Bellaire Mayor Andrew Friedberg signed the declaration March 20, allowing the city to respond more rapidly to developing issues and requirements from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention in combating COVID-19.
Coinciding with the disaster declaration, effective March 23, all city buildings will be closed to the public, all city-sponsored events are canceled until further notice, and all public city meetings will be conducted by teleconference or be canceled.
The local declaration is designed to last seven days, though Bellaire City Council will consider an extension of the declaration during a special meeting March 23, City Manager Paul Hoffman said.
Fire, police, EMS and public works services will still be available at all times, according to a city announcement on the declaration. The city is also encouraging city business to be handled online or via phone where possible and urging water customers to pay online.
A second item of consideration during the meeting will be to postpone a charter election scheduled for May 2, spurred by three separate resident-approved propositions that would amend the city’s charter. The three propositions, signed by 5% voters in the November 2017 election, all focus on sidewalk construction and the notification process by the city to residents that would be affected by such construction. Bellaire City Council formally passed an ordinance calling the election during a Feb. 10 special session.
To follow CDC-recommended size limits of 10 people for gatherings, the special meeting will be held remotely, Hoffman said. Council members will phone in to the meeting, and members of the public will need to watch the meeting via the city’s livestreaming service. If a resident is looking to make public comment, they will have to call in through a toll-free number provided by the city, Hoffman said.
“We’ve been developing a plan this week that will work as a conference call,” Hoffman said. “Monday’s approach will likely be basic.”
Should the council vote to postpone the charter election, it would move to Nov. 3, City Clerk Tracy Dutton said.
However, such a postponement would allow Bellaire to contract with Harris County and share costs with other municipalities that are contracting with the county and having an election in November, Dutton said.
In declaring a local disaster, Bellaire will be following the city of West University Place, which signed its disaster declaration March 17. West U will also have a meeting on Monday to decide on an extension for its declaration.