of this declaration.

The city manager is also authorized to utilize the digital signature of the mayor, or city council presiding officer, as a method of original signature on actions of the city council, should such actions be approved.

  1. Staff Designation: The city manager is directed to identify two additional staff members who are designated and authorized to serve as the “acting in capacity” city manager (city manager AIC) in the city manager’s absence during this state of emergency. The city manager or designee(s) shall regularly document and report to the Council regarding any actions or orders taken pursuant to this Declaration.

Florence City Councilors voted unanimously to approve the emergency declaration.

Next, Public Information Officer Megan Messmer addressed the council updating them on the work being done by the West Lane Emergency Operations Group (WLEOG), which is the lead agency tasked with assisting the City of Florence in preparing for all types of emergencies.

“The West Lane Emergency Operations Group met Friday, March 20, to implement the West Lane Emergency Operations Plan and stand up its Emergency Operations Center in conjunction with regional partners,” Messmer said. “This ensures our ability to enhance coordination among our partner agencies, maintain critical and essential services, as well as support state and county health efforts.”

As outlined in the Emergency Operations Plan, which has been approved by all eight partner agency boards, incident command is established based on the nature of each disaster. An incident command structure has been established by the WLEOG partners agencies with Fire/EMS Chief Michael Schick and Police Chief Tom Turner, as well as City Manager Erin Reynolds, serving as unified command.

Messmer went on to explain the activation of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will allow for coordination with Lane County and other involved public entities.

“The purpose of the EOC is to allow us to coordinate as a local area, as well as with the Lane County EOC. A large-scale event will exceed the emergency response capabilities of the city and WLEOG member agencies,” she explained. “Additional resources will be required from the county and other states and/or the federal government to achieve an effective response. The EOC will facilitate the acquisition of additional resources to aid in the emergency response effort.”

Councilors had few questions for Messmer and the update on the role WELOG will play was accepted as presented.

Brown’s executive order and the City of Florence Emergency Declaration are the latest steps in response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the meeting, city staff referred councilors to actions and determinations made by the state, Oregon Health Authority and the CDC as the impetus for initiating changes in the manner the city operates.

Reynolds, Weese and Messmer all pointed to the strategies being instituted by these higher authorities as the basis for the requested changes in operational procedures.

“We are learning more about this virus and how people react to it every day,” Brown said in her statement Monday. “Not just from a medical standpoint, but from a social and behavioral standpoint.  I’m ordering it to save lives and protect our community. I hope everyone in Oregon abides by its core message: stay home unless absolutely necessary.”

In addition to businesses, Executive Order 20-12 also orders state executive branch offices and buildings to close to the public and provide public services by phone to the extent possible.

When public services require in-person interactions, the order requires social distancing measures to be implemented and enforced. State agencies must also facilitate telework and work-at-home for state employees whenever possible. While the order does not apply to local, federal or tribal governments, those governments are strongly encouraged to follow these directives. 

In Florence, the local Department of Motor Vehicles is now closed. Many important functions can still be accomplished through DMV2U.Oregon.gov.

In addition, the Department of Transportation has partnered with Oregon law enforcement agencies to exercise discretion in their enforcement of driver licenses, vehicle registrations and trip permits that expire during the COVID-19 emergency.

Oregon State Police, Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police and Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association have agreed to support a grace period for enforcing expired credentials. Transactions falling within this request include the following that could expire during the COVID-19 emergency: driver license and identification cards; passenger vehicle registrations; commercial vehicle registrations; trip permits and temporary registrations; and disabled parking permits.

Until the emergency is over, Oregon law enforcement agencies and associations have agreed to exercise flexibility and discretion when reviewing driver licenses, ID cards, and vehicle registrations during this time of public health emergency.

Brown’s order also directs state agencies to close parks and other outdoor spaces where social distancing cannot be maintained — expanding on actions already taken by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. 

City of Florence Park and Facility Closures:

City Parks — With Governor Brown’s executive order, the City has closed all of our playground equipment and structures, sport courts, and skate park to the public. Specifically, this includes the following:

Play Equipment/Structures

• Miller Park

• Pepperoaks Park

• Singing Pines

• 18th Street Pocket Park

• Munsel Road Park

Sport Courts (Tennis/Basketball)

• Rolling Dunes Park

• Miller Park

• Pepperoaks Park

• 18th Street Pocket Park

• Munsel Road Park

Essentially, because of the locations of the play equipment/structures and the basketball/sports courts Pepperoaks, 18th Street and Munsel Road parks are closed. The skate park at Miller Park is also closed in response to the order. Currently, restrooms at Miller Park, Rolling Dunes, Munsel Greenway, and Maple Street Plaza are open to the public.

The dog park at Singing Pines currently remains open with posted signage advising the public that areas such as the picnic shelters and dog parks do have social distancing requirements. If, for example, the users of the dog park do not adhere to the social distancing requirements, the City will make the decision to close those areas as well.

City Facilities — Consistent with guidance on limiting the spread of COVID-19 through social distancing, residents are asked to communicate with City staff over the telephone and internet as a primary method. Staff may not be able to answer phones but are able to check and return voicemails. Visit the City’s website at www.ci.florence.or.us for information on services, forms or other items needed. Staff email addresses are also available online to conduct business via email.

City facilities closures include the following:

• Florence City Hall

• Florence Justice Center

• Florence Public Works Facility

• Florence Events Center

• Florence Senior Center

• Florence Municipal Airport Office

Additional resources are available at ci.florence.or.us and www.facebook.com/CityofFlorenceOregon/.

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