Leander City Council extends disaster declaration, plans for coronavirus effects

Leander City Council took action on three coronavirus-related items during its March 19 meeting. (Taylor Girtman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Leander City Council took action on three coronavirus-related items during its March 19 meeting. (Taylor Girtman/Community Impact Newspaper)

Leander City Council took action on three coronavirus-related items during its March 19 meeting. (Taylor Girtman/Community Impact Newspaper)

To plan for the city’s future during the coronavirus pandemic, the Leander City Council discussed and took action on three coronavirus-related items during its March 19 meeting. Six council members were in attendance, with Council Member Christine Sederquist absent.

City Council voted unanimously to extend the disaster declaration for 30 days. Mayor Troy Hill signed the initial declaration on March 17. The city can renew or re-evaluate the declaration after the 30 days.

Leander Fire Chief Billy Wusterhausen said the purpose of the declaration is to access federal funds and to open small-business loans during the disaster declaration period. The city can also regulate city matters with the declaration.

Hill said because the city straddles Travis and Williamson counties, the declaration is helpful for the city to make decisions. The orders, such as numbers of people within a space, do not apply to homes.

Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster for all counties on March 13, and Williamson County issued a disaster declaration on March 14.

City Council also authorized City Manager Rick Beverlin to create and implement policies and procedures regarding personnel and facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. An administrative leave policy was also approved in case of a city shutdown. The policy establishes nonessential and essential employees and manages pay for city employees.

The shutdown decision would likely be made for the city, not by the city, Beverlin said.

Beverlin said the city has prepared over the past week to extend government operations, but the city has also accounted for city staff’s health and family requirements. Police are still patrolling high-demand areas such as H-E-B, and firefighters are working to reduce high-risk exposure on calls.

The city has already canceled events, postponed some city meetings and closed city lobby areas, athletic fields and the library.

The city is trying to move all meetings to teleconferences and not cancel meetings, Beverlin said.

He said the city is preparing for a potential staff scale down in case of sickness or other urgent matters. The city is running scenarios and cash flow estimates, such as a decline in sales tax and permit fees. Future projects are being re-evaluated, and city staff is considering alternatives for projects, such as the pavement resurfacing outside City Hall.

“It doesn’t mean we won’t do them, but it means we need to make sure that this is the right time to move forward,” Beverlin said.

Beverlin said Leander’s economy is lucky because there is not a massive hotel, retail or national retail footprint and does not rely on oil or gas industries. Many Leander residents are able to work from home because of their fields of work.

“Our biggest interest is the welfare and safety of the community,” Beverlin said.
By Taylor Girtman
Taylor Girtman became the reporter for the Cedar Park-Leander edition in Feb. 2020.


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