Sequim Police Chief Sheri Crain video calls into a special city council meeting Monday, March 16, 2020, where council members declared a civil emergency to better seek support for the area during the coronavirus pandemic. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Sequim Police Chief Sheri Crain video calls into a special city council meeting Monday, March 16, 2020, where council members declared a civil emergency to better seek support for the area during the coronavirus pandemic. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Sequim declares COVID-19 a civil emergency

Civic Center closes to public, council meeting goes virtual

SEQUIM — Sequim leaders have declared a State of Civil Emergency during what could become the last in-person meeting at the Sequim Civic Center for some time.

Monday’s Sequim City Council meeting will be online only.

City staff last Monday discussed with a room of about 20 people and four video callers that the declaration authorizes Sequim Police and city staff to minimize the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, from spreading in Sequim.

“We emphasize that this declaration is primarily precautionary in nature,” Deputy Ted Miller said.

There had been no positive tests in Clallam County at the time, but one was confirmed on Wedneday.

“While the COVID-19 health risk in Sequim is currently theoretical, the economic risk to the city businesses and their employees is very real,” Miller said. “We plan to do everything in our power to return to normalcy in the shortest possible time.”

Emergency center

City staff in conjunction with such local agencies as Clallam County Fire District 3 opened the Sequim Emergency Contingency Center this week in the Transit Center to support county Emergency Operations Center.

Bush said staff at the ECC can dig deeper into local issues such as childcare and other community concerns during closures.

City staff closed the civic center on Tuesday with services available on its website.

Sequim Police Department will continue to provide essential services but non-essential services, such as finger printing and concealed weapons permits, will be suspended until further notice. In the case of an emergency call 911 and for non-emergencies, call 360-683-7227.

Declaration vote

City Council members voted 4-1 for the declaration, with Troy Tenneson opposed and Tom Ferrell absent.

Tenneson told council members he felt fear in the room but said people should spread courage and consider what is best for residents.

He said there are more imminent threats that kill people such as the common flu and suicide.

“We just need to take a drink of some realities … I just want to balance ourselves out as we proceed. We do need to proceed with some caution,” Tenneson said.

He said events like the Irrigation Festival are postponing from May, and he would have appreciated more hesitancy to do that.

“Maintain normalcy — I think that would be a good guiding light for us,” he said.

Tenneson abstained from the 4-0 vote to have the next council meeting online only.

City Manager Charlie Bush said the declaration will allow the city to receive federal reimbursement easier if they require resources.

“We try to lean forward to protect our community as much as possible given that if we do have a significant outbreak here it could be devastating for community members,” he said.

Future meetings

Residents can access council meetings online at www.sequimwa.gov, and Bush said they may have accommodations for people to listen in the civic center lobby.

Tenneson said he plans not to attend meetings up to May because he “wants to be a part of the solution and not part of the problem” and that he’ll take vacation to a state without “a governor losing his marbles” for a month or a month-and-a-half.

He later said he was ill and asked to be excused.

Public health officials throughout the world have reported that COVID-19 is a new virus to which no one on earth has immunity. They urge people to wash hands often, practice social distancing and stay home when sick to slow the spread of the unique virus.

Vacant seat

Council members agreed to reopen the application process for the seat left vacant by Jennifer States. The process will go through April 8. Interviews were slated for Monday.

To be considered for the vacancy, applicants must be registered voters of the City of Sequim, have a one-year continuous period of residence in the City of Sequim, and hold no other public office or employment under the city government.

Candidates must submit a letter of interest, resume and completed application form with answers to supplemental questions to the City Clerk at smcmillon@sequimwa.gov or by regular mail to the city at 152 W. Fir St.

For more information, visit the Sequim Civic Center, call City Clerk Sara McMillon at 360-681-3428 or visit www.sequimwa.gov.

Billing and permits

Sequim residents can pay utilities and bills online through www.sequimwa.gov, and at the city’s pay boxes at the civic center and on the east side of the public parking lot off Sequim Avenue.

Payments can be mailed to: City of Sequim, Utility Bill Pay, PO Box 1087, Sequim, WA 98382.

Those with questions can call 360-683-4139.

Permits applications can be submitted to the City via its website too with contacts available by phone at 360-683-4908.

Sue Hagener, Sequim administrative services director, said the city may begin to see a difference in tax revenues come May when March’s tax revenues come in.

She said staff are continuing conversations to see what payments can be deferred, such as a Parks Master Plan to “maintain some budget flexibility.”

Hagener added that they are looking into a utility relief fund for those impaired by the economy.

This month, city staff plan to cancel other committee meetings, Coffee with the Mayor, art shows and look into refunding facility rentals.

________

Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

Peninsula Daily News Executive Editor Leah Leach contributed to this story.

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