DAHLONEGA, Ga., –– The Dahlonega City Council held an emergency special called meeting today (March 23 at 8:00 a.m.), following the first confirmed Coronavirus diagnosis in Lumpkin County over the weekend. The Council had only two agenda items to discuss—temporarily limiting public access to City Hall and a state of emergency resolution.
Prior to a more than one-hour public discussion of the draft emergency resolution, the Council unanimously voted to close City Hall to the public until further notice, beginning at noon today. This follows earlier proactive steps taken by the city to prevent further spread of the Coronavirus by limiting public access at City Hall; encouraging online and payment drop-off options; and creating a virtual option for the March 19 Council meeting.
Mayor Sam Norton said, “As a small city, it’s critical that we keep our staff healthy to ensure continued services to our residents. We continue to closely monitor this situation with the help of our state and federal partners, but working together, we’ll all get through this.”
The draft emergency resolution is similar to actions taken across Georgia in communities, both rural and metropolitan, and in communities with confirmed diagnoses as well as communities with no confirmed cases. By declaring a state of emergency, it allows city officials to take necessary steps to ensure the overall health and welfare of city residents.
“This action isn’t something that we take lightly,” said Mayor Sam Norton. “None of us support government overreach, but in times like this, local governments must be empowered to take decisive actions when it comes to the public health and safety.”
Among the emergency measures to be considered by the Council during its next special called meeting on Wednesday, March 25 at 4:00 p.m.:
- Permitting boards, commissions and agencies of the city to conduct meetings and take votes by teleconference.
- Allowing the city manager, with approval of the mayor, to take necessary actions to protect the public health and safety including temporary closures of city facilities, cancelling certain city functions, and allowing staff and business to be conducted at alternative locations among other administrative and emergency actions necessary to protect the public health and perform essential functions.
- Requiring restaurants to suspend dine-in services, but permitting delivery, drive-thru, or take-out services and to have patrons, employees and contractors maintain at least six (6) feet of personal distance.
- Requiring gyms, fitness centers, and other high-contact business models to suspend daily operations.
- Prohibiting public and private gatherings of more than 10 people, occurring outside a household (this provision would not prevent of business activity or the delivery of medical and other health services unless otherwise specified).
- Further establishing the administrative succession roles, following the City Charter and current form of government, by designating the finance director to succeed the city manager if he is unable to perform his duties and if both the city manager and the finance director are unable to perform these duties, the mayor as chief executive officer of the city will assume the city manager duties.
Residents and business owners who would like to share feedback regarding the proposed emergency resolution can send comments to the City by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The possible state of emergency follows the Council’s March 19, 2020 special called meeting where the City Council unanimously approved two measures that assist with city efforts in responding to COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Those measures included a comprehensive employee telecommuting policy and a temporary moratorium on special event applications. Effective March 20, the city is no longer accepting new special event applications until further notice.
As part of these recent changes, all non-essential city staff will immediately shift to remote worksites, telecommuting from their homes.
“All essential city services continue to operate uninterrupted at this time,” said City Manager Bill Schmid. “Shifting non-essential employees out of our city facilities helps us limit potential exposure to essential staff, protecting their and the public’s health and working to ensure we can continue our core services.”
The Dahlonega Downtown Development Authority (DDA) recently notified city businesses that State of Georgia received its approved emergency declaration, making small businesses eligible to apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Business owners can learn more and apply at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/.
The DDA staff is also working to identify other resources available to business owners during this difficult time. To learn more and to contact the DDA, email email@example.com.
Residents may find specific Coronavirus Information available on the following websites:
Georgia Department of Public Health – https://dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus
District 2 Public Health Department – http://phdistrict2.org/