Governor Gary Herbert issued Executive Order 2020-1, Declaring a State of Emergency Due to Infectious Disease COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus, on March 6. On March 18, recognizing that “public monitoring and participation requirements in the Open and Public Meetings Act…will gather interested persons, members of the public, and members of a public body in a single, confined location where the risks of further spreading COVID-19 are far greater;” he issued Executive Order 2020-5, which suspended the requirement to have an anchor location for public meetings until the expiration of the state of emergency declared in the first executive order. Last week, the Utah State Legislature, via HJR504 extended the state of emergency until August 20. It also passed HB5002, Open and Public Meetings Act Amendments, which gives a public body the ability to hold electronic meetings without an anchor location if the chair of that public body “makes a written determination, supported by stated facts, that conducting the meeting with an anchor location presents a substantial risk to the health and safety of those who may be present at the anchor location; and complies with certain public notice requirements.” This last requirement may not be necessary under the current state of emergency, since the Governor declared and the Legislature has extended it twice now, but the law now provides more local control based on local circumstances.
Mayor Kaufusi has asked Provoans to “Proceed with Caution” as we live and work through this COVID-19 Pandemic. With the state’s move to “Low Risk” or “Yellow,” wherein economic activity is expanding, albeit cautiously, Utahns have been asked to: continue social distancing, wear masks, continue extra hygiene and sanitation practices, take temperatures of participants, turn away those with symptoms, and for employers to operate in ways that keep employees and patrons safe. High risk individuals need to take extra precautions and employers need to accommodate these.
The City Council Office continues to follow these guidelines. We are paying attention to local and state data on the pandemic and are looking at next steps to facilitate attendance at the City Center for regular Council meetings. We are cognizant that many of our regular attendees to Council meetings fall into the high-risk category, as do some of our staff. We have considered ways to hold meetings in the Council Chambers, but capacity is greatly reduced, and additional equipment needs to be acquired at considerable cost to make it work. With the state epidemiologist noting just last week, "For three straight weeks now our cases have been increasing at a rate that isn't sustainable… The only explanation for this increase in cases is that we are experiencing a real and a dramatic rise in the spread of COVID-19 across our state.” After consulting with the Council members, the prevailing opinion can be characterized as “conducting meetings at an anchor location presents a substantial risk to the health and safety of those present - including elected officials, other city leaders, staff and members of the public. Such risks are now greater than at any point during the pandemic thus far.”
For now, the City Council will continue to hold its meetings online as they have since March. When Utah County moves to “green” or “new normal” we think we will be able to resume holding meetings at the City Center, even if only as an anchor location.
That said, the City Council and the Planning Commission want your participation and input into their decisions. We are holding these meetings via Zoom Webinar and broadcasting them on Provo’s YouTube channels:
- youtube.com/provocitycouncil for Council meetings
- youtube.com/ProvoChannel17 for Planning Commission meetings
If you don’t wish to watch a meeting or call in, you can email the City Council at firstname.lastname@example.org which sends your message to all seven Councilors. You can also comment on land use matters on Open City Hall (OpenCityHall.provo.org) or share your thoughts on a topic there titled Speak to the Council or ask a question on Ask Us Anything.
If none of these appeal to you, you can send us a letter at Provo City Council Office, 351 W Center Street, Provo, Utah 84601 or call individual Councilors. Their individual phone numbers and email addresses can be found at provo.org/government/city-council/meet-the-council. Do you want regular updates from the City Council or your neighborhoods? Sign up at bit.ly/councilemail.
And don’t forget that the City has a Neighborhood Program (see provo.org/government/city-council/neighborhood-program) with representatives in all neighborhoods. Reach out to your Neighborhood Chairs to share your thoughts too.
Provo City Council
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