PORT TOWNSEND — The city of Port Townsend has suspended late fees and penalties on city utilities until June 30.
The measure is one of five that the Port Townsend City Council unanimously approved last week in response to the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on local business, city procedure and everyday life.
The resolutions ratify a proclamation signed by Mayor Michelle Sandoval and City Manager John Mauro on March 23.
The suspension of late fees and penalties on such city utilities as water, wastewater, and stormwater is to help households and businesses that are struggling due to having to close because of the pandemic.
“This is something we’ve heard quite a bit from the public about and we’ve already made statements that we won’t shut off water, nor will we require full payment on underpaid utility accounts,” Mauro said.
Mauro did, however, encourage those who can pay those bills in full to continue to do so.
Another measure ratified changes in compliance with the state stay-home order such as the closures of City Hall, Port Townsend Public Library and the Mountain View Pool to the public as well as cancellation of renting out spaces in city facilities.
Previously scheduled events for those areas have been refunded and credit has been provided to those who participate in now-canceled programs at the library and pool, city officials said.
The resolution also restructured city employee schedules to make sure essential staff is on hand to operate necessary city services, while also instituting telecommunications policies and paid administrative leave for those employees that are not working during this time.
Changes to the city procedures as they pertain to public meetings and maintaining social distancing also were ratified. Measures include using Zoom for virtual meetings.
The council also reiterated Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” mandate.
“This is really about using the opportunity we have to say ‘look this really is important and no matter where we are in the curve trajectory there’s no real time to let up on these best practices,” Mauro said.
The council established the Fort Worden Lifelong Learning Center as a public development authority established by the City of Port Townsend to respond to the public health crisis to the best of its ability.
“This one I can say is a ‘just in case’ scenario,” Mauro said.
“Mayor Sandoval has been part of a group of policy and decision-makers, including myself and others, who have been working across organizationally to respond to this crisis as it grew.
“One of those things is looking at facilities and facility needs depending on what turn any of this takes. So you can consider this an exploration of the worst-case scenario,” he added.
“This just allows the fort to be a part of a wide range of facilities should we need them.”
Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].