PR approves emergency declaration

by Caroline Lobsinger
Staff Writer | March 25, 2020 1:00 AM

PRIEST RIVER — Priest River City Council unanimously approved a declaration of local disaster emergency in response to anticipated impact of the novel coronavirus on the community.

Declarations of emergency are common tools employed by cities, counties and states in response to anticipated needs related to disasters or emergencies.

Priest River Mayor Jim Martin issued the declaration Friday in the midst of continued response efforts to help the Priest River community as it deals with the effects of closures, quarantines and other impacts related to the nationwide COVID-19 health crisis.

“Mainly if anything does happen coming through the Priest River community, this allows us, opens us up for state and federal funding assistance if we have to do anything,” Martin told the council members during the telephonic meeting. The city arrange the teleconference due to social distancing protocols, sending details on how to connect to council members, the media and the public.

Martin said adoption of the declaration of local emergency also would help limit the city’s liability if something were to happen and eliminates the need for competitive bidding if the city does need to make any purchases related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The resolution would stay in effect until Governor Brad Little ends a similar declaration adopted by the state of Idaho.

“These have been passed by several cities and the county has also adopted an emergency declaration,” Martin told the council.

The council unanimously adopted the resolution with no discussion or questions.

In an earlier press release, Martin said the “declaration of emergency [was] not a reflection on the state of readiness or ability to respond to everyday needs, it is just another way that we are being proactive to respond to this situation. As we progress in our community response efforts, this is simply a tool to access funding and other resources that may be made available from state and federal levels that we wouldn’t normally have access to.”

Martin said he and city Clerk Laural Thomas would be working on additional operational details for employees based on a memo sent out Monday morning based on Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

In the memo, the city issued guidelines on how to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community, from washing their hands to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth.

If they are sick, employees were told to stay home unless they are seeking medical care. City employees also were advised to implement social distancing practices, decrease social contacts during work hours.

“Failure to implement the guidelines listed above may result in disciplinary action,” the memo warned.

Caroline Lobsinger can be reached by email at clobsinger@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @CarolDailyBee.