Responding to concerns about coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) , the City of Zephyrhills passed a resolution declaring a local state of emergency — taking steps to implement protocols suggested by state and federal agencies.
The measure allows Zephyrhills flexibility to act quickly, if needed. However, its primary purpose is to allow the city to seek future reimbursement for costs incurred as it deals with the coronavirus outbreak.
It also results in several temporary changes in city services, including some cancellations and postponements, among other measures.
The motion passed unanimously be Zephyrhills City Council on March 17. It must be renewed or updated every seven days, or it expires.
Per the plan:
- Any city employee traveling on a cruise or traveling out of the country must self-isolate for 14 days before returning to work; sick time will be charged.
- Council chambers will be utilized only for essential meetings, such as city council meetings.
- City staff is sending emails and messages to utility customers, encouraging them to pay their bills online.
- Zephyrhills Fire Rescue has purchased gloves for all departments, and gloves and mask for the city’s fire and police departments.
- City staff will begin to utilize FEMA 214 forms to track time, purchases, use of equipment, and use of vehicles as it relates to the city’s COVID-19 preparation and response.
Additionally, the Zephyrhills Public Library is closed to the public and has suspended all other programs until further notice. However, library staff have developed a drive-thru service for citizens to place a hold on a book and book checkout.
All rentals for the Alice Hall Community Center, Wickstrom Stage and Zephyrhills Train Depot Museum have been canceled at least through March, and likely April.
Events such as the March 28 Snowbird Palooza and April 25 Touch-A-Truck also have been canceled.
Zephyrhills City Manager Billy Poe underscored the need for such measures: “It’s a very real possibility that it could get so bad that there is a mandatory shutdown of the state or the nation, but we’re not to that point, yet. Can it happen? Yeah, I think it could. I hope it doesn’t, but we’re preparing, trying to think of those things now, so that if it does happen, we have an action plan that we can activate.”
The Zephyrhills Police Department has been actively visiting bars, restaurants and other establishments, making sure their they’re aware and compliant with tighter state-issued regulations guidelines, due to the coronavirus outbreak. (Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on March 17 ordered all bars and nightclubs to shut down for 30 days). He also ordered restaurants to close down dining rooms.
“It seems like a lot of them are emptying out on their own, but we’re going to continue to still make sure they’re following those orders,” Police Chief Derek Brewer said.
Establishments that do not comply will be referred to the “appropriate state agency” for review and possible action, such as license suspensions, Brewer said.
The Zephyrhills Municipal Airport will continue to operate as usual, still providing fixed-base operator services. But, the airport may at some point switch to a “self-service” model, where planes would be able to take off and land, but all fueling would be done by the pilot and not airport staff; the airport’s fuel pump has a credit card swipe for purchases.
The airport would close if the FAA enacts a no-fly policy.
City staff is “continuing to monitor the airport and surrounding (general aviation airports) in the area,” Poe said.
Meantime, city leaders are actively discussing the possibility of having non-essential staff telecommute, or work from home — something the city has the technological capability to do.
Dade City declares local state of emergency
Similar to Zephyrhills, the City of Dade City also declared a local state of emergency after a motion passed by the Dade City Commission on March 16.
As part of the measure:
- Non-essential meetings are postponed.
- City commission agendas will be limited to essential items.
- City parks remain open to the public, but facility rentals and special events are canceled, including the City Market Place scheduled for April 4. Staff will not process special events permits or park reservations through April.
- Residents are encourages to mail or pay their water bill online. Non-payment turn-offs are temporarily suspended.
- For building permit and inspection services, the city is encouraging online permitting and either calling or emailing staff members with questions. All notary services are suspended until further notice, except for city-issued permits.
• The Dade City Police Department has suspended all fingerprinting services and canceled on-site meetings and tours.
Published March 25, 2020