The Monroe City Council Meeting met via teleconference Thursday to consider emergency ordinances in the light of the president and Georgia governor’s call to clamp down on social gatherings to slow the spread of COVID-19. Council members voted to implement several ordinances in this regard but stopped short of imposing a curfew. That did not sit well with Monroe Police Chief R.V. Watts who told council members and others in attendance via teleconference that the police department had broken up a 400 or 500 people block party just this past weekend at Walton Road and Kelton Road.
“A curfew would give my officers a little more ground to stand on, It gives us a little more authority to disperse those individuals,” Watt’s said, adding it also puts his officers at greater risk themselves when they have to break up large crowds.
Councilman David Dickinson expressed concerns over the infringement on the rights of people, saying a curfew was tantamount to imposing Marshal Law. He pointed out that the City of Athens had imposed a curfew and it was now being challenged in court. Councilmen Ross Bradley, Nathan Little and Wayne Adcock agreed and voted along with Dickinson not to impose a curfew.
Councilwoman Lee Malcom supported the police chief’s position and although the ordinance failed, she requested that the city revisit the curfew at the next called meeting on April 8, 2020.
The curfew that was proposed, but failed to pass, would have been for 30 days and would be from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. Exceptions would have been “when an individual must run an emergency errand; when an individual is traveling to or returning directly from an activity involving the exercise of their First Amendment rights of free speech, freedom of assembly or free exercise of religion; when an individual is engaged in interstate or intrastate travel through the City of Monroe; when an individual is walking, biking, running, or engaged in some other form of physical exercise, and traveling to or from their residence for fitness purposes; when an individual is procuring food, medicine or medical care; when an individual is traveling directly from work to their place of residence, or shelter.”
The City did agree not to impose any disconnection of utilities through April 30, 2020, and also to waive late fees until that date.
The City of Monroe posted abridged versions of all the ordinances that passed on its Facebook page following the meeting. These were:
Item #1: Ordinance to Temporarily Amend Certain Alcoholic Beverages Ordinances; Approved
All on-premises beer and wine sales alcohol license holders in the City of Monroe, Georgia licensed pursuant to Code of Ordinances Section 6-85 et. seq. are permitted to sell unopened beer and wine containers to patrons for the purposes of said patrons partaking in off-premises consumption when accompanied by an order for takeout food. Further, said license holders are permitted to sell “growler” sized portions of beer to patrons for off-premises consumption when accompanied by an order for takeout food. Said growler portion containers shall not exceed sixty (60) fluid ounces per individual customer and must be contained in a properly sealed container. This Ordinance shall take effect immediately upon its adoption by the Mayor and Council of the City of Monroe, Georgia, and shall remain in effect for ninety (90) days, unless sooner terminated or extended.
Item #2: Ordinance to Create and Fund the Downtown Development Authority Stabilization Fund of the DDA.; Approved
The City of Monroe, Georgia Downtown Development Authority Stabilization Fund is hereby authorized, ordained, created and funded by the Mayor and Council for use, implementation and administration by the DDA for the purpose of rendering assistance, stabilization and support to downtown Monroe businesses experiencing an economic impact due to the ongoing and evolving Pandemic. City staff is hereby instructed to transfer One Hundred Thousand and 00/100 Dollars ($100,000.00) from the Utility Capital Reserve Fund to the DDA to fund and establish the Stabilization Fund. The DDA shall undertake to adopt and document criteria and terms of qualification for a business receiving assistance from the Stabilization Fund, and shall keep the Mayor and City Council apprised of actions taken pursuant to the authority and funds delineated herein. DDA will set up criteria for application and disbursement of the funds to qualified businesses within the DDA boundaries.
Item #3: Ordinance to Temporarily Increase the Spending Authority of the City Administrator; Approved
The City Administrator’s current maximum purchasing cap limit of Ten Thousand Dollars and 00/100 ($10,000.00), existing pursuant to the enacted City purchasing policies, is increased to One Hundred Thousand Dollars and 00/100 ($100,000.00) to allow the City Administrator to make necessary purchases to accommodate the City’s response to the Pandemic and ensure the general welfare, safety and health of the public. Said purchases shall be made for any necessary emergency supplies, construction or services to respond to the Pandemic. A written determination of the basis for the emergency and for the selection of the particular contractor or supplies shall be included in the contract file, and this provision shall not abrogate the City’s requirements as specified by State law. Purchases made pursuant to the City Administrator’s emergency purchasing power authority as granted herein shall be subject to ratification and approval by the Mayor. This will remain I effect for 90 days, unless sooner terminated or extended.
Item #4: Ordinance to Temporarily Modify Certain Personnel Policies of the City of Monroe; Approved
The City Administrator, as acting Personnel Administrator, shall be vested with full authority to redefine the City’s Reduction in Force provisions in consultation with the City Attorney, to approve updated work schedules and pay plans as needed, and take other City personnel-related actions as required in order to address the evolving City response to the Pandemic. This shall remain in effect for ninety (90) days, unless sooner terminated or extended.
Item #5: Ordinance to Impose a Curfew in the City of Monroe; Denied
NOTE: THIS ORDINANCE DID NOT PASS.
Item #6: Ordinance to Temporarily Close Certain Establishments in the City of Monroe, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic; Approved
All gyms, fitness centers, fitness studios, theaters, live performance venues, bowling alleys, arcades, or other similar establishments within the City of Monroe shall be temporarily closed. All restaurants, food courts, and other eating establishments within the City of Monroe shall cease offering dine-in and/or outdoor/patio service. Such eating establishments may continue to prepare and offer food to customers through delivery, takeout, and/or drive-thru service. Cafeterias or on-site dining services in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or other similar facilities within the City of Monroe following previously issued state and federal public health guidelines shall not be subject to closure requirements of this Ordinance. The closures required by this Ordinance shall remain in effect for thirty (30) days, unless sooner terminated or extended, in order to ensure the general welfare, health and safety of the public. This ordinance shall remain in effect for thirty (30) days, unless sooner terminated or extended.
Note: for businesses or organizations not mentioned in the City ordinance, please refer to Governor Bran Kemp’s Executive Order on March 23, 2020, for additional clarity.
Item #7: Utility Disconnections and Late Fees; Approved
Currently, the City of Monroe has administratively stopped all utility disconnections but not late fees through the end of March, 2020. Council has now voted to approve an extension of the policy of NO utility disconnections through April 30, 2020 AND a waiver of late fees until April 30, 2020 for all City of Monroe Utility accounts.
Other Business: no formal action
Council unofficially directed the City Administrator to officially create a succession plan should City Administrator become incapacitated. In the meantime, the Council may operate based on Charter provisions whereby the City Department Heads would report directly to City Council.