AN ORDINANCE TO CONTINUE TEMPORARY CHANGES IN CERTAIN DEADLINES AND TO MODIFY PUBLIC MEETING AND PUBLIC HEARING PRACTICES AND PROCEDURES TO ADDRESS CONTINUITY OF OPERATIONS ASSOCIATED WITH PANDEMIC DISASTER.
WHEREAS, on March 12, 2020, Governor Ralph S. Northam issued Executive Order Fifty-One declaring a state of emergency for the Commonwealth of Virginia arising from the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic; and
WHEREAS, Executive Order Fifty-One acknowledged the existence of a public health emergency which constitutes a disaster as defined by Virginia Code § 44-146.16 arising from the public health threat presented by a communicable disease anticipated to spread; and
WHEREAS, Executive Order Fifty-One ordered implementation of the Commonwealth of Virginia Emergency Operations Plan, activation of the Virginia Emergency Operations Center to provide assistance to local governments, and authorization for executive branch agencies to waive “any state requirement or regulation” as appropriate; and
WHEREAS, on March 13, 2020, the President of the United States declared a national emergency, beginning March 1, 2020, in response to the spread of COVID-19; and
WHEREAS, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic; and
WHEREAS, on March 23, 2020, the Council of the City of Salem, Virginia confirmed the declaration of local emergency made by the local director of emergency management on March 17, 2020; and
WHEREAS, health officials at the Federal, State and Local level have repeatedly advised that gatherings of people can spread the illness and prolong the disaster caused by the COVID-19 pandemic; and
WHEREAS, the usual and necessary operations of government, by law, often require large gatherings of people in person, which would contradict the advice of the government and health officials responsible for addressing the continued disaster caused by the COVID-19 pandemic; and
WHEREAS, the Council of the City of Salem, Virginia, wishes to follow the guidance of government and health officials while providing for the continuity of City government and critical local services during the State of Emergency and continued disaster caused by the COVID-19 pandemic; and
WHEREAS, Section 15.2-1413 of the Code of Virginia authorizes the Council to act to assure continuity of government in the event of a disaster, notwithstanding any contrary provisions of law; and
WHEREAS, the Council adopted an emergency Continuity Ordinance on March 27, 2020; and
WHEREAS, the Ordinance of March 27, 2020 provided that it would remain in full force and effect for a period not to exceed six (6) months; and
WHEREAS, outbreaks of the virus have occurred in different areas of the United States, and health experts warn of the possibility of a second wave of the pandemic during the fall and winter; and
WHEREAS, health officials at the Federal, State and Local level continue to advise that large gatherings of people can spread the illness and prolong the disaster caused by the COVID-19 pandemic; and
WHEREAS, the Council wishes to insure the continuity of City government during the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic; and
WHEREAS, the Council determines that the continuity of City government and provision of critical local services require the adoption of this Ordinance.
BE IT ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SALEM, VIRGINIA:
1. That the Council, School Board, Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals, Economic Development Authority, Board of Equalization, or other City Boards, Commissions or Authorities (collectively, the “Public Bodies”) may, at their election, conduct meetings and act upon proposed agenda items for the duration of the Emergency, either under normal procedures or by electronic means (to include, by way of example, meetings where a quorum of the Public Body is assembled by electronic means but is not physically assembled) in compliance with public notice, access, and other legal requirements governing the provision of notice and the holding of public meetings. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Public Body may modify or dispense with those requirements to the extent necessary or practicable to address the State of Emergency and Disaster caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
2. If the Public Body conducts a public hearing during the Emergency, the public hearing may be conducted using a procedure described in the notice provided in advance of the meeting or by any other method specified by the Public Body at the meeting. The method of receiving public comment should be reasonable under the circumstances of the meeting, the items to be considered, and the state of the emergency in the City. Examples of methods could include comments received by e-mail, by telephone, by web conferencing or virtual meeting applications, or in person (so long as recommendations of public health officials are observed). Public comments will be received by the Public Body before a vote on the public hearing matter and will be made a part of the record of the meeting.
3. The City Manager is authorized to (i) modify, limit, or suspend City programs, functions, or services as needed to ensure the effective continuity of government; (ii) restrict City staff and the public from entering or congregating around City-owned buildings, facilities, and real property as necessary to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the public and staff; and (iii) regulate the use of such buildings, facilities, and real property for the public health, safety, and welfare. The City Manager is further authorized to take actions objectively reasonable and necessary in the public health interest to alter schedules, provide programming, pay bills, engage contractors, hire employees, and adjust administrative processes and procedures to address the disaster, all in keeping with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Virginia Department of Health guidance and directives, and consistent with state and local declarations of emergency.
4. That this Ordinance will be in full force and effect on and after its passage as provided by law and will remain in effect until the earlier of its repeal or the end of the Declaration of Local Emergency by Resolution of the City Council. Upon repeal or expiration of this Ordinance, the Public Bodies will resume operation in accordance with standard operating practices and procedures.
Nothing in this Ordinance shall prohibit Public Entities from holding in-person public meetings provided that public health and safety measures as well as social distancing are taken into consideration.
Upon a call for an aye and a nay vote, the same stood as follows:
John E. Saunders - Aye
William D. Jones - Aye
Byron Randolph Foley - Aye
James W. Wallace, III - Aye
Renee F. Turk - Aye
Passed: September 14, 2020
Effective: September 24, 2020
James E. Taliaferro, II, Clerk of Council
City of Salem, Virginia