The City of Dahlonega’s State of Emergency proclamation is official.
After some revisions, one of which removed a proposal for a city-wide curfew, and a second reading by the council, representatives unanimously passed the measure amidst concerns over the spread of COVID-19 in the state of Georgia and across the nation.
The declaration, which was approved via a Zoom teleconference meeting, reaffirmed much of the State of Emergency plan passed by the county on Monday, March 23.
An imposed curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., which appeared in the original draft of the proclamation discussed by the council this past Monday morning, was omitted from the city’s Declaration and Ordinance.
However, if needed, the idea of a curfew or a shelter-in-place provision could be possible in the future.
“We’re at the first level of restrictions without the curfew,” said Mayor Sam Norton. “We can definitely dial it up incrementally if need be.”
Council members Johnny Ariemma and Mitch Ridley both spoke out on the record that they were not in favor of a curfew for the city while council members Roman Gaddis and JoAnne Taylor went on record saying they were in favor of such a restriction within city limits.
“I think we’ve debated this a lot and I think the document before us is good, but I feel it falls short without the curfew aspect,” said Gaddis.
Taylor agreed with Gaddis and went on record that she would like to see a shelter-in-place order to be examined by the council for the future.
The State of Emergency will take effect immediately and includes several provisions; including the closing of dine-in services, the closing of all gyms and fitness centers, the prohibition of public gatherings of more than 10 people and the suspension of the bid and competitive portions of the city’s Procurement Policy among others.
Some of the language of the proclamation was changed from the original one discussed by the council during their emergency meeting on Monday morning.
In reference to the Procurement Policy, the suspension of the bid and competitive portions of the policy were specified to “be applicable only to matters as necessitated by COVID-19 related issues and shall be authorized by the Mayor and reported to the city council.”
In reference to gyms and fitness centers, the new proclamation states that, “all indoor recreation, gym, fitness and entertainment facilities are to close immediately and shall remain closed until such time as the state of emergency has been lifted or amended.”
City Manager Bill Schmid, with the approval of the mayor, will now have the authority to take such actions deemed necessary or appropriate for the public health and safety of the citizens of Dahlonega including but not limited to the closure of City facilities and the temporary canceling of certain City functions, to categorize City services as either “required” or “discretionary,” to contract for and expand non-budgeted sums and services, the temporary suspension of any law, code, rules or regulation that would in any way prevent, hinder or delay necessary action in coping with the emergency and the authority to perform and exercise such other functions, powers and duties authorized by law as may deemed necessary to promote and secure the safety and protection of the civilian population.
When it comes to the expansion of non-budgeted expenditures, the language of the proclamation was changed to ensure that “any such non-budgeted expenditures shall occur only as necessitated by COVID-19 related issues and shall be authorized by the mayor and reported to the city council,”
The restrictions imposed on restaurants and other eating and dining establishments where food is served must cease offering dine-in services, but may continue preparing and offering food to customers via delivery, drive-through or take-out services.
Additionally, patrons, employees and contractors of the establishments “must maintain at least six feet of personal distance between themselves as much as possible given the physical constraints of the premises.”
If a restaurant is licensed to sell beer and wine for on-premises consumption, they will be “authorized to sell unopened bottles or cans of beer or wine for take-out consumption off-premises” for the duration of the declaration only.
The declaration also gives the city manager the authority to suspend all ordinances or parts of ordinances in conflict with the provisions of the declaration during the effective dates or any extension thereof and states, “the terms and provisions of this Declaration shall prevail.”
As laid out in the Declaration and Ordinance, the proclamation gives authority to city manager Schmid. If Schmid is unable to perform his duties, city financial director Melody Marlowe would assume the duties; and if Marlowe is unable to perform those duties, Norton would assume those duties as chief executive officer of the city.
The proclamation also added two more items.
One of the additions pertaining to churches and funerals, states:
“All houses of worship shall strive for density reduction in all services, whether scheduled or based upon a life event such as a funeral or baptism, and wherever practical shall practice social distancing. Houses of worship are further encouraged to use social media or other video outlets to broadcast worship services. Funeral homes shall likewise strive for density reduction in all activities and shall ensure vehicles used to transport families shall be thoroughly cleaned between uses in accordance with CDC [Centers for Disease Control] guidelines. Graveside services of 10 or less participants are highly encouraged.”
The other added provision gives the City Marshal Jeff Branyon power to enforce the ordinance.
“A person that violates any provision of the Declaration and Ordinance shall be liable to the City of Dahlonega for a civil penalty of $500 for each violation. Jurisdiction shall be in the Municipal Court of the City of Dahlonega. This does not in any way impair countywide enforcement by the Sheriff of the terms of Lumpkin County’s emergency declaration and regulations.”
Declaration and Ordinance 2020-18 will expire at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, April 9, 2020, unless terminated or extended by further action of the city council.
The council will continue to hold standing meeting via teleconference every Wednesday at 4 p.m. in order to figure out whether more restrictions should be adopted.
The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 1, at 4 p.m.