Lavonia Council declares state of emergency

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The Lavonia City Council has declared a state of emergency for those in the city limits for the next 45 days due to the coronavirus pandemic.

  • The Lavonia City Council met outside Friday at City Hall to declare a state of emergency so that local police can enforce Gov. Brian Kemp's shelter-in-place order.
    The Lavonia City Council met outside Friday at City Hall to declare a state of emergency so that local police can enforce Gov. Brian Kemp's shelter-in-place order.
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LAVONIA – The Lavonia City Council has declared a state of emergency for those in the city limits for the next 45 days due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The council met in the parking lot of city hall Friday afternoon to vote unanimously on the declaration.

The declaration follows and mirrors a shelter-in-place order by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.

Kemp’s shelter-in-place order will take effect today (April 3) at 6 p.m. and continue until April 13.

Under the order, all Georgia residents and visitors are required to shelter in place in their residences. “Shelter in place” means remaining in their residences and taking every possible precaution to limit social interaction to prevent the spread or infection of COVID-19, with a few exceptions for “essential businesses,” “critical infrastructure” and “performing necessary travel.”

“He limited our ability to do any more than what he has done,” Lavonia Mayor Courtney Umbehant said of the governor’s order.

Lavonia City Manager Charles Cawthon said the local declaration was “solely so the police have the power to enforce” [the governor’s order.

Those violating the order are subject to be charged with a misdemeanor, Cawthon said. The city is still looking into specifics about how that will work.

“We don't want to fine anyone,” Cawthon said. “Hopefully, we will have across the board compliance.” 

The state order, and Lavonia’s declaration, comes as the number of cases of the coronavirus continue to grow in Georgia. 

As of noon Friday, there were more than 5,800 confirmed cases of the virus in Georgia, including five in Franklin County. A total of 184 people have died in the state.

The Lavonia declaration follows the governor’s order and, in addition to restrictions on businesses, includes changes to how the city can do business.

Among those are provisions that:

• the city will not disconnect public utility services during the emergency and “after the conclusion of the declared emergency, persons will have a period of 45 days to make such payments before service may be disconnected;”

• “Any deadlines for the purchasing or obtaining by persons or businesses of occupation tax certificates, permits or similar civil approvals mandated by the City Code shall be tolled for the duration of the emergency as established herein, and for 15 days thereafter. Such persons or businesses shall obtain necessary permissions required by law, but deadlines set by the City Code are tolled for the duration of the emergency as established herein, and for 15 days thereafter;”

• if the city manager can’t perform his duties, he will appoint an interim manager or, if he can’t, the mayor will assume his duties; and

• the city’s procurement policy, which includes requirements for bids, is suspended during the emergency, but departments must “ provide a written justification for the procurement” and “shall continue to seek the best prices during the state of emergency.”

It also includes a provision to allow Cawthon to find a way to hold meetings using teleconference during the emergency period. 

The council is scheduled to meet April 14 at 5:30 p.m.

Cawthon said that the city’s declaration is for 45 days, which is longer than Kemp’s, because the city expects the state order to be extended after April 13.

City Hall remains closed. Residents are asked to use www.lavoniaga.gov for online payments and can fill out a bank draft form, available on the city’s website’s home page, to allow automatic bank drafts for bill payments.

Umbehant encouraged citizens to follow the shelter-in-place guidelines, to stay at least six-feet away from people when leaving home and to wash hands regularly.

“Go above and beyond so we can get through this crisis and resume life sooner rather than later,” Umbehant said.

The complete declaration by the City of Lavonia is below:

 

A DECLARATION OF A STATE OF EMERGENCY ARISING 

BECAUSE OF COVID-19; AN ORDINANCE TAKING 

IMMEDIATE EMERGENCY MEASURES

 

WHEREAS, the President of the United States declared a National Public Health Emergency on March 13, 2020; and

WHEREAS, the Governor of the State of Georgia declared a State Public Health Emergency on March 14, 2020 and urged “local officials to do what’s in the best interests of their communities to keep people safe and stop the spread of coronavirus” on March 19, 2020; and

WHEREAS, the World Health Organization has declared Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) a world health emergency and a pandemic; and

WHEREAS, the number of confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 is escalating rapidly, internationally, nationally, and locally; and 

WHEREAS, based upon the experience of other local governments in Georgia, a growing number of other cases are likely to occur; and 

WHEREAS, on March 16, 2020, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the President of the United States stated that any gathering of over 10 people should be discontinued or prohibited; and 

WHEREAS, on March 23, 2020, Governor Kemp announced that “certain individuals with an increased risk of complications from COVID-19 [were] to isolate, quarantine, or shelter in place,” covering those who “live in long-term care facilities, have chronic lung disease, are undergoing cancer treatment, have a positive COVID-19 test, are suspected to have COVID-19 because of their symptoms or exposure, or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19”, and that the Department of Public Health would institute rules and regulations to implement such measures;

WHEREAS, on March 23, 2020, Governor Kemp additionally announced measures to “close all bars and nightclubs and …ban all gatherings of ten or more people” unless they can assure spacing for at least six (6) feet apart between people at all times beginning at noon on March 24, 2020 and lasting until noon on April 6, 2020; and

WHEREAS, public health experts, including those at the CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have advised that individuals infected with COVID-19 are contagious even while experiencing minor or no symptoms and implored leaders to take immediate action to prevent further community spread of COVID-19; and 

WHEREAS, preventing and slowing community spread of COVID-19 provides health systems additional time to obtain personal protective equipment necessary to protect health care workers and medical equipment necessary to treat COVID-19, and is therefore vital to the health of the nation; 

WHEREAS, in the judgment of the City of Lavonia, there exist emergency circumstances located within its jurisdiction requiring extraordinary and immediate response for the protection of the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of the community, the state, and the nation; and 

WHEREAS, it is essential for the governing authority of the City to act immediately in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and to prevent or minimize sickness, injury, or death, to people and damage to property resulting from this public health crisis; and 

WHEREAS, O.C.G.A. § 38-3-28 provides the political subdivisions of this state with the authority to make, amend, and rescind such orders, rules, and regulations as may be necessary for emergency management purposes to supplement rules and regulations promulgated by the Governor during a State of Emergency; and 

WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court has previously held that “[u]pon the principle of self-defense, of paramount necessity, a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members”; and 

WHEREAS, the Charter of the City of Lavonia provides the governing authority of the city with the authority to take actions deemed necessary to deal with such an emergency for the protection of the safety, health, and well-being of the citizens of the city; and 

NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY DECLARED that a local state of emergency exists within the City/County and shall continue until the conditions requiring this declaration are abated.

THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED BY THE AUTHORITY OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF LAVONIA AS FOLLOWS:

Section 1. Findings of Fact

For purposes of describing the circumstances which warrant the adoption of an emergency ordinance, the governing authority of the City hereby adopt and make the findings included in the “WHEREAS” clauses as findings of fact. 

Section 2. Declaration of Public Health State of Emergency

The Lavonia City Council hereby declares a public health state of emergency within the city because of the proliferation of COVID-19 in the United States and the State of Georgia, which will remain in force and effect for Forty-Five (45) days from the date hereof. 

Section 3. Public Gatherings on City Property

For the duration of the declared emergency, there shall be no public gatherings on any property owned or controlled by the City. To avoid confusion, the following definitions shall apply under this Section: a “public gathering” shall mean the organized gathering or assembly of ten (10) or more persons at a specific location; “property owned or controlled by the City shall include any park, public square, public space, playground, recreational area, or similar place of public gathering, but nothing herein shall prohibit individuals or families from using sidewalks or designated pedestrian areas of parks for walking or other exercise if they are not participating in an organized gathering. 

Section 4. Utility Services

For the duration of the declared emergency, the City will not disconnect any public utility service provided by the City on account of non-payment. After the conclusion of the declared emergency, persons will have a period of Forty-Five (45) days to make such payments before service may be disconnected. 

Section 5. Classification of City Services

For the duration of the declared emergency, the City Manager shall be vested with the following discretion and authority, to wit:

(a) To categorize City services as either “required” or “discretionary,” and to periodically review and modify such categories.

(b) To assign specific employees to required or discretionary services, and to periodically review and modify such assignments.

(c) To use his or her discretion to permit employees to telework.

(c) To temporarily suspend the provision of discretionary services and to direct employees who provide discretionary services not to report to work until such time as the service suspension is lifted or until such time as the City Manager redirects the employee to other services.

(d) To contract for and expend non-budgeted sums and services, as may in his or her discretion be required to meet the demands upon government and services of the City for the duration of the declared emergency, including therein authority to spend such sums from the reserves of the City. Any such non-budgeted expenditures shall be reported to the governing authority of the City.

(e) To maintain, to the best of the ability of the resources of the County/City, the provision of essential services, which shall include, but not be limited to, public safety, public works, healthcare, and building permits. 

Section 6. Tolling of Deadlines

Any deadlines for the purchasing or obtaining by persons or businesses of occupation tax certificates, permits or similar civil approvals mandated by the City Code shall be tolled for the duration of the emergency as established herein, and for 15 days thereafter. Such persons or businesses shall obtain necessary permissions required by law, but deadlines set by the City Code are tolled for the duration of the emergency as established herein, and for 15 days thereafter.

Section 7. Eating Establishments

Restaurants and other eating and dining establishments where food is served must cease offering dine-in services but may continue preparing and offering food to customers via delivery, drive-through or take-out services. Patrons, employees and contractors of the establishments must maintain at least six (6) feet of personal distance between themselves and others. If a restaurant is licensed to sell beer and wine for on-premises consumption, such restaurant, during the effective dates of this ordinance only, shall be authorized to sell unopened bottles or cans of beer or wine for take-out consumption off-premises;

Section 8. Closure of Certain Businesses

Gyms, fitness centers, pools, social clubs, amusement facilities, bowling alleys, pool halls, theaters, massage parlors, nail salons, and any other similar facility, any facility used for an activity that involves prolonged physical proximity of individuals, and any facility used  for entertainment, social, grooming, or general health and wellbeing purposes, must close and remain closed for the duration of this emergency.

Section 9. Personal Distance

All other establishments not covered in Sections 7 or 8 of this Ordinance such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and other businesses which remain open during the emergency must post signage on entrance doors informing consumers to maintain at least six (6) feet of personal distance between themselves and others and shall not allow more than ten (10) people into such establishment at any one time if such social distancing cannot be maintained. 

Section 10. Gatherings

All public and private gatherings of more than ten (10) people occurring outside of a household or living unit are prohibited. Nothing in this ordinance, however, prohibits the gathering of individuals for the purposes of carrying on business certified as “essential” by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 38-3-58, the provision of medical or health services,  or critical infrastructure businesses and employees as designated by the Governor or identified by U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (as may be found in the Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response, or subsequent document).

Section 11. Emergency Interim Successor to Manager/Administrator

The governing authority desires to make certain that the chain of authority within city management is clear. If the City Manager is unable to perform his or her duties, then the individual designated by the City Manager as the emergency interim successor pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 38-3-50 shall assume the duties of the City Manager. Should the emergency interim successor be unable to perform those duties the Mayor as Chief Executive Officer of the City shall assume those duties.

Section 12. Procurement

The governing authority hereby suspends the bid and competitive portions of the City’s Procurement Policy or ordinances and authorize the County/City Manager to utilize the single-source policy and to require departments to provide a written justification for the procurement during the effective dates of this Resolution and/or utilize any emergency procurement provisions contained.  County/city officials shall continue to seek the best prices during the state of emergency. 

Section 13.

Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary as set forth herein in this declaration, the City of Lavonia adopts and incorporates the executive order of Governor Brian Kemp dated April 2, 2020, to become effective at 6:00 P.M. on April 3, 2020. The Governor’s order supersedes any provision of this declaration or any local ordinance which is in conflict with or more restrictive or less restrictive than the Governor’s order. All other provisions of this order shall be of full force and effect and are to be enforced accordingly. To the extent that the Governor’s order as described herein is extended or modified, such extension or modification will be adopted by reference without further action by the City. 

Section 14.

It is further ordered that the City Manager is directed to establish a procedure for meetings that are subject to the Open Meetings Act. The City of Lavonia and any agency subject to the Open Meetings Act are directed and authorized to conduct meetings by teleconference provided the public has access. The City Manager is authorized to facilitate and publish a protocol to provide public access to all meetings and to give notice of the availability and procedure by which the public is allowed to attend said meetings remotely. The public is encouraged to participate with the understanding that the public be encouraged to submit comments or questions by email before and during the meeting. 

Section 15. 

All resolutions or parts of resolutions in conflict with the provisions of this Declaration are hereby suspended during the effective dates of this Declaration (or any extension thereof) and the terms and provisions of this Declaration shall prevail.

This Declaration after adoption by the Council and upon approval by the Mayor shall become effective at 6:00 P.M. on April 3, 2020.

DECLARED, this ______ day of __________________, 2020.

 

Courtney Umbehant

Mayor

Attest: Approved as to form:

 

 

Angela V. Greer John Dickerson

City Clerk City Attorney