Government agencies agree to work on COVID-19 recovery

Jefferson County officials building resiliency plan

PORT TOWNSEND — Officials with Jefferson County, Jefferson County Public Utility District, Port of Port Townsend, and the City of Port Townsend have passed a joint resolution agreeing to work together and with their respective communities to build a COVID-19 Resiliency and Recovery Plan.

The interlocal agreement establishes a process for the remainder of 2020 by which the four government entities can recognize and endorse community-based projects and initiatives for recovery from the impacts of the coronavirus and build a community resiliency, according to the agenda notes.

“All of our organizations are dealing with an unprecedented pandemic,” said Jefferson County Commissioner Greg Brotherton of District 3, as he kicked off the joint meeting Wednesday evening.

“It’s affected everyone’s lives in a myriad of ways. We’re now through the first wave, planning for another wave. At the same time, many of the cracks in our infrastructure are becoming apparent. The gaps are showing.

“We really recognize that our four jurisdictions have more opportunity to do things together to really look at the medium, long-term and short-term recovery from the impacts of this pandemic.”

All agreed that working together is a necessity for recovery from COVID-19 precautions that shut down businesses and activities.

These government entities would work with individuals, organizations, and businesses that fall into the categories of culture and events, business, children and family, human services, food system resiliency and broadband internet service.

The six areas were identified as public needs that often require interactions with more than one government entity. This list is not exhaustive, however; if other areas of need arise, they can be added and addressed as well.

The joint resolution also establishes two new intergovernmental groups, the Intergovernmental Collaborative Group (ICG) and the Intergovernmental Coordinating Committee (ICC).

When the four governing bodies meet for the purposes of discussing COVID-19 Recovery and Resiliency plans, they form the ICG.

The purpose of the ICG is to adopt a plan which will include specific projects and initiatives that are tangible, fundable, legal and able to be implemented in the near term, according to the agenda notes.

These projects and initiatives should empower the community to support long-term resiliency efforts, with an emphasis on what communities can do when they come together, with appropriate support from the local government, the notes said.

The ICC is comprised of two members of each of the government bodies, with at least one member being an elected official. This group will work directly with the community groups from the previously identified sectors to draft the recovery and resiliency plan.

All participants of the joint meeting agreed with the resolution, with some differences.

PUD Commissioner Kenneth Collins worried about keeping people safe as the county moves into Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan, which allows increased traveling.

“I am deeply concerned,” Collins said. “We have an economy that is dependent on tourism, and yet there are hot spots in various parts of the state, and as we reopen, how do we keep our community safe?”

Collins said he recently had gone to a grocery store where 40 percent of the people in the store were not wearing face masks.

“I think it’s incumbent on us to try and educate the public, particularly those businesses that are desperate to reopen, to given them some guidance as to how they can do this safely so we don’t wind up with a resurgence here in our community,” Collins said.

City Council member Owen Rowe said that, in light of recent national conversations, it will be important for the government entities to engage members of the community who are often overlooked.

“My one concern is the formation of the community working groups and making sure that that opportunity is open and available to all members of our community,” Rowe emphasized, “including voices that have historically been silenced and excluded.”

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected]

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