During a hastily called emergency meeting March 22, Cedar Park City Council extended its local declaration of disaster—and Mayor Corbin Van Arsdale said residents should expect more restrictions on personal freedoms due to coronavirus concerns.
Council voted to extend the declaration, initially approved March 17 for seven days, to remain in effect until the state, as well as Travis and Williamson counties, all end their declarations.
Van Arsdale said the declarations would probably stay in place after the coronavirus threat recedes.
“It [the city’s disaster declaration] is going to be out there for awhile,” Van Arsdale said. “That’s the reality of the situation.”
By declaring a disaster, Van Arsdale said the city will be reimbursed for disaster-related expenses by state and federal agencies.
The mayor said residents should also expect to see more restrictions in personal freedom as local, state and national officials try to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Council Member Rodney Robinson, who attended remotely, asked at what point the city would issue an order to stay in place—which means residents are ordered to remain at home except for essential trips for food, health care and emergencies. Van Arsdale said it may come soon.
“We’re having that conversation right now,” Van Arsdale said. “The 15 biggest counties [in Texas] have been talking about that [stay-in-place order] for the last 48 hours. My understanding is they’re talking to the governor tomorrow.”
Van Arsdale also said that council would most likely postpone the May 2 city election at the city’s regularly scheduled March 26 meeting. The mayor and three council seats are on the ballot.
City Manager Brenda Eivens and John Cummins, the city's emergency management coordinator. began the meeting by briefing council. Eivens said the city’s emergency operations center was partially open, and the city had representation at both Travis and Williamson counties' centers.
Eivens said the lobby areas for city facilities were closed last week, but residents may still contact city staff online or over the phone. After a question by Council Member Mel Kirkland, she said residents’ utilities would not be cut off due to nonpayment.
Eivens also said all municipal court dates through April 13 have been rescheduled. Those with an active citation should contact the city either online or by phone.
The meeting was open to the public, and the few people in attendance sat spaced apart. The four council members in attendance—Dorian Chavez, Anne Duffy, Kirkland and Van Ardsale—sat at the dais with at least one seat between each of them. Mike Guevara, Tim Kelly and Robinson attended the meeting remotely.
Van Arsdale credited city staff during the recent crisis.
“There are individuals on city staff who are putting in 18-20 hours a day,” he said.
Public notice was given one hour before the meeting, which was broadcast live on the city website.
On March 16, Gov. Greg Abbott suspended part of the Texas Open Meetings Act, which guarantees public access to and participation at government meetings. The requirement that governments provide a physical meeting space where people can watch and interact has been suspended.
Government bodies still need to provide a 72-hour notice for meetings unless it is deemed an emergency meeting, when the window becomes one hour.
The meeting started at 5:02 p.m. without audio. Audio was fixed approximately 10 minutes later, after Cummins had given his entire presentation and a couple of minutes into Eivens’ update.
The meeting's video may be viewed by following this link and clicking on "city council."