JEFFERSONVILLE — The Jeffersonville City Council has passed emergency measures that aim to protect city employees as concerns over the novel coronavirus continue to grow.
On Thursday, council members unanimously passed a resolution that will allow city employees to work from home, if they have the ability to do so. If and when the city is forced to limit its functions as a result of social distancing and self-quarantines, the resolution also makes sure that workers whose duties aren’t necessary will be paid for the duration of the State of Emergency.
“It’s widely important that we still continue to take care of our folks who take care of the city on a daily basis,” council president Matt Owen said. “They do a good job for us. The City of Jeffersonville has some very dedicated employees, and we’re going to make sure that we take care of everybody through this whole situation until things get back to more of a normal.”
The council itself met under unique circumstances to make the decision. New directives issued in an executive order from Gov. Eric Holcomb and parsed out by Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt now allow municipal governments to practice safe social distancing in the midst of the disease outbreak.
On Thursday, only Owen and fellow council member Dustin White were physically present. The other board members attended remotely, with some utilizing a video connection.
Decisions like that are meant to limit the spread of COVID-19 — the disease caused by the coronavirus.
As the situation progresses, Owen said it’s important that the city have a plan in place to deal with the potential cutting of non-essential functions.
“We had an emergency special meeting just to approve some measures on our end to make sure that we can allow our folks to work from home if they need to or work remotely if they need to to keep essential functions of city government going through this crisis,” Owen said. “If we need to shut down non-essential services from the city, this just allows us to make sure we can still pay our employees, even though they’re not going to be here clocking in like they normally would.”
Like the council, Owen said that Jeffersonville City Hall has adjusted to the situation as well. A minimal number of staff were in the building at the time of the meeting.
Those who can work from home, such as those in the planning and zoning department, were already doing so Thursday. Staff in the mayor’s office have also split between remote and on-site work to reduce the risk of exposure.
Some of the city’s most vital services will stay in place.
“It’s important that we continue to provide essential services — police, fire and trash pickup, those kinds of things,” Owen said. “That’s all going to continue. We’re going to make some changes and adjustments as we need to.”
Owen — who is also the captain of New Chapel EMS — also stressed personal hygiene, along with social distancing and staying at home if symptoms are identified. What needs to be avoided, he added, are irrational behaviors like hoarding groceries.
“Take those things seriously, but we don’t want anybody to panic,” Owen said. “We don’t need to rush the grocery stores. We’ve been assured that there’s no issue with the supply chain. You see empty shelves because everybody’s going at once to get everything. Everybody take the time to get through this. Practice good hygiene. Check on your neighbors who might be at-risk via phone.”